Thomas “Tommy” M. Elias
1948 – 2018
The spotlight dimmed, the music stopped, and the stage went dark for showman, musician, entrepreneur, and Gay Appreciation Awards Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Thomas “Tommy” Marshall Elias on July 25, 2018.
In an interview published in Ambush Magazine, Tommy said, “In 2012, life threw me a curve ball… I do not plan on this being my final curtain call, and have lots more to accomplish and contribute to this great city of ours that I love so dearly.”
Tommy continued to live a life that was genuine, filled with integrity, empathy, and honesty. He lived a good life by being good to others, and was well known for developing and launching the nascent careers of many fabulous performers.
According to his life partner of 24 years, Ottavio Carl Geleno, “Tommy battled cancer bravely and courageously for six years.” The couple has two fur babies, Misty and Millie, and had nurtured many loving pets over the years.
He was born in Laurel, Mississippi, on November 12, 1948 to Faheema Rahaim Elias and Thomas Michael Elias. His life partner, Carl, survives him, as do brothers Michael T. Elias and Paul L. Elias (Kristy), nieces/nephew Erin (Scott), Paula (Jonathan), Angie (Tyler), Tommy P., and step niece/nephew Morgan (Taylor), and Gary (Holly).
A graduate of R.H. Watkins High School in Laurel (1966), Tommy graduated with double degrees in Special Education and Theater from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1971. He traveled across Asia entertaining the troops on a USO Tour during the Vietnam War, after which he said he “was hooked and wanted to make singing my life.”
Following a brief stint in education, he left to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and formed a band, Fancy Music. It captivated cabaret audiences from New Orleans to New England.
Tommy played New York and Las Vegas. During the course of his career, he worked on stage with Count Basie, Tony Randall, and Mary Tyler Moore.
In 1982, he landed on Broadway as one of the stars of Cleavage.
With typical flourish, he opened Sharkey’s Shuck & Jive in Hattiesburg—said to be the most successful bar in the area at the time.
Tommy, who was affectionately called the “Wizard of Oz,” is most well known for his starring role as the master of ceremonies, general manager, and front man for OZ—a club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. He was one of the original owners and served as GM from 1993-2013.
The club was named dance bar of the year numerous times. His winning formula was to offer shows, specials, contests, entertainment, dancers, DJs, and lighting wizards—a touch of Vegas and New York pizazz—right on Bourbon Street.
The immense talent developed there led him to co-produce Glitz, a theatrical showcase of The Art of Female Impersonation. It entertained audiences citywide.
At its GAA Awards, Ambush Magazine named Tommy gay man of the year. He served as Easter Grand Marshall XIV for the Gay Easter Parade. In 2014, Tommy received a Mayoral Proclamation from Mitchell J. Landrieu for his “dedication to the City of New Orleans and the gay community, and in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the Bourbon Street Awards.”
Five years ago, he joined his beloved brother Michael as an owner/operator of the Corner Pocket show bar.
A public viewing and remembrance will be held at The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France (St. Louis Cathedral) in Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, at 1:30 p.m. Mass will be celebrated at 3:00 p.m. Father Emile “Buddy” Noel will officiate. In lieu of flowers, donations to the American Cancer Society or Project Lazarus.