I knew who Rip Naquin was long before I knew him as a friend. I had seen him at the bars for years and had even been introduced to him a time or two at various social events. Marsha was always, without fail, at his side. Together, they struck me as an enigmatic couple—mysterious and intriguing, yet aloof and unapproachable. There was something about them that made me want to know them. Rip, gregarious, boisterous and magnetic, the gravity of his charisma drawing people to him. And Marsha, calm and quiet, surrounding Rip like a forcefield keeping callers at a safe distance. Together, they were a bright star in the gay French Quarter galaxy.
My personal and professional relationship with Rip began one Monday afternoon in 2012 at Lafitte’s when Rip asked me if I would be interested in writing a history column for Ambush. In Exile: The History and Lore Surrounding New Orleans Gay Culture and Its Oldest Gay Bar, a book I co-wrote with Jeffrey Palmquist, had just been published and apparently had caught Rip’s attention. When he offered me a column, I jumped at the chance.
As an editor, Rip was a joy to write for. He gave me the freedom to write about whatever I was interested in and he never censored a word I wrote. And even when I wrote about people or places he was not fond of, he was fair and objective. He was a firm supporter of the First Amendment and genuinely believed in the freedom of the press.
Sometime in late 2012, Rip informed me that the 40th anniversary of the Up Stairs Lounge arson was approaching and he asked me if I would organize a commemorative event. He told me money was not an issue; he and Marsha would subsidize the ceremony. He then told me why this was so important to him. When Rip came out of the closet to his family, his father derisively told him, “You’re going to burn just like those fags in New Orleans.” His father eventually came around but Rip never forgot the comment.
Behind all his bravado and shrewd business tactics and sharp tongue, Rip had an incredibly compassionate and generous heart. The hundreds of thousands of dollars he raised for local charities is eclipsed perhaps only by the countless acts of kindness he performed everyday for neighbors and those less fortunate—gestures only a few people saw.
I was with Rip helping him lay out the paper at the Ambush offices in 2015 when the Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage. As we learned of the decision, we looked at each other in amazement for a moment and then he called to Marsha, who was preparing lunch. They embraced tearfully and joy filled the Ambush headquarters. Rip then instructed me to stop the task at hand and immediately write an article about the landmark decision.
My best memories of Rip, however, are the times we shared on Monday afternoons at Lafitte’s. The draw was bartender Jeff Palmquist, one of Rip’s best friends. As a handful of Jeff’s regulars would gather at the bar, we would all anticipate the arrival of Rip and Marsha. Once situated in their regular barstools, Rip would begin to hold court. Inevitably, hilarious antics would ensue. The more he drank, the louder he became and the harder Marsha would slap his leg and shush him. Eventually, his acerbic wit turned to me and thus would begin verbal sparring matches that produced side-splitting laughter.
If I was unable to make to Lafitte’s on a Monday, Rip would text me the following morning to check on me. We often exchanged early morning texts. I’m not a “morning person” but a text from Rip always put me in a good mood.
When my 12th Night Party took on a life of its own and we began the tradition of naming a “Grand Reveler,” there was never any doubt I would give Rip the title. What a joy it was roasting Rip at this year’s party. I dubbed him “The Award Winning Reveler” because he was so proud of his award winning potato salad.
I miss my friend every day. He was a good man and I feel like a better person for knowing him.