Sunday was my favorite day to go out. Friday and Saturday shifts were over. I could go out on my own down to the Quarter and hang with one or two of the bartenders. We’d hang in the part of the Quarter below the Lavender line, a boundary of sorts at St Ann Street where the straight bars ended and the gay bars began. If straight men crossed this line, then they were fair game.
Sometimes I’d go to Sbisa’s Cafe on Decatur with Gene and Baby Bear, or whoever was around and we’d have a great brunch and laugh. Then we’d wander around the French Market and back to Lafitte’s to hang at the bar, cruising and terrorizing the guys and getting drunk. We’d be sitting on the stools inside and out with the doors open and guys would have to get past us—if we allowed them to. Lots of grabbing and flirting. Then we’d pour our drinks in a go cup and wander up the short block to the Bourbon Pub to see what was going on there. Just a gang of us guys wandering, laughing, and carryin on.
On one particular Sunday, it was hot and sticky, the air just didn’t move and your T-shirt stuck to your skin. We started walking to the pub for a shot. We got just past the laundry when this blue chevy pickup came round the corner of St. Ann onto Bourbon fast with squealing tires, and stopped. The sidewalks were packed with queers. St. Ann at Bourbon is a narrow street with two-story buildings on each side. We saw four big rednecks jump out of that truck leaving the doors open. They had baseball bats and they started swinging. I froze, not knowing which way to go or who to go after. It seemed like slow motion to me. Queers were getting hit and beaten up—some up against the brick buildings and others up against iron gates. There was nowhere to go. It was quick. Blood. Screams. Yelling. Then, the guys inside the Pub realized what was happening, and came out and started fighting back
I ran towards the truck, when out of the corner of my eye, for a split second, I saw this short older queen run right up to the driver’s open door of that pickup truck, reach in and turn the engine off, taking the keys and then running like hell right past me. I wasn’t sure anyone saw what he had done.
The boys with their bats seriously beat up some queers and then ran back to their truck, expecting to roar off down Bourbon. The driver, a dark-haired overweight redneck, was grabbing at the steering wheel and started yelling “Shit, fuck!” as he pounded the steering wheel and looking around worriedly.
The other three guys quickly realized they weren’t going to be driving anywhere, so, dropping their bats, they all ran off, leaving their leader in his truck surrounded by a gang of angry gays. He was stuck inside a big old chevy pickup with its bayou light rack in the middle of the 800 block of Bourbon Street next to the Bourbon Pub balcony on a hot Sunday afternoon.
Then, a rain of cocktails and barstools began flying at the truck from the Pub balcony upstairs and from the bar downstairs. The asshole redneck got out of the truck, this time without his bat, as he tried to make his escape back, but he was surrounded by guys coming out of the Pub.
He became visibly afraid, started cryin, and tried backing up Bourbon towards the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, past the Lavender Line, where there were more straight people for protection. But, he wasn’t safe for too long. The queers went right at him—the drag queens were the most vicious, kicking and beating him. He got punched and pummeled with cups and drinks with ice. The hair on my arms stood on end. These guys meant to hurt hard as they could and they did.
Of course, he was probably more scared of what he was gonna get from his daddy, trying to explain why he couldn’t beat up some queers with his baseball bat and why his truck was stuck on Bourbon Street. But there was no way out of there for him.
Then, the cops came, brandishing their sticks threateningly at the queers on the balcony and pushing them back into the bar. They protected the guy and put him in the back of a patrol car. A tow truck arrived and hooked the truck up, while the crowd yelled and screamed with anger. The tow truck began moving slowly down Bourbon, made a quick left on Dumaine and was gone. Then, the yelling erupted into cheers, like it had been some dark carnival parade. We ran into the Pub to help with the guys who’d gotten hurt. No police stayed to help them. We had to get some cabs to take them to Charity Hospital. Luckily, no one seemed seriously hurt—on this day the queers were lucky, clever and quick.
One night, shortly after this all happened, I was working at the bar late when the short queen who had taken those keys out of the truck came in. He was alone, and sat at my station near the stairs leading to the Corral upstairs bar. He ordered a drink from me. “I saw what you did with that truck the other day and I want to thank you.” I said, as I leaned over the beer cooler. “You’ve got a lot of guts doing that and smarts, too. You saved guys from getting hurt badly.”
He didn’t look up at me. He was silent for a while, then looked around and whispered, “Don’t tell no one it was me. I don’t want no trouble!” So far, nobody had said anything to him. I wasn’t sure who else had seen him do it. I poured us two shots in plastic cups and we drank them down. I threw my cup on the floor. We were quiet for a bit.
Then, he laughed as he continued sipping his and looked at me. “Turns out those cops sided with the rednecks” he said, disgustedly, “claiming the queers started it all and they were just protecting themselves. But I still got them keys!” He smiled, as he finished his shot and took out the truck keys and jingled em at me with a wink. “They’re my good luck charm now!”