So what exactly is Southern Decadence anyway? According to the event's website, it all started rather innocently, when a a group of roommates and their friends decided to throw a Labor Day weekend party:
And so it was, on a sultry August afternoon in 1972, that this band of friends decided to plan an amusement. According to author James T. Spears, writing in Rebels, Rubyfruit and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South, this "motley crew of outcasts" began Southern Decadence as a going away party for a friend named Michael Evers, and to shut up a new "Belle Reve" tenant (from New York) who kept complaining about the New Orleans heat. As a riff on the "Belle Reve" theme, the group named the event a "Southern Decadence Party: Come As Your Favorite Southern Decadent," requiring all participants to dress in costume as their favorite "decadent Southern" character. According to Spears, "The party began late that Sunday afternoon, with the expectation that the next day (Labor Day) would allow for recovery. Forty or fifty people drank, smoked, and carried on near the big fig tree ... even though Maureen (the New Yorker) still complained about the heat."So evil!!!
During the three decades since, the party has grown into an event that rivals Mardi Gras in it's scope and attendance and has become the gayest event since Pride. Naturally, whenever more than two gays congregate, the street preachers crawl out of the woodwork to condemn us all to Hell. It's sooo annoying.
Faced with the bigger problem of crowd control, the city of New Orleans did what so many Southern Baptists can't. They evolved. The Times-Picayune reports:
Nine preachers were arrested Saturday after police said they yelled anti-gay slurs over bullhorns during a demonstration at Southern Decadence, an annual celebration of gay culture in the French Quarter. Patrick O'Connell, 45, Rolando Igleasias, 31, Cesar Chavez, 22, Daniel Hoogerhuis, 26, Danny Guevera, 20, Larry Craft, 52, Montes Diego, 32 and Gary Brown, 33 were arrested on suspicion of aggressive solicitation, a city law passed last October.
The ordinance prohibits "any person or group of persons to loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise." Another man, Justin Craft, 31, was arrested on suspicion of battery, resisting an officer and interfering with a law enforcement investigation. Craft allegedly punched an officer when he attempted to confiscate his bullhorn. Witnesses said the incident occurred around 8:30 p.m. outside Tropical Isle.
New Orleans police spokesman Frank Robertson said the men were previously warned not to use bullhorns, but did not comply. Casey Kolosky, a bouncer at Tropical Isle, said the preachers were making slurs against gays and also mentioned Hurricane Katrina victims.
As my mother used to say, "Every party needs a pooper." Oddly, there were no other reported arrests associated with the event.