Updated: Apr 18
(Bobbi Jo at the Crossing with Will Antill)
As another year has come and almost gone, I find myself sitting in my man's chair looking out my front door at my courtyard reflecting on the year(s) past. In the last couple of years, I've lost friends due to Covid and many other reasons. Some I wasn't as close to as we once were and some I wasn't in touch with at all anymore. At times, I find myself being emotional. Sometimes I laugh out loud when certain memories come up. Sometimes, it's hard to hold back the tears when I hear a song that reminds me of them. They were a big part of my life and I hold them all in my heart. I no longer answer with the whole truth when people ask me. , choose, but I how I'm doing because of the loss. It's heavy and kind of sad and people don't always know what to do with grief or loss. I share these parts with my most intimate circle because they understand and don't judge.
With each passing, I have chosen to celebrate life and to carefully choose fewer people to be in my intimate circle. No, I don't love everybody but I just have to be careful about' whom I let in. I have been blessed knowing many beautiful souls who were and are my guardian angels. I am grateful for my memories that still bring a smile and a chuckle. The world is a lovely place.
Work! Cook! Do!
(Bobbi Jo today)
Memories like the corners of our minds........
I came out in the early '80s,. We didn't have labels to put us in, nor did we care. Thank God today the kids do with the non-gender confirming identity. There is an excellent factor in being neither male nor female. We did not have the option to be labeled or cool because of it. We rebelled against the norm by being our authentic selves as a survival mechanism. We ignored people with their self-righteous judgments and eliefs they had of who or what we should be. They harassed us, made fun of us, and called us names. I say this not for you to pity us but because it is the truth and made us the people we are. It gave us a sense of humor and we became more creative. Ithumor realized also brought us together as a community.
Like I've said before, I realized I was gay at a very young age. I came out to my parents at 13. Even though I was very feminine, my mom was shocked, and I don't think she saw it coming. I grew up hearing that I was way too pretty to be a boy. In my sixth grade Ollan Mills picture, the photographer posed me side saddle in the portrait chair the same way they posed the girls. How I wished we had the nongender. Confirming to identify as and to protect and make us relaxed and most importantly, not be ashamed of who we couldn't help being.
I wore my gay loudly and colorfully by acting and dressing without any filters. I couldn't hide it, no matter how hard I tried. I tried wearing Levis, flannel shirts, and anything masculine. I even tried to be quieter so I would not be noticed. It only brought more attention and more shame. I suffered through many of those "Give up your homosexual lifestyle and give your heart to Jesus, and you will receive HIS acceptance of you" sermons. They were sure I was going to hell for liking boys. At one point, I gave up listening to my Diana Ross, Aretha, and Loretta Lynn albums because the preacher said I was going to hell for listening to them. After all of this, I was still gay. As I said, my major concern about being gay was if I was going to be let into heaven and if God was going to love me as I was.
Like most gay kids in high school, I was bullied daily. The anticipation of being mocked or smacked in the head with a baseball glove was worse than the actual bullying part because, after that, it was over. I would walk around waiting and feel shamed and embarrassed at being called out simultaneously. I dreaded my daily life and looked forward to the day I would be free from it and escape to my dream of living in New Orleans with my hero-my big gay brother in the French Quarter. My dream was my saving grace and helped me endure the suffering of my day-to-day life.
I finished my senior year at mid-semester in December, and as soon as I could, I hopped on a Greyhound bus and headed to "that city." I felt like what I thought Dolly Parton must have supposed when she moved to Nashville with her guitar and suitcase full of dreams. When I got here, I got a job at the World's Fair as an usher at the Aquacade. I started going out day-to-day to the gay bars discovering the nightlife of the French Quarter. I found people who were just like me. We all were so happy finding others just like us. It was beautiful walking into a room of people just like ourselves for the first time.
I started going to the gay bars in the French Quarter. My favorite was Le Bistros in the 800 block of Bourbon Street. Once Pete Fountain's, it had a lighted dance floor and a balcony over looking the dance floor where the drag queens were lowered down from sitting on a moon singing Star Love by Cheryl Lynn.
There were bars in the Financial District with names like the Corner Pocket, the Double Play, and Le Roundup. Of the three, I loved the Corner Pocket the most with its young cute dancing boys on top of the bar while the featured dancers were on top of big barrels; they let us stuff dollar tips into their dirty athletic socks or their tights whities. Most were from the Houma/bayou area to Chalmette. They were and still are the baby jail trade. They danced to the music of the jukebox. The Financial District was a two-block radius on St. Louis Street where the boys and "girls" walked up and down, going in and out of bars and hopping in and out of cars. It was a wild and exciting time. The energy and the characters were so much fun.
A little soundtrack to the era.
Across from Le Bistro was a bar called the Parade where all the young cute preppy boys hung out with their cuffed Girbraud jeans or cute khaki shorts topped with Ralph Lauren polo shirts, matching Ralph Lauren socks, and shiny pennies stuffed into their penny loafers. Lafitte's was the professional/ jean/flannel crowd. Good Friends was then called the Warehouse, and it always scared me because it was where the roughest of the rough trade hung.
Le bistros were my preferred hang-out. It was a mix of trashy and real people, which meant cute Nellie boys and trans women. One of the trans women who frequented Le Bistro was Jessica. She was what we called "fish" and was an unlockablewomenand. She wore her hair bleached cut and styled into a Farrah Fawcett, and she constantly blew air from her bottom lip onto her forehead, swishing her bangs to work up the boys and terrorize the girls watching her. On Thursday nights, it was 3 for one drink special. For $2.50, you got three drinks. The special lasted till sometime Friday morning when Miss Billy closed it down; Miss Billy and my brother were friends, and he loved to tell on met my brother as he passed on his way to work at the Monteleone hair salon. My brother, I, and his lover Kim shared a massive apartment at 818 Bourbon in the middle of the 800 block with the three central gay bars and the Clover Grill on all four corners. I had arrived.
One thing for sure is that I am very grateful for my brother, who gave me a sense of a home and family during my transition into adulthood. Some nights he would get pissy and come "grab" me up and make me go home with him. Some nights he would let me stay out. I loved it on those nights because, at 2 or 3 in the morning, the girls would get off work on Bourbon and show up to party at Le Bistro. Lord, here I was - a naive cute little chicken boy from Livingston and all these older men trying to marry me. As the say goes...
After a few months of living without a job, my brother made me go to work, and I got one at the World's Fair. After two months of working there, I quit to go home and attend beauty school. Cosmetology school was 1500 hours (9 1/2 months). Of course, I excelled in beauty school, finishing at the top of my class and on schedule because I couldn't wait to return to New Orleans.
My first job as a hairdresser was at the DH Holmes Outback Hair Salon. Haircuts were $7, blowers $7, and perms $7 - the whole deal for $21. I made the big time with paid benefits, hourly pay, and tips.
After my stint working at Holmes, I decided to go out on my own to a hair salon called Quarter Cuts on St. Louis Street in the Chris Owens building located right next to Antoine's. Our clientele consisted of men and women who lived and worked in the French Quarter and the CBD area. Many girls would walk down from the bars or send their trade to get their hair done. We did many of the girls and much of the staff of Petunias. Because of Jay Loomis, who sent her team in for haircuts, we survived and thrived.
Bobbi Jo Buchanan has been one of my good friends since this era. Just like Chris Owens, who is the main attraction of St. Louis Street, Bobbie Jo hails from Texas. Her accent is like sweet southern tea.
Bobbi Jo used to come to the hair salon to have my co-worker Kevin highlight and style her hair. Bobbi Jo has the most genuine sense of country-girl humor. She can tell you your truth and shame your mama while doing it. She loved to play Tammy Wynette and Loretta on the jukeboxes.
Bobbi Jo, myself, and Josi Cotten