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818 Bourbon

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Pearl started her mornings by making a pot of Community Coffee medium roast in a drip pot on the stove. My mother passed down that tradition. Pearl entered the bedroom Fat Tuesady with my cup, ready to start our day. Today was a big day-it was my first Mardi Gras.

Living in the 800 block of Bourbon Street, we were at the heart of 1980's gay Mardi Gras.

The streets were crowded early every Fat Tuesday with people dressed in their colorful feathered and rhinestoned costumes. People claimed their spots to see the annual Bourbon Street Awards, a showcase for gay Krewes’ costumes. The population of homosexuals in 1983 in New Orleans was at its largest. The heterosexuals from uptown and Lakeview forgot their homophobia to attend the many gay Mardi Gras balls that happened every year and got more extensive and more outrageous with ball captains competing with each other. In the following year, the Krewes would begin to lose many members to AIDS.

The Bourbon Street Awards are held on Mardi Gras day, and the people in their ball costumes compete while spectators watch. Back then, it was unbelievable.

It was my first Mardi Gras, and I dressed as Boy George and my brother, Pearlie May, wearing her Celestial Knights costume. Celestial Knights was one of the two largest krewes. Lipps, Inc.'s "Designer Music" and Manhattan Transfer's "Twilight Zone," Madonna and Cyndi Lauper set the makeup and fashion trends. So we experimented with eyeliner, Pearl, who usually favored the Elura Showgirl wig in strawberry blonde very much in the Juice Newton fashion, also loved her off-shoulder Flashdance top, and finished off with her faux leather pants gave it all up to be a modern for mecca.

If the weather is nice on Fat Tuesday, God sends glitter from the heavens to rain on the revelers. Words cannot describe it.

We got out early to parade around, stopping to take pictures for the photographers. Pearl knew how to turn it on for the crowd. She had what she called her "puss-swa walk” or "walking the dog," she pointed her feet forward, then toe, slide, and bounce off the heel. I would giggle to myself because she believed it made her womanly.

Happy Mardi Gras

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