By Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho
Photo: Austin Young

Maybe a bit more than fifteen but less than twenty years ago, I remember I would go to New Orleans, not to perform, but to network, whatever that means or meant to me at the time. There were lots of television conventions there, and I was a budding TV star, and I was sent off to these events to see and be seen, to take pictures with television station representatives and affiliates, to be warm and welcoming and un-star-like while still pretending for their benefit to be a star.
And even though TV critics hailed my arrival with insults, for they thought me awkward and ungainly, sometimes even ugly, in truth I was so pretty that if you saw me in person I would take your breath away, like the powdered sugar poured on top of beignet donuts from the Café du Monde, should you be foolish and unfortunate enough to inhale while eating them.
New Orleans was a miracle to me – this mysterious close and warm and sultry wrought iron labyrinth, where the rain would sometimes fall or sometimes just hang suspended in the air, so you would have to walk through the water to get anywhere all the time.
I wore crisp white cotton dresses that would wilt and grow transparent from the damp river breeze and cling longingly to my curves and even the gay men would turn their heads when I walked by on Decatur. Those endless, feverishly hot nights teetering in high heels in circles all around the French quarter, my mouth sour from hurricanes from Pat O'Brien's, my young and lovely head spinning from the all the different types of alcohol needed for the concoction - these lively summer outings enjoying the very prime of my youth were rowdy and thrilling, but there was an innocence to the revelry, as these were the long lost days before "Girls Gone Wild," and I never felt afraid to be a beautiful young woman amongst the throngs of drunken frat boys.
The men looked at the women of course, as they always did and still do, but there was worship in their eyes, not contempt, so when they whistled at you, you were more than likely to turn your head and smile, rather than pick up your pace, as if that would help you become invisible.
One young man called to me from a balcony, as I walked in my see-through white dress drunken glory down Bourbon Street. He was an adorable young comic, who everyone had very high hopes for. I had met him just one or two times before. His name was Jon Stewart.
I beckoned him down to the street and he appeared before me almost instantly. We walked together, excited to have both met a familiar face in the raucous crowd and talked and laughed as the human tide buoyed us along. It got late and we decided to part ways and turn in, and I remember leaving him in a taxicab, hard to find in the wilderness of the Big Easy.
We had hunted that cab down, stalked it until it bent to our will, until it drove us where we needed to go. He kissed me on both cheeks and waved to me as the cab drove him into the dark Louisiana night, and oh, how gorgeous he was, how funny, and I felt a flutter in my tummy, and I thought, one day that boy will be grow up to be king. I was so right about that, wasn't I?