Saturday, February 28, 2009

Baby Doll

Photos by Sheva Golkow.

Antoinette K-Doe, widow of the self-proclaimed “Emperor Of The Universe” Ernie K-Doe who is best known for his 1961 hit Mother-In-Law, as well as the proprietor of the New Orleans landmark Ernie K-Doe Mother-In-Law Lounge, died this week on Mardi Gras morning.

Ernie died before Katrina hit, which was strangely comforting to Miss Antoinette. She told a reporter that she would talk to Death and ask him to take Ernie and her mother before her (and he did) because she knew that she could manage alone, but didn’t think the other two could make it without her.

She met and married K-Doe in the 90’s and opened up the Mother-In-Law Lounge mainly so he could have a place to perform. After his death it became a memorial to him, with photos and memorabilia cluttering every wall as well as a life-size mannequin of Ernie dressed to the nines in a style that might best be described as Michael Jackson On Acid.

When the waters rose on N. Claiborne Street, Antoinette fed and sheltered anyone who happened by searching for safety and food. Her club was a total loss but she saved what she could and with the help of 250 friends and volunteers, the Mother-In-Law Lounge reopened in August 2006.

Unhappy with the way Ray Nagin was handling things as Mayor, Miss Antoinette decided to run the Ernie K-Doe mannequin for the office that same year. Certainly he couldn’t have done any worse.

She had a pink limousine that came in handy when she took part in reviving The Mardi Gras Baby Dolls (the creation of the original Baby Dolls is estimated at sometime around the turn of the last century), a group of women who would parade in infant’s clothes complete with bonnets and baby bottles (scotch and milk being the libation of choice). On Mardi Gras 2008, Antoinette felt a pain in her chest and was taken to the hospital with her Baby Doll clothes on.

She managed to recover, but when this year’s celebration came around she wasn’t as lucky. Just a few days prior to her death, it had been Ernie’s birthday. He would have been 73.

Her funeral is happening this weekend, and I bring up the subject partly because it was last year when the wife was in New Orleans on business. She was with a companion who was handling some of Miss Antoinette’s legal affairs and she went along for the ride.

The Mother-In-Law Lounge was everything she imagined and Antoinette extremely gracious. When the wife managed to pry herself away from the life-size mannequin of Ernie K-Doe, his widow shared some stories about the imposing figure.

Antoinette was insistent that the model of K-Doe be kept in immaculate shape and to that end, she decided one day that one of his hands needed some manicuring.

She brought the hand with her to a local salon and when the owner saw what she’d brought in for work, she screamed. She thought it was a real hand.

How strange could that be in New Orleans, though?


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