Tag Archives: New Orleans

Southern Decadence


Since it was founded in 1781, New Orleans has marched to the beat of its own drum.  For two centuries, those in control of the Louisiana state government have tried in vain to impose their prejudices on a city that is French, Spanish, Creole, African, Catholic, pagan and very gay (in both senses of the word).  If nothing else, New Orleans knows how to throw a party, from the world-famous Mardi Gras to other, more specialized celebrations.

One of these celebrations began quite inauspiciously in August of 1972, by a group of friends living in a ramshackle cottage house at 2110 Barracks Street in the Treme section of New Orleans, just outside of the French Quarter. It was in desperate need of repair, and the rent was $100 per month.  At any given time the residents numbered anywhere from six to ten, and it was still sometimes difficult to come up with the rent.

The large bathroom became a natural gathering place in the house.  It had no shower, only a clawfoot tub, but it also had a sofa.  With from six to ten residents, and one bathtub, everyone became close friends.  While one soaked in the tub, another would recline on the couch and read A Streetcar Named Desire aloud. The Tennessee Williams play inspired the residents to fondly name the house “Belle Reve” in honor of Blanche DuBois’ Mississippi plantation.

And so it was, on a sultry August afternoon in 1972, that this band of friends decided to plan an amusement.  According to author James T. Spears, writing in Rebels, Rubyfruit and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South, this “motley crew of outcasts” began Southern Decadence as a going away party for a friend named Michael Evers, and to shut up a new “Belle Reve” tenant (from New York) who kept complaining about the New Orleans heat.  As a riff on the “Belle Reve” theme, the group named the event a “Southern Decadence Party: Come As Your Favorite Southern Decadent,” requiring all participants to dress in costume as their favorite “decadent Southern” character.    According to Spears, “The party began late that Sunday afternoon, with the expectation that the next day (Labor Day) would allow for recovery. Forty or fifty people drank, smoked, and carried on near the big fig tree … even though Maureen (the New Yorker) still complained about the heat.”

The following year the group decided to throw another Southern Decadence Party.  They met at Matassa’s bar in the French Quarter to show off their costumes, then they walked back to “Belle Reve.”  This first “parade” included only about 15 people impersonating such “decadent Southern” icons as Belle Watling, Mary Ann Mobley, Tallulah Bankhead, Helen Keller, and New Orleans’ own Ruthie the Duck Lady.  This impromptu parade through the French Quarter and along Esplanade Avenue laid the groundwork for future events, and  the group decided to repeat the party again the following year.

In 1974, the Southern Decadence visionaries named Frederick Wright as the first Grand Marshal, hoping to provide at least a modicum of order.  For the next six years, the format of the celebration changed little.  The founding group continued to appoint each year’s Grand Marshal by consensus.  Some were gay, some were not. But all were members of the founding group.

By 1981, most of the original organizers had moved on with their lives.  Many felt that the event had become so big that it was no longer the intimate party they had started nine years earlier.  Of the original group, only Grand Marshal V Robert King was actively participating.  He, along with some of his friends that hung out at the Golden Lantern bar, thought it was worth continuing and they took over the festivities.  It was at this point that Southern Decadence became primarily a gay event.  Other protocol changes made in 1981 included moving the starting point of the annual parade from Matassa’s to the Golden Lantern bar, and allowing Grand Marshals to personally name their own successors.  Both of these traditions continue today. And in 1987, the Grand Marshal began to make a proclamation of the official theme, color and song.

Because the 2005 celebration was cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina, Southern Decadence 2005 Grand Marshals Lisa Beaumann and Regina Adams reigned for both 2005 and 2006, making the very first time in Southern Decadence history that grand marshals ruled for two years.  And keeping with the unpredictability of Decadence, the Grand Marshals from 2008 reigned once again in 2009.

The rest, as they say, is history.  What began as a little costume party is now a world-famous gay celebration.  In the 39th year, it has mushroomed from a small gathering of friends to a Labor Day weekend tradition, attracting over 100,000 participants, predominantly gay and lesbian, and generating almost $100 million in tourist revenue.  This annual economic impact ranks it among the city’s top five most significant tourist events.  The mayor has even welcomed the event with an Official Proclamation.

Described by one reporter as “a happening of haberdashery fit for an LSD Alice in Wonderland,” Southern Decadence 2010 will be as outrageous as ever and live up to its reputation as New Orleans’ largest gay street fair.  It all begins in earnest six weeks before Labor Day.  However, the real party starts on the Wednesday before Labor Day, and the events are non-stop. It picks up steam daily as it nears Sunday’s big street parade, which rivals New Orleans’ gay Mardi Gras in scope, with the party lasting well into the day on Monday.

If you’ve never been to Southern Decadence, and sadly I haven’t, here are some tips to know before you go. What follows are some thoughts gathered from locals that will help you get the most out of your experience.

Pass by the NO/AIDS Task Force’s information tables located on the St. Ann Street sidewalk in front of Hit Parade Gift and Clothing, at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets.  You’ll find lots of community information and details of the weekend’s events.  The literature racks inside of Hit Parade are another great source for all of the Southern Decadence information that you will need.

During Southern Decadence, some streets of the French Quarter do not allow parking – look for, and heed, no parking signs. Plan on doing a lot of walking. Comfortable shoes are a must. Always walk where it is well lit and there are a lot of people. New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods. Like all large cities, the Big Easy does have some trouble spots. Always walk with others, never alone if possible. Don’t wander about the city. In New Orleans the neighborhoods can change, literally, when you cross a street. Always carry a map. If you’re drinking, don’t go stumbling about the French Quarter. Locals know that the people who encounter trouble are usually the ones who have been drinking.

And a bit of urban common sense is in order. When you walk the streets, don’t bring your wallet. Take the cash you need and possibly a credit card, along with some sort of identification, and put them in a pocket that no one can slip their hand into. Don’t wear expensive jewelry. Basically, don’t take anything with you that you would have a hard time replacing if it were lost.

If your car is impounded, it will cost you over $100 plus whatever else the city decides to tack on. Your car can be retrieved from the City Auto Pound, located in a dangerous area of the city, 400 N. Claiborne Ave., (504.565.7236). This will spoil a good time. Cabs are not difficult to get during Southern Decadence. If you are going to take a cab, try UNITED CABS: 504.522.9771 or 504.524.9606. Write these numbers down and put them in your wallet. This cab company can be trusted. United Cabs has a sound reputation with the New Orleans gay community.

People are allowed to drink on the streets in New Orleans —  that large 24-oz Southern Decadence cup that you’ll see people walking with and drinking from likely contains several shots of alcohol!  However, if your drink isn’t already in a plastic cup, please ask for one before leaving your favorite watering hole. Glass and cans are not allowed on the streets for safety reasons.

Most bars in New Orleans are open twenty-four hours a day. Pace yourself. Most important, it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement and forget to eat. If you want to make it through the weekend, solid food is a necessity. Of course, New Orleans is world famous for its food and indulging is part of a complete New Orleans experience.

Clean bathrooms can be difficult to find during Southern Decadence. Most businesses close their facilities to everyone but paying customers. If your hotel is far from the action, take care of the more important business before you hit the streets. If you need to, plan on buying lunch or dinner and using the restaurant’s bathroom before you pay the check!

The French Quarter is an historic neighborhood. Please respect it. No matter how “bad” you have to go, do not urinate in the streets or on door steps or through iron gates. This is a good way to end up in central lock-up, and people who are arrested sit in jail until the courts re-open after Labor Day. It will cost you about $200. And it’s not polite. Listen to your body. Get in line before you really have to go. By the time you’re crossing your legs, you might be at the front of the line.

During Southern Decadence weekend, you’re guaranteed to get an eyeful of great costumes and fabulous bodies. Officially, public nudity is not allowed and there are obscenity laws on the books. Better judgment should be the rule of the day.

Southern Decadence is a BIG non-stop party. People drink and are having a good time. It’s easy to forget that there is a real world out there. Free condoms are available from the NO/AIDS Task Force station located near the Bourbon Pub / Parade. Don’t allow the party to overwhelm your better judgment. We want you to come again. Have fun and play safe!



Photos from vjbrendan.com.



The latest book on my must read list, plus starting back to school this week has left me wanting for sleep.  I started reading Todd Gregory’s Need on Saturday, and it’s been quite hard to put down.  Todd Gregory is better known as Greg Herren, who many of you know is my favorite author.  Todd Gregory is the pseudonym that Herren uses for his more erotic novels.  The main character of Need is Cord Logan, who readers were first introduced to in the short story “Blood on the Moon” in the Midnight Hunger anthology of gay vampire stories, so I read that story again before reading Need.  Need is a stand alone book, but it really helps if you read Cord’s backstory first.

At the beginning of Need, Cord Logan has only been a vampire for two years, and is still adapting, trying to figure out who he is and what he wants. Haunted by what happened to him the last few nights he was human, he has turned his back on his fraternity of vampires. Returning to New Orleans, a chance encounter with an old friend from his human life triggers a disturbing chain of events. And now Cord’s erotic journey of self-discovery becomes even more lethal, as an ancient society of supernatural beings must intervene to save the vampire race – and all humanity.
Need is erotically charged throughout, and some might complain that it has more sex scenes than substance, but the sex scenes actually do add to the story, which is what a good sex scene should do.  I admit though that some of the scenes seem a little too gratuitous, but they are a hell of a lot of fun to read.
Also, like many gay novels, Gregory creates a fascinating, lovable, and snarky female character, much as he does as Greg Herren with the characters Paige Tourneur and Venus Casanova in his Chance McLeod mysteries.  This time the character is Rachel, a female vampire with razor sharp wit, that I couldn’t help but love.
The ending appear to me that Need has potential to go into a series. The curse that lead Cord from baby vampire making poor decisions to the very different vampire Cord is at the end of the book opened some interesting possibilities. I would love to read more of Cord if this did turn into a series. The events at the end definitely have my curiosity piqued. 
There are parts of the boom also that feels somewhat repetitive and in some parts scenes seem to contradict something we have already learned, but I can forgive that, hopefully you can too. 
The major drawback of this book for me, and this is for me personally, is that Herren/Gregory seems to have a deep seeded hatred of the Church of Christ.  Both Chance McLeod and Cord Logan’s characters were raised in harsh, fundamentalist Church of Christ congregations.  I tend to be able to get over it because I just replace Church of Christ with another denomination.  It’s hard for me to read such criticisms of a church I deeply love, but then I was raised in a very loving church.  I have never found out why the Churches of Christ make appearances in Herren/Gregory’s writing.  I can only assume that Herren was raised in a harsh Church of Christ, very unlike the one I was raised in.  One day, I hope to have the chance to ask him that question.  It certainly will never stop me from reading his books.
PS If you have emailed me in the last week, I will get back to you this weekend.  With preparations for school starting and school itself, I have been too tired at the end of the day to respond to emails.  I will though.  I also blame Todd Gregory’s Need for my lack of response because I’ve read each night until I have to force myself to go to bed.  So please forgive me.

Greg Herren’s New “Page Turner”


20130725-000039.jpgMy favorite author Greg Herren has a new set of mystery novellas that are quick reads and a hell of a lot of fun. I just finished reading the first one last night, and if from reading my reviews of his books, you’ve become a Herren fan as well, then how can you resist this e-book for just 99 cent? It’s worth every penny and then some.

Paige Tourneur (Please! Is that really her name?) is the former Times-Picayune reporter and best friend of Herren’s gay detective Chanse McLeod series. To hear her buddy Chanse tell it, Paige is rotund, cute as a button, a truly bad driver, and the best friend a gay P.I. could possibly have.

Now Paige gets a chance to tell it herself in her own witty and worldly-wise way. Seems like she has quite a past and in Fashion Victim, it’s starting to haunt her. Though it helps to be familiar with Paige from the Chance McLeod series, this novella works well as a stand alone mystery. It just adds a little bit of a thrill for the readers, if you already know Paige.

Since his first novel, I’ve wanted Paige to be a more developed character. She’s still the same hard-drinking, hard-bitten, smart-mouthed red-headed reporter with the heart of gold and the unlikely name. I’ve also always wanted to know more about the his crime fighting NOPD duo Venus and Blaine, but we will have to wait and see if they get books of their own as well. They remain to be the characters that connect his Chanse McLeod and Scotty Bradley mysteries. Of course, the city of New Orleans connects them as well. And it would be a dream if Chance and Scotty would have a crossover mystery.

In her first solo outing, Paige has long since left the Times-Picayune, played out a stint on television, and has now landed a job at Crescent City Magazine, which sends her out to do a personality piece on bitchy fashion designer Marigny Mercereau. Only Marigny ends up dead fifteen minutes before her fifteen minutes of fame.

Twisting through Marigny’s creepy past, Paige is accompanied, as always, by best friend Chanse, her cop buddies Venus Casanova and Blaine Tujague, and (finally!) by the perfect man: her new boy friend, Blaine’s brother Ryan. So what happens when a woman meets the perfect man and her past comes calling?

Fashion Victim is the first in a series of interconnected novellas in the “Paige Tourneur Missing Husband Series.” The second volume, Dead Housewives of New Orleans, is already out and is on my next to read list.

EAT! DRINK! BE MARY!: TMI Questions from Sean


I am not a huge drinker. I am a social drinker more than anything, but my friends tend to consume two or three drinks for each of mine. I especially don’t drink around people who I’m not out to or feel comfortable around because I tend to lose my inhibitions and am a lot gayer. However, when I saw this post from Sean at Just A Jeep Guy, I couldn’t resist adding my two cents. I love these TMI questions when it’s something I can relate to. So here goes:

1. Cocktails at brunch: Bloody Mary or Mimosa? Bloody Mary during cold weather, and Mimosas if it is hot outside. Both are pretty fantastic drinks if made right, but too cheap of a champagne can ruin a Mimosa and its easy to make a bad Bloody Mary if you don’t know what you’re doing.

2. Do you have a favorite food/drink pairing? A good Pinot Grigio with Veal Scallopini (or Scaloppini al Vino) or linguini with clams in a white wine sauce. Of course, you can never go wrong with beer and pizza. Also a favorite is Lazy Magnolia’s (a Mississippi brewery) Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale with pecan crusted chicken is a great pairing.

3. Beer? Wine? or Cocktails? Why? Beer or Mike’s Hard Lemonade on a hot day hanging out with friends. White wine when it’s a more formal event. Cocktails, particularly a margarita or cape cod when out at a bar, unless I don’t want to spend much money, then it’s Bud Light.

4. Red wine or white wine? White wine. I can’t stand red wine.

5. Tell me about the hard stuff. Nothing beats Tito’s Handmade Vodka. It’s a wonderful smooth tasting vodka, and it always gives me lovely dreams.

6. Cigars? No, I’ve tried to smoke them, but I hate them for two reasons: 1) they smell like burning dog shit, and 2) I can’t get the taste out of my mouth the next day.

7. When was the last time you were hungover? Worst hangover? It’s been several months since I’ve had a hangover, but the worst lasted about 3 days. I do my best not to drink enough to have a hangover. It was due to mixing alcohols. I keep with one type of alcohol a night, so that I want get sick. I can’t mix liquor and beer or change the beer I am drinking or drink more than one type of liquor.

8. Best hangover cure. Before I go to bed, I take three-four ibuprofen (depending on how much I had to drink) and a full glass of water. I usually don’t have a hangover if I do this.

9. Craziest/baddest thing you did when you had too much? Did you remember it or did your friends inform you? Make it a fun one! Ok, this might break some illusions some of you have about me, but several years ago, I got really drunk in New Orleans and gave a go-go dancer a blowjob while he was dancing on the bar. I remember it quite well. I am cursed/blessed with remembering everything when I’ve been drinking. It was slutty and a hell of a lot of fun at the time. And yes, I’d do it again if given the chance, lol.

Are you a cheap date? How many drinks does it take you get you into bed? Yep, I’m probably a cheap date, especially if tequila is involved. Tequila makes me horny, and I am not one to drink a whole lot, so yeah, I’m a cheap date. If on a date I am unlikely to drink more than two or three drinks. If out with friends, I rarely drink more than the equivalent to a six pack of beer.

So there you have it. My TMI questions about booze.

Who Dat Whodunnit

Who Dat Whodunnit
continues the Scott Bradley series. No longer a go-go boy in the French Quarter but still involved in an unorthodox relationship even by gay standards, he is now a professional investigator in business with with his two partners. I thought I had this one figured out, but, by the end of the book I found I couldn’t have been more off base. This is yet another great mystery by my favorite author Greg Herren.  Easy reading, great plot development, familiar characters that feel like old friends, so if you’ve read the Scotty Bradley Mysteries, and I suggest you read them in order, you will love this one.  If you are a long-time fan of the New Orleans Saints, like I am, then you will absolutely love this book, which is part homage to the Saints’ Super Bowl victory.

The Saints’ victory in the playoffs and a ticket to the Super Bowl just prior to the start of Carnival season has everyone in New Orleans floating on Cloud Nine. But for Scotty Bradley, Carnival looks like it’s going to be grim yet again when his estranged cousin Jared—who plays for the Saints—becomes the number one suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, dethroned former Miss Louisiana Tara Bourgeouis. Scotty’s not entirely convinced his cousin isn’t the killer, but when he starts digging around into the homophobic beauty queen’s sordid life, he finds that any number of people wanted her dead. With the help of his friends and family, he plunges deeper and deeper into Tara’s tawdry world of sex tapes, fundamentalist fascists, and mind-boggling secrets—secrets some are willing to kill to keep!