For this weeks Culture Maker feature, LA-based party planning extraordinaire OLLYWOOD. Initially from the UK, OLLYWOOD has been living in LA for the last 3 years and co-ordinating some of the best queer parties the world has to offer. Co founder of the popular Daddy Issues and Evita parties and editor of GAY TIMEs magazine, we had the opportunity to talk to him about his 2020 plans, nightlife, and what makes the best party.
Tell me about the room you’re in?
I’m in my apartment in West Hollywood, Los Angeles.
What is your average day like at the moment?
My dog wakes me up at 6am every morning, so I take care of him and have breakfast. I go through my emails and see if theres anything I can work on. A lot of my industry is closed right now, so there is not much I’m able to do right now. Then I’ll try and get outside and do either a short hike, or a walk around my neighbourhood with the dog. Lunch. Then I have a nap with a movie. I’ll wake up, short walk with dog and do some crunches and press ups before dinner. Then maybe another movie. I have been going to bed super early, around 9:30 PM, when I put the dog to sleep. I was living very fast before, late nights, lots of flying, so I’ve been taking this time to look after myself.
When did you get in to events and party producing?
When I first moved to London at 18, I would go out a lot. I would also be the person who decided where we were going. I would always have a large group of friends come to my place first, then head out together. Slowly the clubs started to realise I was good at influencing people where to go. So after a while most clubs in East London were paying me to promote their parties. This was great because I would usually have to party Thursday til Saturday, and everything was free so I never had to get a job during college.
Things got a little crazy as you can imagine with being in that world and after a 5 year period things had gotten out of control for me. So I had to take a year off to look after myself. Then I decided to come back, and so I started Daddy Issues in London.
After I moved to LA, I got an amazing job offer at a gay dating app. I left nine months later, and the parties I was organising were going so well in LA that I was able to stay, and didn’t need to get another job. I started working with Andres Rigal on his party Evita and helped relaunch and reinvent that party which became a huge success. We’ve had some incredible special guests from Iggy Azalea, Tinashe, Jake Shears, as well as all the RuPauls drag race alumni.
What is it about party producing that keeps you coming back for more?
Producing a party, I feel, is the only job where you are able to create a new world for someone to step into. When I create a party I can control what you see, what you touch, what you hear, and what you smell. I can change the lighting, tell a story, give a message, make you dream, make you feel, and make you escape. In theatre and cinema you’re a voyeur, but in nightlife, you’re totally in that world. I want there to be no wall between the attendees and the team of the party. I also love seeing the creativity of the kids that come to our parties. My favourite thing to do is stand in the DJ booth and watch the looks that come through the door. I love seeing what people can make and create. I love the colour. Thats why my parties are always a place where I encourage people to be creative, freaky, and free. I could never be part of something and look out to the crowd and just see 1,000 shirtless guys — it wouldn’t be inspiring to me.
Why the name ‘Daddy Issues’?
We created Daddy Issues in 2016, and at that time the word ‘daddy’ had started to morph from its original meaning to what it represents now. Daddy no longer means just ‘father’ — it’s a feeling, a lifestyle, an idea. I was 26, and 14 year olds on Instagram were commenting “daddy” on my pics and I was like, “what is that?” Anyone can be a daddy which has become part of the joke of the party, because you could be lead to believe that this was a party for masculine older men, but in reality a Daddy Issues party shows all different types of people, and thats what I push for.
How is Daddy Issues different to other parties?
There are not many parties that have had the success we have had at being able to show up at 26 different cities and sell out. People seem to love our vibe and our branding that is done by @heyrooney. I push a welcoming, fun and sexy vibe for everyone through the imagery on our Instagram. We are politically active and we care about social issues. People recognise the brand from all over the world thanks to the merchandise, which has done really well.
How do you spend your night at the parties you’ve just spent weeks organising?
Theres always so much to do – most people say they barely even see me! My parties always have a lot of moving pieces. I usually arrive a couple hours before opening, sort out the decor, rearrange the venue, test the lights, set up the visuals, and help the DJ sound test. Then I usually hide for the first hour as the room fills up because thats the most stressful part. No matter how many parties you throw, you always worry no-one is going to show up. As soon as the room is full, I’m happy and relaxed. But if it’s Evita, we have shows and performances every hour, which takes a lot of organising. On top of that, every week a celebrity will show up that needs a VIP booth and security. But when it gets to 1 AM and the room is pulsating and everyone is dancing and you can feel everyone, it’s heaven.
As a queer culture maker, what is the best thing you believe you’ve accomplished for the queer community?
I’m proud of all my work across all three of the brands I work for. Daddy Issues has been such an incredible ride and being able to travel USA and Canada and see all these different cities and meet queer all over has been so much fun. Teaming up with Impulse foundation every year to throw a big Daddy Issues pool party in Beverly Hills is my favourite thing I do each year.
Evita really changes and challenges what you can expect from a West Hollywood party. It’s addictive thinking how we can get each party bigger and better — how many special guests can we get on one night? Who can we fly in? How far can we push the party musically? Our team is very diverse and inclusive so everyone coming sees themselves reflected on stage.
Lastly I’ve been US editor at Gay Times magazine for 3 years and working with them, reinventing a 30+ year old magazine has been an incredible journey. Getting to amplify queer voices, telling stories that need to be heard, finding unrecognized talents and booking world famous cover stars is one of my favorite things I get to work on and so rewarding.
How will you be celebrating Pride this year?
Pride is every day for me. I get to work on helping make a difference and bringing together the community everyday. Pride is a little different this year, normally I have many different activations and parties but because of Covid they are all cancelled but there is still a lot you can do at home. I’ve been so impressed with the digital events and all the activism people are doing with Black Lives Matter through their social media platforms.
Where’s the next place you’d love to bring a party?
I really want to go to Brazil, Hawaii, Mexico and Hong Kong!
Any plans to come to Australia?
Yes! I started a few conversations with people in Sydney and Melbourne and would love to do it. It’s just hard to find a window to because it’s such a big trip, but hopefully some time in the future!
You’ve got a very healthy Instagram following, merch, and even your own filter. What’s next?
I really want to create a merchandise line for dogs. I’m dog mad right now. Doggy Issues maybe!
For more of OLLYWOOD, check out his socials below –
Co founder: Daddy Issues @daddyissuesparty
Co producer: Evita @evitaparty
USA editor: GAY TIMES MAGAZINE @gaytimes