Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Goodbye Mother In Law Lounge

Ernie K-Doe, the Emperor Of The World, singing from behind the bar at the Mother In Law Lounge, 1999.
Ernie K-Doe, sans wig, entertains the crowd at the Mother In Law, 1994.
At The Mother In Law, (l. to r.) Michelle K., Me, Ernie K-Doe, Kelly Keller.
K-Doe statue, took his place at social functions after his 2001 passing. Why it needed a wheelchair, I'm not sure.
Ernie K-Doe's shoes, center. 1999.
K-Doe's van, Emperor Of The World.
Antoinette and Ernie's business card. Ernie K-Doe's Mother In Law Lounge, 1500 N. Clairbourne, Ave, New Orleans, is closing, they're selling off everything in the place on July 10th, via silent auction.
The Mother In Law was opened by Ernie K-Doe and his wife Antoinette in 1994, Ernie used to sing their every Monday night until he passed away in 2001. Even in the August heat, Ernie's funeral was one of the greatest second line funeral processions in the history of New Orleans, maybe the last great one, it went from St. Louis Cemetery #2 (where someone donated a spot in their family crypt for Ernie's remains) to the Mother In Law. Ernie's widow, Antoinette K-Doe kept the place going after Ernie's passing, even though the place flooded up to the second floor after Katrina. Unfortunately Antoinette died Mardi Gras day 2009 (Mardi Gras day is hell on bar owners who have been up all the previous night with Lundi Gras parties and after parties, not to mention the madness that follows the Saturday Endymion parade and the parades all day Sunday and Monday night. By Mardi Gras morning every bar worker in town is ready to drop dead. I've always wondered why more bar owners don't drop dead on Mardis Gras. I sure felt like it the last time I worked one. Miss Antoinette, as she was known, had her own Mardi Gras Krewe- the Baby Dolls, reviving a tradition that went back to the Storyville Days.
After Antoinette's death, her daughter Betty Fox tried to keep the place going, but after a car ran through the front door last month (putting Ms. Fox in the hospital), it all got to be too much and she decided to pack it in.
The Mother In Law was one of the coolest bars I've ever been in (and I've been in a lot of bars) and it will be a great loss to the world in general and New Orleans in particular. I spent a lot of hanging out there and my late partner in the Circle Bar, Kelly Keller was very close to Antoinette and Ernie, so we all spent a lot of time commiserating about how tough the bar biz is, especially in New Orleans, where nobody likes to work and nobody wants to pay for anything. With the closing of the Mother In Law goes another piece of a once great town that is basically disintegrating before our eyes. And with it a lifestyle and cultural (and musical) tradition that can never be replaced. I saw it happen in New York, the world I knew and loved just bought up and taken over by corperate greed, and I remember driving home in New Orleans one night, WODT on the radio, thinking, enjoy it now, this place can't last much longer. Two years later Katrina hit and New Orleans never recovered. I want to remember it the way it was before Katrina, I spent a lot of time their from my first trip in '79, even kept an apartment there until 2004, but right now I just can't go back. Too many ghosts, too many memories, I don't want my last look at the place to be a sad one. Here's some photos taken at the Mother In Law over the years, including some of Ernie singing. That's the way I want to remember it.
An aircheck of Ernie K-Doe as a WWOZ dj can be found here.
Addendum July 1st, 2010: The news is that the Mother In Law may not be closing after all. More info as it comes in.


The Chief said...

Sad, if not, unexpected news. You're right, walking into the Mother-in-Law was entering a weirder, unforgettable zone, esp. if Ernie was on the mic and Rico on the keys. Antoinette kept the vibe and spirit going for years after Ernie died, even if the strange interior decorating was lost in Katrina. I spent countless happy nights there incl. the turn of the millennium with the Emperor. He had no champagne at the bar and I had three warm bottles of Johnny Rocket that I'd brought down from NYC. I gladly offered them up to Ernie which he in turn charged us for. Ha ha, it was that kind of move that made me love it all the more. There's a lot more to say here (about NOLA and the bar biz in gen.), but prob. it's not the time other than to say that, like you, I've wasted a lot of time bars--and tended bar all over (incl. my 30th b-day at the Mother-in-Law)--and this place stands taller than the rest. As for N.O., well, it needs you more than ever. Things have changed, but that's what they do. But N.O. still retains more character and spirit in one square block than most places do in entire counties. And for whatever reasons, the ghosts do linger there, but it's only b/c they don't wanna leave.

ColinDuff said...

Christ, that's bad news. I loved that place. Whenever I visited New Orleans, I tried to spend a little time there. I remember being in the Shim-Sham one night and Antoinette just walked past and the whole bar gave her an immediate round of applause, just for being Antonette. How I love things as they used to be.


Paul said...

Never got to go there. My own equivalent, the scuzzily beautiful Colony Rooms in Soho, London, is dead and gone, its owner, Polish punk Michael Wojas, buried last week with a huge riotous party. Seems like the colour is draining out of the whole world sometimes, fuckit.

Greezee Pom said...

New Orleans— all past and NO future.

Johnny Pierre said...

Say it ain't so! The Mother In Law Lounge was one of my favorite watering holes. I also just heard that Acme & Felix just closed their doors due to lack of gulf oysters. The world is truly going to hell in a handbasket.

The Hound said...

" Acme & Felix just closed their doors due to lack of gulf oysters."

Man, that is really sad. Poor New Orleans. I am the only one who doesn't really like the Treme tv show?
I know it means well,there's just something about it that bugs me, I can't put my finger on it, but I can't find a charachter on the show who doesn't annoy me in someway except the tombone player.....although Kermit Ruffins as himself is pretty cool (he should be featured more) and it's always good to see Rio Hackford, again, his part should be bigger.

Aaron said...

Good news: said...

I think every person should glance at this.

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