36th Annual Bourbon Street Awards
The Thirty-sixth Annual Bourbon Street Awards Show will be held on Mardi Gras Day, Tuesday, March 7, at 12noon. The location will be at the corner of St. Ann and Burgundy Streets. Ms. Varla Jean Merman will be back hosting the show. Ms. Merman, a local girl who made it big in New York, was part of the traveling show of the Broadway hit Chicago. She wrote, directed and starred in the Off, Off Broadway production of The Bad Seedling. She is acclaimed for both her male and female roles. This will be Ms. Merman's fourth appearance as host, and she is sure to bring the house down as she always does.
Wood Enterprises, who brings us this fantastic contest, has gathered Celebrity Judges from the local area. The categories include: Male, Female, Group, Fantasy, and Leather. There will be a first, second and third place award given for each of these categories. Also to be awarded will be "Best Tits" (male or female) And the grandest of grand awards for "Best of Show."
The Bourbon Street Awards, well into its fourth decade, has hosted some of the most exciting and extravagant Mardi Gras costumes ever seen, and a bit of controversy as well. In 1963, Arthur Jacobs, then owner of the Clover Grill, was facing declining revenues, as were other businesses in the Lower Quarter, at that time. "This end of the Quarter, around Bourbon and Dumaine, had a bad reputation in those days. Things around here have come a long way," Jacobs recalled. Jacobs began and oversaw the event until 1974, when he conceded the Show to Tommy Hopkins, the owner of Cafe Lafitte in Exile, located across the street from the Clover Grill. During Jacob's tenure with the Awards, he faced a good bit of opposition because of the participation of female impersonators. "A big shot reporter tried to degrade the Awards with a feature in a New York magazine in 1964. He inferred that the show contributed to moral decay. The city was no help either with its additional restrictions and rules. I'm happy the city fathers have taken a different view today," Jacobs said.
During the 60's and early 70's the show drew thousands of people to the corner. Japanese, German, British, and French film crews recorded it for their networks. In 1971 Darlene Jacobs, Arthur Jacob's daughter, and noted local attorney, emceed the show, which was later televised on the BBC. "In 1967 there was a beautiful boy from New York who won Best of Show," Mr. Jacobs said. "His impersonating a woman was so well done, viewers and judges alike could not tell that he was a man."
"I've always felt the contestants were the star of the show," commented Jacobs. "I've turned down movie stars, musicians - even Al Hirt was refused access during the show. Pete Fountain came before the show one year and played for an hour, but once the show started, the contestants had their moment," Jacobs remembered.
The now legendary "Parade of Cleopatra" featuring Houston entertainer Torchy Laine as Cleopatra, won "Best of Show" three consecutive years, 1977 through 1979. Cleopatra, whose litter was born by numerous body builders, was preceded by Egyptian musicians, food and wine bearers, slaves, and one year followed by a tiger and its handler. This spectacle earned the awards contest the title of "The Largest Free Show of Mardi Gras." Jacobs laughed, "We had to make Torchy a judge so he wouldn't compete."
When Thomas Wood bought Cafe Lafitte in 1974, the Bourbon Street Awards were assumed with the bar. Escalating production costs and more restrictive city guidelines threatened the Awards, but the show went on. The late Ed Smith, a favorite emcee of the show, well known locally for his flamboyance and humor, produced - in his own name - the requisite permits for the show in 1982 and 1983. He staged it at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon. To avoid conflict with Smith's show, Wood decided not to compete. "Everyone knew it as the Bourbon Street Awards anyway'" Jacobs noted. "Contestants from all over the world came to participate and model their costumes."
When Smith fell terminally ill in 1984, the Awards were not staged, but Jacobs proudly recalled, unofficially, contestants returned to Dumaine and Bourbon to show off their costumed creations. 1985 brought the Bourbon Street Awards officially back home to Cafe Lafitte in Exile at Dumaine and Bourbon.
In 1986 the Awards were relocated to the corner of St. Ann and Burgundy in front of the Rawhide. "By staging it there, more viewers were able to see the show," said Wood.
In 1994, American Chronicle did an hour long segment on Mardi Gras titled, "Farewell to the Flesh," and the Bourbon Street Awards got great coverage.
Mr. Thomas Wood, owner of Wood Enterprises, and his staff are once again doing the background work to promise you that the 36th Annual Bourbon Street Awards will be "The Best Free Show of Mardi Gras."
"Fri. Night Before Mardi Gras"
to Benefit Belle Reve
Shelter Resources, Inc., often referred to as Belle Reve, the New Orleans hospice residence for families living with AIDS and HIV, will be the recipient of funds raised at "Friday Night Before Mardi Gras," an eighteen year old fund raiser which has been a social event for the friends of Dr. Ivan Sherman held at his uptown home. This year Dr. Sherman, along with Co-Chairs Billy Henry and Edwin Potratz, will continue the costume masked ball complete with food and beverages.
This year the event will be held at The Carrollton, 4710 S. Carrollton Ave., on Fri., Mar. 3 and the public is invited to attend. Tickets are $35 per person and can be purchased with Visa or MasterCard by telephone at 504.488.6611. Space is limited so prompt action is recommended.
For additional information, contact Henry LaRoche, 504.488.6611.
General Admission Available
for Petronius' 39th Mardi Gras Ball
The Krewe of Petronius is happy to announce their 39th Mardi Gras ball Feb. 27, 2000, 8pm at the Municipal Auditorium. The theme this year is "Carnival in Venice." Besides an array of magnificent costumes, the ball will feature entertainment by New Orleans musical theatre diva Cynthia Owen with Harry Mayronne, Jr. at the piano, Komenko Folklore Dance Group and the Lyle Guidroz dancers. General Admission, for a donation of $10, is available by calling 504.525.4498, or at MRB, 515 St. Philip St. and Second Skin, 521 St. Philip or from any krewe member.
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