Mickey Easterling: Prt 1, Trains, Festivals, Funerals and Food, part 1 / May 2014
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Leonard Earl Johnson was off
a few weeks
recouping from much over-doing.
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Yours Truly in a Swamp
a monthly e-column by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans
Trains, Festivals, Funerals and Food
by Leonard Earl Johnson
Mickey Easterling's Last Party,
Saenger Theater, New Orleans.
April 2014, at age 83.
Our train from Laughingyette arrived in New Orleans three days before opening day of this year's gigantic gorgeous, gorging French Quarter Festival. It has grown some from that first one in 1984. We have been to them all!
First conceived to divert world attention from street work being inflicted on little French Quarter streets for greater mobs said to be coming to Town for the New Orleans 1984 World's Fair -- the only fair in history not attended by the hosting head of state, Ronald Reagan.
The mobs were thinner than promised, and the World's Fair went bankrupt. Still, promoters built housing where there had been abandoned warehouses, and others built art gallerias, museums and cafes. Bankruptcy for some, and a rising Phoenix for others.
A cruel scribe at TIME magazine wrote that Fall:
"New Orleans gave a huge party and no one came..."
We came. We loved it. But the masses? Like Frank Lloyd Wright said when America failed to embrace his designs for public housing, "Them asses," took their lead from President Reagan and stayed home.
Back then, at the old Snug Harbor on Frenchmen Street, a poet who'd had enough Fair-despair painted this above the urinal, "Piss On The Fair / Who Needs It".
We had all had enough dry-landers bad-mouthing our very good sense of good times. We are New Orleans!
The Fair finally folded its tent. In bankruptcy. Designed to embarrass some and make others rich? Who cared? Whee-the-people enjoyed the party. Still do. And TIME magazine is out of print!
"Only improvements I ever saw were inlaid plaques praising the wisdom of The Mayor, City Council, and the hard-hat company installing the brass plaques," L. A. Norma said.
"It worked," our favorite cabby/poet/actor remarked, "today's Festivals lur'em by the millions with the eternal promise of a little help from our strangers."
Saxophones wailed like Sirens from-the-rickrack.
Our driver pulled the cab to the curb on Canal Street, in front of the Saenger Theatre and said, "America's floundering masses heard our answer and every day rain from airplanes like beads at Carnival time."
For food, music, and seeing old faces and new faces asking directions of colorful local us. Not so much these days. Like Jazzfest before, alas, success is measured in large numbers only. Mostly?
"And good times," Norma said.
For the good times this season we took two trains, attended numerous music events, two funerals and ate more meals than good health actually requires.
The Corpse Tableau Funeral of Mickey Easterling
was tastefully celebrated in the refurbished Egyptian / Spanish / 1920-ish lobby of the Saenger Theatre, a luxurious space built for motion picture arts and more.
The Saenger is what was called an "Atmospheric," where clouds rolled o'er the ceiling and stars twinkled in the sky. They do again. Grand Dame, Mickey Easterling was noted for her work restoring this palace after Hurricane Katrina, as well as giving bicycles to urchins at Christmas.
New Orleans Advocate:
Video Mickey Easterling Funeral.
(slow downloading but nice after the long wait)
Easterling was a short lady with a sharp tongue and a two-foot-long silver cigarette holder. "A perfect match for Katrina," Norma said, plunking her cigarette butt into a plump, oven-like receptacle with a long neck topped by a single open eye.
Easterling gave lavish parties that allowed smoking. "It is my damn house," she was quoted saying by New Orleans Museum of Art Director Emeritus, E. John Bullard, who was not in attendance because of art-award ceremonies in Baton Rouge.
"Many never smoked, and never left her parties early," Mr. Bullard said with an engaging grin.
The press fell all over itself reporting Easterlings' story. In so doing they came closer to New Orleans' heart than they did with the ones about the World's Fair.
"Our charming decadence, as if it had not been seen before," L. A. Norma said.
Beloved Uncle Lionel Batiste, drummer, singer, music man exited the stage standing beside his casket, in 2012. YouTube video of his Secondline. Note the number of celebrants is big as a Mayor or Parish President's funeral (faster download, too).
Our cab driver, his T-shirt proclaiming, "My Parents Went to New Orleans, and All I Got is This Lousy I. Q.," left his cab at the curb and skittered inside to say good by, drink Champagne, down a few fried oysters on a toothpick, some cracked crab in puff pastry dishes, and eggplant splashed with Crystal and Tabasco pepper sauces.
Mickey would have loved it, everyone agreed. She sat at final court on a park bench flanked by greenery. Cigarette in one hand, a fluted Champagne glass aloft in the other. A trademark brooch set with diamonds reading, "BITCH" was pinned to her silk blouse.
- to be continued -Part 2
Copyright, 2014, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved