Frank Perez serves as President of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana. He is a columnist for Ambush Magazine and has authored several books on New Orleans history, including In Exile (with Jeffrey Palmquist), Treasures of the Vieux Carre, and Southern Decadence in New Orleans (with Howard P. Smith). He is also the co-editor of the anthology My Gay New Orleans: 28 Personal Reminiscences on LGBT+ Life in New Orleans.
11:15 a.m. to Noon
State Capitol Building, Senate Committee Room F
Outing: Systematic Discrimination in New Orleans
12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.
State Capitol Building, House Committee Room 5
Unveiling and Decadence: The History of Gay Celebrations in New Orleans
1:15 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Barnes & Noble Bookselling Tent
Southern Decadence in New Orleans
Founded in the summer of 1972 by a few friends as a modest celebration, the Southern Decadence festival has since grown into one of New Orleans’s largest annual tourist events.
The multiday extravaganza features street parties, drag contests, dancing, drinking, and bead tosses, culminating with a boisterous parade through the French Quarter. With over 200,000 participants―predominantly LGBT+―these unbridled, pre–Labor Day festivities now generate millions of dollars in revenue.
Howard Philips Smith and Frank Perez’s Southern Decadence in New Orleans brings together an astounding array of materials to provide the first comprehensive, historical look at Southern Decadence. In an engaging account spanning five decades, the authors combine a trove of rare memorabilia from the event’s founders, early photographs and film stills, newspaper and magazine articles, interviews with longtime participants, a list of all the parades and grand marshals, as well as reproductions of early Southern Decadence invitations. Throughout, the authors explore the pivotal moments and public perceptions related to the festival―including the myths and conjecture that often inaccurately characterized it―and provide an in-depth narrative detailing how a small party in the Faubourg Tremé grew into a worldwide destination predominantly for gay men.
Lauded by city leaders as the second-most profitable festival in New Orleans (outshone only by Mardi Gras), Southern Decadence emanates an air of frivolity that masks its enormous impact on the culture and economy of the Crescent City. But with such growth comes the challenge of maintaining the original spirit of camaraderie while managing expanding administrative and logistical responsibilities. Southern Decadence in New Orleans serves as a historical record that helps ensure the future of the celebration remains forever linked to the joyous impulse of its humble beginnings.
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