New Orleans Episode #3 – A Tropical Eros & Thanatos Story

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# New Orleans is Contradiction

New Orleans is slow, humid, warm and sticky like sex. When you are about to let go and indulge, losing yourself into it, someone or something brings your awareness back because it can be a matter of life or death. I have never been anywhere where the Eros & Thanatos friction (pulsion of life vs pulsion of death) is perceptible in such extent.

# New Orleans is Glamour

Who would have believed that I would have fully embraced my frustrated glamorous side in New Orleans? Certainly not me. Glamour is appearing to me just like that.

On Tuesday, I crashed the movie set where κ² is currently working. New Orleans has a lot of cinema and TV show shooting going on, as it is cheaper than LA. The set I crashed is a big production with Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton. I told the massive security dude that I knew someone in the crew and he didn’t ask me anything. He just held the door for me. I was surprised at how easy it is to get on movie sets, but apparently it is not supposed to be the case. I was just lucky. The same day, I saw Katy Perry on Frenchmen street. She was performing at the Smoothie King Center. She had no security around her, just a bunch of weird friends. She was on everyone’s lips the day after. “Katy Perry was in town!” Yeah, I know.

And same day finally, the drag queen living upstairs knocked the door late at night. I opened to him and we decided to meet up for brunch. Those who know me know my obsession for drag queens. They are my absolute favourite creatures of all. So I was excited like a teenager on a first date. He told me his story. We exchanged a bunch of artistic inspirations and he took me shopping. “Would you like to come with me to my favourite wig shop?” What a question. I had to control myself not to scream and kiss his size 14 feet. On the way, he told me that he would like a wig like my hair. He actually gave me hope, because in New Orleans, there are girls who do drag. It is called “Faux Queen”. (Love the irony of how a girl incarnating a girl is called “faux”). I’m on the way to embrace this. New Orleans has been almost the only time of my life that I want to be in my skin and not in someone else’s. Probably because my glamorous daily needs are finally met? I went to see my drag friend on stage on Friday. His outfits were the fanciest of all. He danced on “Dancing Queen” with a whole bunch of fake flowers pinned on his head.

# New Orleans is Morbid

The city has a weird relationship to death. By order of importance, the top symbols of New Orleans are: the Fleur-de-lis, skulls, catholic imagery and voodoo stuff. They all mix up. There are more skulls than one can see, and it is not only due to Halloween coming up – which is huge down here, of course. (But Mardi Gras still is the main celebration.) Witchcraft and tarot readers are omnipresent. My drag friend explained me that New Orleans funerals are very eccentric. They sing and dance endlessly and take pictures of the dead surrounded by his/her favourite objects. I really want to crash a funeral while I’m here. My dark side is magnetised by this place.

# New Orleans is Burlesque

And Queer. The burlesque scene is vibrant, and they create new concepts for it, like “Erotic poetry reading” nights the first Wednesday of the month. There is a tradition from burlesque inherited from the chic brothels. You see more drag and burlesque than regular strippers. On Frenchmen street, I interacted with an “Erotica smut writer”. She writes you an erotic poem while you wait. She also had a one woman show called “Slut (r)evolution”. There’s a lot of fancy dress, costume, cross dressing all over the city. It is the kingdom of Creatures. You can’t really get self conscious for wearing whatever you feel like wearing. On my first day at Floras, the cafe where I write, a lovely bearded woman from California made my coffee. Nothing could be more normal here.

# New Orleans is Violence

You only become a true New Orleanian once you’ve been mugged. I don’t get used to it. People talk about violence and crime all the time. It is a huge part of their mind set, but as a European, it is not a part of mine. I always walked home late at night or early in the morning in all the cities where I’ve been (including New York which is a European city at that extent). It frustrates me to stop myself from embracing the night. I asked the guys if I could walk around with no money and no purse so I have nothing to steal. They told me that I could still be raped. (True. This one I can’t leave at home.) Mind set.

You don’t want to know how many guns are in the city. A taxi driver I was talking to asked me the usual question: “Is it safe back there?” (Europe). And then he told me that he had a gun under the seat because 6 taxi drivers were shot last year. I was tempted to ask him to show it to me but I’d rather keep away from these as long as possible.

I was at a bar with the guys of the arty house the other night – and by the way, you can still smoke in public places – and they simultaneously showed me their respective weapons under the table cause they are illegal. β4 had brass knuckles and μ3 had a knife shaped as a pen. She also got a taser for Christmas. I was seating between them and realised that I was surrounded with armed people.

The weirdest is that violence is explicitly or implicitly codified. Guns are legal, but brass knuckles and a bunch of “minor” weapons are not. You can get mugged/raped/murdered on the street but you can leave belongings under your porch a few steps up from the street, and no one would touch them.

Fascinating place.

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Portraits of America #1 – The Drag Queen of New Orleans

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βμ goes by the name of Eureeka Starfish* as a drag queen in the local clubs of New Orleans. His main job is at the Lucky Pierre on Bourbon Street.

He moved to New Orleans two months ago from his native South Carolina where he used to occasionally perform in small clubs. But that wasn’t taking him where he wanted and his ambitions were frustrated.

A few months ago, his dad manifested from Louisiana where he had moved. βμ hadn’t spoken with him for ten years because he disapproved of his homosexuality and queerness. βμ took it as a sign of destiny and made the move to New Orleans to live with his father on the other side of the river.

He’s quickly built a professional circle here and now spends most of his time in drag, working in average 6 nights a week. His skin can barely breathe, and as he “loves his porcelain skin”, he walks around the hot streets of New Orleans with a vintage sun umbrella.

About a month ago, his dad came to see him on stage. He finally understood. (There is hope for everyone!) Not only is he now supportive of his son’s life style and identity, he’s also super proud to have given birth to a diva with that many eccentric yet classy outfits.

βμ now lives with his boyfriend on the second floor of a gunshot house near the French Quarter, where most of his gigs are happening.

On his days off, βμ goes drag shopping in the vintagy extravaganza shops of the city: Fifi Mahony’s, Trashy Diva… he knows his wig and lingerie stuff.

He’s mixing all kind of influences in his numbers and outfits: Japanese pop culture, Pop Art Warholy icons, house wife from the 50s, vintage, mainstream. He also writes his own electro music and would like to bring more arty numbers to his drag club such as covers of the electro French singer Emilie Simon and other French divas who are unknow here. (I HAD to tell him about Mylène Farmer and he obviously instantly fell in love with her. If some Mylène Farmer covers are ever being performed in NoLA drag clubs, I might be the one responsible for it.) He’s finding his balance between paying mainstream gigs and his real artistic, more alternative vein.

One of his favorite part about drag is contributing to the cultural shift in mentalities, especially when working in more commercial venues. He’s very often confronted to audiences who have never seen drag before. They can even be afraid of queer and gay, because it is unknown to them. He takes time to make them feel comfortable about it, to talk to them with goodwill. In most cases, after the show, uptightness and fear have turned into enthusiasm and admiration. These are his routinely little victories.

βμ is changing the world on his own way.

*His facebook account as Eureeka Starfish was recently suspended by Facebook which censored many drag queen artists and arbitrarily closed their accounts under the pretext that they were using their stage name and not their legal name. Facebook has since then presented an apology to the Drag queens in question.

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The Misfits II

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Yesterday, µ, who is Greek, dragged me to a chic piano recital in the Hellenic Centre of London. I had picked the ideal occasion to look punk (for my standards). I had a dirty hair and was wearing baggy jeans and my torn T-Shirt of the Kinsey Sicks, an American drag queen quartet. (H’s brother is a drag queen called Daisy Buckët and I am éperdument in love with her. On the picture above, Daisy is the one with a finger up her nose. I used to tell H to tell her bro that he’s sitting on my right boob, but I guess he’s not sensitive to that kind of tribute).

Everybody else was super dressed up – borderline Christmas tree in some instances – but we sat down on the first row anyway, to have a better view of the pianist born in 1984. These prodigies younger than me just get on my nerves. I was also concerned that Daisy Buckët on my chest would distract him from his score but we were all safe in the end.

When he sat (late) at the piano, µ told me in a whisper: “He has a very stiff upper body. He would need some body-mind centering.” 

At the interval, I picked the program of the Hellenic Centre and we headed to the ladies bathroom. µ turned around and asked me (about the program): “Did you find anything interesting?” As she was saying that, she intercepted the gaze of a gentleman in his 50’s who was coming out of the male toilets. There was a moment of suspension and the man seemed super confused about the nature of the question. I told him: “Don’t worry Sir, she was talking to me.” He looked visibly relieved and said: “I was trying to think of something to reply!”

We rushed into the bathroom and peed our pants laughing.

After Beethoven and Chopin, we hanged out to eat petits fours and make connections in order to exhibit at the Hellenic Centre. µ talked to a poorly dressed plastic surgeoness who requested a proposal by email. Then an older guy chatted us up about social dance, cha cha, jive, ballroom tango, and was like “Call me, we’ll go dancing at the Rivoli together!” Sure.

We continued the evening at the pub around the corner and ordered 2 peppermint tea leaning on the bar. Colombia was playing against Japan and we were shouting at Colombian players because we wanted to see their victory dance when they score. The bartender asked us: “You are not really Colombian or Japanese, right?” I think he was trying to figure out what a regular dressed girl and an overly dressed girl with fucked up accents were doing in a Marylebone pub shouting at football players with a cup of peppermint tea in their hand.

Yeah. That’s just an average London night for µ & I.

Our life is about throwing people off.