Ever since I was a child, I have always loved summers in New Orleans. And as I have grown older, I still enjoy them, but I’ve married that with the much-needed love of air conditioning. During the summer months, I always feel like I am stepping into a Tennessee Williams play each time I leave my house. I have a new appreciation of hand fans and parasols. I do declare! But even though the temperature rises, that does not hinder the amount of events that happen. New Orleans embraces the weather, and as the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat…well, you know the rest.
As we close out May, my last two weeks were filled with theatrical offerings, venue openings, a jaunt on the Gulf Coast, a few mixers, and the roar of the king of the jungle. I began my week on Monday by meeting up with the NOAGE walking group. NOAGE stands for New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders. Each Monday they meet at Audubon Park to walk the track, beginning promptly at 6:45 p.m. You need not be an elder to participate. This organization welcomes all ages, and the Stonewall Prancers running group joins them every few weeks. These Monday walks are a great way to meet new people and do something healthy at the same time. For more information on this group and their many events, go to www.noagenola.org.
On Wednesday, I attended the opening of a new venue right outside of the French Quarter called the Rooftop on Basin. Located in the historic Basin Street Station, with a rooftop terrace overlooking the French Quarter and Downtown New Orleans, this venue is an excellent space to have your private events. We began our evening with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the first floor Museum before taking the elevator to the Rooftop. There you will enter the glass-enclosed Salon that showcases lavish décor and modern seating. The Rooftop Terrace offers a panoramic view of the New Orleans city skyline, featuring gas-burning lanterns, stone tile flooring, and outdoor seating. The entertainment that evening was Flow Tribe, and the food was outstanding. I love any party that serves lobster. If you ever have an opportunity to be a tourist in your own city, check out Basin Street Station. This place stands in what was once the transportation crossroads of the city of New Orleans, embodying the rare vestige of five railway stations and their associated buildings that served downtown New Orleans in the early 20th century. Welcoming thousands of visitors into New Orleans every day, Basin Street Station provides an authentic and exciting introduction to our richly diverse and historic city. It also serves as the City of New Orleans’ Welcome Center. The first floor contains a staffed visitor information center featuring educational community exhibits, a performance venue, a walking tour kiosk, and a New Orleans and Louisiana gift shop. The fourth floor is a special function venue featuring a kitchen, stage, banquet space, and rooftop terrace with breathtaking views of downtown New Orleans. For more information on this venue, visit www.basinststation.com.
On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I went to three theatrical performances. The classic musical, Me and My Gal, was showing at Rivertown Repertory Theatre, located in the quaint Rivertown neighborhood in Kenner. This area is quite the entertainment destination, with restaurants and one of the best theaters in the metropolitan area. Someone told me that the show has become dated, and it is, but you still have to appreciate wonderful classic theatre. With an outstanding cast and a great set, this was another successful production for this award winning organization.
The next evening I saw Flowers for Halie at Southern Rep Theatre. Written by and starring New Orleans’ own Troi Bechet, the show celebrates of the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson. From her early days in a shotgun shack in New Orleans to her international success as a singer and civil rights leader, Mahalia Jackson journeyed in faith and courage. An evening of story and song illuminated the struggles and triumphs of this home-grown American icon. Beeches nails this role and had me mesmerized from start to end. The play was funny, poignant, and most of all, powerful. The music was uplifting, and helped push the story along. Congrats to all involved in this show.
Speaking of new theatrical productions, on Saturday I went to see The Night Fiona Flawless Went Mad at the Allways Lounge. This is the second production from Slotted Spoon Theatre Company, which is a New Orleans theatre company with a triple focus on LGBT issues, sex positivity, and freedom of expression. The show was cleverly written by Trey Ming, and had a great cast (Dede Onassis, you were amazing). This rather dark comedy had everything a good gay wants: drama, a sexy man who is half-naked for most of the show, and a homicidal drag queen. They even had a freshly baked cake from one of the cast members as a prop for the show, and it is shared with the audience at the end. And it was red velvet, one of my favorites. Talk about creating audience satisfaction.
I also have to add that earlier on Saturday, my friend Eddie treated me to an afternoon at the Audubon Zoo to see the brand new Lion Exhibit. It was opening day, and I have to admit I was excited to see this new African Savannah exhibit that had a $5 million price tag. There were four lions, one male and three females. Arnold (yes, that is his name) is a happy camper. The three females are named Nia, Kali and Zuri; very exotic. But seriously, Arnold is not a king of the jungle name, but that is a minor point, considering that there have not been lions on display at the zoo since 2013. It has been a long while since I have actually seen the animals at the zoo. I go there for parties all the time, but rarely have the chance to check out the exhibits. I can see why the Audubon Zoo is always rated one of the top zoos in the country.
On Sunday, I was off to Gulfport, Mississippi for a quick getaway with Mama Dawn. We stayed at the Island Vieux Casino located on the beach and is one of my favorite gaming houses on the coast. One of the main reasons that I enjoy this casino so much is their new smoke-free building. This casino is located right on the beach, and has floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the beach. They also have a killer adults-only pool with a swim-up bar. After dinner, I met up with a fellow New Orleanian who accompanied me to Sipps, which is the only gay bar in Gulfport. They were showing the final episode of Game of Thrones on the large screen. We had a blast at this fun neighborhood bar. I got to meet lots of the locals, and many of the bartenders who work there. (You will see them soon in upcoming issues of Ambush under my Bartender of the Month column). For a quick getaway, Gulfport is about an hour and a half from NOLA, offers so much to do, and as a bonus, has a decent LGBT community. The next day, I enjoyed a recovery day from my previous night out by the pool, and enjoyed a delicious dinner at the steakhouse in the casino, Carter Green, which has a prime rib special every Monday night. These quick getaways may not seem like much, but in a stressful world they are very therapeutic, and I even won a few dollars this time.
When I returned to NOLA on Tuesday, I jumped right back into going to events, starting that evening with the NOAGE Potluck at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church. If you have never attended a potluck hosted by this organization before, you are in for a treat. First and foremost, there are some truly impressive and delicious dishes. Not a chef? No problem. Just bring anything you want; store-bought food is also appreciated. Another plus is that the group of people you will meet at this recurring is remarkable. I have met some fascinating men and women here, with incredible stories to tell about their life. This event always falls during the week, so after a rough day at work, it is nice to meet people of all ages who bring some light. They are there for nothing more than friendship (and great food!). Come out to the next one (6:30PM on June 25 at St. Anna’s) and see for yourself.
On Wednesday, it was all about the networking events, beginning with the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce mixer at The Fillmore. This concert venue, which opened in February, was the ideal spot for this business gathering. The Chamber always has an abundance of guests from all industries to meet, and as you might know, I find it fascinating to meet and talk with new people. The Fillmore itself is a state-of-the-art facility located above Harrah’s Casino, downtown on Canal Street. It has a separate entrance for non-casino people, so you never have to see a slot machine if you don’t wish to. The venue’s aesthetic is beautiful, and there are some awe-inspiring chandeliers in the main music room. They perfectly meshed New Orleans decor with a hip rock music vibe. To top it off, they have one of the best bathrooms I have ever seen at a venue space. The next event I attended that night was the Hobknobber monthly soiree hosted by New Orleans Magazine at Hotel Peter & Paul, located in the Marigny. It is a pretty space, and ideal for a wedding. The party area is located in the renovated church, one that I actually went to when I first moved into the neighborhood (I actually live right around the corner from the place). They have kept the stained glass windows intact, illuminating the place in a gorgeous glow. It was an excellent night of business networking. Hobknobber events are for a good cause; the $5 entry fee goes to a different charity each month.
My Memorial Day weekend started with a bang, and ended with relaxation. On Friday, it was dinner with friends at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Many people shy away from it because it is a chain, but it is one that started in New Orleans, I consider it a local restaurant. The food quality is always superior, and the Harrah’s location has an upbeat downtown vibe. I love getting the chance to dine there. And I am a carnivore through and through, so I love a fabulous steakhouse.
On Saturday, I attended the Dating Game fundraiser at The Phoenix. The evening’s events were emceed by our current Southern Decadence Grand Marshall, Countess C Alice. All proceeds for the night went to the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer. And what a fun night! Two bachelors asked questions to three suitors. The questions (and answers) were saucy and bawdy. There was a 50/50 raffle, and Danny Girl strutted his stuff. No one wears heels and fishnets like him. With flamingo decor throughout the place, and pink as the color of choice, they raised a lot of money for a great cause.
Opa! I love the Greek Festival. On Sunday, I trotted down to the Lakefront area to attend the 46th annual celebration of Greek culture in our city. The food and beverage selection was superior. I love everything about this festival, from the great food and potent cocktails to the shopping. To add to the festivities on Sundays, it is toga day, so there are lots of hot men wearing very little clothing. God, I love the Greeks! There are booths with greek-inspired jewelry and clothing, as well as great decor pieces. I especially like shopping for spices, cheese, and olives. I also purchased a to-go box of Greek desserts to take to my next event, which was a pool party hosted by former Southern Decadence Grand Marshal (and one half of Two Guys Cutting Hair) Adikus Sulpizi, and his partner David Chase. It was a laid back afternoon of food and drink (lots of the latter) by their gorgeous pool. Afterwards, some friends and I enjoyed a mini bar crawl through the Marigny, stopping at Mags 940, the Phoenix, and the Friendly Bar before calling it a night.
Memorial Day was a day of catching up on all the household stuff I have neglected throughout the last few weeks because of my work and social commitments. But I still managed to host a few friends over for a relaxed barbecue that evening. Hanging around my courtyard drinking good wine, eating delicious barbecue, and connecting with friends was the perfect culmination to a busy weekend. and the refreshment I needed to face a busy work week. Until next time…stay cool, and keep the party going!
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or event covered? Invite me!