by Red Cotton
This weekend’s second line parade will feature a solo star, the word ‘star’ being purposely employed here because that’s what you call a show-must-go-on professional. The Perfect Gentlemen Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s 21st annual parade will be a one man show this Sunday with the club’s president Travis Lyons holding it down all by himself.
The Perfect Gentlemen has about 15 men on its roster but since the storm has paraded with only four members. Lyons says about the reason for the thinned out division is, in a nutshell, the economy. “This is the first year in 21 years I’ve ever paraded by myself. People fall on hard times financially. The economy is messed up. But I’m gonna keep it going till they can come back. The president has gotta hold it down like the Big Chief. Big Chief’s gotta keep it going even when the other indians can’t. I gotta bring my game, still gotta show, gotta do what I gotta do.”
The cost of parading is a steep one for the club community. Structured like most social aid and pleasure clubs, the Perfect Gentlemen’s membership dues pay for the parade permit and the band, which can run over $4,000 per parade. Many clubs host parties and other fundraising events to offset the costs of parading. In addition, each member is responsible for paying for their attire which for the Perfect Gentlemen runs about $2,500 to cover clothes, shoes and sashes.
And that cost is actually doubled for the Perfect Gentlemen who have a unique tradition of parading twice a year. “We’ve been parading every six months for 21 years”, says Lyons. “We like to kick the year off by being the first parade of the year. We parade Father’s Day too. We dedicate the Father’s Day parade to brothers that have fallen to life, incarcerated, dead. People make Mother’s Day into a big day but nothing for Father’s Day. We donate that parade to the fathers of the city.”
In addition to maintaining tradition, there is another more practical reason Lyons is pressed to keep this year’s parade date: the city’s bureaucracy. The NOPD, which issues parade permits, has a policy of relinquishing a second line club’s annual date if they aren’t able to make their parade day. Says Lyons, “If you miss your date, you lose your day. They give you Saturday (parade date) when you come back. They got so many new groups now, many new clubs looking for dates. When you’re an older group you’re not trying to lose out to a new group you never heard of.”
Commitment to and leadership in the cultural community apparently comes natural to Lyons who owns several local businesses including Fire Records, the company that brought us that beloved booty bounce song ‘Wally World’ (the Walmart song). He also owns Mid City Banquet Hall, Big Momma’s Soul Food Restaurant on Washington and is the founder and director of a non-profit Central City Youth Against Violence.
Lyons, whose energy and exuberance comes through over the phone, sounds genuinely excited about his solo performance this Sunday. “Its a special parade for me cause my birthday is Jan 7th so this will be my birthday party.” The parade, which starts for noon at the intersection of Canal and Rampart and goes Uptown, will feature the TBC Brass Band for the fifth consecutive year. “I use them a lot”, says Lyons. “I like those young guys. They’re talented, I like what they do for me.” Lyons’ colors this year will be navy blue and lime green. And this year’s parade theme: ‘One man, One band, Having a Party’.
Gotta love it.