Mardi Gras Transvestite, 1970
In 1970, photographer George Gardner invited me to join him on a trip to photograph Mardi Gras madness in New Orleans. We drove there in George's old Pugeot, and slept in the car for a week. It was a wild, drunken, in-your-face street party, I mean show your tits, baby, whooooooooooo!!!
After shooting the Bacchus parade on St. Charles Avenue, we wandered the French Quarter, bellies full of beer and oysters. Blues music was pumping and Jesus freaks were passing out comic book tracts as drunken schoolgirls staggered by, arm-in-arm, singing, "Oh, if the nuns could see us now!"
I returned to New York with hundreds of mind-blowing images. One of my favorites was this grinning transvestite dancing on the bar at Funky Butts, a dive bar on Bourbon street. I felt a big CLICK as I flashed that series of photos. My camera was a passport into forbidden worlds—and taking naughty pictures made me every bit as high as the whiskey I was drinking. This private dance gave me an intimate glimpse of a world I'd never seen before. Three cheers for anthropological "field work."
The raw, savage energy of my Mardi Gras photos added a whole new chapter to Sidetripping, my book then in progress. In days to come, I'll show you lots more pictures from Sidetripping and tell you how I persuaded William S. Burroughs to write the text!