Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Original Brady's (Alice Brady's)

514 Ursulines Avenue today
Original Brady's (Alice Brady's) 

Location: 514 Ursulines Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Not to be confused with Brady's, a later bar owned by Alice Brady located at 700 North Ramparts Street.

Opened/Closed: 1950s/1960s

In Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones, James Thomas Sears lists several "most notable institutions before Stonewall" within the City of New Orleans. One of these was the Original Brady's, a lesbian bar which actually had an all-women's band called A.B.'s Children. But the sweet musical offerings didn't necessarily make for a sweet establishment:

At the Original Brady's, no touching or same-sex dancing was allowed, and the short and tough Alice Brady "would put us out of the bar at 5:00 if we didn't have skirts on."

In Sears' account, Brady comes across as a petty martinet--sort of like a southern version of Kooky, who ruled supreme over her New York City cocktail lounge back in the 60s (also featured here at Lost Womyn's Space).

Well, maybe memories grow dimmer with the passage of time, because by 2000, Alice Brady was being praised as a lesbian pioneer:

A friend ran into her the other day, and like the game 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, here in New Orleans we could play 6 Degrees of Alice Brady and almost always connect; that is, if we're old enough to remember Alice Brady. I was surprised to learn that my favorite drag performer who is only slightly MY junior didn't know Alice. Did time change so quickly back then? Things had seemed so static and unchanging....

Well, Alice Brady had gotten to talking with the old mutual friend and she had commented that she didn't ever go out anymore, not even on special occasions. She was, after all, in her 70's, she was time to stay home with her memories. The gay community must seem like a foreign country now to this lesbian pioneer, yet without Alice Brady and others who ruled those establishments on Rampart Street, there would have been no lesbian social scene in the 50's and 60's, and no foundations on which to build today's history in the making.

North Rampart and Canal Streets (1964)

In fact, we find out that Alice Brady is a past winner of the Ambush Magazine Gay Appreciation Award/Lifetime Achievement Award. Make of that what you will.

Update March 2, 2012: Just found out that Alice Brady passed away. Her obituary clarifies some of the history of the bars she founded and their locations. Seems the "Original" Brady's (Alice Brady's) was located at 514 Ursulines Avenue (incorrectly reported below as Ursulines Street). It was the her last place (Brady's) that was located at 700 North Rampart Street. So the information previously stated above has been changed:

Alice L. Brady
BRADY Alice L. Brady, age 84, died at Canon Hospice on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012. Daughter of the late Alice Pickels and Wilson D. Brady. A native of Birmingham, AL and a resident of New Orleans since 1946. Well known in the New Orleans community as a bartender and cocktail lounge owner. Alice's first bar, "The Mascarade Bar" opened at 819 St. Louis St. in 1952 followed by Alice Brady's at 514 Ursulines St. Her third location, Mr. D's Hide-A-Way and finally Brady's at 700 N. Rampart St. Survivors include a nephew, Raliegh Winn (Lois) of Pineville, LA and many devoted friends.

Photo: "Looking uptown in the early morning from the neutral ground on N. Rampart Street as a Canal streetcar crosses Rampart heading toward the river.  Don't overlook the worker changing the billboard at the far upper right. — R. Hill" (1964)

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