Halloween fraud alert: The thrilled revelers you see collecting fat envelopes of costume contest money at this year's competitive celebrations might not have designed those clever concepts themselves. A quick survey of the job listings on Craigslist.org reveals the disappointing truth that uninspired pretenders are plotting to split their ill-gotten gains with professional designers. Whatever happened to heartfelt self-expression? Thanks to a wide variety of themed events, genuine Halloweeners can show their originality and wit this year, regardless of what they choose to wear.
Are you up for a creative showdown? Put up or shut up at this year's Pretenders in Paradise contest. The most flamboyant competition of Key West's ten-day Fantasy Fest celebration will take center stage at 8:00 p.m. Thursday, October 27, in a dazzling swirl of feathers, faux fur, and glitter. Amateur and professional designers will flock to the Pier House Resort and Caribbean Spa (1 Duval St., Key West) to vie for $10,000 in cash prizes. Expect to be amazed by towering marionettes and detailed costume-flaunting performances. This year's contest theme is Devilish Damsels and TransvestKnights. Nuff said. Tickets cost $28. Call 305-296-4600, ext. 501, or visit www.fantasyfest.net.
If you need an excuse to dress up like a teenage boy's fantasy, help yourself to some Halloween Bliss Saturday, October 29. Bliss's organizers are notoriously discriminating about who gains entry to their adults-only events, so the crowd at Players (30 NE Eleventh St., Miami) should be especially fetching. Prizes will be awarded for the hottest outfit. Doors open at 10:00 p.m. Admission for couples is $50; single ladies pay $10. Call 305-244-5787, or visit www.theblissclub.com.
Halloween elitists who eschew the tried-and-true hobo costume in favor of a Phantom of the Opera ensemble will enjoy the nineteenth annual Flor de Caa Halloween Sundowner. On Saturday, October 29, you can imbibe at the open bar, swan about the beautifully manicured gardens of Vizcaya (3251 S. Miami Ave., Miami), and, if your costume is stunning enough, score $500 and a valuable bottle of aged rum. Festivities begin at 8:00 p.m. Tickets cost $95. Call 305-856-4866, or visit www.vizcayans.org.
For a down-home celebration, head to the Country Western Halloween Costume Dance at the German American Social Club (11919 Miller Rd., Miami). Watch vampires in cowboy boots and Frankenstein monsters in ten-gallon hats boot-scoot from 7:00 p.m. to midnight Saturday, October 29. Admission is ten dollars. Call 305-552-5123.
To flaunt your assets in something seductive, consider the second annual Bathrobes & Babydolls Halloween Extravaganza at The Raleigh (1775 Collins Ave., Miami Beach). Ladies should think Fifties pinup meets Victoria's Secret. The guys can channel Hugh Hefner in boudoir-inspired pajamas. Models from Aubrey's World Famous Lingerie Party will provide delicious eye candy. Slip into something more comfortable Sunday, October 30, at 6:00 p.m. Tickets cost $30. Call 305-673-3873, or visit www.taient.com.