What started out 43 years ago as a going-away bash thrown by six gay men has grown into New Orleans’ third-largest festival after Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, said Chuck Robinson, owner of Napoleon’s Itch.
Last year, Southern Decadence drew 160,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight participants from all over the world for an outrageous, five-day party where “nothing’s a sin unless it’s not fun,” Robinson said.
“Under the Big Top: Welcome to the Gayest Show on Earth,” Southern Decadence 2014, takes place in the French Quarter over Labor Day weekend, from Wednesday, Aug. 27, through Monday, Sept. 1.
Fifteen gay bars will participate with Bourbon Pub as its “epicenter,” Robinson said.
And because gay bars never close, the fun goes on around the clock.
Robinson produces and funds one of Southern Decadence’s most popular events, the 10th annual Bourbon Street Extravaganza, a free, 3½-hour concert, starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday night on a stage erected at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets.
This year’s performers include Sandy Anderson, a Dolly Parton impersonator; country singer and actor Waylon Payne; singer Jeanie Tracy; and Inaya Day.
“To see all these divas and famous people, you would otherwise have to pay $50,” he said.
Although weekend passes guarantee admission to dance parties and shows at the Bourbon Pub and Parade, the Bourbon Street Extravaganza is free and open to the public.
“People come from all over the world. Where they live, they don’t see the costuming, the free style of life. After they see it, they move here,” Robinson said.
Gay mystery novelist Greg Herren started coming to Southern Decadence long before moving to New Orleans.
“It was fun to be in a sea of gay men,” he recalled.
There used to be many more gay festivals. Many have disappeared, but Southern Decadence continues to rage on, he said.
“Southern Decadence always drew so many people from small towns who wanted to have a big blowout once a year,” Herren said.
After a decade hosting the Bourbon Street Extravaganza, music producer Robinson said his biggest thrill was being onstage with Jeanie Tracy holding his hand and serenading him with Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love.” Thousands in the audience joined in.
For information or tickets, visit www.southerndecadence.net.
Schedule of Events
Welcome Party, upstairs at the Bourbon Pub, 801 Bourbon St. with guest appearance by German dancer Hans Berlin, hosted by “The Bearded Lady” Billy Francesca and Nicole Dubois with all-night dancing
Friday, 7 p.m.
Southern Decadence Float Parade begins at Washington Park, then to Decatur, Canal, Bourbon to Ursuline streets, presented by Toby LeFort and the Knights of Decadence
Friday, 11 p.m.
Upstairs at the Bourbon Pub, with DJs Sean Michael and Mike Bryant
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Bourbon Street Extravaganza: Free outdoor concert at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann streets, presented by Napoleon’s Itch. Performers include Inaya Day and Jeanie Tracy.
Sunday, 2 p.m.
Southern Decadence Walking Parade, led by Grand Marshals Aubrey Synclaire, Chad Boutte and Reba Douglas, starting at the Golden Lantern, 1239 Royal St. Official parade route is posted at www.southerndecadence.net/southern-decadence-parade-route.htm.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
Twisted T-Dance with Drag-A-Licious DJ Billy Francesca, 4 p.m.-6 p.m., upstairs at the Bourbon Pub, Miss CoCo Montrese from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 and Frank Marino’s “DIVAS” in Las Vegas.
Sunday, 10 p.m.
DJ Derek Monteiro from Los Angeles, with performances by Billy Francesca and Rhea Litre, plus Treasure Island stars Dolf Dietrich and Drew Sebastian at the Bourbon Pub.
Monday, 9 p.m.
“Hung Over and Broke” closing party, upstairs at the Bourbon Pub.