Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mourning becomes Elective


"Dead! dead I tell you! What am I going to do? I can't function without..., oh mon Dieu, I can't, I just can't! The female voice paused and then continued shakily, " Does Starbucks deliver? How about CC's?
I pulled the silk and rhinestone sleeping mask from my eyes, and shrugging on a bed jacket I asked "Who is this? The voice on the other end of the telephone shrieked "Who the hell do you think it is?" Giving the fact that it was an ungodly hour- 11 AM- I thought it could not possibly be anyone I know well, you know those types, all what with their up before the crack of noon nonsense. Then again, knowing my friends, with their penchant for theatrics and random acts of moxie, (that includes crimes of passion) it could be anyone of them.
I nearly dropped the Baccarat tumbler as I fumbled to get a drink to wash away the residual aftertaste of last nights Restoril, but in the few seconds of taking a few sips of watered down Boodles and tonic, I figured out who the voice was on the other end of the line. "Mazeppa?" "No, It's the bloody Queen of the Netherlands..." she sobbed.
"What is going on and whom may I ask is dead?" I asked.
In a voice much like a dogs squeaky toy she replied, "My Mr. Coffee! It's just too terrible, what am I going to do? I keep pushing the damned button and nothing happens!"
Clearing my throat and trying to think logically I asked her, "Is it plugged in? Is there water in the water... thingy?" "OF COURSE!" she bellowed into the phone. I continued down an emergency check list, "Where is Cabeza Cacahuete?" (her maid) "She can certainly pop out and get a mocha venti whatever for you, and pick up another coffee maker while she is out... By the way dear, why you insist on these American brand coffee makers is beyond me, why there is a perfectly marvelous Delonghi that..."
"It is her DAY OFF!" she howled into the phone.
"Ah, I see your dilemma..." (and here I thought all along that her maid situation was more of a lease to own situation) "Let me put on a fresh pair of scanties and I will be right over" I offered.
"Bring...some... coffee... Community... New... Orleans... Blend... plu...lease..." a sigh and a click was all I heard after that.
I could feel her pain, I really could, so I threw on a sable, tucked the Delonghi coffee urn under my arm and hailed a cab. It was a very Butterfield Eight moment.
After consuming every drop the coffee urn held, 250 ounces, the Countess Philomena Dominio Hudson Usher - Mazeppa to her friends- seemed much better, chatty, but better, so well in fact that she decided that she wanted to go and shop for a new car. ("Mercedes to be precise" to quote from the song) "Something the color of an ice cream sundae... to match my new spring wardrobe..."
While untangling an emerald earring from her Eva Gabor wig, she offhandedly remarked "Oh and did you hear about Red? Dead you know... She was always so jealous of these earrings, they were Carol Lombard's ..." Grasping at my invisible strand of pearls I asked "Really? What happened?" Twisting on a new pair of lips, (Beige Mythique by Chanel) Mazeppa rolled her eyes, "Died in the throws of passion I hear... in the bed of Dr. Whasshisname, you know the one that is always on the talk shows."
Looking down at a crumpled serviette as if it were our dear departed friend I said, "Well I guess Red 'had a good run' as they say in showbiz.."
Mazeppa snorted, "Yes and she always said she wanted to go out of this world the way she came in, 'Naked, wet and screaming in the arms of a rich doctor..." adding, "You know leC, I think that would be a great way to go, I mean, there are some ghastly ways to die, why, when I was on safari the last time, watching a group of white-backed vultures eating the carcass of a wildebeest that had been killed by lions I thought, 'that would be an awful thing to happen to me or any one I know' Lions always have set my teeth on edge, -I met Leo the MGM lion once, looked at me like I was a leg of mutton- I suppose the being eaten by vultures part afterwards was not so pleasant either, but hell, your dead anyway so whats the big deal? Now, I think if your friend is being eaten by vultures, it's OK to feed the vultures pieces of your friend and get them to learn tricks, but only if you plan on adopting the vultures as pets, don't you think? I mean really, vultures are kind of rough and rumble looking but in a cute way, they could be the next pitbull... I am simply devoted to "ghetto fabulous' and all that....what would you even name a vulture? Bitsy would be a cute name... or Tangina... Do you think Purina makes Vulture Chow?"
I didn't answer that question, pretending to act if I had not heard a word of it and pulling the flask out of her hand, I chose instead to remark that a grand wake with all the trimmings was exactly what I would expect for a final tribute to a local legend.

The very next day as we walked behind the procession of what one would call a traditional "jazz funeral", we chatted about what a "What a great turnout" and how it was "better than Ike Turners even" and remarked that Red had chosen some great music for the band to play for the dirge, I thought the songs "I want a little sugar in my bowl" and "Your husband is cheating on us" stood out in particular. (Red always did have to add a dash of panache in everything she did)
Just like when we in New Orleans talk about other meals and recipes while we are having another, we decided that we too would plan an how to have a little fun when it comes to our own final sendoff. Mazeppa came up with a few great ideas like being cremated and placed inside a big mammy cookie jar, having it proudly displayed in the glass windowed hearse drawn by horses dyed her signature Schiaparelli "shocking pink". (I didn't have the heart to tell here that I have already seen it done)
One of our other ideas to put the fun back into funerals was the scathingly brilliant idea to have a large cake in the shape of a coffin and at a crucial moment while the hired mourners are wailing with grief, someone pops out of the cake and leads the mourners into dancing the Virginia reel, or maybe a polka, if we are in America at the time we could always have a hoe down. (A theme is certainly important, and mandatory costume would absolutely be de rigeur, its not as hard to polka while in 17th century Venetian court costume as you would think)
Mazeppa teared up a little bit as the funeral procession played "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" while it wound it's way down the street, "Once after a show we got really hammered on Champagne juleps and changed the words to 'Just a Closer Walk with Cheese' It was really hysterical... guess you would have to of been there..." she sniffed, "I always loved this song, She used to do a striptease to it that brought down the house."

Red, who's stage name was "Dynamite Red" was a former burlesque star that had retired from show business and started a baked goods business called "A-dough-ables" that not only were tasty, but had vaguely erotic look to them; Along with a line of pastries that looked like Georgia O'Keefe flowers, there were her everyday big sellers, like the "Priapus Baguettes" "Satyr Day/Night Special Rolls".
The joie de vivre that Red possessed was shared with everyone she knew and loved, (as witnessed to fact that all of A-dough-ables proceeds were donated to the care of ageing Nuns from the parish where she grew up.) and like the exquisite baked creations of her later career, as a danseuse her imagination was the key that opened the door to her great success, with elaborate props, beautiful costumes, mood lighting, and original music always being incorporated into her acts. This only enhanced her natural beauty and talents of the buxom strawberry blonde.
Besides Dynamite Red, there were a bevy of exotic dancers like Lilly Christine the Cat Girl, Evangeline the Oyster Girl, Alouette Leblanc the Tassel Twirler, Kalantan the Heavenly Body, Rita Alexander the Champagne Girl, Blaze Starr, Linda Brigette, the Cupid Doll, and Tee Tee Red.
The young beauties of Bourbon Street gained star status. They had their own hairstylists, maids, assistants, agents, and managers. They mingled with visiting celebrities. Some exotic dancers were given small roles in films. Red graced the cover of dozens of national magazines, and appeared in a few movies. Considered the top attraction on Bourbon Street, she performed at the top clubs.
Turning down onto Bourbon Street, I spoke to a musician, that worked with "Dynamite" who recalled 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!"
Red was apparently so flattered that she even put the hurricane angle into her act. During her dance there was a wind machine that blew her clothes off and then a big sequined papier mache cloud would sail in over head and soak her with rain.

As we walked, we passed the building that at one time was the 500 club, a sudden gust of wind blew Mazeppas Eva Gabor wig off her head, sending it and one of the "Lombard emeralds" skittering down the street and into a pile of horse poop.
I knew at that moment our friend Red -who had passed on "to march in that great second line in the sky" -was laughing her ass off up there somewhere.

A toast to Red, and to a closer walk with cheese...

Champagne Julep
4 oz Champagne
2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp superfine sugar
6 mint leaves
Combine 4 mint leaves with the sugar and a few drops of water, and muddle well. Add the bourbon, and stir well. Strain into a Collins glass, add ice cubes and the champagne. Garnish with 2 mint leaves shaped like pasties, and serve.

video

1 comment:

senate.side said...

Cher Cornichon le Moose
Thanks for the New Orleans funeral images, but special thanks for the Return Of The Mooses!!!
Senate Side

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