“High Maintenance” dance party brings spirit of Voodoo Lounge to One Eyed Jacks Feb. 7 for Mardi Gras

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Ever since Lori Tipton and Andy Overslaugh took over the management of the Voodoo Lounge, the Rampart Street bar has turned into the host for one crazy dance party after another, blurring lines of sexuality, gender and genres. But sometimes the party can outgrow the venue, which is why “High Maintenance: A Celebration of Humanity” will find a larger home in the form of One Eyed Jacks on Sunday (Feb. 7).

The inspiration for this particular party came from Bobby Carrasquillo, who worked with Tipton at the now-defunct Lucky Pierre’s and approached her with the idea for a huge party where they could showcase friends and performers. Really, she said, the whole night, which will be hosted by Beverly Chillz and comedian Corey Mack, is a group effort.

“We also have a few other friends who have been instrumental in helping to create and contribute to the overall concept, which is a party that is all-inclusive, with performances that flow into the music as opposed to breaking up the dance party with separate, announced acts,” Tipton explained. “One Eyed Jacks has always been my favorite performance space in the French Quarter, and Ryan and Marcy (Hesseling) are nearly extended family to us, since Flanagan’s (which Overslaugh and Tipton previously managed) was around the corner from Fifi Mahoney’s for over a decade.

“We are creating a sensory experience, from the art displayed, to the music and the performances,” she said.

Beats will be provided by several DJs, including Carrasquillo (aka DJ Survibe) as well as DJ Rusty Lazer and Bennett Hendricks, with drag, burlesque, aerial and erotic performances woven into the party. Performers include Charlotte Treuse, Indica Torture, Athena, Nicole Lynn Foxx, Ilaynnah Eve DeLorean, Neon Burgundy, Wednesday Bonet Iman and Eureeka Starfish, and Dara Quick and Markus Davis.

Tipton also said the evening will feature representatives from BreakOUT!, whose mission is to support LGBTQ youth in New Orleans.

“Most importantly, we want all people to feel welcome and to have fun. This is a celebration of humanity. We are just very lucky that the humanity in New Orleans tends to be more debaucherous than other places.”

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Do dive bars in New Orleans still matter?

The Black Penny on Rampart Street — formerly The Ninth Circle. (Photo by David Lee Simmons)

The Black Penny on Rampart Street — formerly The Ninth Circle. (Photo by David Lee Simmons)

There’s a pretty funny, sharply observed and snarky post from Munchies making its way around the Internet thanks to a re-posting from its original 2014 publishing titled “The Slow and Painful Death of the Dive Bar.” Basically it’s a barfly’s screed against the gentrification that’s occurred all over the land in which former dive bars are taken over by a kind of hipster management awash in cleverly disguised bourgeois trappings such as IPAs and craft cocktails and digital jukeboxes. Here’s but one witty shot across the bow:

Does your daytime bartender have full arm-sleeves? That’s cool. Do ALL your new bartenders, barbacks, door men, regulars, and social-media coordinators have full arm-sleeves? That’s bad. See, tattoos are meant to indicate individuality. If everyone is uniform in their individualism, then this place is no better than Hot Topic. You can’t mass-produce an identity. In fact, you shouldn’t even have a social media coordinator. That dumb new mustache logo isn’t helping, either. The only logo a proper dive bar should have is that cold look a regular laser-beams at you when you open the door at 11 AM and it lets in too much light.

Indeed, New Orleans, having in its post-Katrina population boom embraced many national trends including a certain strain of hipsterism in its nightlife (often for the better), has experienced an almost tectonic shift in its seemingly myriad dive bars. You can see it most evident in the French Quarter, especially with several divey gay bars being converted into such spiffy and shabby-chic joints as the Black Penny (pictured) with its impressive canned-beer selection as it sits perched on an ever-transforming Rampart Street. And if the French Quarter is the canary in the coal mine for New Orleans bars, what do these conversions mean for the rest of the city?

For the article’s author Josh Androsky, it’s the end of an era: “Remember the good times? Back when it was that other place, the good place? Before you bought it. Before you ruined it. Before you renamed it something along the lines of an ‘eco friendly neighborhood pub SERVING IPAs ONLY, Bring Your Kids!'”

This reminded me of the days managing the bar guide at the previous publication, and painful — I mean PAINFUL — 2014 debate we had in deciding on the top five dive bars in New Orleans. It was painful not just because of the slow death of the dive bar, but also the crazy criteria for what constituted a dive bar in the first place. There were the obvious ones, like a locally owned spot primarily embedded in a neighborhood, and maybe with its fair share of “characters” along with cheap drinks and beer and an organically well-worn feel to it and a jukebox that didn’t try too hard to be cool but was anyway. Stuff like that.

But also, as I believe some commenters may have pointed out, it just felt unseemly to “promote” or “rank” dive bars to begin with, to celebrate something that very much seemed to want to operate exclusively under the radar and didn’t need your help, thankyouverymuch. (Certainly not from a corporate-owned publication, but that’s another discussion for another day.)

So what do you think? Do you believe New Orleans’ dive bars are going the way of other bars nationally, as Josh Androsky has suggested (twice now, LOL)? Do you also agree that they have an intrinsic value, or should we even care anymore? For me, the beauty of New Orleans bars do lie in their ability to become a treasured part of a neighborhood, and identify with it. I’d wager some newer New Orleanians, for example, might be surprised at how just you Finn McCool’s is. While a true neighborhood bar, it’s barely more than a decade old, yet feels very much a part of Mid-City while not being a dive bar at all. And there are other bars that, while renamed and under more recent ownership, that still have that divey feel — like JJ’s Sports Lounge in Bywater (Bywater!).

And so, as we approach New Year’s Eve, I’ll repeat the question: Do dive bars in New Orleans still matter?

 

Lucky Pierre’s, Bourbon Street nightclub for drag and burlesque, to close

Lucky Pierre’s, which over the past year tried to blend drag shows with a variety of burlesque-themed shows, will close, an employee at the club confirmed Thursday (Dec. 3) night.

“It’s really true. We found out last night,” said Yarinez Mercado, who performed under the drag name Yari Dumar. (She commented on a story I did on the transgender community’s response to the Caitlin Jenner news.)

The nightclub seemed to have a rocky time while trying to blend drag and burlesque shows during its brief time on the Bourbon Street strip. Hawkers outside the club constantly encouraged locals and tourists to come inside and witness a shows such as “The Real Drag Queens of New Orleans” in the main bar and “Drag Cabaret” in the patio bar inside a courtyard.

The burlesque programming was a little rockier. Popular burlesque performer Bella Blue established her “Blue Book Cabaret” show at the club for several months before one of the performers in her lineup, Ruby Rage, was forced out by management in February in which she said was because of her weight. Following a public-relations nightmare that played out on the club’s Facebook page (with messages defending the move being posted and pulled as commenters erupted in anger), Bella Blue ended her relationship with the club and eventually moved the show down the street to Bourbon Pub and Parade. On Thursday, Bella Blue expressed disappointment about the club’s closing.

“I’m very sorry to hear that Lucky Pierre’s is closing. It’s bittersweet. There are a lot of good people who continued to work there after The Blue Book was pulled and no one deserves to lose their income; no matter what the reasons,” Blue wrote. “I don’t know why it’s closing. It doesn’t matter at this point. It was fun while it lasted. We had some of our best shows there and made so many wonderful friends in the process. What happened earlier this year was truly one of the most difficult things I personally had experienced and it affected a lot of people. But now there are a lot of talented drag queens who need spots in shows. So, let’s support them and hire them as they figure out what’s next.”

Dante the Magician began presenting “The Flim Flam Variety Hour” as well as “Dante’s Dirty Tricks,” at the club earlier in 2015, entertaining customers with a mix of magic, human tricks and boylesque performances featuring, among others, Donny V.

I’ve reached out to management for comment and hope to hear back soon. Come back here for more details.

Krampus Gras 2015 once again offers a holiday party on the dark side, Saturday (Dec. 5)

Elizabeth Zibilich can’t help herself. While most folks understandably have been held in the sway of St. Nicholas and the whole “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” side of Christmas, the devilish costume designer and spooky ghost tour guide long has been favored the darker impulses of the alter-ego Krampus.

This is the horned little fella who’s a little tougher on naughty children during the holiday season than St. Nick — we’re talking scary-tough. And so, in the tradition of Mardi Gras and Halloween, Zibilich will return her Krampus Gras party for the third year and at third location: Saturday (Dec. 5) at 10 p.m. at the Voodoo Lounge on Rampart Street.

(Related: French Quarter ghost tours mix centuries-old stories with sensational crimes of today)

“Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against the cheer that the Christmas Season brings along with the glee children get out of Santa,” Zibilich said. “I loved it as a child myself. Krampus, however, is a lesson or a warning about being good. Good little boys and girls aren’t taken away by the Krampus. They are left oranges in their shoes by St. Nicholas, according to the lore. Kids now have the elf on the shelf which “is always watching you” and in my opinion is almost more terrifying than Krampus.

“Though as adults we all have a naughty kid side to us, and this party is a way to break loose from their everyday nice kid side.”

In previous years the party’s included live music, but this year, as Zibilich has had to focus on recovering from an accident suffered earlier in 2015, is slightly scaled back. Instead of a band there will be DJ Andy Average spinning punk, lounge and rhythm and blues music. Also, the party will feature a fun little tune-up: Around 8 p.m. a fire engine ride on the Gator 1 Premier Party Fire Engine, with as many as 25 people taking a two-hour ride through the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny and Bywater. (That ride, however, already has sold out.) Also: Holly’s Tamales food truck is expected to park and provide the food.

“We will make a few stops, but keep your eyes peeled for Krampus and naughty children,” Zibilich, before adding, “We also have a spanking area planned for naughty boys and girls and a few odd surprises thrown in.”

It’s also a great opportunity for a costume party; guests are encouraged to dress up either as Krampus or as a naughty child — which, as with all things downtown, can get a little weird.

“As a costume designer I am ecstatic to see what people come up with,” Zibilich said. “Some people don’t come in either Krampus or a naughty-child costume, but they’ll be there in their festive Christmas garb, which can get incredibly creative as well.”

This year’s Krampus Gras is particularly well times: The movie “Krampus” opens nationally on Friday (Dec. 4). The movie is directed by Michael Dougherty and stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette and David Koechner.

Admission is $10 general, $5 with a costume. Proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood. Check out the Facebook event page for more details.