one last song Volume 21/Issue 18/2003
by Donnie Jay
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
The Reverend, The Results and The Rainbow
Today is Tuesday, September the second. Another Southern Decadence has come and gone, after thirty-two years it is one that I will certainly never forget, not just because I was so closely involved in mounting it, as Madame Grand Marshal Ms. Rusty La Roux had chosen me to do so, but rather for the events and controversy surrounding it. Before I get into all of that however, I just have one question to ask my dear friend Rusty. My dear what have I ever done to you that I deserved this? Of course Iím just kidding, I think.
Actually it has been an incredible learning experience for me. When first agreeing to be Rustyís right hand I really thought it would be a breeze, I mean after having had produced, directed and conceived so many shows with Slutpuppies Productions, what trouble could getting one person ready to be Grand Marshal be? I mean letís face it girls, handling a group of eight screaming divas has never been a bed of roses, but I seem to thrive on stress. So when asked I jumped at the chance to be with Rusty through thick and thin, for better or worse, in sickness and: well you get the gist of it, believe me I have been "married" three times in my life and had I spent half as much time with any of those men as I have with my sister Rusty, I would probably still be with one of them today.
Now that it is all over I think of the many hours spent setting up her appearances, arranging her schedule, so that she could bring Southern Decadence to everyone within our vast community. From the bar runs thru the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny, Metairie and the West Bank, she desired to bring this celebration of gay life, music and culture to all, and by Jove I think she did it.
I have been asked countless times in the last twenty-four hours, if it was all worth it, if I knew when I first said yes what I know now, would I do it over. The first time the question took me back somewhat and I had to think a minute or so. It didnít take me to long to remember how beautiful Rusty looked, the radiant smile she flashed all along the two-mile route, the message of strength thru unity she presented. Was it all worth it? You bet your sweet buns it was.
The meetings with her to discuss how to best serve the charities she is so fond of. To make sure that they were the recipients of the monies we were out to raise. To this end when she chose United Services for AIDS we contacted that agency and requested that they send representatives to all the fund-raisers we held for them, to handle the monies generated. My hat goes off to Rick Vititoe and his staff for seemingly being everywhere at once with us. Her fundraising work is not over yet, as she has done so silently behind the scene for Buzzyís Boys and Girls for many years, she will continue to do so as Southern Decadence Grand Marshal XXXI.
I think of the endless hours spent with a glue gun in my hand, creating the costumes for her and the four of us who led the parade at her side. It felt like the damn thing had actually become part of my anatomy. Here I must thank my daughter Regina Adams for her undying support and help with the sewing.
Putting this parade together was akin to staging a Mardi Gras ball and it certainly would not have happened without the help and advice from all the past Grand Marshals. Each and every one of them was an invaluable source of information and ideas. From helping me locate those of their group who had moved away, to their attendance at as many of the events as they could, we thank you for your support.
There are so many people to thank both within in our gay community and our straight supporters that I am afraid I will slight someone in doing so, therefore being the asinine fool that I am I will not make an attempt to do so here, because Rusty will do so on a separate page in the next issue.
However, there is still some that without whose support I could have never pulled off my end of the deal. A special thank you to Miss Love, Mumbo and Olive for taking to the stage to help raise monies. To my boss, my friend, my confidant "Irish Mike", Grand Marshal XXX, who I am sure more than one time, would have loved to be served my head on a silver platter, during the past four weeks, a very special thank you. Again to "Irish Mike", "Big" Rick and Tony, Grand Marshals XXIX, of the Ninth Circle, thank you for the beautiful rainbow banners all along Rampart Street to welcome everyone along the Gay Gateway to The French Quarter.
My loudest accolade must go to our corporate sponsor Coors Light, who stood by us with courage and determination in the face of our most vocal adversary Grant Storm. The most Reverend Storm made an incredible amount of phone calls to just about every corporation who had supported any gay fund-raising event, of any kind, threatening them with a national boycott of their products. But just as the Disney people refused to cancel "Gay Days" at their theme parks under pressure from the Southern Baptists, so Coors stood unwavering by our side. To the people who represented them Val, Jennifer and Oscar, I raise my glass and bow to you all in appreciation for the help you have given to our entire community, the Grand Marshal and myself. To the big brass, thank you for attending our fund-raisers. Without your corporate support they would not have been as successful as they were. There are not enough words for me to express what I feel as a community, we owe you all. I only hope we can repay you somewhat by showing our support of you products.
Next, I must thank the Reverend Grant Storm. Yes, my dears you are not going blind. I did say Iíd like to thank him. Thank you Mr. Storm for bringing the entire French Quarter community closer together, for through youíre hateful sermonizing, quoting passages out of context and only those befitting your crazed rhetoric, you left out the most important part of all the scriptures. Love thy neighbor. Without a doubt there is probably not a single straight resident within our community here in the Quarter that does not have a least one friend who is gay. We have lived together, worked together and worshipped together. Yes, you may be surprised to know that many of us are Christians, but we obviously worship a different Jesus Christ than the one you claim to be speaking for. We worship a forgiving Christ, one who knows that none of us are perfect, in fact I bet he most likely may even forgive you your hated and bigotry given enough time. But then I am only human and cannot promise you that, for I, unlike you, cannot speak for him. Then again remember, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." and I certainly would not be able to do so. How about you my dear Mr. Storm? From what Iíve been reading in the newspapers and what I recall reading about sin, I certainly donít think so.
To the businessmen all along Royal Street and especially in the vicinity of Saint Ann thru Saint Peter Streets where the reverend had placed his eager band of protesters, I salute you all, including your customers on your overflowing balconies, who seemed to be mostly straight tourists. To the residents, on their private balconies, who were obviously partying with their many friends. To the hundreds of gay and straight supporters who gathered there, knowing that this would be our first major confrontation on our parade route. Heartfelt thanks all around for drowning out the hateful bullhorns with you cheers, your horns and bells. For unto heaven rose a joyful sound. I know that I actually felt a tear of joy run down my cheek here though I havenít cried since God knows when. Anyway I know for sure it certainly wasnít a drop of rain. Though the weatherman had said that the chances of rain was eighty percent plus, and the skies had opened upon us all that morning as "The Storm" had predicted. I remember this from his ranting in the park that Friday night prior to the parade he said," the Lord was sending the depression toward New Orleans as a warning."
The morning of the Parade we had all gathered at Big Daddyís for a make-up breakfast, and it was certainly storming. I must confess I was really worried, but Rusty with confidence stated that we were parading one way or another, so we headed to the staging area when the rain eased up somewhat. At the "R" bar, people began gathering including many of the past Grand Marshals. Time seemed to fly by much to quickly, security arrived, then the fire truck. It was about twenty minutes til we had to leave for the Golden Lantern, when we stepped outside to get some pre-parade pictures, to our amazement no liquid was falling from the sky. You want to talk about a miracle Mr. Storm? I think you witnessed one that day for not a drop fell on us the entire Parade. I think I may know my God better than you do for it seems my prayers were the ones that were answered. Enough about the Reverend letís move unto the results.
How are these for some great results?
Attendance was up by about ten percent. The one hundred thousand plus, GLTB, tourist in town. Spending their money everywhere. Storm, sorry I had to use his name one more time, had stated that the economic benefits were not worth the trouble. Just where do you think these people stay? Where do you think they eat? Where do you think they shop? Ask any of our merchants when their business booms. I think you will find that Southern Decadence will be in the top three or four events in any given year. The merchants know this and that is why you see the Rainbow Flags at so many places welcoming the Southern Decadence Revelers.
All of the dollars raised at the benefits held by, for, or in the name of, the Grand Marshal have not been tallied as of yet, but I know that it will be a substantial amount. I know that the show Rusty held at Body and Soul for United Services for AIDS netted fifteen hundred dollars alone. Thank you Jerce for the use the building.
The smiles on the faces of the children and their parents all along the parade route were simply priceless, proving that all can have a good time.
The friendships and the partnerships that were established during this celebration of our life are simply priceless. I know that I met many new and exciting people every day. I know that many of them I will see again and again at celebrations all over the country. I know I will see them all back here again next year, for almost to the person they are united with us now to see to it that the tradition of Southern Decadence will live on. This strength thru unity will assure that it does.
Thank you Mayor Nagin, Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, the New Orleans City Council, the New Orleans Police Department: Eight District for all working together with the Grand Marshal, and the gay press and the owners of the gay bars to insure a safe party. Thank you Larry Bagneris the your security volunteers during the parade. Each and every member of your team deserves a hand.
Thank you Rip and Marsha for your hospitality during the bead toss, it was quite an experience to say the least. How wonderful it felt to just get out of the heat and off our feet.
A very special word of thanks to every person: male, female, gay, straight, bi, young, old or in between who came from far and near to attend this year's celebration. Without you none of this could have or would have taken place.
Monday I returned to work. It was overcast and dreary, but the bar filled up quickly. The men began dancing on the bar again and it was clear that the party was still in progress. This was the last day of the celebration that began as just a small party of friends bored with the summerís doldrums. This was the day of the survivorís bar run, that ragtag group of people who were celebrating their stamina of getting thru it all. They arrived at my bar in the highest of spirits and I was surprised at how large a group they were. Another small party growing by leaps and bounds? Well no one can accuse us of not passing a good time. They left for their next destination but the place filled right up again, and I was slammed. The phone began ringing; somehow I managed to find a second to answer it. "Look outside Donnie," it was Jenny on the line. "Iím swamped," I answered." Whatís wrong?" "Nothing, thereís the most incredible rainbow youíll ever see." The sun had come out again and there was a beautiful rainbow over the Quarter. Iíd like to think it was an omen of sorts to end the celebration, with our colors draped across the sky.
Thank you all for the best year ever and see you for an even bigger one in 2004. Southern Decadence will continue with your love and support.
Rusty, my dear friend, you were and are spectacular. Let's get together and sing ONE LAST SONG.
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