Chi Chi lately

If you haven’t seen Miss LaRue recently, prepare to be amazed

HALF THE GAL SHE USED TO BE | Her hair’s still as big as Texas, but the porn goddess and DJ has dropped 150 lbs.

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

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CHI CHI LARUE
Drama Room, 3851 Cedar Springs Road, 10 p.m.–midnight,
Tin Room, 2514 Hudnall St.,
midnight-2 a.m., Sept. 16 and 17.

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Pulling over to a McDonald’s to access their free wi-fi in preparation for an interview with legendary adult film director Chi Chi LaRue seemed like a good idea at the time. A quick visit to her website and a review of her bio wouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Except it never got that far. When a large photo of her film CockWatch, featuring stars with names like Drake Jaden, David Chase and Colton Steele, popped up on-screen … well, let’s just say the kiddies in Playland weren’t prepared for those kinds of McNuggets.

So I scooped up my laptop and headed to the car to call LaRue (the drag alter ego of Larry David Paciotti), who had just returned to Los Angeles after a three-movie shoot in Florida and a tropical-storm-soaked weekend at Southern Decadence in New Orleans. I actually ran into the diva at a bar in NOLA but didn’t recognize her since her extraordinary weight loss. Since her gastric bypass surgery three years ago, she’s lost more than 150 pounds (or the equivalent of 1.35 twinks).

“I’m glad I did it; I’d do it again,” she says. “It’s changed everything about me. It’s changed the way I even look at myself as far as the Chi Chi LaRue character goes. It took me a while to get back into character. Having lost the weight, I had it in my head that I wasn’t going to be my character anymore. But the character’s inside me. It’s what I exude and put out there and how I present myself. Fat or thin, you can do that. I had to get it into my head that I could still be big and flamboyant even in a smaller body.”

If anything, slimming down has energized LaRue and kept her busier than ever. In addition to directing gay porn movies in fabulous destinations all over the world, she has a retail store in West Hollywood that sells a variety of Chi Chi (and chi-chi) merchandise, and she books DJ gigs at gay clubs from coast to coast.

Which is exactly what brings her to Dallas for Pride. She’ll be spinning at the Drama Room and Tin Room on Friday and Saturday nights, then heads to the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on Sunday. When she found out the Drama Room is next door to a certain Cedar Springs restaurant, though, she immediately perked up.

“Oooh, I love the Black-eyed Pea! I will be having some fried pickles. Guaranteed. I love the Black-eyed Pea!” she says.

Other than a few quick ventures out for a little comfort food and her official public appearances, LaRue’s travels have been pretty low-key.

“I like to stay in my hotel and just kind of chill and get ready for the DJ gig. I live my life as a vampire and stay in during the day since I’m working at night. When I’m only somewhere for a couple days, I don’t like to go out and wear myself out,” she says. “I’m an old woman! I’m a 51-year-old twat!”

Once the Dallas gig is over, it’s back to the grind of directing and traveling.

“I’m shooting a movie with Chris Crocker. You know who Chris Crocker is, right? He’s the boy who went on YouTube and did, ‘Leave Brittney Alone!’ He’s now turned himself into a cutie boy and wants to do a porn. I’m shooting his probably first and only porn movie,” LaRue says.

After that, it’s another movie with the Russo twins, a new flick with Greg Everett and DJing in San Francisco for the Folsom Street Fair.

“It never stops,” she says. “I just go, go, go. Same time, different year. And I’m happy with that. I’ve kept my name out there for 25 years. It’s great that someone’s stuck with me that long. I feel like Madonna, damn it! Well, sometimes I feel like Madonna, and sometimes I feel like Courtney Love the day after.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

It’s raining (ON) men

For one Southern Decadence virgin — and thousands of other gay men descending on NOLA — Tropical Storm Lee couldn’t steal their thunder

GET WET | Despite occasional cloudbursts, the French Quarter remained a hot-bed of activity all throughout SoDec weekend. (Photo courtesy Rod Orta)

JEF TINGLEY | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

Gay culture has a longstanding symbiotic relationship with low-pressure fronts. Chanteuses and drag queens alike sing about it in “Stormy Weather,” it’s H20 that ultimately does in the Wicked Witch of the West and the post-shower rainbow has become synonymous with LGBT Pride. It seems like we’ll find any angle to work the adage “Every dark cloud has a silver lining.”

So when it came time for my virgin voyage to New Orleans’ “Gay Mardi Gras” known as Southern Decadence, I wasn’t about to let a little rain (or even massive Tropical Storm Lee) steal my thunder — even if Lee’s thunder was more than impressive.
As it turned out, I wasn’t alone.

Clad in soggy leather, feathers and outfits slightly less revealing than a birthday suit, partygoers from across the nation braved the storm that flooded others parts of city to make sure that this 41st annual event lived up to its indulgent namesake. Organizers estimate Decadence brought about $125 million in economic impact to New Orleans and a crowd of nearly 80,000 people (down from an 110,000 in previous years).

But beyond the loyal fans, what made Decadence really shine was its all-inclusive embrace throughout the French Quarter. The sense of notorious southern hospitality was almost palpable.

The hub of the activities began near Bourbon and Saint Ann streets, home of NOLA’s largest resident gay bars — Oz and the Bourbon Pub/Parade — which were festooned in this year’s official colors of fuchsia pink, black and silver for the occasion. Their crowded balconies provided great people watching, but there was plenty to see on the street below, too — like Miss Ashley. This self-proclaimed “traffic trannie” works the intersection with her best “Stop In The Name Of Love” moves along with a whistle and a whip to keep partygoers safe from passing cars. (She even has a Traffic Trannie Facebook page.)

Strolling along Bourbon Street, you’ll note how clubs that usually cater to the heterosexual set during other times of the year ramp up their Kinsey Scale rating to 6.5 over Labor Day weekend, adding rainbow flags, hunky bartenders and drink specials to lure in the gays. It worked for our group, which made repeat appearances at a little-known bar called Bourbon Heat (711 Bourbon St.) that offered more breathing room, three-for-one drinks and front row seats to the action on the street.

GLAM IT UP | Attendees at the annual Labor Day bacchanal let all inhibitions loose. (Photo courtesy Rod Orta)

Decadence is the kind of party that goes from morning-to-night — or morning-to-morning if you choose (throughout the year, there is no “last call” in New Orleans — bars stay open 24/7). But there are less crazy options if you need respite from dancing in the rain (or searching for your pants).

Places like the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal St.) is one such example. The bar is decked out like an old-fashioned carousel and your bar stool literally goes round-and-round to give you an ever-changing vantage point. The setting was very relaxed with background music as eclectic as the crowd.

And while the temptation at Decadence can be to live on a “liquid diet” or simple street foods like pizza and Lucky Dogs, we opted for one night of elegance at the world famous Arnaud’s Restaurant (813 Rue Bienville). It’s the Big Easy equivalent of dinner and a show. Before your meal, tour the upstairs Mardis Gras Museum. Some of the elaborately beaded and feathered costumes on display date back to the 1940s, almost resembling cave drawings that Bob Mackie might later turn into a gown for Cher. The real star, however, is Arnaud’s extensive menu of Creole belly-rubbing goodness. And for true dramatic flair, make sure to order up the flamin’ Bananas Foster for dessert (its presentation will have everyone in the room looking your way).

I’m sure that any other year, Southern Decadence might have received a much different report of dignity exchanged for beads and moral codes left in the gutter, but in this case the rain seemed to bring just some good clean fun. And as the talented Katy Perry was once paraphrased as saying: “After you [drink a] Hurricane, comes a rainbow.”

Southern Decadence 2012, I’ll be back. So get those blue skies and shirtless boys ready.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens