Southern Decadence is now one of the biggest events on the gay calendar, but like many things, it has humble beginnings. The first Southern Decadence, held in late August 1972, was just a party (albeit, a fabulous one) by a group of gay and straight friends living in a packed house in the the Treme neighborhood — specifically, it was a going-away bash for pal Michael Evers, who was moving out of the Crescent City. Living in a ramshackle house they called "Belle Reve," the roommates decided to make the party a costume event and dress up as their favorite decadent Southern characters — people like Mary Ann Mobley and Tallulah Bankhead — and they fittingly named the party "Southern Decadence." Inviting dozens of friends, the gathering turned into a raucous all-night affair that carried into Labor Day.
The fond memories of the '72 party led the roommates to hold the party again the following year, even adding a small parade of participants from a local bar back to "Belle Reve." From there, the event gained steam and by the early 1980s, was almost exclusively a gay event. This year’s 43rd Southern Decadence party, kicking off Wednesday, is expected to draw more than 150,000 attendees to the “The City That Care Forgot." Most of the events happen at the corner of Bourbon and St. Anne streets, with live entertainment, international DJs, drag queens and dancers prominently featured.
To get hyped for this year's event, check out what happened in past years. All photos courtesy New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, unless otherwise noted.
Photo by Tome Reinhart