Taken from AMBUSH Mag
It all began in 1972 with a going away party for Michael Evers at Belle Reve, 2110 Barracks St.; consisting of gays, straights, blacks and whites. There was no parade. In 1973, an informal march began from Matassa’s bar to 2110 Barracks. There was no Grand Marshal yet.
The grand marshal selection began in 1974. Visit the Grand Marshals.
“I’d definitely say it was a contribution to something that got bigger than we ever dreamed it would be. It’s all about having a good time.” [The late Robert King, one of the founding members of the S.D. Happening]
It is coming again! The Southern Decadence celebration; that circus gone amok of a wildly aberrant, unusual, motley, slightly crazy bunch of avant garde attitudes in drag; that congerie of costumed marchers who take to the streets of the French Quarter in a route only the Southern Decadence Grand Marshal(s) knows on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend [late August/early September] that usually turns out to be one of the hottest of the year in this Bombay of the New World-New Orleans. They arrive like Asian termites hungering for pine logs in French Quarter architecture. But these strange creatures arrive mostly to imbibe of the grape; mostly to be outrageous and have fun doing it.
Not even the fire from a dragon’s breath would keep participants and watchers from assembling in the 1200 block of Royal Street on the first Sunday before Labor Day for a celebration that has gotten bigger and more wonderfully insane each year since its casual creation in 1972.
That day, usually between 10am and noon, an unknown quantity of men and women, Gay and straight, begin to assemble at the corner of Royal and Barracks Streets. They will huddle on the banquette in front of a favorite Gay watering hole named the Golden Lantern, the Home of Southern Decadence, there for over 40 years. They will spill out into the street.
No one ever knows exactly how many will show up, but recent years have seen the numbers grow into the tens of thousands. By noon traffic will be closed to vehicles at Royal Street at Esplanade and Barracks at Chartres Street since Royal Street will be overflowing with marchers mostly costumed in drag, scare drag and traditional drag, and any other kind of rig they can conjure up from their imaginations. And don’t forget all those gourgeous men and women, most scantily clad. You will see the playful, the whimsical, the pretty, the ugly, the satirical, the witty, and the obscene. But whatever you see, it will always be totally decadent. It’s a scene from a technicolor Fellini film extemporaneously created. It’s a happening of habadashery fit for an LSD Alice In Wonderland.
Then, at 2pm, the Grand Marshal(s) will arrive with a following of courtiers accompanied by the squeals and screams of his/her group and often other noises – the sound of whistles, goose honks, castanets, washtub fiddles, conch shell blasts, homemade jazz bands, horse whinnies, tiger roars, pussy meows, and whatever else that particular group fancies as an auditory assault, or a musical instrument. When the time comes to march, the Grand Marshal(s) blows his/her whistle and the whole drunken, rowdy group weaves its drunken way down the streets of the Quarter, one year cutting through St. Louis Basilica when a Mass was in progress, another year giving attitude to the tourists in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, or on the Moonwalk, or whereever they can go. The secret route used to depend entirely upon the imagination of the Grand Marshal, but now because of its huge size, a parade permit is required. But it’s always decadent, outrageous, and, of course, includes all the Gayles bars and other favorites; it’s always an extemporaneous demonstration of cutting edge freedom of expression, a walk on the wild side, a flourish, a smile, a brave conceit of the past. Immediately following the parade, is the annual Official Southern Decadence Bead Toss below the world famous balcony of Ambush Headquarters at 828 Bourbon Street.
1995’s Grand Marshal Blanche chose Grand Marshal XXIV Wayne White August 1, 1996. You see this is tradition. It has always been at the discretion of the Grand Marshal to choose how he/she/it will pass on the Southern Decadence torch! 1996 is history: Theme – Tour of da’NILE!, Colors – Royal Blue and Gold, Revelers – Over 35,000.
1996’s Grand Marshal Wayne White chose Grand Marshal XXV Miss Love August 1, 1997. 1997 is history: Theme – The Love Tour: A Wedding To Remember!; Colors – Silver, White & Teal; Revelers – Over 50,000; Economic Impact – Over $25 million.
1997’s Grand Marshal Miss Love chose Grand Marshal XXVI Robin Malta July 5, 1998. 1998 is history: Theme – Deliriously Decadent Divas: A Salute To Sitcom Reruns; Color – Color TV Optional; Revelers – Over 60,000; Economic Impact – Over $30 million.
1998’s Grand Marshal Robin Malta chose Grand Marshal XXVII Errol Rizzuto July 4, 1999. 1999 is history: Theme – Dark Lady Tour: Dissidents of Decadence; Color – Silver & Black; Revelers – 70,000; Economic Impact – $35 million.
1999’s Grand Marshal Errol Rizzuto chose Grand Marshals XXVIII Tony Langlinais & Thom “Smurf” Murphy July 8, 2000. 2000 is history: Theme – Taboo X 2: The Forbidden Pleasures Tour; Colors – Red, Silver & Black; Song – Man I Feel Like A Woman; Revelers – 91,000; Economic Impact – $72 million.
2000’s Grand Marshals Tony Langlinais & Thom “Smurf” Murphy chose Grand Marshals XXIX Bianca Del Rio, Pat “Estelle” Ritter & “Big” Rick Thomas July 7, 2001. 2001 is history: Theme – “Menage a trois”; Colors – Purple, Pink & Red; Song – Lady Marmelade; Revelers – 100,000; Economic Impact – $80 million.
2001’s Grand Marshals Bianca Del Rio, Pat “Estelle” Ritter & “Big” Rick Thomas chose Grand Marshal XXX “Irish” Mike Sheehan July 20, 2002. 2002 is history: Theme – “Fairy Tails”; Colors – Any & All; Song – Remix of “Over the Rainbow” into “Never Ending Story”; Revelers – 110,000; Economic Impact – $88 million.
2002’s Grand Marshal “Irish” Mike Sheehan chose Grand Marshal XXXI Rusty LaRoux July 19, 2003. 2003 is history: Theme – “Carnaval Decadence”; Colors – Vibrant Colors of the Rainbow; Song – La Vida est Un carnaval by the late Queen of Salsa ~ Celia Cruz; Revelers – 121,000; Economic Impact – $96 million.
2003’s Grand Marshal Rusty LaRoux chose Grand Marshal XXXII Donald “Donnie ‘Jager’ Jay” James July 18, 2004. Theme DAYDREAMS & FANTASIES: Welcome To My Harem; Colors – Electric Blue, Silver & Black; Song – Welcome To My Harem by Sara Brightman Dance Mix; Revelers – 125,000; Economic Impact – $100 Million.
2004’s Grand Marshal Donnie “Jager” Jay James chose Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XXXIII Lisa Beaumann and Regina Adams in July, 2005. Theme – Jazz & Jezebels; Colors – Red & Purple; Song – All That Southern Decadence 2005; Cancelled – due to Hurricane Katrina.
Due to the cancellation of the 2005 celebration, Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XXXIII Lisa Beaumann and Regina Adams led the 2006 event and continued to reign as Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XXXIII, the first time in Southern Decadence history that grand marshals reigned twice. Theme – Southern Decadence 2006: REBIRTH; Colors – Pink & Green; Song – I Just Want To F””kin’ Dance; Revelers – 75,000; Economic Impact – $60 Million.
2005-06’s Grand Marshals Lisa Beaumann & Regina Adams chose Grand Marshals XXXIV Guadalupe (Mark Thomas III), Marcus Martinez & Electra City May 20, 2007. Theme: Ancient Truth’s Lies & SACRAFCE; Colors – Crimson, Teal & Gold; Song – Beautiful Liar by Beyonce & Shakira; Revelers – 100,000; Economic Impact – Over $125 Million.
2007’s Grand Marshals Electra City, Guadalupe & Marcus Martinez announced their successors Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XXXV Tittie Toulouse & Paloma May 25, 2008. Theme: Decadence Does Disco; Colors – Silver, Black & White; Song – Bad Girls in September; Revelers – ???; Economic Impact – ???; Cancelled – due to Hurricane Gustav.
2008’s Grand Marshals Tittie Toulouse & Paloma continued their reign into 2009 since their parade was cancelled in 2008 due to Hurricane Gustav. The Official Press Party presented Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XXXV Tittie Toulouse & Paloma and their 2009 choices on July 29, 2009. Theme: Hurricane: This Year, They BLOW Back!; Colors – Black, Silver & Red; Song – Stormy Weather; Revelers – Over 100,000; Economic Impact – Over $150 Million.
2010’s Grand Marshals Toby Lefort & Julien Artressia announced their successors Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XXXVII Misael Rubio & Tiffany Alexander June 7, 2011. Theme: Viva New Orleans: What Happens in New Orleans Stays in New Orleans; Colors – Fuchia Pink, Silver & Black; Song – Fireworks by Katy Perry; Charity – NO/AIDS Task Force; Revelers – Over 80,000; Economic Impact – Over $96 Million.
2011’s Grand Marshals Misael Rubio & Tiffany Alexander announced their successors Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XXXVIII Pat McArdle & TJ Conard June 5, 2012. Conard resigned as grand marshal before the parade. Theme: Peace, Love & Hope = Monkey Dance; Colors – White, Purple & Silver; Song – Starships by Nicki Minaj; Charity – Belle Reve; Revelers – 25,000-30,000 due to Hurricane Issac; Economic Impact – Over $30 Million.
2012 Grand Marshal Pat McArdle announced her successors Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XXXIX Tami Tarmac & Venus Santiago June 6, 2013. Theme: Live, Laugh & Love; Colors – Fuschia Pink, Tangerine Orange & Gold; Song – Feel The Moment mix; Charity – Belle Reve; Revelers – Over 150,000; Economic Impact – Over $180 Million.
2013 Grand Marshals Tami Tarmac & Venus Santiago announced their successors Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XL Chad Boutte, Reba Douglas & Aubrey Synclaire May 3, 2014. Theme: Under The Big Top: Welcome to the Gayest Show on Earth; Colors – Canary Yellow, Turquoise Blue & Pearl White; Song – “Work: Bitch” by Britney Spears; Charity – PFLAG-New Orleans; Revelers – 160,000; Economic Impact – Over $192 Million.
2014 Grand Marshals Chad Boutte, Reba Douglas & Aubrey Synclaire will announced their successors Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XLI Steven Mora, Rip & Marsha Naquin-Delain, Misti Ates, and Frankie Fierce on April 30, 2015. Theme: Swimmin’ with the Gods and Goddesses; Colors – Lavender, Lime Green & Silver Lame; Song – “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, DJ JRB’s Southern Decadence Pumped Remix; Charities – LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, Louisiana Equality Foundation, PFLAG New Orleans (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Scholarship Fund; Revelers – Over 180,000; Economic Impact – Over $216 Million.
2016 Grand Marshals Steven Mora, Rip & Marsha Naquin-Delain, Misti Ates, and Frankie Fierce announced their successors Southern Decadence Grand Marshals Tony Leggio, Felicia Phillips, Jeffrey Palmquist & Derek Penton-Robicheaux on April 28, 2016. Theme: Decadence Takes The World; Colors: Amethyst (purple), Ruby (red), Sapphire (blue) & Pearl (white); Song: Ariana Grande’s “Break Free”, a creative mix by DJ of the Year JRB; Charities: New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders (NOAGE) & Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO): Shot: SKYY 42; Revelers – 216,000; Economic Impact – Over $259 Million.
2016 Grand Marshals Tony Leggio, Felicia Phillips, Jeffrey Palmquist & Derek Penton-Robicheaux announced their successors Southern Decadence Grand Marshals Persana Shoulders, Princesse Stephaney & Coca J Mesa on May 18, 2017.