Letters Fom Nowhere

Premodernist Life in Postapocalyptic New Orleans

Sunday, November 20, 2005

From One Legend to Another...

The other night I went to the reopening of Mid City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl. Mid City Lanes is a hoary, old score-it-yourself bowling alley that's been around since 1941, according to the sign. Sometime in the late 80's John Blancher, an insurance salesman and native New Orleanian, went to Yugoslavia because people were seeing visions of Mary, and he wanted in. He didn't see any virgins in Yugoslavia (at least he doesn't make mention of any on his website), but he prayed for direction and came back to New Orleans and bought a bowling alley. He started having live music at Mid City Lanes soon after taking over- often old school New Orleans R&B legends.

For the reopening, they had Eddie Bo, the local "junker" piano great who plays every New Orleans song you've heard 3,000 times before. Rockin' Dopsie, who is like a pentecostal preacher on some bad acid, joined Eddie to sing a couple. Also on hand was Ernie K-Doe's widow, Antoinette.

I don't even no where to begin in trying to explain the phenomon that is K-Doe. When Camus spoke of the necessity of leading an "Absurd Life," he surely had Ernie K-Doe on his mind. Indeed, some revisionist literary critics and outlaw philosophers contend that K-Doe was the model for Meursault, in spite of the obvious chronological discrepancy.

K-Doe, the original King of Kings, was born Ernie Kador in New Orleans, 1936. In all the many paeans to his genius, I have never see it remarked upon that the man had that foresight to change his last name to its own phonetic spelling (in accordance with local dialect). Ernie became a musician-philosopher, the likes of which we shall not see again. As he himself said: "There have only been five great artists in the history of rhythm and blues -- Ernie K-Doe, James Brown, and Ernie K-Doe."

He had a hit with the R&B classic, "Mother-in-Law," a sort of "Paradise Lost" meets "Throw Mamma Off the Train" Faustian allegory of rebellion and doomed love. As such, it reveals more about the tragedy of marriage in three verses than I could ever hope to say. In 1994, he opened the Ernie K-Doe Mother-In-Law Lounge, a bar, music venue, and shrine to Ernie K-Doe. The Lounge features a lifesize wax statue of Ernie, with a radio transmitter built into it that broadcasts over and over (on 1500 AM) something like: "Ernie K-Doe is the Emperor of the Universe. Ernie K-Doe is the Emperor of the Universe..."

K-doe's wife, Antoinette, has been running the lounge since his death in 2001. For the two year anniversary of his death she arranged a parade in which Ernie's statue was transported in a Popemobile from the Mother-in-Law to Rock'n'Bowl. Which brings us back to...

The highlight of the evening, when Eddie Bo invites Antoinette up on stage to sing one. Unfortunately, her microphone was off the whole time so you couldn't hear her, but her stage presence said it all. After bringing the crowd to its knees with her silent version of "Te Ta Te Ta Ta," she went over to Eddie to thank him. Holding his mic, which happened to be on, she said:

"Eddie, from one legend to another, I just wanna tell
you that we're gonna rebuild this city. And to all my
fans I wanna say that the Mother-in-Law will be back and
Ernie K-Doe- I broke his statue into three pieces and
put it in a closet and HE'LL BE BACK!"

The packed house roared its approval, and then it was on to the third rendition of "Cissy Strut" of the night...


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