At first, Jorden distributed copies of the fanzine at the Tower Records store near Lincoln Center and at the Met, stuffing them into flyers on shelves in the lobby and leaving them in bathrooms. On one occasion, he was caught stocking shelves before a performance of “Salome,” and security guards kicked him out of the theater.
That bellicose and clandestine spirit fit the time. “It was a very activist time in the gay community, in terms of fighting AIDS,” longtime contributor Richard Lynn told The New York Times in 2018. “And I see Parterre Box as part of that cultural trend. more espacious. He wasn’t afraid to confront you, to confront you or to make you angry. I felt like it was therapeutic.”
James Glen Jorden was born on August 6, 1954 in Opelousas, Louisiana. His father, Billy Wayne Jorden, worked for the Louisiana State Highway Department and his mother, Glenora (Jory) Jorden, was a high school teacher as well as a local theater director and actress. (He is survived by two brothers, John and Justin Jorden.)
Mr. Jorden began modestly in opera, dressing in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” when he was in a gifted and talented show as a teenager; his co-designer was a young Tony Kushner. After Mr. Jorden’s mother grew tired of him constantly playing his recording of “Pinafore,” she bought him “Carmen” and her obsession turned to opera in general.
In 1976, while attending Louisiana State University, he hitchhiked to Dallas to hear the Met on tour and saw soprano Renata Scotto in the three leading roles of Puccini’s triptych “Il Trittico.”
“That changed my mind,” Jorden said in the 2009 interview. “I saw what the possibility was. And in fact I choose that date as the birthday of La Cieca”, her alter ego from Parterre Box, named after the blind mother in Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda”.