In 1961, New Orleans singer Ernie K-Doe had a hit with his song, “Mother In Law.” He and wife, Antoinette, opened the Ernie K-Doe Mother in Law Lounge In 1994. Last week, I attended a crawfish boil there.
Ernie K-Doe called himself the “Emperor of the Universe” and was known and loved throughout the community, but especially by his wife, who, upon his death in 2001, had a mannequin of him made and took it with her everywhere she went. She reportedly even took “him” to the lavish and historic Commander’s Palace for supper. Since her passing a year ago, the likeness sits in Carnival regalia inside the photo-bedecked lounge, surrounded by jukebox music and memorabilia.
When you first walk up to Mother in Law Lounge, a quaint floral arch separates you from the dingy streets and overpasses. Through the archway is a giant yard with chain link fence, some grass, a stage like a Tiki hut, and a boiling area on Astroturf surrounded by alternating purple and green bathtubs planted with flowers. It’s part magical, part garish and all wonderful. The lounge building off to the right is painted with whimsy and soul (they’re currently redoing it).
Once we paid our $10 all-you-can-eat cover charge and grabbed a beer, we enjoyed some live music while the crawfish were boiling. As I looked around, I noticed some more colorful oddities, a sink, washing machine and a van emblazoned with, “IT’S FINGER POPPIN’ TIME” all sat to the left of the Tiki stage.
A picture is worth a thousand words and I didn’t bring my camera so here’s someone else’s pictures along with some history and what I think is Antoinette dancing in front of her husband’s likeness.
Tables were set up in a long line and covered in newspaper. When the boil was ready, everyone found a spot to stand and hope that the boiling pot would dump generously in their area. The crawfish were a little small – it’s been a tough season with the weather being so cold, but they were very tasty. Very.
I realized how often I eat with strangers here, have to negotiate splitting things like baskets of assorted breads, or in this case – who’s gonna get the corn cobs and potatoes because there’s not enough for everyone. I have to get to know my eating neighbors because I always want a small potato and 2 half cobs of corn – way more than my share. Most people are fine with my addiction to veggies – I’m slow at peeling the crawfish and that’s all they really came to eat. After all the crawfish were gone, we drank another beer, listened to the band some more, then did the whole thing over again.
Here’s the link to the lounge’s website with a bio of Ernie K-Doe and fun photo galleries.
And here’s a real New Orleans jazz funeral for Ernie’s widow, Antoinette. Watch to the end and you can see Ernie’s mannequin riding along behind the casket – as Miss Antoinette would have wanted it.