The annual Toy Box Party, which has become an institution in the L.A. LGBT community over the last two decades, will take place tomorrow at the Palihouse hotel in West Hollywood.
The event was created 22 years ago by the late Dana Miller and Alan Friel and Curt Sharp, who took a leaf from a similar event in New York City created 30 years ago by real estate agent Robby Browne that has become that city’s go-to holiday gathering for gay men.
As in New York, the L.A. Toy Box Party is a celebration whose participants bring unwrapped toys that APLA Health will distribute to Southern California families affected by HIV/AIDS. The event is open to anyone who brings an unwrapped toy, which also qualifies the donor for a free drink.
In a column published several years ago in Frontiers magazine, Dana Miller described the origins of the event during an era when effective treatments for HIV and AIDS were just becoming available and many were dying. Miller was known for his work in helping create the annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Party at the Pacific Design Center and as a former chair of APLA. He died in 2014.
“It all began almost 18 years ago in a vestibule of St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Hollywood Boulevard,” Miller wrote. “Just 50 of us showed up with toys, a few bottles of wine, some plastic cups and an intense desire during that holiday season to comprehend something that was ultimately incomprehensible … It was the Toy Box Party. A simple gathering of like-minded folk determined to bring a little joy and some form of light to families and friends, brothers and strangers directly affected by HIV/AIDS.”
Today, the event is governed by a group of about three dozen “elves” that includes prominent LGBT people such as Sir Elton John and his husband, David Furnish; Dustin Lance Black and his husband, Tom Daley; celebrity publicist Howard Bragman and his husband, Chuck O’Donnell, and Caitlyn Jenner, David Bohnett and Wilson Cruz. Sponsors include Palihouse, HBO, US Bank and Tito’s vodka. Its organizer is Ryan Black, Miller’s former husband.
The event is from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Palihouse, which is located at 8465 Holloway Drive at Hacienda Place. More information is available on the event’s Facebook page.