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Men in Drag Celebrate Saints in Big Easy

Never has so much fishnet, feathers, beads and bangles done so little for so many.

Thousands of men, decked out in everything from flowing gowns to tiny miniskirts, paraded through the streets of New Orleans on Sunday to show their love for the New Orleans Saints and their happiness about the team's first trip to the Super Bowl.

"I just wish my father and `Buddy D' were alive to see this day," said George Butler, 63, as he dabbed at his eyes with his black and gold feather boa. "I know they're the happiest "Who Dats" in heaven."

The parade, organized by former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, was billed as a celebration of the NFL's hard luck team going to the Super Bowl, and an homage to former sportscaster Buddy Diliberto, who had vowed to parade through the French Quarter in a dress if the Saints ever made it to the big game.

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In a town where people grew up, grew old, and died waiting for just a winning season, no chance to celebrate the greatest one in the 43-year-history of the team would be missed.

Now the Saints are scheduled to play the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

"This is the best of all worlds," said Tommy Cooper, resplendent in a full-length black beaded sheath, black and gold boa and hair, and a gold mask. "It's the Saints and Mardi Gras rolled into one. God bless New Orleans."

Although there was no official estimate of the crowd size, one police officer on hand said, "several thousand of the city's finest," were there.

The parade was led by a dance team in red jackets and blue short-shorts, billing themselves as "ordinary men with extraordinary moves." It took almost an hour for the last marcher to shimmy past the Superdome on the way to the French Quarter.

They chanted "Bud-dy! Bud-dy!" and "Buddy D! Buddy D!"

And, of course, "Who dat say day gonna beat dem Saints?"

Diliberto, a New Orleans native, was the originator of the paper bag masks Saints fans wore during the 1-15 season. He loved the team, but despaired that it would ever return the feeling.

Diliberto died five years ago. Hebert now hosts the radio show Diliberto had for years.

On Sunday, Hebert was radiant in a black and gold sequined dress designed by his daughter, Cammy Lynn, a fashion designer in New York. A sequined hat and long blond pigtails completed the look.

"I don't know how women stay warm in these things," Hebert joked. "I need extra tights or something."

Hebert wasn't the only one that decided to show a bit of flesh for the march.

Jerry Hanford, 53, who owns a sausage-making operation in Ponchatula, La., wore a fitted, black dress with a plunging neckline and back. It was complemented by fishnet stockings and black and gold beads.

"I had a wrap," Hanford said. "But it spoiled the look."

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