Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Welcome to the Big Easy, Circa 1950s

To get you in the proper frame of mind for the upcoming annual New Orleans celebration of Mardi Gras, I present two vintage images of this fabled southern city. First one for today shows the Old Absinthe House bar, located on the corner of Rue Bourbon and Rue Bienville. Its motto is, “EVERYONE YOU HAVE KNOWN OR EVER WILL KNOW, EVENTUALLY ENDS UP AT THE OLD ABSINTHE HOUSE.” Some of the people that have ended up there include Oscar Wilde, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Jenny Lind, Enrico Caruso, General Robert E Lee, Franklin Roosevelt, Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra, and let's not forget Jean Lafitte's ghost!

Built in 1806, it was later rechristened "The Absinthe Room" when mixologist Cayetano Ferrer created the famous Absinthe House Frappe here in 1874. The Old Absinthe House still has the decorative marble fountains that were used to drip cool water over sugar cubes into glasses of Absinthe. The fountain was to be destroyed at the start of Prohibition, serving as a powerful message to proprietors and others that Absinthe was to be abolished from the United States. Fortunately, the bar was moved under cover of darkness to a warehouse on Bourbon street in order to save it until it was returned to its original home in early 2004.

Image #2 for today shows Prima's 500 Club, run by Leon Prima, the older brother of famous singer Louis Prima (voice of King Louis in Disney's "The Jungle Book"). Lilly Christine the Cat Girl's name can be seen on the Club's signage. She graced the cover of dozens of national magazines, and appeared in a few movies. Considered the top attraction on Bourbon Street. Musician Sam Butera, who worked with "the Cat Girl," recalls her popularity, "One time they had a hurricane threatening. People were standing outside the 500 Club a block long waiting to get in. That’s how popular she was. With a hurricane warning!"

The 500 Club is now Jazz Gumbo gift shop. As an extra treat for my "adult" readers, here's a youtube clip of Lilly Christine:

Following up to yesterday's post about Shirley Temple not being allowed to get her hair wet, author (Shirley Temple: A Pictorial History of the World's Greatest Child Star) and designer Rita Dubas sent a shot of Shirley in Palm Springs. Same situation, same dry-haired Shirley. Poor little thing just couldn't have fun like other little kids, and it sure shows on her face.

Many thanks to Rita for sharing this rare photo!

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1 comment:

JG said...

NOLA is definitely on the list.

Maybe 2015.