1979: A thunderclap woke me up and then loud voices. I hadn’t gotten much sleep but wasn’t hungover. I felt a buzz all around me, I had no idea what time it was but could hear guys laughing in the courtyard and then the door was opened and in came Louie and Clyde. “Get your lazy ass outta that bed boy, we got some people to meet.” It’s Mardi Gras day an nobody sleeps through that! “Downstairs now, get in that shower.” Clyde bellowed. Louie just smiled at me and laughed. “You have a good time last night Curtis?” I smiled. “Get ready and meet us at the gate and I’ll fill you in on anything you don’t remember,” Louie said as he closed the door.
1979 – Dinner at 1132 Bourbon Street at the dining room table was a daunting experience with all these handsome men, at least 10 to 20 years older than me talking about what and who they’d done and where, all coming up and hugging and kissing on me. Ada Hearts was there and I stood near to her for a while listening to her talk about the streets. “This is such a gorgeous decadent city. I just love it. And this house! Where is that dog with the cocktail tray back? Don’t you think the weather has been warm? Sure gets ‘em all naked.” Ada said.
1979 – “The rules of this house during Mardi Gras are” as George South proceeded to tell all of us hung-over guys at about 11am on Saturday morning of Mardi Gras weekend in his large double parlor “if you got keys it’s your house—no tricks—but if you fall in love then I’ll be watchin! Everybody’s ass is home for dinner at 7pm every night.” “No excuses, even for bartenders. Now, ya’ll get out on them streets or on the stoops and have some fun!
1979: Getting to work at Café Lafitte on the second night of Mari Gras was tough, even though 1132 Bourbon Street was only a couple of blocks away. The crowds of Mardi Gras revelers started at St. Philip, just a block from the house and it was body-to-body up Bourbon Street all the way to Lafitte’s. Then, it was in the front door and just push and shove my way through the bar, past the fireplace, and into the alleyway to get to the backroom. The jukebox was blaring “Mardi Gras Mambo.” No one had a shirt on anywhere and I was lucky to get to the back with my shirt on too. The backroom was also packed, but with bartenders and barbacks. I only knew a couple of the guys– Jason, who’d be working with me upstairs, and another guy Craig. Steve, who everyone called “the Ayatollah,” acted just like the despot he was named after. He was a good-looking, blond-haired, blue-eyed man who was very self-assured, strong and in supreme command. He began barking out orders to us like we were his guards. I stood there taking my orders.
Mardi Gras, 1979: Clyde, Al and I began walking up to Lafitte’s. Clyde started talking about Louie Hartfield and his lover Steve, “Now Louie will be staying at the house with us cause he’s been having some trouble with Steve. Steve now manages Lafitte’s, both the Café downstairs bar, and the Corral upstairs bar. The Corral had always been Louie’s bar, but then Louie suddenly departed for another venue.”
1978: Safely landed at New Orleans Airport, Al and I jumped into an airport van and headed straight to the French Quarter. As the van door closed, Al started laughing. A friend of his from San Francisco was also in the van in full drag and sporting a bright red beard. Next to him sat a tall slender 40ish drag queen with a red bouffant. “Pleased, darlin, the name’s Ada, Ada Hearts here!” he said to me. I laughed and said “pleased to meet you ma’am.” Al said they both worked together at The Badlands on 18th Street in San Francisco.
1978: The stewardess gently told us to fasten our seatbelts, we were now descending into New Orleans. I thought it was part of a dream. I looked out the window and it was all green and water, swamps as far as the eye could see. It was just becoming morning. I was glad the flight had been a red eye from LA, I had a margarita aftertaste from the night before. I remember no one sitting next to me so I was able to lay out over the seats. Al Vorse had his own row too. Al was my good buddy from San Francisco who’d gotten me a job for Mardi Gras. Descending into New Orleans. That was a good way of putting my life at this point.
(Late 1970s-1980s): In New Orleans, Bourbon Street runs for thirteen narrow blocks, roughly north to south, a straight line, ignoring the bend of the huge Mississippi. This can be deceptive because Uptown looks like its north and yet its west, and if you look to the left towards the River you can see the barges and the ships floating a couple of stories higher than you. Your bearings have already been taken over by the city.
MYKONOS, 1985 – In early September 1985, I spent a week on vacation in Mykonos. Early in the week, I spied a handsome, muscular, blond young man on clothing-optional Super Paradise Beach and started chatting with him. His name was Gary Matthews and he was a Welsh hair stylist visiting from London. Fortunately, the attraction was mutual and, within a brief time, we were enclosed in each other’s arms on my beach towel. By the late afternoon, we were on the ferry back to Mykonos town together. And, at dusk, we were making love on my patio overlooking the Aegean, as the sun slowly sank over the horizon.