sherwood's forest
Volume 22/Issue 4/2004

wally

 

 

by Wally Sherwood
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

FOR AMON RA, "IT WAS THE BEST of times..." on Jan. 31 at the St. Bernard Cultural Center. Charles Dickens may have inspired the beginning of the Fiction: Make-Up Between the Covers tableau, but the evening would finally be claimed by none other than a reincarnated Tennessee Williams direct from his French Quarter courtyard.

Opening the festivities, Jay Cooper sang the National Anthem and delivered the president’s address. Emcees were Pat O’Rourke, former head honcho of the krewe, and Lauren Brown, Amon Ra Queen XXXIII, who dedicated the bal masque to the memory of Richard Powell, Queen XXI, and Barbara Price, King XXVIII.

Representing A Tale of Two Cities and setting the lively pace for the ball to follow were captain Ron Issler as London and lieutenant Todd Knecht as Paris, as fancy flag-waving stand-ins for the Carnival cities of New Orleans and Chalmette. And immediately there was a salute to another local literary icon, Anne Rice, with Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned.

Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island were to become the crowd’s favorite, earning a standing ovation for the rollicking treasure chest. The audience also roared its approval of Glendora, the Good Witch, from The Wizard of Oz. But, growing up in a railroad family and as a life-long train nut, we absolutely loved Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, with a clever cape of the model train emerging from a tunnel.

After the whistling had died down after Tarzan of the Apes and all his nuts, a romantic interlude was presented by the 14-member I’m a Dancer dance club, including captain Linda Prattini and choreographer Yvette Hadley. That set the stage for a sensational Sunset Strip number, A Can of Beans.

There was many a delight from between the pages still to come. The bouncing rear end of the National Velvet horse interjected humor into the proceedings, while Moby Dick was one whale of a costume. It’s Raining Men was the rousing music for Sadie Thompson’s Rain, just as the medieval Greensleeves was appropriate for Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest.

Frankie Ford’s Sea Cruise and those adorable fish of 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea served as a reminder of another Amon Ra cruise coming up on Nov. 11. And, finally, the roaming adventurer and author Jack London was the subject of a howling Call of the Wild.

CARNIVAL SPLASH, DASH, GLASS: The retiring King and Queen of the Krewe of Amon Ra, Pete Eschette and Gizelle Bouvier, returned to critical acclaim in their richly executed Chess garments from last year’s Games People Play. They perfectly complimented each other as they awaited the new monarchs.

A formalized yet splashy prelude to the 2004 royal coronation itself was the When You’re Good To Mama production number by Electra City and Her Boys, composed of Sal Anselmo, Sam Arcuri, Joe Cullotta, Steve Ecuyer, Ector Gutierrez, Tim Jeansone and Scott Taylor.

The curtain parted to reveal a dashing Thomas Lanier Williams and one of his most memorable characters—portrayed by Paul Van Geffen and Michael Hickerson as central to his 1945 play, The Glass Menagerie. Laura, a cripple who hid in a make-believe world, was transformed into a stunning snow-and-crystal creature, while the playwright was unusually subdued despite his rich adornments.

The difference caused some casual comments as to the appropriate balance of the pair. Despite the spectacle, we would have personally preferred to have the king as Laura’s symbolic unicorn, having had its horn broken off. After all, the previous tableau only presented what was "between the covers," not the creators themselves. But, this small point aside, it was a coronation that will be long remembered in the annals of Carnival.

Once again, we were privileged to be at a table graciously hosted by Tip Varnadore, Queen XXXVI, and Gary Delaune, Queen XXXVII, owners of Queen Fashions in the French Quarter and Metairie. One of their delightful favors, an elaborate mask on a long string of beads, was promptly worn to the Queens' Tea of Armeinius on Feb. 8.

Special guests at the table were old friends of Tip and Gary from Lake Charles and the guiding lights of the Krewe of Morpheus. They were captain Angela Propst, hubby and past duke Gordon and her lieutenant Bob Manuel. Also table-hopping was the retiring King of Pygmalion, Nelson Savoie, one of the community’s few true blue friends in City Hall.

Everyone was delighted to see a robust Romnie Leleux out and about at the ball, and he and the Krewe of Petronius promise to be back next season bigger and better than ever under captain Wally McLaughlin. Both were presented to the new king and queen of Amon Ra.

WIN A NEW SASH FOR FAT TUESDAY: Another Mr. Big Easy Bear Contest, a Carnival fixture for four years, will be staged by the New Orleans Bear and Bear Trapper Social Club on Feb. 21, at 6pm at the Phoenix bar. All visitors and locals are invited to enter with no registration fee. Entry blanks will be available at the New Orleans Bear booth during the Night of the Black Mask block party sponsored by the Knights d’Orleans the evening before at Elysian Fields and N. Rampart.

Judging will be in the categories of fetish, street and cruising wear. First prize will be $50 in cash, trophy and sash. The runner-up will receive $25, trophy, shirt and cap and the third alternate, a trophy and additional consolation prizes.

Despite the changing of the guard at the Golden Lantern, the New Orleans-born Krewe of Olympus again will be in from Houston to show their ball video on Lundi Gras at high noon.

Orlando’s Society Page was definitely the place to be during the weekend of the Mwindo ball and will be again on Feb. 29 at 5pm when the krewe hosts its annual membership rush party.

MAKE A MOVIE, GO HANG YOURSELF: Mar. 1-2 will be red-letter days for leather and fetish folks during the New Orleans Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangendered Film Festival at Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center. The complex is located at 1724 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., formerly Dryades at Felicity, with contacts at 504.525.2767, 525.6246 and www.zeitgeistinc.org.

Nico B., the Dutch-born filmmaker and founder of www.cultepics.com, will present two extremely different films about S/M. Beginning at 9pm, Bettie Page—Dark Angel—The Movie is a drama based on the last three years of the 1950s pin-up girl/icon’s life and the events that lead to her disappearance. After its debut at the San Francisco Indie Film Festival earlier this month, New Orleans will be only the second city to see the movie.

Next will be Nico B.’s acclaimed experimental short film Pig. Disturbing and dark, it depicts the relationship between a sadistic killer (played by Rozz Williams) and his submissive victim (James Hollan). The two slowly evolve into a world of body mutilation, nipple piercing, and homo-erotic fantasy until they merge into one. Poetic and surreal, the film places the viewer deep inside the mind of madness.

Filmed in Death Valley, Pig was the final project of Rozz Williams, who was formerly known from the gothic rock group Christian Death. He was one of the pioneering artists in the musical sub-genre known as Death Rock, using that as a springboard to branch out in a multitude of directions: electronic music, spoken word, visual arts and hard rock. Shortly after completing the film in 1998, Williams took his own life by hanging.

And the mixed documentary program on Feb. 29 at 2pm will be of interest to those with a uniform fetish. The opening feature is Gay Cops: Pride Behind the Badge by Charley Lang and pays homage to the men and lesbians who put their lives on the line to protect and serve their community, regardless of sexual orientation. Admission to festival screenings is $7 and for a complete schedule, see www.reelidentities.org.

BINGO QUEEN FINDS A NEW GIG: Becky Allen, the former vivacious monarch of the Krewe du VieuX and our own The Queen of Bingo, has a new role to play. She has been tapped to ride as Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, when the gals of the Krewe of Muses parade Uptown on the Wednesday before Mardi Gras at 6:45pm.

If Carnival makes you a little crazy, then you are just gonna love it when Armeinius Goes Looney on Feb. 21 at 9pm at the St. Bernard Cultural Center. Balcony seats are available for $15 at Second Skin Leather or you can reserve a luxury table of 10 on the ballroom floor for $350 at www.armeinius.com.

The People of Substance will hold their Endymion fete on Feb. 21 from 11pm until 3am, with $10 admission at the door of Mama Rosa’s and the Krewe of New Orleans’ Best are planning the 16th edition of their Bacchus Bach on Feb. 22 at 11pm.

On Feb. 21 at 8pm, the Country Club is having a pre-Mardi Gras masquerade party, with prizes for the best costumes and a $50 bar tab for the Full Monty Contest winner. And a Lundi Gras Stud Contest is being planned at 10pm by Cowpokes.

NUDE WOMEN AND THEIR NAKED MEN: German-born photographer Helmut Newton, whose stark—and often sadomasochistic—portraits of nude women in chains and bonds won him both acclaim and revulsion, was killed in an automobile accident in Hollywood on Jan. 23. He was 83.

His specialty was sharply focused female nudes, often Amazonian women with hints of sexual deviancy, danger and fetishism. He photographed women in dog collars, chains, leg splints, wheelchairs and saddles. Men in his photographs typically appeared in servile roles, such as waiters, chauffeurs or mere voyageurs.

Not to be missed is a pair of exhibitions at the Arthur Roger Gallery through Feb. 28. Up front is The Male Nude by homosexual artist Paul Cadmus, who died five years ago. His scenes were often filled with violence and repressed sexual desires, which are graphically displayed in The Lid and Rise and Fall. His works range from $2,500 to $195,000 for Study for David and Goliath, a tongue-in-cheek self portrait of the artist and his partner in a classical setting.

Greg Gorman of Kansas City is featured in the back gallery at 432 Julia St. with his erotic As I See It. His soulful photographs of celebrities, such as Elton John, have graced such "in-the-moment" publications as Rolling Stone and Vogue. But in this outing, he seems to be more focused on trendy male models willing to display their tattoos while letting everything else hang out. Asking price for Gorman’s photographs range from $1,600 to $2,000.

OSCAR SMILES ON NEW ORLEANIANS: Native daughter Patricia Clarkson will appear at the Academy Awards ceremonies on Feb. 29—but her mom, councilwoman Jackie Who?, was a no-show at the Jan. meeting of the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association to discuss rising crime and other issues. Patricia is up for Best Supporting Actress for Piece of April, although she is just as good—or even better—in The Station Agent, and can currently be seen in Miracle coupled with Kurt Russell costumed as Nick and Nora Charles.

Other Big Easy City natives nominated for Oscars are makeup artist Eddie Henriques for major contender Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and production designer C. Robert Holloway for Best Live-Action Short, Two Soldiers. The Weather Underground, edited by current resident Dawn Logsdon, is in the running for Best Documentary Feature.

Meanwhile, the remake of The Big Bounce, a crime novel by Elmore Leonard who was born in New Orleans in 1925, has been poorly received. One critic slyly observed that "The empty case of Dixie Brewing Co.’s Blackened Voodoo lager, carried by Owen Wilson, gets more screen time than some of the movie’s human stars." The erstwhile and eerie Bubba Ho-tep features a mug shot of Clay Shaw on a wall along with Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby.

A subject of much discussion has been the big cross on Sean Penn’s back in Mystic River. It is a fake created just for the film, although Penn does have some real tattoos on some other body parts. And, most appropriately, Mel Gibson’s controversial The Passion of the Christ is expected to open across the Gulf South on Ash Wednesday.

COMPANY COMING FOR CARNIVAL? The first thing to do with newcomers is to explain the proper use of our lingo and language. Simply put, that Carnival is the entire season beginning with Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras is only one day—the last day only. Or in French, it is Fat Tuesday, just as the Monday before, Lundi Gras, is Fat Monday. And, sadly, you will have to inform them that there is no such animal as a Gay ball on Mardi Gras.

To further explore and explain all the above, please find time to take your guests to Crown Jewels of Carnival, assembled by Mardi Gras designer Henri Schindler and featuring a colorful collection from the 1870s to the 1930s, at the Presbytere on Jackson Square. Included are such rare artifacts as a jeweled mace, early Rex ducal badges and even a riding crop from a Comus lieutenant.


King Cake Queen XI of Gay Mardi Gras, Ms. L Ford, The Dragon Queen

Photo©GrahamStudioOne.COM

While Crown Jewels will continue until the end of the year, the end is much closer for The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. You and your visitors have only until Ash Wednesday to see the delicately decorated coffins, teenage mummy, giant sun god, wooden barge, golden masks and multi-ton bust of Ramesses II.

Jacey Frew’s art is still on view through the end of the month at the Country Club. Just back from a brief trip to her native New Zealand, she has added an interesting panel work entitled The Four Seasons of New Orleans, representing Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Southern Decadence and Halloween. When you go, be sure to look for the super-sized Pink Rose and two gargoyles named Spike and Spike’s Cousin Rex.

And they are always inventing new ideas for the King Cake, the latest being a voodoo version made of chocolate and coconut. But leave it up to Ambush to give birth to another royal family with a King Cake Queen, a lineage now in its 17th year and still going strong.

Ms. L (Lance Ford) has been duly honored as the Dragon Queen—but we affectionately call him our Dragon Lady, and if you are as old and feeble as we are, you may remember the old Steve Canyon comic strip. But the lovely Ms. L will be tossing her beads to you and your guests on Fat Tuesday at 2pm from this publication’s balcony at 828 Bourbon St. Happy Mardi Gras to our dear lady and all of you too!


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