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in the spotlight
Volume 16/Issue 15



A Dialogue With Robin Malta,
Southern Decadence Grand Marshal XXVI

by Patrick Shannon, III

[The Rise From Roman Catholic Altar Boy, Italian Stallion, Queen of Petronius, and Manager of The Great Mother House of Gaydom, Lafitte's...]

The first image I ever saw of Robin Anthony Malta (SDGMXXVI) was the same one thousands (maybe millions) of others saw when they cruised the Ambush 2000 web site: the profile of a dark haired man with half a banana shoved down his throat, the other half sticking out of his mouth. Obscene? Well, it could be construed as such by some. But let's get over it. The soul of Southern Decadence is Gay liberty, and camp-the freedom to do wild, crazy, funny, and even titillating things one last time; to have one last glorious fling celebrating the joy and the sensuality of life before summer ends. And how many poets have used the word "summer" to symbolize a time of life, a time before the middle age of autumn, the old age of winter. The only irony to that concept is that in New Orleans we hardly ever lack a summer. But we natives also never lack for ANY REASON to throw a party-or a string of beads.

Here's what Robin and I discussed behind locked doors in the 900 block of Bourbon St., just a high heeled click or two away from Cafe Lafitte, the Mother House of All Southern Queers, as many have attested from Jon Newlin, King of the Dykes, to John Dodt; from Ruthie the Duck Girl, to the Princess of Pretension & Incarnation of Style, George DeVille (r.i.p.):

"Can I smoke, Patrick?"

"I rather you didn't, but if you're nervous. . ."

"Oh, no, no, no, no!" He said, putting his pack of cigs down with a nervous look.

"Don't be nervous. It's going to be a nice interview," I told him with a secret smile. I knew if he were nervous, it would mean he was the serious guy Ambush 2000 PubEd Rip Naquin said he was. He wasn't another egomaniac liable to organize some sham scheme in the Gay community after his international fame of being chosen SDGMXXVI. Looking at this very handsome young man trying to get his nerves in order, I knew I'd never see him promoting, oh let's say, an Iberville Foundation, or perhaps a Grand Marshal Trust Fund. Anyway. He sat. I sat. The doors were locked. But the curtains were not drawn, so get that out of your Southern Decadent heads. "So, Robin Malta," I said settling back in my chair. What's your middle name?"

"Anthony. "

"Robin Anthony Malta," I said with a New Orleans accent on the middle name, Anthony.

"Yeah, Anthony," he repeated.

"How would you describe yourself?" He paused and thought.

"Oh wow! Ummmm. Outgoing. Respectful. I believe in RESPECT. Umm, and just an all around happy-go-lucky guy."

"That's very nice. You said 'outgoing, respectful.' You believe in respect. And you're just an all around outgoing easy guy?"

"Easy? Well, I don't know how easy," he said with a nervous laugh.

"May I ask you how old are you, Robin?"

"34."

"You look like you're in your twenties." An embarrassed silence followed. What a sweet guy I thought. Definitely not an egomaniac. "And you're from what town?"

"Here. I was born and raised here and across the river in Harvey." I was surprised to learn this fact. He didn't sound like a Yat to me.

"Hawvee," I said with surprise in my thickest pure Yat accent.

"Yeah, Hawvee dawlin," he repeated in an even truer Westbank Yatasian slang with a cute smile.

"How long have you been a hairdresser?"

"Umm, probably now four years. I bartended at Lafitte's for a long time. Was manager for a little while."

"Well, that's all public relations, isn't it? Where did you go to school?"

"Oh definitely, definitely. I went to St. Joseph in Gretna, High School I did John Curtis Christian, College was Our Lady of the Holy Cross, and Beauty School."

"So you really are a good Roman Catholic homosexual," I said jokingly.

"I was an altar boy!"

"An altar boy," I repeated with surprise.

"Yeah, but I'm not suing nobody because nuttin' ever happened to me," he said laughingly.

"Nuttin' ever happened to you?" I thought for a moment. "Were you as handsome back then as you are now?"

"Ohhhhhh stop it!" he retorted, all smiles, hazel eyes shining, laughing deeply. "Yeah."

"Well, there you go. What do you have, blue eyes, dark hair, moustache, hazel eyes, about 6 feet tall?"

"Oh God, no. 5'11" and 3/4."

"This is supposed to be a serious interview so I really can't ask you the question our readers would really like to know. But as you know, Catholic boys are really usually well-endowed with all of God's gifts."

"I'm ITALIAN Catholic," he smirked.

"Well, I don't know what to say. We'll just have to let it go at that."

"Just leave it to your imagination," he answered.

"This question is very important," I said, quickly switching topics. "Just how does one qualify to become or to be chosen as Grand Marshal for this great internationally known summer celebration?"

"I don't know that I can answer that question because when Greg [aka, Miss Love, last year's Grand Marshal] brought it to my attention I was flabbergasted. I was flattered that he even thought about it. Last year when they picked him I helped him a whole lot that day and made his headpiece for him and just as a friendly gesture because we had been friends at the bar for so long. I was Queen Petronius 29th and I invited him to the ball that year and he remembered that I didn't even know him but for a little while and I thought enough of him as a friend to invite him to sit at my table and he said, "I had such a good time, I was new to this town and I've always remembered that. I didn't, even in my wildest imaginings, ever think he would pick me!" He espoused breathlessly.

"What, in a nutshell, is your vision for this affair. What are you planning to do?"

"In a nutshell-without sounding egotistical, or obnoxious--I think it's going to set the pace for the future. My whole thing is to include everyone. Because for so many years the bars on the Westbank and Metairie were never included. Twenty five years ago it all started when two people were sitting in their living room planning a party and that's what I'm doing with my friends, we're planning a party. We're planning a drink run to Baton Rouge, to the Westbank, to the French Quarter, to Metairie, to the Marigny, everywhere on the 25th of September. We're going to hit, like, 40 bars. I was talking to Glenn at OZ and we're even going to Pensacola. We're going to have carloads of people and a designated driver in each car. I just don't want anybody to be excluded. It's a party and everybody needs to be invited. Think about when we were little kids and we didn't get invited and we all got so upset..."

"I think that's wonderful."

"Well, that's what NEEDS to happen."

"And are you attached to anyone special now? Do you have a love to share all this with?"

"No. But I'm friends with my ex-lovers. Again, it's all RESPECT."

"What is your theme this year?"

"'Deliriously Decadent Divas, A Salute To Sitcom Reruns'. I'm going as Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie. And, you know, in the last few days I've gotten so much good feedback from all over. I got a call from New Jersey from an old customer who said he saw my picture on the Web site and he just had to call and congratulate me."

"Is everything going to be on time this year?"

"Yes! Everything is going to run like clockwork. I have a group of friends-Rick Thomas, Ronny Bentel, Gary Griffin, James Tonkins who is doing all my graphic work-all of these people, when I used to manage Lafitte's...I used to work for Food For Friends on Thursdays my day off. They were short of money. I decided since I was Manager of Lafitte's I could use that as a tool. So I had the first Red Party on a zero budget and we raised $5,000 in one night because of all of my friends. It's been going on now for what, six years. And all because of my friends, those who are really in my heart, those who did everything, we did it. We did it on a zero budget! If we could do the first Red Party so well, we can do this even better! So, on the first Sunday of the Labor Day Weekend, September 6th this year, we'll line up before the Golden Lantern Bar at 2pm. This year we have to have a police escort, so I'm not sure what the route is going to be. But it's going to be big. I want the parade to end before the end even begins. It's going to be the biggest one ever. Lots of confetti, music and noise makers, playing sitcom themes. My costume-you'll just have to wait and see. It's going to be incredible. Purple smoke and everything!"

"What would you like to say to the community as a final note?"

"I like to say that I appreciate the support I've already gotten from the people I don't know and the people I do know. I love them all very much. All I want is for everyone to have a good time. NO ONE is going to be picked out or pointed at. The parade's going to end in the middle of the street where people can just go where they want to go. I want everybody to remember that this is a PARTY. It's not a political thing, it's not a vendetta thing, it's not a jealousy thing. It's a party and let's just all keep it that way. And if we can all just get along and have a party that day, it's going to be a blast. I'm very, very excited. I think people are really, really going to have a great time. Because of the help from my friends. Because of RESPECT. And about the RESPECT thing. When I was 16 years old I went to my first Gay party. I didn't know anyone to talk to or what to do, so I sat down and started to read a book. I read something wonderful and it said, 'IT IS NOT WHAT HE HAS, NOR EVEN WHAT HE DOES, THAT DIRECTLY EXPRESSES THE WORTH OF A MAN, BUT WHAT HE IS.' And if you think about it that's what it's all about. I've lived my life by that. That's what this parade's all about, that's what I'm all about, that's what to me being Gay is all about. You know. If you give me respect, I'll give you respect. And it's all about RESPECT. That's all."

"One more big big question?"

"OK."

"Who is going to be Grand Marshal next year?" He paused briefly and burst out laughing.

"I don't know. I really don't," he said between coughs and guffaws.

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