Bootlegger's Ball in Richland to pay tribute to roaring '20s

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Grab your loosest, straight-line chemise, ladies.

Gentleman, pull out your baggiest pants.

Fashions of the Roaring Twenties will be de rigueur at the fundraising Bootlegger's Ball on April 13 at Northern Tier Regional Library in Richland.

“We're going to rent a dance floor,” said Diane Illis, assistant director of the library. “We're going to have casino games in the back.”

Guests also can learn the Charleston.

Will there be a police raid? Illis isn't saying.

It's been almost 80 years since the end of Prohibition — that 13-year stretch when the U.S. government prohibited the sale, production and transport of alcoholic beverages.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawed those activities in 1920, but the 21st Amendment — ratified on Dec. 5, 1933 — repealed that ban.

To celebrate the liberation of libations, Illis conceived the idea of the Bootlegger's Ball as a follow-up to the library's 2012 recreation of the last dinner on the Titanic.

“It's not going to be a sit-down dinner, like the Titanic dinner. It's going to be appetizers,” Illis said. “But I don't want people to get the idea that they're not going to get enough to eat.”

John Marshall Catering of Richland will prepare the Bootlegger's Ball menu: smoked whole salmon with aspic; garlic mashed potatoes with tenderloin and wild mushroom demi-glace; baked brie; miniature crab cakes; mushrooms stuffed with spinach and feta; butternut squash ravioli; shrimp cocktail; asparagus with cheddar in puff pastry; cold canapés, cheese, fruit, miniature desserts and a coffee bar.

Suzanna Krispli, director of Hampton Community Library — “who has a beautiful singing voice,” Illis said — will perform at the Bootlegger's Ball and teach people how to dance the Charleston.

Pianist Jeannie Allen of Middlesex, Butler County, will provide the ball's live jazz.

Illis hopes to also offer guests instant photos of themselves in their Bootlegger's Ball get-ups.

A cash bar will offer dry martinis and vintage cocktails.

While the 18th Amendment prohibited the production of alcoholic beverages, it did not prohibit their consumption.

“Many cocktails came about during Prohibition, in part, because the bathtub gin tasted so terrible that bartenders had to find creative ways to disguise the awful flavor,” said Garrett Peck of Arlington, Va., author of “Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet.” “A couple of my favorites are the Scofflaw, invented in 1924 at Harry's Bar in Paris, and the Corpse Reviver No. 2,” Peck said. “There was also the Three Mile Limit, the Twelve Mile Limit, the Southside, and the Negroni, which was invented in Italy.

“H.L. Mencken provided the recipe for the Coffin Varnish in his memoirs, noting that he often served this to guests during Prohibition,” Peck said. “The French 75 was invented during World War I, shortly before Prohibition, and is really delicious.”

A costume contest also is planned at the Bootlegger's Ball. All guests will receive fictitious names at the door.

“What we're hoping to do is give people aliases. We're going to use the aliases of real bootleggers,” Illis said. “I got this really cool book, “Gangs and Outlaws of Western Pennsylvania. I'm going to go through there and pull out some names and assign them to people.”

The Bootlegger's Ball will open at 7 p.m. April 13 on the lower level of Northern Tier Regional Library, 4015 Dickey Road, Richland.

Tickets are $35. Proceeds will benefit the library.

For reservations for Bootlegger's Ball, call 724-449-2665.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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