Sunday, March 1, 2009

Queen Antoinette

We are quite comfortable with royalty in New Orleans. Some of us make ourselves queens or kings by simply buying a tiara or crown and placing it upon our heads. Others like Antoinette K Doe are so loved, endeared, and revered that they become our royalty. Antoinette was our queen.

She passed away on Mardi Gras. Today a most important newspaper with a huge global readership ran her obituary in a prominent way HERE.

Her funeral was yesterday, and as funerals go in New Orleans, it was a jazz funeral. Musicians played, and hundreds of people came out to second line behind the band, and to say goodbye and pay their respects.

The most beautiful antique horse drawn hearse is brought out for a queen.

Antoinette had a great and generous life. Besides being the wife of the Emperor of The Universe, the late and great Ernie K Doe, she was the keeper of Ernie's legacy and of many New Orleans traditions, like the Mardi Gras revelers called The Baby Dolls.

She revived this Mardi Gras walking parade of grown ladies who dress up in Baby Snooks garb, a sisterhood of naughty babies making merriment all over town.

She also kept extensive archives of New Orleans ephemera from her personal collection of things, including rare photos of Baby Dolls of yesteryear.

She herself costumed as a Baby Doll many times.

But the most important museum she rebuilt after extensive flood damage from Hurricane Katrina was the nightclub and lounge she and her husband Ernie built, called The Mother In Law Lounge.

It's famous world wide, and music lovers, and lovers of the unique culture of New Orleans make regular pilgrimages there.
It's a friendly place, and you could always count on Antoinette to make you feel welcome.

Antoinette passed away there around 3 AM Mardi Gras morning.

We had lived in New Orleans for about a year, when Sabina took us to our first jazz funeral.
It was for Antoinette's husband Ernie. The year was 2001.

New Orleans was so exotic to us. We never really knew about jazz funerals, never had seen one, and certainly never had walked in a second line.
At first I was concerned that we would be intruding on a personal family ritual.
Then I saw the thousands of people come out for Ernie K Doe's funeral, and I accepted how a city can be personal.

Sabina showed us how to do it.
Sabina shared so many things about her New Orleans.
We met Antoinette after Ernie died every year at his tomb in St. Louis Cemetery on All Saints Day. Sabina and I made this our yearly ritual HERE.
Queen Nette always set up a little tent and some chairs so you could get out of the sun, and visit awhile. She always had a huge pot of gumbo there too, and some soft drinks.
Funerals and cemeteries are part of New Orleans social life in a very positive way.

And I can tell you that even though we didn't know Ernie or his family, we became a part of the greater family that is New Orleans the day of his jazz funeral.

So now we say goodbye to our dear Queen Antoinette.

Antoinette with a life size mannequin of the late Ernie

Ernie was brought out for her jazz funeral and rode in the hearse


Things That Inspire said...

I have never heard of a jazz funeral (I love to learn new things). What a way to celebrate the life of a New Orleans legend!

I need to plan a trip to New Orleans. Every time I have been there I love the uniqueness of the city. It is truly like no other place in the world, isn't it?

Jan said...

So interesting.
Would it be regarded as sad that she died on Mardi Gras - or appropriate somehow?

Cote de Texas said...

I love this!!!! great story.

Decor etc. said...

I loved learning the meaning behind "jazz funeral." A great post in tribute to a QUEEN. Thanks.