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Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot

Bill the Pelican at Audubon Park March 2, 1919.

Dear Poydras and Julia,

My grandmother used to talk about an excursion boat that ran in Audubon Park before WWII. I had heard of the swan boat, but Grandmother insisted there was once a pelican boat. Do you know if there was?  Thank you. Jane Jones (Westwego)

In 1923, Audubon Park introduced the pelican boat, predecessor of its more famous swan boat. Measuring 28 feet long and six feet wide and covered with an awning, the craft was a pontoon boat roughly similar to pedal-powered swan boats that had entertained Boston and New York residents since the late 1870s. Audubon Park’s slightly modernized interpretation accommodated up to 30 young passengers and was propelled by a large outboard motor concealed behind a pair of wooden pelican cutouts said to immortalize Old Bill, the park’s notoriously cantankerous pelican. Audubon Park’s pelican boat was in service less than seven years; by 1930, the better-known and immensely popular swan boat had taken its place.

Dear Julia and Poydras,

In 1970, my girlfriend (now wife) lived on Edenborn Avenue in Metairie near what later became Fat City. When I would drive down from Tuscaloosa to visit her on weekends, we would go to a club which was based on someone’s concept of what it must be like to be inside a computer (a mainframe computer, mind you - this was before the personal computer was unleashed on the world). I think it was between Veterans and I-10.

You had to get a computer punch card (remember them?) at the door to enter. The walls inside were silver metallic. Every drink had a “digital” name. All drinks were ordered on punch cards, and I think the check came on a punch card. It was a happening place at the time, always crowded.

I think its name was simply “The Computer,” or something like that. It was so popular, and then it seems like suddenly it was gone.

What happened to it? How long was it open? Was it succeeded by another club or bar? Did the creator of the concept go on to create other concept bars? Laurence Vinson (Birmingham, Alabama)

The Computer, Jack Mark Boasberg’s futuristic nightclub, first “activated” on June 27, 1969 at 4738 Utica Street in Metairie, near I-10 and Clearview Parkway. Sporting a groovy mix of gadgets and glam, The Computer was a self-described “psycho-theque” - a computerized and evolved form of discotheque.  

A hemispheric cage containing the electronic brains of the operation hung over the dance floor while a dozen smaller light domes interpreted color as bands such as Everybody’s Pillow, Armadillo and The Gants performed. Each evening’s entertainment was presented as a three-part immersive experience comprised of “Environments,” “Mind Energy” and “Inter-Media.” The Computer experience lasted only about a year. By October 1970, the Japanese Steak House of New Orleans, part of a national chain, had opened at The Computer’s former location; it lasted only about two years. Since 1974, 4738 Utica Street has been home to The Balcony reception hall.  

Film buffs should note that The Computer was at the forefront of film as well as multimedia entertainment.  In January 1970, the Yale Alumni Association of Louisiana hosted a one-day seminar there discussing film as an art form and screening excerpts from Yale’s Griggs Collection of Classic Films. Joining Yale film instructor Standish D. Lawder on the discussion panel was a then-obscure writer named Erich Segal who had penned the screenplay for Yellow Submarine.  Within the year, Segal would explode onto the national scene and achieve widespread fame as the creator of the immensely popular film and novel “Love Story.”


Have a question for Julia?

Send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com

 

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