In this edition of the Tricentennial Reading List, Susan Larson continues her look at 300 great New Orleans books with Frank Perez, author of "In Exile: The History and Lore Surrounding New Orleans Gay Culture and Its Oldest Gay Bars", to talk about LGBTQ histories and anthologies.
- Love, Bourbon Street: Reflections of New Orleans, edited by Greg Herren and Paul Willis
- My Gay New Orleans: 28 Personal Reminiscences on LGBT+Life in New Orleans, edited by Frank Perez and Jeffrey Palmquist
- Tinderbox: the Untold Story of the Upstairs Lounge fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, by Robert Fieseler
- The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar, June 24, 1973, by Clayton Delery
- Out for Queer Blood: The Murder of Fernando Rios and the Failure of New Orleans Justice, by Clayton Delery
Part of the Culture
- Unveiling the Muse: The History of Gay Carnival in New Orleans by Howard Philips Smith
- Southern Decadence in New Orleans, by Howard Philips Smith and Frank Perez
- In Exile: The History and Lore Surrounding New Orleans Gay Culture and Its Oldest Bar, by Frank Perez and Jeffrey Palmquist
Susan: In August, we have Southern Decadence in New Orleans by Howard Phillips Smith and you.
Frank: Four or five years ago, Howard and I were having cocktails at Cafe Lafitte in Exile. He was in town researching his carnival book. We just got to talking about the idea of writing history of Southern Decadence, which is an amazing phenomenon that no other city can claim. In fact, Southern Decadence, along with the UpStairs Lounge Arson and gay carnival, are three of the things that make our history distinctive and unique. In many ways, our local LGBTQ history is not like that of other cities. The closet, harassment, discrimination, so forth, but there are a few things that make us unique and Southern Decadence is one of those things.
It is the third or fourth largest festival in the city's annual calendar. This year, they're expecting over 300,000 people on Labor Day weekend. We thought it was important to document that history for a number of reasons, not the least of which is more than anything else, Southern Decadence did a lot to change public attitudes in the city towards homosexuality. By that, what I mean specifically, is summers are traditionally very slow in New Orleans.
Those of us in the service industry kind of starve during the summer, it's feast or famine. When Decadence became very, very popular, especially in the late 90s, all of a sudden, everybody's making money. Hotels are filled up, cab drivers are busy, bartenders are making money. What Southern decadence did historically was it demonstrated to the power structure that runs the city that gay men have money to spend.
Susan: And will spend it here.
Frank: Yes. That's an untapped market that the city never realized and Decadence helped to demonstrate that gay men can be a lucrative market.
Susan: This will be a special year for you because you are the Grand Marshal.
Frank: I am one of two Grand Marshals. Adikus Sulpizi and I were named about a month ago. When Howard and I started the book four years ago, I had no idea that I would be Grand Marshal at the time that it was published. It's a very happy coincidence.
Susan: Well, very well deserved. Another thing about LGBTQ books in New Orleans is fiction. One book I think put New Orleans on the map many years ago as a gay city and that is City of Night by John Rechy.
Frank: Yes, for those who may not be familiar, John was a sex worker here in New Orleans as well as in other cities. This book, City of Night, is sort of a memoir really of his experiences in that field. The inspiration for the book was a series of letters about his time in New Orleans through a friend of his and that evolved into City of Night which is a landmark work.
Susan: Three people, three writers I think we really have to celebrate in fiction are Poppy Z. Brite, those novels were really important, Greg Herren--.
Susan: He writes so joyfully about New Orleans. It's a pleasure to read his books, and Jean Redmann whose Micky Knight series is growing every year.
Frank: Yes. New Orleans is such an inspirational place, whether you are gay or not. I don't know how you can live here and not be creative, whether it's writing or cooking or music or art or what have you. Those are three great ones, and we have a lot of great writers here.
Susan: We do, we're lucky that way. We've been talking with Frank Perez, president of the LGBT archives of Louisiana and presenter of Great Gay History Tours of the French Quarter for this portion of the tricentennial reading list. It's produced by George Ingmire with support from the Hell's foundation, the John Bertrand Heart Trust and the Louisiana Endowment for the humanities.