Hurricane Can’t Stop Southern Decadence

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The wreckage and power outages of Hurricane Isaac couldn’t stop Southern Decadence – an annual Labor Day weekend gay celebration.
     Bearded working-class men with beer bellies sat around a three-sided bar in the French Quarter on Monday afternoon as two very young, very skinny boys danced on the counter at the Corner Pocket, a gay bar.
     One boy wore skimpy black bikini briefs that sagged on his scrawny frame. The other wore a tiny LOWES tool apron. A patron slipped him a dollar and the boy lifted the apron flap.
     The crowd at 2 p.m. was due to Southern Decadence, but the bar itself and its clientele were just business as usual.
     Southern Decadence festivities peak with the annual Sunday evening parade through the French Quarter, during which men expose themselves for beads, as women do along Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.
     The annual event typically draws as many as 150,000 tourists to the French Quarter – more at times even than during Mardi Gras. Southern Decadence is typically ends on Labor Day, but Hurricane Isaac shut down the city down last Tuesday and Wednesday, so many Southern Decadence tourists plan to stay on this week to make up for it.
     The heart of Southern Decadence is in the French Quarter gay bars near the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann, also known as the “fruit loop.”
     At Oz, one of two bars at the intersection, dance music pumped as several twenty-something scantily clad men danced around the square bar Monday.
     Michael Kleinpeter, a bartender at Oz for 12 years, said Hurricane Isaac didn’t put a dent in Southern Decadence.
     “I don’t see any difference in the crowd this year,” Kleinpeter said. “Now, the owners, come the end of the week when they’re doing the accounting, might see a difference in the crowd. But I don’t see one.”
     Kleinpeter said that because the airport was closed last Tuesday and Wednesday and flights had sold out the previous weekend, last-minute fliers who live too far away to drive couldn’t make it.
     Nehemiah Edmond, 27, and Chris Rubin, 26, drove down together Friday from Lafayette, La.
     Edmond and Rubin said they would never miss Southern Decadence, so long as it was not canceled altogether, as it was after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and during Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Both hurricanes arrived the week of Labor Day.
     “It wasn’t that we was ever considering not coming because of the hurricane,” Edmond said from his perch beside Rubin on a hot stoop in the sun and scorching heat outside Oz. “The thing was, how bad was the hurricane going to be?”
     Oz patron Cleveland Berry talked to Courthouse News as he snuggled with a dancer inside the dark, air-conditioned club.
     Berry said his determination to attend Southern Decadence despite Hurricane Isaac week was unpopular with people back home in Dallas.
     “People gave me a hard time about coming, but the way I saw it was like, look, if people don’t go down to New Orleans and spend money, the situation will only be worse. The least I can do is go and help support the city during cleanup.”
     But while the party in New Orleans continues, so do the effects of the storm.
     Oz dancer Michael Schroder, a 25-year-old from suburban Metairie, said his house was still without power on Labor Dau.
     “I’ve been taking cold showers and shaving in the dark,” Schroder told Courthouse News. “You get sick of it after a while. I hope power gets restored soon.”

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