Following slow ticket sales for Sleaze 2005, this year’s party is being given a shake-up. New Mardi Gras has reduced the venue size, cut ticket prices, embarked on a different marketing strategy and put the ball back into the event’s title.

Also, unlike last year there will be no other expensive gay and lesbian parties held on the same weekend, with organisers of Toybox deciding to postpone their next event to New Year’s Day.

This year’s Sleaze Ball -“ the ball was brought back to encourage people to dress up in the ghetto fabulous theme -“ will be held in the Hordern, Dome and the Forum (formerly known as City Live). The Royal Hall of Industries will not be used, giving the party a smaller footprint than usual.

New Mardi Gras chair Marcus Bourget said around 11,000 partygoers were needed to fill both the Hordern and RHI, something he conceded was not realistic. He expected this year’s party would attract 8,500 people, 2,000 more than turned up last year.

By being more realistic about the people we think are going to come we can invest more in production and less on the actual venue cost, so it creates a better experience for the partygoer, Bourget said.

First release tickets currently on sale are $99, compared to the $120 last year. New Mardi Gras was determined to keep tickets below $100 after complaints about price.

It was a conscious decision to sell tickets at $99. We thought that was a fairly important price point, Bourget said.

A second release of more expensive tickets would become available towards the end of the on-sale period, but Bourget would not reveal how much they would cost.

I would encourage people to get their tickets early, he said, adding that initial sales were good.

Also this year the word fundraiser has been conspicuously absent. One of the reasons for holding the annual party, now in its 25th year, is to raise funds for the following year’s Mardi Gras festival. But some punters appeared to be turned off by Sleaze 2005 being so heavily marketed as a fundraising event.

Every time we used the word -˜fundraising’ in the lead-up to Sleaze it killed off a couple of thousand tickets, Mark Goggin, general manager of Mardi Gras from 1996 to 2001, told Sydney Star Observer in October last year.

People hate that message. They hate the begging bowl approach to entertainment. They want to know that if they’re spending their $120 they’re getting their money’s worth.

The 2006 promotional material features provocative cartoon figures of buff boys and saucy girls in ads reminiscent of the Sleaze Ball promos from the 1990s, when the event was at its height of popularity.

The other big difference this year is there will be no Toybox party held on the same weekend. Last year some partygoers opted to go to Toybox’s sold-out Luminere party, held the morning after Sleaze at Luna Park, instead of Sleaze.

Bourget said New Mardi Gras did not ask Toybox to move their party this year. The official word from Toybox producers Andy Schouten and Brett Bush is that they decided to focus all their attention on their New Year’s Day event instead.

Taking a strategic long-term approach which places our patrons first and foremost, we decided not to stage Luminere on the Labour Day long weekend this year, Schouten and Bush said in a statement to the Star.

Our patrons’ needs, wants and desires as individuals and as members of the GLBTQ community -“ which we consciously seek to unite -“ are paramount.

When only 6,500 people turned up to Sleaze last year, 2,500 less than expected, New Mardi Gras announced they would have to scale back the 2006 Mardi Gras festival and rethink how they held Sleaze in future.

Bourget was confident this year’s party would be a success.

I’m definitely planning on having a sold-out Sleaze Ball this year, he said.

Last year’s Sleaze Ball and this year’s Mardi Gras have proved that we can put on great events. Ticket sales are really strong so I guess a lot of people are planning to make Sleaze Ball the centre of their October long weekend.

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