Almost a year ago, on my second interview for this podcast, I talked to Howard Philips Smith
about Unveiling the Muse: The Lost History of Gay Carnival in New Orleans
. I invited him back to tell us about his follow up book: Southern Decadence in New Orleans
. Co-written with Frank Perez (the president of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana) and published by the Louisiana State University Press in 2018, Southern Decadence in New Orleans
provides the first comprehensive historical look at another important event in the Crescent City’s LGBTQ+ calendar.
Commonly referred to as “Gay Mardi Gras,” the Southern Decadence festival began in 1972 as a spontaneous end-of-the-summer celebration of a group of friends who felt like outcasts because of their political views, sexual orientation, and/or racial identity. Over the last four decades, it has transformed into a gay extravaganza lasting almost a full week and culminating on a grand parade on the Sunday before Labor Day. It attracts hundreds of thousands of revellers from all over the world and is one of the city’s largest (and most lucrative) annual events. Smith and Frank combined interviews, participant observation, and archival materials to do document the trajectory of this fascinating phenomenon.
Dr Isabel Machado is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender and Sexuality Studies at the Department of History of the University of Memphis. Her forthcoming book uses Carnival as a vehicle to understand social and cultural changes in Mobile, Alabama (USA) in the second half of the 20th century. Her new research project is an investigation of different generations of artists and performers who challenge gender normativity in Monterrey, Nuevo León (Mexico). She also works as an Assistant Producer for the Sexing History podcast.