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  • Arthur Severio

Interior of A Back Room

I remember going to New York City back in the early 90's and being shocked that there weren't any back room bars that 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 bath houses and they 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 private small closets with trashy porn playing in the big room.

The rule was, as my friend said, was grab the first one you saw before they saw your competition.

During my evacuation from Katrina, while in Los Angeles I visited a leather bar called the Faultline, a very tough and masculine place looking like a mechanics dream with tool boxes 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 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 had hit New Orleans, so we didn't have anything to worry about.

Later I would frequent TT's on Rampart Street where the trade selection was cute and you had a variety to choose from.

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. It seemed that every time I went to the Rawhide, it was the same man naked playing pool. The last time I went to the tubs on Toulouse, Ursuline Burgundy was laying with her bare butt in the air.

About a year or so ago , I remember thinking out loud to a friend about how gay New Orleans 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 had the gay community remained impervious?

This part of the story is not mine to tell, but the ATC raided the Rawhide's in the Quarter after I made the comment, 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 Rawhide's was questioned at City Hall, he threw the owner of The Phoenix under the bus and named him as another proprietor of a back room 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 to a certain area and with only consensual adults.

The crack down 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 bit of recognition of the history of what made the area great.

I remember reading about Cruising with Al Pacino and the story based on the leather scene of early 70's New York. I was mesmerised and scared after seeing it because as many guys that I went home with, I was lucky that I only had one to pull a knife on me. I was lucky it fell down in the heater duct of his dashboard.

Watching the documentary (see below) about the making of Cruising, I understand why the leather nor the straight scenes didn't want the leather scene brought to light. William Friedkin and Al Pacino both took major professional risks making this film. It was and is an untouched subject matter. It's a well made film with all of the challenges they overcameJames Franco would later make "Interior of a Leather Bar" about the missing footage from the original.

After seeing Interiors, I became interested in paying my homage to the original and that part of my life. It also happened that I had just met Andrew who saw my vision and made it come to life and asked Cameron to pose with him. Andrew host's Monday nights at the Phoenix upstairs and is adorable and a great bartender. Even on a Monday night, he has the guys in there drinking and socialising.

In making preparations for the shoot, I realised my memory had played tricks on me, because I remembered a cage in the corner that looked like a prison cell. When I saw it before the shoot, it is a cage much like the ones they use for crabbing.


Models Andrew and Cameron

Accessories The Leather Shop at the Phoenix andQT Pier

Thank you to Clint and the staff of the Phoenix and Jack Jones and Robert pf QT Pie

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