Marching to the beat of its own drum, New Orleans has unfailingly found ways to throw a party. Louisiana state government has tried in vain to levy their prejudices on the “Crescent City” which has been a melting pot of French, Creole, Spanish, Catholic, African and also, always, gay.
In 1974, a small group of friends living in a ramshackle home at 2110 Barracks Street just outside of the French Quarter decided to throw a going-away party for their roommate. At the same time, this party was to quiet the complaints about the New Orleans heat from their new tenant from New York. 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.
Over the next few years, the Southern Decadence party grew in size and infamy, and added a small parade into the mix. The group would meet at Matassa’s bar in the French Quarter on Labor Day Sunday to show off their costumes, then parade through town back to their home on Barracks Street to continue the party into the night.
The rest, as they say, is history. What began as a little costume party is now a world-famous gay celebration. In it’s 43rd year, it has mushroomed from a small gathering of friends to a Labor Day weekend tradition, attracting over 150,000 participants, predominantly gay and lesbian, and generating almost $180 million in tourist revenue. This annual economic impact ranks it among the city’s top five tourist events.
This year’s theme is “Under The Big Top – Welcome to the Gayest Show on Earth” and the official colors are canary yellow, turquoise and pearl white (how gay is that?). With a street party that runs around the clock and Southern Decadence circuit party events every night, a person could quickly become overwhelmed by the options. Here’s a run-down of some of the events that we’ve found.
What better way to kick off the festivities than with a “Big Dick” contest at Bourbon Pub / Parade? Super-hot international porn star and dancer Hans Berlin will be making a guest appearance. If you have what it takes to win this event no doubt you’re in for a wild weekend. “The Bearded Lady” Billy Francesca and Nicole Dubois host the contest at midnight. At the same time, on Thursday, Oz (800 Bourbon St.) is holding their strip off contest titled “D*ck in a Cup.” We’re sensing a theme here, are you?
During Southern Decadence weekend, you’re bound to get an eyeful. Public nudity and public sex is not allowed, and the obscenity laws are still on the books. You need to use your better judgment on this stuff. It is possible to get into trouble by showing too much, and people who are arrested, sit in jail until the courts re-open after Labor Day, which will cost you much more than $200.
On Friday, the party really gets going. Starting at 7 p.m. is the traditional Southern Decadence Float Parade down Decatur and then through Bourbon Street. Usually consisting of around 15 floats, the Float Parade is presented by Toby LeFort and the Knights of Decadence.
There are definitely some things you need to remember when spending time in the “Big Easy.” No matter how “bad” you have to go, do not urinate in the streets or on doorsteps or through iron gates! This is a fine way to end up in central lock-up and again, people who are arrested sit in jail until the courts re-open after Labor Day which will cost you about $200 or more. Besides, 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.
Friday night you have lots of options for activities. DJ Sean Michael and, from Los Angles, DJ Mike Bryant, take over the dance floor at Bourbon Pub / Parade with tons of strippers and such to keep you titillated. Across the way at OZ, DJ/Producer Roland Belmares will be cranking up the beats until the wee hours of the morning.
Remember New Orleans is a 24/7 party. The clubs simply don’t close. Think Backstreet Atlanta with more humidity, fewer inhibitions (if that’s possible), and you don’t have to stay in only one club. You can walk through the streets of the French Quarter for hours of simply people watching and getting your drinks on the go. It’s a long weekend though so pace yourself!
Spend the day exploring the city. Café du Monde is a popular New Orleans food destination specializing in beignets with powdered sugar (served in threes), coffee with chicory, and café au lait. It’s a destination that most seasoned travelers would swear by on their way to the French Market. Another restaurant that is consistently in the top ten lists for travelers is the Market Café at 1000 Decatur Street. Famous for their excellent Shrimp Po Boys and spicy Bloody Mary’s, the bar is always open, the music is always playing, and the food is Mardi Gras perfect.
Café Lafitte in Exile is the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States. Café Lafitte is a must see if you are interested in visiting an incredibly unique landmark in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. Both Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote used to frequent the bar.
Good Friend’s (740 Dauphine St.) is another excellent bar to check out, especially when the weather heats up in the afternoon and you’re in need of a frozen cocktail. GF’s is the self-proclaimed home of the Separator, described as a frozen brandy Alexander, blends vanilla ice cream with sweet brandy and coffee liqueur.
Now on to the main events. OZ presents hometown favorite DJ/Producer Joe Gauthreaux for his almost annual performance that always brings Decadence revelers. Also, in his first New Orleans appearance, Miami DJ/Producer Kidd Madonny takes the upstairs dance floor at Bourbon Pub / Parade at 11pm.
The best part about Southern Decadence is that since it’s on Labor Day weekend, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the party. On Sunday it just keeps going strong. One thing we’ve learned over the years is to wear shoes you don’t mind tossing at the end of the trip, especially on Bourbon Street. The streets at this point are muddy with spilled drinks and other smelly liquids (see aforementioned comment on urinating in the streets).
Grand Marshals Aubrey Sinclair, Chad Boutte and Rebba Douglas lead the infamous walking parade through the streets of the French Quarter. The parade starts at 5 p.m. at the traditional Green Lantern. In past years, the parade route has sometimes taken detours, but not as much in more recent years. Just listen for the banging of the drums and you’re sure to find this raucous group.
During the afternoon there are a plethora of T-dances and street parties to attend, Grenades to consume and men to cruise. Everybody is getting very loose and uninhibited at tis point, so if you’re going to show a little (or a lot) of skin, please be aware that everyone is an amateur photographer and you will end up on someone’s tumblr.
In the evening, DJ Hector Fonseca tears it up at OZ and DJ Derek Monteiro from Los Angeles spins at Bourbon Pub / Parade with spotlight performances by Rhea Litre and Billy Francesca. When all is said and done, its certainly is a jam-packed holiday weekend full of fun and frisky frivolity.
Have a great time Atlanta boys and try to stay just sober enough so that you can remember how tremendous of a time you had.