Celebrating its 45th year, Southern Decadence – the Labor Day weekend around-the-clock celebration of gay culture – returns when the LGBT community needs a party more than ever. In light of the recent shootings at an Orlando gay club, Southern Decadence is LGBT solidarity at its most fun. The event has its roots in a party where guests were asked to come dressed as their favorite “southern decadent,” and today the event is still high in camp with a big parade full of outrageous costumes. Tony Leggio, one of this year’s four Grand Marshalls of the event, tells us about the events of Southern Decadence and how partying can be political.
What does it mean to be a Grand Marshall for Southern Decadence? In the gay scene in New Orleans, being Southern Decadence Grand Marshal is one of the top fun honors in the city. Basically what we do is lead the parade on that Sunday, but we also host fundraisers for the whole summer leading up to Southern Decadence. Each year the Grand Marshalls pick a charity or two to whom to donate. This year we’ve picked NO/AIDS and Animal Rescue New Orleans.
What’s the difference between Southern Decadence and Pride? They’re two totally different things. Basically, Southern Decadence is the culmination of the summer for the gay community and a celebratory weekend of gay culture – we just focus on the fun. Our parties are about the costumes, the parades, as opposed to having empowerment seminars.
But partying can be just as political as seminars and things like that, right? Absolutely. The LGBT community in New Orleans spends our money here in this city through entertainment – sometime most of us have the most disposable income. It’s a celebration of our culture in this city: This is who were are, this is what we wanna show; we’re part of the community, we’re a vital part of the community. It does become a political statement, but it’s more of a love letter to New Orleans, because we love being here.
What’s your absolute favorite part of Southern Decadence? The parade definitely is the culmination – you have to go to the parade. But I always tell people they should go to The Friendly Bar before the parade, because that’s where all the Grand Marshals and their entourages get ready. It’s free; you can go there, have a cocktail and view this show you’re about to see walk down the street and unfold. I always like going there and watching everyone get ready – it’s kind of like seeing behind the scenes. After the parade there’s a bead toss that takes place on the 800 block of Bourbon from the Ambush Mansion balcony. That’s always very cool and fun when the Grand Marshalls come out and throw beads to everyone waiting.
It’s kind of fun pomp-and-circumstance type event.
For more information, visit SouthernDecadence.net