1971In the beginning, UF’s infamous Halloween Ball started as a Halloween party for students. A fun night, featuring local music and art. Fortunately, in Gainesville,  Tom Petty and his band Mudcrutch were among the locals, and they headlined the Second Annual Ball. Tom took the stage at Midnight, and under a near full moon, played until dawn, when the sun lit the morning after. 
1912 University of Florida president Albert A. Murphree, as reported in The Florida Alligator, warned the class of 1912, “DO NOT GIVE IN TO LOW AND INSIDIOUS TEMPTATION.” Sixty years later, the less than saintly Gators gave in to temptation, and turned Halloween into a spectacle no turn-of-the-century preacher could have imagined. A night filled with sex, drugs, and performance art of any kind. The University of Florida had committed the “Original Sin,” the source of UF’s most notorious lore.

The Inaugural Ball …
the freaks come out at night
((( “the freaks” )))

alligator file, stan badz, barbara hansen

Queen of the Ball

Not only did Porn-Punk singer Wendy O. Williams take a chainsaw to a guitar in her high-octane performance at the 1980 ball, she and the Plasmatics also set off a firey explosion that destroyed a full-size Plymouth sedan to close the show. Many thought the Plasmatics had been booked to live up the the Halloween Ball’s reputation of pushing to the limit the fundamental Christian tolerance of the University of Florida administration. (SWIMMING POOL Q’s)

Having a Ball in Gainesville
A decade of Halloween Parties to remember
by David Dahl
Alligator Staff Writer

It was a ball, just like any other Halloween Ball. People partied, co-eds caroused, and students stripped naked.
One UF official, new to such activity, and quite curious, decided to get a good look at what he had heard described as “organized decadence.”
He climbed atop a Hertz Rental truck parked at the Plaza of the Americas. Before him was the hodgepodge of costumed party goers — ghosts, goblins, and some less traditional ghouls.
But that wasn’t all. On the hood of the very same truck, a couple performed the most ancient of all acts —  in the official’s words, “plowing away,” as a crowd of onlookers cheered on.
It was the ball that broke the Ball’s back.
“Decadence” simply had gotten too prevalent at the event administrators decided a few years later. Too many drug overdoses. Too much vandalism. Too many outside trouble makers.
In 1978 the Ball was banned. The statue of Albert Murphree would be urinated upon no more. Shrubbery on the Plaza of the America’s would no longer be trampled.
No more Halloween happiness allowed, the administrators said.
Oh yes we will, the students replied in a 1979 Spring referendum vote asking for the return of the Ball.
A compromise between the two groups was struck. The groups decided the $150,000 Student Government bandshell would have quite a grand opening — the newly named “Halloween Festival.” The event would be held on a week night and would be away from the staid sanctity of UF’s oldest buildings. Most of all, it would be toned down, the administrators ordered.
The event had survived again.
Since its inception in 1970, the Halloween Ball, Festival, or whatever you call it, has seen four sites, changed sponsors from year to year, and even been kicked out of Gainesville.
Yet it endures.
Subterranean Circus Shop owner Bill Killeen and the Rose Community Center sponsored the first and second Annual Balls in 1970, and 1971, until it moved on-campus, to the The Plaza of The Americas in 1972.

Back then, the Ball started late, around midnight, and featured local bands, including Mudcrutch, Tom Petty’s band before The Heartbreakers.

The Ball, with its odd costumes and dope-smoking revelers, remained at the Plaza of the America’s until 1973, Killeen said. That year, the Ball was moved to what then was known as Santa Fe Junior College, and held on Nov 3. In 1974, the Ball again was moved — this time to Archer, where Michael Murphy appeared and played his mellow rock.

The thousands of people and cars overwhelmed the  tiny town southwest of Gainesville, and forced the Ball back to Hogtown in 1975.
The Plaza of the Americas, after two years without student “watering,” received the Ball’s return with open arms … and so did the partiers — in excess. Sometime after The Climax Blues Band played, a $550 tape player was stolen from Student Government, a number of drunk and disorderly arrests were made, and two people were admitted to Shands Teaching Hospital with minor injuries.
The trouble angered many in the administration, but the Ball survived to rage another day.
In 1976, Commander Cody and sheets of rain came to the Plaza for the event. Students threw firecrackers at Cody, Killeen remembers, but the performer, un-phased, continued to play.
“He probably got off on it,” Killeen said.
So did the students. The ball returned again to the Plaza in 1977. The Dixie Desperadoes and the New Riders of The Purple Sage played their brand of Country and Southern Rock. Notably, in addition to the thousands of UF students who had come to party, a gang of nearly 30 motorcyclists showed up, and in keeping with the Ball’s decadent tradition, a semi-clad woman was found throwing herself against (dancing with) a fence. The responding police reported that both the fence and the woman survived, and neither was worse for the wear.
“We’ve played in some weird places,” Purple Sage lead guitarist David Nelson said, “but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
In the opinion of many, the next year’s Ball was the last to see such madness, but 1978, was the maddest of them all.
Twelve thousand party-goers showed up. Drugs, pot, and liquor again were mainstays. Police reported many were walking around “half naked,” and an amorous couple was, as others had before, “plowing away” as a group watched and cheered them on. And for one last straw, someone threw a teargas canister near Library West at about 1 a.m., and the party was over.
Enough was enough. Administrators decided to end the destruction. On Dec. 3, Student Affairs Vice President Art Sandeen brought an ax down on the Ball, saying he could no longer “condone” the event.”
(next year?)




and set the stage for what have been the most shocking Ball of all. No One, No Where, had seen a show like Wendy O. Williams did at the Bandshell, Halloween Night, 1980.




Depot Street
1975 — “Depot Street”
Mudcrutch (2007)
((( rural romeo )))


Despite UF president A.A. Murphree’s “DO NOT SURRENDER TO INSIDIOUS TEMPTATION” warning to the new students in 1912, the Halloween Ball evolved, and became one of the University of Florida’s most notorious Annual Events, right up there with Homecoming, Greek Week, and Graduation. 

Murphree, the seminarian couldn’t have imagined how insidious his university would become. Could He? The Halloween Ball was credited with keeping UF on Playboy magazine’s infamous “Top 10 Party School” list (1975-1985), and earning Murphree’s university the reputation he had always prayed to avoid.