New Orleans is the American capital of lush dilapidation. One arresting example of a vacant building with stories to tell sits at 2604 Desire Street in the Upper Ninth Ward: Club Desire.
The 1952 Federal Writers’ Project New Orleans City Guide mentions the club, saying, “Some of the Negro night clubs are patterned after those of Harlem, while others are no different than those patronized and operated by white people. Usually the music is ‘red hot’….”
That was certainly true of the late 1940s, when the club showcased a variety of entertainments, ranging from red hot to leopard skin eclectic. The following ad shows “The Spirit of Modern Dance” duo that performed at the club in February 1949. I have to hand it to NOLA’s Louisiana Weekly, the black newspaper that always respected atypical gender choices, as in the photo cation identifying: “Prince Charles, king of interpretive dancers and Louis Diggs, queen of all female impersonators…”
And what a fun lineup from June 1948:
Would have been a ball to catch Memphis Slim there in August ’48, battling his blues against the bebop of Herb Hardesty’s trio.
To see today’s stars of New Orleans drag entertainment, you absolutely gotta visit Where They At.
You can tell by looking at the club’s interior, the place stuck around into the Black Power era. Today some NOLA folks are fighting to preserve old Club Desire.