Merry Everything to all!
No matter what you celebrate, the Crescent City is definitely one of the most festive places to spend Christmas (or whatever celebration you choose). The two weeks leading up to Christmas was like a marathon, but worth every bit of the late nights and early mornings. This has been quite a year of highs and lows, but having this opportunity to enjoy another holiday season is magical. From feasts to gay Christmas parties to Leg Lamps, it was quite an experience so let’s begin our journey.
My two weeks of celebration began when I attended the Feast of Seven Fishes at Josephine Estelle restaurant in the Ace Hotel. This is the fourth annual dinner put on by this decorated eatery and was quite the dining experience. I am ashamed to say I knew nothing about this tradition, and since Italian is my heritage, I hang my head down in shame. So let’s first have a little history lesson.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, although it is not called that in Italy. The meal typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. The tradition comes from Southern Italy, where it is known simply as The Vigil. This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. It was introduced in the United States by Southern Italian immigrants in New York City’s Little Italy in the late 1800s. The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat on the eve of a feast day.
At Josephine Estelle, seven courses of amazing seafood fare were prepared for the guests and paired with incredible wines by Ace chefs from around the country. We dined on everything from blue crab, shrimp and lobster to exotic fare such as geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”) and scallops. If you don’t know what a geoduck is, it’s a unique-looking clam (seriously look it up) that may look scary to eat (and may remind you of some porn stars), but is incredibly delicious. Even the dessert had a nod to seafood with fish flakes being incorporated into the smoked apple and fennel strudel. The entire night was over-the-top from the cuisine to the service. I now have a new (old) tradition to add to my holiday season.
On Thursday, I attended two holiday parties. The first was for the three major hospitality entities in the city–The Hotel/Motel Association, New Orleans & Company, and the Louisiana Restaurant Association–and was held at the brand new Higgins Hotel. The second was the 700 Club’s holiday party. This was the venue’s closing week before a short hiatus. The 700 Club will be opening in a few months at their new home on Rampart Street. In the meantime, get ready for Betty’s which is the new bar owned by Ambush’s own Tomy Acosta which will open where 700 was located. I cannot wait to see both places open soon!
If I Could Turn Back Time, I would go back to Cher’s Here We Go Again concert on Friday at the Smoothie King Center. The day was filled with celebration before the concert though.
I started my partying at noon at Arnaud’s Restaurant’s 12 Days of Christmas luncheon. Not normally open for lunch, Arnaud’s makes an exception for the Friday before Christmas. Both main dining rooms are filled with revelers at tables decorated representing the song The 12 Days of Christmas. Our table hosted by Valerie Landry was “Six Geese A-Laying”. She had hats and fascinators for her guests all with a Grey Goose Vodka theme. The culmination of the lunch is when we sing the song and each table rises to sing their chorus. We may have altered Six Geese A-Laying a few times, to six geese getting laid or six geese a-drinking in honor of Grey Goose. Either way it was an enjoyable way to ease into the holiday weekend.
After lunch, I met up with my friend Beaux Church and we donned our gay apparel for the Cher concert. My wig was a curly version of a Gypsy, Tramp or Thief while his was Half Breed all the way. To beat traffic, we hopped on Blue Bikes (my first time on one of those) and maneuvered our way to the Center. These bikes are fast, efficient, and a quick way to get around. Although, I believe if I saw two hot messes in cheap wigs pedaling my way, I would move quickly, too.
The concert itself was pretty amazing. At 73, Cher is the ultimate performer and she put on quite a show. Nile Rodgers of Chic opened up for her and got the audience warmed up with some great disco hits. Cher followed with an incredible performance that included many costume changes. She sang her classics, some of her new ABBA songs, and many of my favorites! It’s shocking how many #1 songs she’s racked up in her extensive career which from the looks of it, is far from over.
After, we bar-hopped till the wee hours of the morning, starting at Vintage Rock Club on Poydras (straight pick-up spot) and then closing down the bars in Saint Hotel, Crossing and 700 Club. I mean I thought bars in New Orleans did not close, but obviously some do, very disappointing to me, but ultimately what I needed since I was definitely over-served by this point.
I continued with a great house party on Saturday when my friend Michelle Dunnick hosted a cookie swap. Basically, each guest brings a few dozen cookies to be placed on the dessert table and, at the end of the night, guests are given cute boxes and ribbons to bring a little of everyone’s sweet treats home with them.
Since most of the people at the party are in the hospitality community, they know how to bake, so the choices were pretty amazing. I made my Big Gay Italian Seed Cookies which were not even close to being as good as the other options but still very tasty. It was a creative idea for a holiday party.
Afterwards, we went to LUNA Fête in Lafayette Square and the surrounding streets. LUNA Fête (which stands for Light Up NOLA Arts) blends New Orleans’ historic architecture with contemporary light and video mapping technology, sound installation and motion graphics. The display at Gallier Hall was simply mesmerizing. In addition to the light show, there were local artists selling last-minute gift ideas as well as interactive light displays. A very fun holiday evening out.
I ended week one on Sunday with a Krewe of Armeinius holiday party at the Gobble Sanctuary and Preserve, the home of Lawrence Gobble and William Sparks. It was a casual evening of music, libations, and holiday fare with singer Arsene DeLay, an absolutely spectacular musical storyteller. Arsene is a local artist with a unique soulful voice who combines her jazz background with her “heart of rock’n’roll”. She belted out a beautiful version of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors as well as many other hits mixed in with her own music. Lawrence and William’s home was exquisitely decorated for the holidays. From Halloween to Christmas, these gentlemen know how to host a shindig! It was a nice way to finish off my weekend.
The next week passed like a blur, starting on Tuesday with The Crossing NOLA’s holiday gathering. The steampunk-themed venue hosted a beautiful soiree with food and $1 cocktails as they collected toys for children in need. The spread was delicious and the ideal pre-show party before going to A Christmas Story at the Saenger Theatre. I am beyond excited to have this iconic theater open again. It had been shuttered since the Hard Rock Hotel disaster which still looms as a monstrosity in the background. Seriously, when will the City do something to remove this blight from Canal Street?
But I digress. Christmas Story is a musical version of the 1983 movie based on Jean Shepherd’s semi-fictional 1966 book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. Although the show was quite a bit longer than the movie, it was still enjoyable holiday escapism.
Wednesday was just as busy starting with the NOAGE (New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders) Ugly Sweater Holiday Potluck at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church. A great crowd enjoyed the large food spread in celebration of our community. Guests brought out the ugliest sweaters, although I actually love the more gaudy ones. Why doesn’t that surprise anyone?
I appreciate this organization because it’s open to all no matter what your age. It’s refreshing to see a group that promotes inclusivity in our community. While other groups tout themselves as being inclusive, I find that very few of them truly are. NOAGE has an incredible mission and a strong Board in addition to hosting many community events from their monthly potlucks and weekly walking group to quarterly movie nights and the annual gala. If you do not know about this organization, go to www.noagenola.org and check them out. You will not regret it.
I proceeded from this party to Oz New Orleans’ holiday soiree. Every year this popular LGBT bar hosts a great gathering for which guests are asked to bring a toy for a child who might not otherwise get anything for the holidays. By the end of the evening, there were lots of goodies under Oz’ tree. The food spread was delectable especially the potato pancakes and it was great to catch up with old and new friends while enjoying free flowing libations. Capping off the night was the always exceptional annual holiday-themed drag show hosted by the one and only Persona Shoulders and starring the ladies (and men) of Oz.
Twas truly the season for more events than I could shake a stick at. On Thursday, my company had its annual holiday lunch gathering at the Foundation Room in the House of Blues. We had a joyous afternoon filled with champagne, cocktails, delicious food and a raucous dirty Santa game–lovely to have the Foundation Room, adorned with brightly colored furniture and unique New Orleans art, to ourselves. Their new chef created an incredible menu that included crabmeat lasagna and lamb meatballs that were to die for. And I love a good game of cutthroat Dirty Santa where there are no rules and a present can be stolen as many times as you like. Ah, nothing says the “Spirit of the holidays” like taking something from someone else.
That evening, Ambush Magazine hosted its holiday gathering at the stately home of Tomy and Toby Acosta. I love their home, especially the drag queen portrait of me in the living room. Tomy created an inviting atmosphere for the magazine’s many advertisers, writers and supporters. The home was decorated perfectly and guests enjoyed nibbles and libations. We toasted past owners Rip & Marsha Naquin-Delain who created this important part of Gulf South GLBT+ culture. Also on hand was our new King Cake Queen Felicia Phillips because as we all know Mardi Gras is right around the corner. For a city called the Big Easy, there’s hardly ever any down time which is why I love this place.
Friday, I hosted my own Ho Ho Holiday Party. I love this event which allows me to open up my small and humble abode to my friends. I know my place is small but it is packed with years of happiness, art, memories and love which I am excited to share every year. Also, it gives me an opportunity to get tanked and not have to leave my house.
This year, Countess C Alice played hostess while Blake was the perfect Naughty Santa complete with leather strap for spanking all those bad boys and girls (if they were lucky). Also, our naughty elf bartender Sean served copious amounts of cocktails with the specialty being a Holiday Blow Job which incorporated Peanut Butter and Jelly whiskey, eggnog with whiskey and topped with Santa pouring whipped cream in your mouth at the end. As in life, this blow job was very messy.
I would like to thank everyone who attended, your friendship means the world to me. This year, I personally know 29 people, some very close, who passed away. That’s why having these gatherings are so special for me. It is my way/gift of telling people how important they are in my life. Alas, the eggnog concoction did me in so I was a star on Friday night, but a hangover black hole on Saturday, never leaving my couch. Oh, the glamour of it all.
On Sunday, I rose from the dead to go to the Crossing for the Saints game, which is an awesome place to watch sports. They have numerous televisions and free shots whenever the Saints score. So high-scoring games make people very happy. Then after we beat the Titans, some friends and I went to Oz for the Lords of Leather and Crescent City Leathermen’s holiday party. The two organizations joined forces to celebrate the holidays with happy hour cocktails and food. A perfect way to end my two weeks of merriment and ease into the holiday proper.
Until next issue, to quote my favorite holiday song sung by one of my most-loved actresses “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Make the Yuletide gay, From now on your troubles will be miles away.” I wish all this and more to everyone! Make Merry Marys!