Updated: May 31
I remember going to New York City in the early 90s and being shocked that no backroom bars offered public sex like the ones we had in New Orleans. My boyfriend and I loved to do things to each other while other people watched or joined in. We were young and gorgeous and loved the attention. New York City had closed in on all public sex. There were bathhouses, which seemed sterile compared to the scene back in New Orleans.
Later as a single man, I went to visit friends in Chicago. There were backrooms with hallways that led into small private closets with trashy porn playing in the big room.
As my friend said, the rule was to grab the first one you saw before they saw your competition.
During my evacuation from Katrina, I visited a leather bar called the Faultline in Los Angeles, a callous and masculine place looking like a mechanic dream with toolboxes and chain link fence.
The first night I went out in New Orleans without my older brother /guardian at 17 was a Fat Tuesday to a bar on Decatur called Jewel's. It was dark and wet and smelt like a mixture of Fabuloso with that good New Orleans wet, humid air conditioning trying to cover up the smell of men who had just had sex. I was amazed at the attention I got at 17. Those men ate me alive. This was before the AIDS epidemic hit New Orleans, so we had nothing to worry about.
Later I would frequent TTs on Rampart Street, where the trade selection was cute, and you had a variety.
Later I would frequent The Phoenix and The Rawhide. It was never the same, and as time and AIDS became prominent, the selection became less and less.
There wasn't a particular incident that stopped me from going there other than the emptiness I felt after going. Every time I went to the Rawhide, it seemed the same naked man playing pool. The last time I went to the tubs on Toulouse, Ursuline Burgundy was lying with her bare butt in the air.
About a year ago, I remember thinking out loud to a friend about how gay New Orleans had gotten away with public sex for so long. There was the legal matter with the woman saying she was date raped at the Country Club, and public nudity at the pool was no more. I wondered how the gay community had remained impervious.
This part of the story is not mine to tell, but the ATC raided the Rawhide's in the Quarter after I commented; I'm not sure who was indicted and who, if any, were taken in for questioning or if charges were made, but it shut down the private bathroom in the Rawhide's where sex between men was "allegedly" happening for years. Rumor also has it that while the owner of the rawhides was questioned at City Hall, he threw the owner of The Phoenix under the bus and named him another proprietor of a backroom bar.
It's a shame either way because adults need a safe space. People come to Southern Decadence to have fun and forget about their lives back home in the Midwest. The fun is contained in a particular area and with only consensual adults.
The crackdown or change, in my opinion, happens when white entitlement comes in and homogenizes the culture of America bit by bit. Even the Castro in San Francisco is like going to a bar on the I-10 service road in Metarie. There is no recognition of the history of what made the area great.
I remember reading about Cruising with Al Pacino and the story based on the early 70's New York leather scene. I was mesmerized and scared after seeing it because, like many guys I went home with, I was lucky enough to have only one pull a knife and lucky that it fell in the heater duct of his dashboard.
Watching the documentary (see below) about the making of Cruising, I understand why the leathers nor the straights want the leather scene brought to light. William Friedkin and Al Pacino took significant professional risks in making this film. It was and is a new subject matter with a well-made film called "Interior of a Leather Bar" about the missing footage from the original starring and directed by James Franco.
After seeing "Interiors," I became interested in paying homage to the original and that part of my life. It also happened that I had just met my newest muse, Andrew, who helped make my vision come to life.
Models Andrew and Cameron
Accessories The Leather Shop at the Phoenix and Pier
Thank you to Clint and the staff of the Phoenix and Jack Jones and Robert of QT Pie