: Working his way back into the pile of disused, horrid drag costumes still extant in the inherited walk-in closet of his condo, Bruce Halloran stops for a few moments and swills back another double bourbon before he tackles the slowly desiccating rack of improvisational “dresses.” It’s at times like these that Bruce is both grateful and hateful of his almost eidetic memory. He recalls with vivid clarity the events which correlate with each hastily improvised mess occupying a rack of wooden hangers more expensive than the creations they occupy. There’s not a single stitch of sewing involved in these messes. Sara Joy could only operate a hot glue gun, due in no small part to the callouses he developed in his early career as a careless cable installer before he became management. The same job Bruce took over when Sara Joy suddenly decided to become a recluse. It always angered Bruce that Gary Pitts took the easy way out, cutting off all ties before he died. Yet still, Halloran had ultimately been the recipient of Sara Joy’s largesse. So in his mind it all worked out.
Reaching the last dress in the closet, Bruce looked at the fashion abomination he’d encountered. A fuschia and chartreuse microdot sequin nightmare in which Sara Joy had caused her most notable scene. The scene which effectively established The Phoenix as a total gay male bar. Completely eradicating any memory of the location as being the Smokey Mary Restaurant and Bar.
It was 1989. Smokey Mary’s was still a fairly popular restaurant before the new investors took over and turned it into what could only be described as the roughest, newest leather bar in the city, right across Esplanade Avenue from Charlene’s, the first lesbian bar in the city. Charlene’s established itself as a rough dive from the start, and it was clear from the get-go that male gays would be served but not welcome. Naturally an all-gay male bar would open across the way, and have a similar policy concerning sex. Despite what the media would have the public believe the gays and the lesbians were not always friends in New Orleans. In fact, there was an unspoken power play between the two groups. The dykes knew they had the advantage. Women in that male-centric world were turned on by lesbians. The popular mythos was the possibility that straight men would eventually be invited into the lesbian coupling because the man owned the penis. And even though any straight man who entered the joint would be instantly rebuked, the mythos Catholic transubstantiation was enough to satiate most frustrated NOLA men into buying an exorbitant number of cocktails for women who had no intention of having a male involved.
For nearly twenty years, this business model worked beautifully. Even old fruits like Bruce Halloran had to accept the logic.
But this was a world of inequities and infighting. A situation which Pitts not only took advantage of, but turned into a small cottage industry for his own aggrandisement. Division was the medium in which Sara Joy worked. The equivalent of Caravaggio in the realms of of social change--
“You stupid fruit!!!” Bruce exclaims aloud to the last hangared mess before him. This is exactly what Sara Joy would have wanted you to do, finding ways to defend her deceased ass. With the smug demeanor of a poor winner, Bruce pulls the hangar from the rack, only to find it caught on something. Doubtless another one of Pitts’ derisional props. Deep down, he hoped that it would be the four-foot foam rubber erection she’d excavated with an electric carving knife the night before the 1991 Golden Lantern Pride Party. She’d lost to a heavily carved, painted, and padded Jennifer Holliday clone. But no one that was there in The Latrine ever forgot her act. The prop had become a thing of local legend by the early Nineties, even inspiring a puppet in an underground show that popped up in the tiny boutique theatre on Frenchman Street.
That was where Bruce Halloran reached his saturation point with everything, and pulled the final hangar from its accustomed perch with a violent jerk. Just as he did this, he heard the unfamiliar sound of something substantial ripping it’s way through the pre-Katrina drywall. A small but visible cloud of dust erupted from the wall, causing Halloran to think he’s pulled out a retaining wall. Or at the very least, load-bearing drag. What he discovered in the small but aeronautically prolific debris would change his life forever...This Is My New Orleans.