I'm writing this from New Orleans. My partner has had a business conference down here since the past Friday, and I've tagged along. A few days before we left, on an impulse, I checked the Calendar of Events in the Leather Journal and discovered that we were in town just in time for the annual Mr. Louisiana Leather Contest. Yippee! Now I would have dropped by the Phoenix/Eagle in any case, because my partner had never been there. This gave us an excuse to pack some leather.
Our schedule was tight, but we dressed in appropriate attire and headed to the Phoenix for Friday night's contestant meet-and-greet. The Phoenix has long been one of my favorite leather bars, and I was eager to see how it had changed in the five years since my last visit. Our hotel is on Canal Street near Harrah's Casino on Canal Street, and the Eagle is at the farthest end of the French Quarter in an area called Marigny. So we took a cab. The driver knew exactly where to go.
We were greeted by a very friendly pair of doormen. That was just the beginning. New Orleans is friendly country. The Phoenix is the downstairs bar, and the area was packed with men in leather and denim, many gathered around the pool table. The Phoenix also has an outdoor patio, which is new to me. It lends extra space and is a much welcome addition.
Up a steep flight of steps is the Eagle. Careful here - the ceiling is low and the stairway narrow, as if to give warning that you're entering a different world. The Eagle is dark and darker and sometimes, darkest, depending upon the bartender's mood. A jail cell adorns one corner. Customers sit or stand around a bar or lean on a long rail. At times, it can be hard to see each others' faces. However, Friday night the lights were just a bit brighter.
A very nice woman sat at one end of the bar, and she promptly beckoned me over. Why not? She was surrounded by attractive men. Her name was Toni Pizani. Something of a grandmotherly type, she introduced me to the other guys close by, who turned out to be members of the legendary Lords of Leather. I enjoyed her company quite a lot and enjoyed talking with the Lords. I may have to write a post about them. One of the oldest leather groups in the south, they are the first official gay mardi gras krewe. They do a lot of charity work down here, as well.
Toni, it turned out, was also one of the judges for the weekend's leather contest.
Now, as my subject line says, this is only a partial review of the event. In the crowded bar, I could not get the names of the other judges, nor were they familiar to me. Same thing for the five contestants. I had talked with several of them, but I didnt write down their names. I'm hoping to have that information soon for an update.
After the contestants and judges were introduced, the crowd began to thin out a little. A half hour later, my partner and I also headed out. The main event, the competition itself, was scheduled to take place the next evening at a different bar a giant disco called OZ in the French Quarter. I'm afraid that we declined to pay the $15 per person cover charge to view the final, not because of the cash, but because of the smoke.
Which brings me to my only problem with New Orleans bars. Both my partner and I have gotten so used to non-smoking bars in the major cities. It startled us to walk into the clouds of haze that fill the bars down here. The Phoenix/Eagle is still one of the great leather bars in the country, and the people are wonderful. However, between that bar and the numerous others we've visited, my eyes haven't burned so much in years, and I've got a suitcase full of stinking clothes.
So the Phoenix/Eagle gets an A+
Ms. Toni Pizani gets an A+ (read her column in the AMBUSH)
The hot men at the event get an A+
But the smoke gets an F. Get with the times, New Orleans. People don't want to breathe this shit anymore.