Halloween is a great time of year. The weather changes just enough in the
city to remind us that winter is really going to happen-just not here. The
pumpkins and ghosties come out, too, along with even more stories of hauntings and vampires. New Orleans certainly has its share of the supernatural and the preternatural. Halloween just seems to take one back....
The year was 1972 and I was a very wet-behind-the-ears first year teacher in the Jefferson Parish School System. I was also determined to find out about myself and my love for women. I was invited to a Halloween party held on Magazine Street uptown. I had wrangled an invitation from a friend who was very butch and very fascinating to me.
Everyone had to bring something sweet to add to the buffet table-a trick or treat paradise that promised more than satisfaction for a sweet tooth. The way my friend Carol explained the party went like this: sugary treats were placed on the table and everyone got to sample the goodies. When the music started, the femme girl got to choose from among the butch girls who had tasted her sweets...sort of a old-fashioned turn about.
This went on with each dance until either someone went into a sugar coma or somebody's girlfriend got mad. The single girls loved the game...so did some of the "married" girls. It was a good way to meet people if you were new...and a good way to get in trouble.
This is how I met Pat. She was a cocktail waitress at the Monteleone Hotel...and she drove a Lincoln Continental. She lived out in the East and she was very different from the women I knew.
It was from Pat that I would learn how many women in the sex industry were lesbians. It was from her that I would learn about separating business from pleasure.
Pat chose me as a partner for the first dance. She was tickled by my shy manner and by my nervousness. She had made these killer brownies and I have a weakness for killer brownies. We kept drifting back to each other during the evening and decided to meet at the Grog (718 N. Rampart) after the party.
The Grog in those days was the anchor on a block that held Alice Brady's on it's other end. A place called Travis' was in the next block. It was a men's bar, but it tolerated us girls.
The Grog was packed that night. People were all dressed in Halloween costumes and masks. The bar was decked out with ghosts and goblins, and lots of rubber spiders. There was a big galvanized tub filled with apples for bobbing and candy corn littered the top of the bar.
I looked through the crowd for Pat, but she was nowhere to be found. I situated myself in a corner near the door so I could see all the comings and goings. That's how I met Sonny. She was a tall, muscular blonde with a deep tan. She wore black rimmed glasses and drank Jack Daniels neat.
It was obvious to me that Sonny was somewhat of a celebrity at the Grog.
Several femme girls rushed up to say "hello" and more than one of the butches offered her a drink. Sonny was indulgent of her admirers and allowed their attention for a time before she disappeared into the small back room.
Some girl dressed up in a horse costume kept galloping around the bar shouting "Trick or Treat." Finally, somebody pulled out the bottom of her horse suit and poured a full beer into the pants. Everyone laughed as she bucked and bolted through the room. Halloween was full of mischief.
It was just about then that Pat walked through the door. She was dressed in tight black jeans, tall Western boots and a white hat bedecked with feathers: she was a vision to behold.
I was just about to approach her when Sonny came out of the back room. Like Moses at the Red Sea, the crowd in the space between Pat and Sonny parted and they stood looking one another over. It was clear that some sort of line had been drawn and I knew better than to cross it.
Sonny sauntered over to the cowgirl beauty and stood directly in front of her. Someone fed the jukebox and a slow, sultry song slid out of the music machine. Pat started to sway with the sound and was soon dancing around Sonny's stock-still figure. She moved against her and slid her hand up into Sonny's blonde mane. She played her fingers against her ear.
Sonny reached around her and pulled her close. Pat continued to move against Sonny's hard body. Finally Sonny reached her hand up and entangled it in Pat's long black hair. Gripping it hard, she pulled Pat's head back and slowly, excruciatingly brought her lips close to her mouth. "Trick or Treat," she snarled before she covered Pat's mouth with hers.
The crowd erupted in hoots and applause. All except me. Especially after the two of them disappeared into the dark of the back room. oh boy, I needed to use the bathroom! I walked over and stood in line.
Through the doorway that led to the back room, I could see Sonny and Pat dancing on the dance floor...that particular way that lesbians have of dancing together like they were lying down in bed. I watched them intently...the sight was electrifying for a wet-behind-the-ears lesbian. It made me think that anything might happen on a Halloween night!
"Trick or Treat, honey"' said the woman waiting in line behind me. She was dressed as a fortune-teller, complete with turban. I laughed. "Afraid I've been tricked," I said with a rueful grin. She turned to follow my gaze into the back room. "Here, let me tell your fortune," she said. She pulled out a crystal ball and rubbed its surface slowly. "You met a woman tonight who made you feel daring. She is cunning like a fox and sly like a snake. Do not enter the house of this woman, for she will lead you down a path of discomfort." I didn't know what to say, but luckily it was my turn at the bathroom. "Thanks for the advice," I murmured and slipped into the narrow stall.
When I finished, she was gone. Not the fortune-teller. She asked me to dance. And we did. No, Pat was gone, and so was Sonny...which was probably just as well. I was in way over my head that night and who knows what I might have sacrificed to taste from the drink of passion the beautiful woman might have offered to me. Worse yet, I was no match for Sonny. Her kingdom was secure.
I left when the sun was rising-sure that all the ghosts who had walked the earth on Halloween had returned to their haunts. But I would see Pat again-this story was not over.
Trick or Treat...I wasn't sure.