39th Annual Bourbon Street Awards
The ultimate costume contest
The Thirty-Ninth Annual Bourbon Street Awards Show will be held on Mardi Gras Day, March 4, 2003 at 11am. The location is the corner of St. Ann at 800 Bourbon St.
Johnny Chisholm and Oz/New Orleans, who brings us this fantastic contest, has gathered celebrity judges from around the United States. The categories include: Best Male, Best Female, Best Group, Fantasy and Leather. There will be a first, second and third place award given for each of these categories. Also to be awarded will be "Best Tits" (male or female) And the grandest of grand award for "Best of Show."
Celebrity emcees will feature the talents of Southern Decadence Grand Marshal XXIX Bianca Del Rio and Oz Calendar Boy Contest hostess Blanche DeBris.
The Bourbon Street Awards, well into its fourth decade, has hosted some of the most exciting and extravagant Mardi Gras costumes ever seen, and a bit of controversy as well. In 1963, the late Arthur Jacobs, then owner of the Clover Grill was facing declining revenues, as were other businesses in the Lower Quarter, at that time. "This end of the Quarter, around Bourbon and Dumaine had a bad reputation in those days. Things around here have come a long way," Jacobs recalled. Jacobs began, and oversaw the event until 1974, when he conceded the show to Tommy Hopkins, the owner of Cafe Lafitte in Exile, located across the street from the Clover Grill. During Jacob's tenure with the Awards, he faced a good bit of opposition because of the participation of female impersonators. "A big shot reporter tried to degrade the Awards with a feature in a New York magazine in 1964. He inferred that the show contributed to moral decay. The city was no help either with its additional restrictions and rules. I'm happy the city fathers have taken a different view today," Jacobs said.
During the 60's and early 70's the contest drew thousands of people to the corner. Japanese, German, British, and French film crews recorded the show for their networks. In 1971 Darlene Jacobs, Arthur Jacob's daughter, and noted local attorney, emceed the show, which was later televised on the BBC.
"In 1967 there was a beautiful boy from New York who won Best of Show," Mr. Jacobs said. "His impersonating a woman was so well done, viewers and judges alike could not tell that he was a man."
"I've always felt the contestants were the stars of the show," commented Jacobs. "I've turned down movie stars, musicians - even Al Hirt was refused access during the show. Pete Fountain came before the show one year and played for an hour, but once the show started, the contestants had their moment," Jacobs remembered.
The now legendary "Parade of Cleopatra" featuring Houston entertainer Torchy Laine as Cleopatra, won "Best of Show" three consecutive years, 1977 through 1979. Cleopatra, whose litter was born by numerous body builders, was preceded by Egyptian musicians, food and wine bearers, slaves, and one year followed by a tiger and its handler. This spectacle earned the Awards contest the title of "The Largest Free Show of Mardi Gras." Jacobs laughed, "We had to make Torchy a judge so he wouldn't compete."
When Thomas Wood bought Cafe Lafitte in 1974, the Bourbon Street Awards were assumed with the bar. Escalating production costs and more restrictive city guidelines threatened the Awards, but the Show went on. The late Ed Smith, a favorite emcee of the show, well known locally for his flamboyance and humor, produced - in his own name - the requisite permits for the show in 1982 and 1983. He staged it at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon. To avoid conflict with Smith's show, Wood decided not to compete. "Everyone knew it as the Bourbon Street Awards anyway" Jacobs noted. "Contestants from all over the world came to participate and model their costumes."
When Smith fell terminally ill in 1984, the Awards were not staged, but Jacobs proudly recalled, unofficially, contestants returned to Dumaine and Bourbon to show off their costumed creations. 1985 brought the Bourbon Street Awards officially back home to Cafe Lafitte in Exile at Dumaine and Bourbon.
In 1986 the Awards were relocated to the corner of St. Ann and Burgundy in front of the Rawhide. "By staging it there, more viewers were able to see the show," said Wood.
In 1994, American Chronicle did an hour long segment on Mardi Gras titled "Farewell to the Flesh" and the Bourbon Street Awards got great coverage.
In 2002, the Awards were acquired by Johnny Chisholm and Oz/New Orleans, and moved back to Bourbon St. for the first time in 16 years. View the Awards from the corner of St. Ann and 800 Bourbon St.
The 39th Annual Bourbon Street Awards will be "The Best Free Show of Mardi Gras."
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