You know me. The
began with one goal: Find karaoke. Dani and I were over at
taking turns searching the web for listings of local bars with karaoke
on a Wednesday night. And they had to still be open tonight, this
Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Since no one in Louisiana
to know there's an internet yet, Dani eventually set the laptop aside
resorted to calling places one by one until we had some
After a brief lesson from Katherine's dad on how to make stuffing from
"an old English recipe" (even though he's Canadian), we were finally
off on the road.
The first stop on our list was
Lounge, a small bar only three miles or so from Katherine's, but it's
the direction of the middle of nowhere on a stretch of one of those
highways travelers always neglect in favor of the interstate. We
pull up to the place and realize it's pretty tiny, so I'm thinking that
coupled with the location, location, and location, it's got to be a
redneck joint. Oh, but just for added entertainment value, there
are a couple condoms still in the wrapper on the steps out front.
We walk in, and there's only about a half-dozen folks inside, all
at the bar. There's no karaoke going on, no one's playing
There isn't even any music playing, just a tv showing Entertainment
Tonight with the sound turned down.
Turns out karaoke was the
the bartender tells us; Dani had written it down wrong during the
of calling all bars. We don't want to be rude, so we sit down at
the bar with the rest of the "crowd" and Dani and Kat have Amaretto
As the conversation gets going, it's starting to dawn on us why the
beer light has a rainbow incorporated into it, why it's just guys
for the chick who looks like a guy and the one fat chick with glasses
greasy hair whose likeness would almost certainly appear in Webster's
edition under "fag hag." Duh, we're in a gay bar.
we're in the unlikeliest gay bar in the South. But despite what
may think, there's no way we're leaving now. People kill for
A look-at-me queen at the end
of the bar
dominates the conversation. Even though he's roughly my size, he
goes by the name Big Mama. I'm not sure (s)he goes by any other
This is even when he's not in drag apparently, like tonight. Big
Mama's picture is on the wall above the door, in costume of course
with other regular performers. The drag shows are either Friday
Saturday (they alternate). There isn't even room for a third pool
table between the four walls, so how much of a pageant they can
squeeze into the place is doubtful... which makes the possibility of
to one all the more enticing.
Rex, the bartender (who a
Katherine at one point asked Dani "Is his name Billy or Bobby?") turns
out to have been from Dallas originally and was abundantly familiar
Oak Lawn, the bars in Oak Lawn, and, of course, Halloween in Oak Lawn,
one year during which, he says, featured the third and last time he was
in drag. They organized a routine as the Strangerettes (a play on
the local Rangerettes) with full costumes (think pleather boots and
choreography, and accompaniment by a marching band. Friends of
participants filmed the festivities for a documentary. What
drag for him permanently, Rex said, was when he looked at video footage
on his tv and said it was like seeing his mother's face staring
back at him. No gay man wants to try to dress up as a beautiful
woman and find they just look like their mother.
Over the course of
conversation, Rex tells us his favorite joke: A bird was flying along
hit a sudden icy patch that chilled him so badly, his wings froze and
dropped to the ground. He thought it was over, but just then a
had laid a big patty of manure on the ground in the field. The
bird plopped into the warm mess. It not only broke his fall, but
it also thawed him out. He was so happy that he started chirping,
but when he did so, a cat walking by heard him. The cat pawed at
patty and pulled the bird out and made a meal of him.
There are three morals to this
Moral #1: Someone who gets you
isn't necessarily your enemy.
Moral #2: Someone who gets you out
shit isn't necessarily your friend.
Moral #3: When you're in shit,
We stuck around a bit for more
and jokes while the girls finished their drinks and I helped myself to
the sampling of cold chicken wings, salami/pepperoni and crackers, and
a veggie tray.
But as good as this find was, we hadn't had any karaoke just yet.
We said our goodbyes and headed up north for the next-nearest
possibility for karaoke:
a place called The Trackside up in Pearl River.
For those blessedly not in the
River is even closer to the proverbial middle of nowhere. I know
I said that about Billy's Lounge, but we were even farther removed from
at this point. Rather than quiet desolation, this is the scary
of middle of nowhere that Ned Beatty would forever avoid after that
he had in Deliverance. Of course, we're looking for
encounters of the third kind, so we're game for pretty much anything
locals have to offer.
As we pull up though, there are
cars outside, and they aren't parked like they're by for a social
they're along the edge of the highway out front which equates to a 911
response. There are several uniformed cops in the parking lot and
a guy in handcuffs in their custody. Other cops are nearby
witnesses. To what? We find out from a patron watching the
scene from the bar's front porch that this was the culmination of the
saga of a customer starting shit for the past month, getting kicked
then returning after threatening to come back with a gun. They
911 at that point. The cops slammed him to the ground. I
heard decisively whether he was actually packing.
Inside it's pretty crowded in
some of the folks being outside as spectators or otherwise entangled
the aftermath of the ruckus. Granted, the entire place is about
size of the front two rooms of my house. Once again there's no
going on as we walk in, but it's just as entertaining as Billy's right
from the start, what with the peroxide-bleached blonde giving a
lap dance to a guy on one side of the room.
Nevertheless, we hope the
resume, so we have a seat at the bar. The bartender Christine is
the most perfect woman ever created... seemingly just for me: blue
dark black hair, and an incredible long, thin nose. She's full of
energy and personality squeezed into jeans and a too-short t-shirt with
abs like Linda Hamilton's 1991 Terminator
2 look. Somehow she's transplanted here
from Rhode Island. She acknowledges the culture-shock, and yet
seems to fit right in, fielding drink orders from the locals without
I get out a songbook (Christine
out where they keep them at the derelict karaoke booth), and they have
awesome selections, but the night is dragging on and still no one
the karaoke itself. Christine texts the guys outside. The
who runs the machine is tied up filling out statements, and he ends up
having to go down to the station. It's official: Karaoke is on
at the Trackside that night. Maybe tomorrow, ya'll?
Dani and Kat finish their
drinks and we
head for the door, but drunk or sober, Katherine just can't walk past a
pole without going for a twirl. She whirls around the one near
middle of the room once with a high kick and slides on down to the
then picks herself up to continue to our exit, but the bleach blonde
her wrist and pulls her back toward it. As outgoing as Katherine
has become over the years, her face took on an understandably
look as she jerked away from the girl. Ms. Peroxide 1997's
was hard to read and would have been intimidating even is devoid of any
malevolence. Was she challenging Kat for invading her turf?
Did she want to have a friendly dance-off with a kindred spirit?
Whatever the case, we wordlessly darted for the door, grateful to have
escaped with our lives.
The next option short of
heading to New
Orleans was a "Daquiris and Cream" place in Covington farther down the
interstate. In short, this turned out to be Douchebag
Sure, I'll look at their girlfriends, but I don't want to sit around
be deafened by their music. And, three for three tonight, there
no karaoke when we walked in. For a while it looked like we were
going to completely strike out, but I had grabbed a songbook to peruse
in the meantime just in case. Again, good song options in spite
excessive volume and minimal quality of the venue.
We sat back and people
you know, so far we'd been in a gay bar. We'd been to the
for latter-day Steven Segal straight-to-dvd flicks. And yet this
was the place we felt the least comfortable and the most out of
Some portly guy in his fifties (picture Andrew Lloyd Webber in the
was at the next table to us being swarmed by cute vacuous
when he brought a tray full of Jello shots... and plastic
All we could figure was he was really, really rich and/or he owned the
place. It was gross.
Against odds, things got worse
karaoke began (or resumed?). It was almost impossible to hear
the DJ or the singers were saying or singing as the rig was apparently
equipped for nothing but bass and hiss. Dani and Kat were ready
leave by the second song. I had already put in my request by that
time, so I offered to bail if my turn hadn't come around within the
couple songs. Fortunately, just after I set my threshold, my
finally came up.
Naturally, I did "Sweet
Rocky Horror hoping to weird out the crowd, but no such
In fact, barely a verse into the song, one of the guys there grabbed a
second mike and asked me if he could sing some of the AP (audience
parts. I said sure. Several people on the dance floor in
of the stage went wild. Perhaps the rest would have as well if
sound could have penetrated ungarbled more than a few feet into the
Apparently it's not such an obscure track after all, even on the
I finished the song and we
bailed on the
place. It was just after midnight by this point. We thought
about hitting the Causeway and heading into New Orleans. We were
so on the fence that ultimately the deciding factor was the $3 toll to
cross from the north shore, though it's free in the opposite
If things were reversed, we might have done it. See, we could
gone straight south into N.O. (or Metaire) and then went back home to
Slidell via I-10
for free. It was getting late anyway, so we just decided to head
to Billy's Lounge for more quality time with Rex and pals.
We had some more chicken wings,
some of the regulars' stories, got a guided tour of the patio out back
from Rex and saw the tiny mirrorball above it that no gay bar is
without. The rest of the customers filed out gradually over the
of the night until we were the last left there around 1:40am.
time do you close, we asked? The posted hours were until 1am on
"But we're flexible," Rex said. For the second time that night,
said our goodbyes and promised we'd do our best to be back for the drag
show on New Years Eve.
We'd fallen in three ostensibly
that night, but for all our attempts to trade up, the first place was
we were looking for without ever realizing it. If there's a moral
here, it's to be thankful for the shit you fall into when it's warm and