33rd Bourbon Street Awards
w/Emcee Cornelius Washington
The 33rd Annual Bourbon Street Awards Show will be held on
Mardi Gras Day, February 11, 1997 at 12:00 noon. The location
will be at the corner of Burgundy Street and Saint Ann Street. Mr. Cornelius Washington, a local entertainer, will be emcee this year. Wood Enterprises, who bring us this fantastic contest, has gathered Celebrity judges from New York, San Francisco and New Orleans.
The categories include: Male, Female, Group, Fantasy and Leather. There will be a first, second and third place for each of these categories. Also to be awarded will be "Best Tits" (male or female) and the grand of the grand award, "Best Of Show."
The Bourbon Street Awards, entering its fourth decade, have hosted some of the most exciting and extravagant Mardi Gras costumes ever seen, and a bit of controversy as well. Back in 1963, Arthur Jacobs, then owner of the Clover.Grill, was facing declining revenues, like other businesses in the lower Quarter at the 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 recalls.
Jacobs began and oversaw the event until 1974, when he conceded the show to Tommy Hopkins, the owner of Cafe Lafitte In Exile, across the street from the Clover Grill. During Jacobs' tenure of 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 his feature in a New York magazine in l964. He inferred 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," says Jacobs.
During the 60's and early 70's, the show drew thousands to the corner. Japanese, French, German, and British film crews recorded different shows for their networks.
In 1971, Darleen Jacobs, Mr. Jacobs' daughter and a 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 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 remembers.
The now legendary "Parade of Cleopatra" featuring Houston entertainer Torchy Laine as Cleopatra, won Best of Show three consecutive years, 1977 thru 1979.
Cleopatra, whose litter was born by numerous bodybuilders, was preceded by Egyptian musicians, food and wine bearers, slaves, and one year followed by a tiger and his handler. This spectacle earned the awards contest the title of "The Largest Free Show at Mardi Gras."
Jacobs laughs, "We had to make Torchy a judge so he wouldn't compete."
When Thomas Wood bought Cafe Lafitte In Exile 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 notes. "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 recalls, 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 at Burgundy and St. Ann, in front of Rawhide. "By staging it there, more viewers were able to see-the show," said Wood. Two years ago, American Chronicles did an hour long segment on Mardi Gras titled, "Farewell to the Flesh," and the Bourbon Street Awards got great coverage.
Mr. Thomas Wood, owner of Wood Enterprises, and his staff are once again doing the background work and promise you that the 33rd Annual Bourbon Street Awards will be "The Best Free Show at Mardi Gras."