sappho's psalm
Volume 16/Issue 21

Toni Pizanie by Toni Pizanie
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Gay Jazz Fest

If you missed the five hours of Pride Fest, you missed the New Orleans Alliance of Pride's finest hour. This handful of volunteer workers and visionaries created a "Gay Jazz Fest" which in years to come could rival any festival held in New Orleans.

I had squirmmed with an uneasiness at leaving our appointed (by Dutch Morial) and comfortable Pride Fest location. For more than ten years, I had attended, rain and shine, the Pride events. As the parade formed at Washington Square, I sat in the carriage looking over the silent park, remembering former Pride Fests and wondering what would be so great at the other end.

Armstrong Park is the perfect site for today's Pride Fest. New additions included more food venders with a sidewalk cafe style eating area; a VIP tent for workers, performers and the Grand Marshals; two new entertainment areas for continuous drag shows and gospel music along with the main stage that offered live entertainment and more shopping and information booths than ever before.

Only later did I learn that, other than Georges, there were shortcomings which will be repaired by 1999. Whatever those problems, they were not obvious. Congratulations to the co-chairs and members of the Alliance of Pide. You have given our community an event truly worthy of our PRIDE.

From the Velvet Throne

No, this is not the pottie in a Gay Men's Room. This is the deep red crushed velvet covered carriage that my friend and gallant Co-Grand Marshal, Stewart Butler, escorted me to so that I may lead the Pride Fest Parade. It is obvious that Stewart's maturity and position is not threatened by ego.

This was an exciting moment. Clutching the Gay Pride Bear that friends Randy and Jimmy made and arms filled with roses, I climbed into the carriage. Freddie, my faithful poodle, smiled up at me with that "you've got to be kidding" look. His incomparable groomer, Buddy Jones, lifted him up to the seat beside me. Freddie's new continental cut left areas for a pink and black triangle-the symbols of our Gay Community.

Jinnie Nicotera sat across from us smiling with the joy that only a good friend can feel for another who is being honored. "Can they tell?" I asked. The smile became sympathic and she shook her head "no."

I didn't want anyone to know that the night before, when Rip, Marsha and I lifted our first drink in celebration of Pride Fest, I had a slight stroke that blinded my right eye.

Freddie sat on my right protecting my blind side and Jinnie, although frightened of experiencing her first hurricane in person, was there to share the fun, the beads, the crowds, the spectacle, and my fear.

The parade moved at a comfortable pace until we reached Royal and St. Louis. We heard that a truck had gotten caught in a tree. Waiting for them to rejoin us, friends and tourists visited our carriages wishing us well.

With a lurch, we rounded the corner and headed for N. Rampart St. Some of our favorite people from St. Louis St. came out to wave and cheer. First was a group from Miss Do's and then Miss Fly's.

At Mother Bob's, we were greeted with wild cheers. From Footloose, came Raymond with a gift of my favorite cigar. The parade turned onto St. Ann and the noise level turned up as we approached Good Friends then the Pub and Oz. The Gay heart of Bourbon St. was filled with well wishers ready to help us depart the carriages for the Ambush balcony.

Stewart and I were swept up to view the parade in its full glory. Cheers bar had by far the most festive group of bead throwers and noise makers. I could hear our names being called over and over but couldn't really see any individuals. The wonderful Decadance Grand Marshal, Robin Malta, sans hair, applauded us and threw kisses before he joined the Woods boys for a sassy dance routine that wowed the crowd.

Who was that happy face throwing "Fruit Loops," the tastiest catch of the day? "Toni, Toni," I heard Randal's voice as a huge wad of beads landed in my hands. Floats continued passing filled with happy, screaming Gay voices. Although the NO/AIDS Task Force float featured a half nude Mr. "Something," the real feature was Tim in a silver dance ball shirt waving a storm warning flag.

Click, click. The sound of taps on the pavement in unison, the flash of silver and the Wolfendale's precision marching team pranced onto Bourbon St. Click, click. Ryan gave the signal and flag bearers performed in perfect unison. Again screams of delight from the onlookers.

As the last float swept past the balcony, we rushed out into the street to reclaim our carriages and complete the parade. By now, Freddie was a veteran and he jumped into the carriage and took his place with no coaxing.

I told Jinnie I was OK when we reached the park so that she could go home to her four-legged babies and prepare for Georges. There was no reason for concern because I was surrounded by the most wonderful, kind, fun-loving Gay family that any grand marshal could ask for. I even had the honor of being introduced on two stages. This was a great day filled with treasured memories.

Now just to make it realistic there has to be one rude jerk. Robert Van... takes that prize. There was one wonderful surprise that arrived via the mail thanks to the thoughtfulness of Paul K. When heat and exhaustion have taken their toll, Noel Twilbeck came to my rescue just in the nick of time. Freddie loved the smells in his new truck. I loved the air-conditioner. We were left with just enough energy to get ourselves into our cool little doll house and fall into a happy, peaceful nap, sweet dreams swimming in our heads.


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