by Melba Carondelet, New Orleans, Louisiana
Scene I, An Uninvited
Touch of Evil:
Two prissy blue-lipped queens were ogling the highly decorated balcony in the 800 block of Bourbon Street. They were standing under the mansion across the street which faces the building. Behind this gleaming and glittering balcony was the grand apartment of Rip and Marsha Naquin-Delain. It was easy to see their living quarters inside when the tall windows were open and the curtains drawn as they were this mild winter night.
In the fine apartment below the living quarters, and including the old slave quarters, were housed the main office of the newspaper they owned, this very one you are now reading, Ambush Mag 2000. One could say that the newspaper and the spirit of its two ambitious, hardworking owners, wrapped around the entire mansion and into the spacious secret patio (il gardino segretto as some called it) and its two floors of slave quarter apartments.
Not only was it a mild winter night, it was a muggy night, typical of many a December in New Orleans. Down Bourbon Street toward Canal, the neon signs and Christmas decorations of all the bars, T-shirt and tourist souvenir shops, and the gaudy restaurants, added even more light and color to the festive ambiance of the evening. The street was crawling with tourists.
Rip and Marsha's wide balcony was aglow, indeed, was simply illumined with pink, green, white and gold waves and bands and sparklings of light. From across the street, the two queens could see the glow and glitter of a billion bibelots, gimcracks, objects d'art, family treasures, Erte' sculptures, and Franklin Mint collectables. Now added to all that was the tinsel and rainbow lights of endless Christmas decorations.
Elegant people were sipping cocktails or looking down at the tourist wandering around below. It was obvious that a grand party was going on. The two prissy blue-lipped queens from their stance across the street, watched all of this activity with wide-opened gleaming eyes.
"Well, my dear," said the tall ugly one sarcastically, "They certainly know how to put on the Ritz, don't they. Do you think that balcony can hold any more Christmas lights? Or that apartment any more treasures?" she snickered.
"If it could, I'm sure Rip would find a way to hang 'em up or house 'em, said the short, fat balloon-faced queen. Just look at all that conspicuous consumption, as they say, she continued grandly. Why that Christmas tree must be at least 16 feet tall. I guess they had a hole cut in the ceiling to stand it up," she said snickering.
She moved a bit to get a better side view from where she was standing across the street. "My gawd!" she crowed, that tree is almost as big around as Rip" They both laughed like old women keeping tabs on marriages and the due date of the first child.
"Rip?" said her friend. "You don't mean. . . ."
"Well, yes my dear. Who else would put on such a splashy display. That's the apartment of Rip and Marsha Naquin-Delain, the owners of Ambush Mag 2000. Didn't you know . . ."
"Well, she said squeezing her eyes for a better look, "They certainly do surround themselves with glitter, don't they. How tacky can a girl get?"
"Tacky? a young male voice suddenly said out of the dark. "Tacky is the way you two queens are saying mean things about two of the best people in our city. Rip and Marsha probably DONATE more money to the community than you earn in a year," he yelled. Then with a smart turn, he crossed the street holding out a gold and white invitation. The two queens stood there speechless. "Too bad I won't see you two at the party," the young man said smiling sweetly. "Obviously you weren't invited!"
Laughing, he sailed across Bourbon Street waving to two other guests arriving, one wrapped in furs, the other in black tie. They paused for a moment chatting, then gave their invitations to the handsome policeman at the entrance and entered the long hallway leading to the patio and the party. But not before they all looked at the two jealous queens still posed next to each other and still staring at them with gimlet eyes. Their mouths were still frozen in a wide open rictus of shock.
The invitees looked back, laughed, gave them a dainty wave, and left them standing on the banquette. It's so easy for those who DO NOTHING, to scorn those who try to do it all. They could hear the bright laughter and chatter, the quick bon mots, of almost 300 happy guests as the party went on. Outside in the muggy street they stood and remained.
Scene II, A Wobbly Taxi Ride,
Lon Chewlin and Melba Carondelet Arrive:
It was six pm and time was getting short. Melba was rushing around her side of the double shotgun house that Lon Chewlin owned. She had just called Miss Chewlin, well known journalist and King of the Dykes. "Please be ready for 7:30 pm she begged Miss Chewlin. Rip wants me to get there early so that I can take a few Diane Arbus pickies.
And I'm really in the mood, she thought, having lost 8 pounds recently. Of course, it didn't show, but she thought it must show. She squeezed into her new party gown like 500 pounds of sausage in a 2 pound sausage casing. Miss Chewlin presently burst into the living room, all in black, looking like Lash LaRue. A very butch dyky Lash Larue. All she needed was a small whip. Just as she was about to ask Melba if she might have a "smallish riding crop" lying around to complete her new Christmas attire, the United Cab arrived to pick them both up. After a bit of thought, they eased into the back of the cab. Miss Chewlin was afraid it might tip over if Melba got in before she could and they'd never get to the party. That settled, the cab took off, listing heavily on Melba's side.
"Let us off in at Bourbon and Dumaine," snapped Miss Chewlin, immediately taking charge. Off they sped, Melba wondering if Miss Chewlin was angry at her because she was moving soon, and Miss Chewlin wondering if Melba was angry at her because she might have been a "bad landlord." Each of them never to know, as the cab jerked to a halt and they both bumbled out. "Thanks for the 10 cent tip," the car driver yelled at Melba angrily as he sped away. Melba, feeling guilty about her move from Menopause Mansion, had insisted on paying. She pretended deafness to the shouts of the irate cabby.
As they walked toward the entrance way to the party, they noticed two evil looking queens, glaring at them from across the street. One was tall and ugly and the other one was short and plump with a balloon face. "Gawd, doesn't he look like he backed into an air hose," Miss Chewlin whispered to Melba Carondelet, giggling. Melba didn't dare look. She also was recently asked is she "had backed into an air hose." She wondered if Miss Newlin was tying to remind her of the insult, so she said nothing. The big, brown, handsome policeman at the entrance gave them a curious look, checked their invites, and let them pass.
The party was in full swing. They immediately did two things. They looked for the host and hostess, Rip and Marsha, and they looked for the good food they knew was waiting somewhere in the mansion. Rip was found, smiling and rotund as ever and near him was Marsha, looking very soigne in a gold beaded gown, her hair in an elegant Diamond Lil coif. Melba and Lon Chewlin did their obsequities and headed for the Magnolia Bar which was sequestered in a lower slave quarter apartment in the secret garden/patio, their noses sniffing the air for the smell of food.
Chewlin grabbed a triple gin on the rocks and Melba demurely asked for a can of diet cola. Then they raced upstairs to be among the first to "eat freely" as it were. Only two items in the living room facing the balcony were bigger than Miss Chewlin and Miss Carondelet: the baby grand shoved into a corner, and the fat, ceiling-tickling giant Christmas tree. It stood there dripping in tinsel and ornaments. In front of this splendid spruce, groaned the buffet table, covered with bowls of warm cheese and Louisiana crabmeat dip, Jack Miller BBQ pork sausage and baby corn, holiday 7 layer dip, tostados, assorted gourmet crackers, fresh veggies, fruit and the like. Sweets sat in silver dishes on other table tops.
Among the other foods served were Wasabi Tobikko and Black Tobikko Caviar, green peppercorn pate, along with eggplant and roasted pepper terrine in the office downstairs.
By now, the entire mansion had filled with guests from top to bottom and even spilling out into il gardino segretto. Melba and Lon stuffed themselves. Then Melba flittered and bumped around taking pickies for the paper. Miss Chewlin cornered pretty girls and charmed them into some kind of stuporous submission to her tall-tale tellings.
Scene III, Il Gardino Segretto
Krewe of Queenateenas Chooses King Cake Queen IV:
Rip had made an announcement to the crowd celebrants that he and Marsha would soon announce the next King Cake Queen, KCQ IV. Soon people filled the secret garden to overflowing. A glorious wire sculpture of a large winged angel covered with rose pink and white fairy lights hovered in the rear of the secret garden patio, bathing one and all in a mysterious and beautiful light. Rip whispered among his associates.
Then, with Marsha at this side, King Cake Queen's II and III Jay Loomis and Smurf Murphy announced KCQ IV as the fabulous entatainah, Miss Reba Douglas. Reba will reign as "Pearl of the Sea" at the '97 carnival celebration on the balcony Tuesday, Feb. 11th at 1am. "Fruit de mer" is the theme and construction is currently underway.
Melba panicked as her camera stopped working just as they made the intros. Thank God Miss Jett was also taking pickies of the event. Melba ran sobbing up the grand curved staircase to the food.
So, as La Melba stuffed herself upstairs, downstairs in il gardino segretto, people cheered, drinks flowed and the party continued. Reba Douglas was glowing with pride.
Among the almost 300 guests attending to share this Christmas cheer with Rip and Marsha were: Marquita Irland of Memphis, Ben and Nadine Peeples of Memphis, Julie Manard, Laura Heller, Tracy Styron, Arthur Flood, Charles Grant, Steven Guercio, Don Blanding, Charley Garrison, Ms. Fly, Miss Do, Robert Valkavich, Crystl Valkavich, Brian Sands, Randall Beach, Toni Pizanie, Larry Best, Kory Chatelain, Lisa Beaumann, SDGM Wayne White,
Raven Kennedy, Teryl-Lynn Foxx, Robert Dunlap, Dewayne White, Mary Li Creasy, Michael Chase Creasy, Jon Conway, Brian Schlosser, Daniel Barillas, Blanche, Jeffrey Melton, Donnie Ezell, Bobbie Ramone, Chester Breaux, Marcy Marcell and Earl, Lori Lassiter and Yvette Morris, Stewart Butler, Jim Keyes, James Comeaux and Randy Stephens, Dick Egyud, Jeff Boyd, Edward Collie, II, Glenn O'Berry and Roger Brooks, Alvin Coleman, Butch Brown, Jim Blackwell, Dale Francis,
Yvette Migues, Mark Zumpe, Alan Robinson, Gail Evans, Anthony Scalise, Richard Thompson, Jim Melancon, Tommy elias, Michael Elias, Paul Keary, Scott Kinler, Michael Caffaretta, Erica Summers of Mobile, Carla Wild, Phyllis and Andy Denmark, Carolyn Villars, Julie Lackney, Stephanie Williams, George Rossignol and Ragan Alford, Tony Quintiliano and Paul Bordelon, Crystal Little, Jack Gentry, John H. Foster, Jerry J. Hotard, Jamie Porter, Ruth Freed, Michael Sullivan, Kenny Walker, Jerry Scavo, Mary Lind, Doug Romback, James Wiegand and Stephen Graffeo, Penny Young, Sonny Cleveland and Douglas Smith, Connie Marcelle, DL Broadway, Megan Broadway and Steve Mettner.
And that party continued until 10 pm officially, but slinked on a littler later, I'm told. Miss Lon Chewlin and I took a cab back to her house, Menopause Mansion. Melba held her broken camera in her lap all the way home. As they passed a darkened doorway near Lafittes, she noticed two evil looking men standing in the shadows. One was tall and ugly; the other short and fat with a balloon face. She thought their eyes glowed red as she passed.
Where there is much good, there is always just a touch of evil, always. Hah, she laughed. Two little glowing demon eyes are nothing to the grand sparkle and glittering of Rip and Marsha's Christmas Party. Good will win out in the end. The cab stopped and she leaped out not without out noticing two little bright blue eyes in a white whiskered face staring out of the window. Ned, her fat white cat, was glad to have his bubble-butted mama back, safe and sound. Merry Christmas everyone!