JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
Little Blue Room interior
My dad Jimmy “King” Anselmo owned a club called the Little Blue Room, in the 800 block of Bienville St, across the street from Arnauld’s restaurant. He started the club around 1936 and the club was there till 1946. Could you tell me about the musicians who performed there?
Love your stories, keep up the good work.
All the best,
Your dad apparently rented the property at 826 Bienville and managed Anthony Ferrara’s liquor store at that location before taking over and opening the Little Blue Room in the late 1930s. Unfortunately, the bar didn’t operate under that name for very long and names of musicians who played there don’t appear to have made it into music history books I consulted. By the mid-1940s, your mother was officially in charge of the bar at 826 Bienville, then known as Myrna’s Inferno. The cottage that housed your parents’ club was demolished in the early 1960s when the D. H. Holmes department store built a warehouse on the site.
Julia and Poydras,
I must owe all my love of the city to my father, as he and mother frequently took me to New Orleans from an early age, I was around 4, and in later years. There was actually purpose in these trips of two or three times a year. My father attended Sunday meetings of the Louisiana Dermatological Society at Charity Hospital, where dermatology patients were presented and discussed for appropriate treatment. Years before he became a doctor, his mother took him with her when she went to New Orleans annually to shop at the fine stores on Canal Street. She and my father came by train from the middle of Mississippi, first by a day’s wagon ride from Thomastown to Kosciusko, MS, to stay overnight for the train to Canton, MS, Illinois Central mainline, and then on to New Orleans, another day’s ride. In New Orleans, they stayed at the Hotel Gruenwald, where he once mentioned to me there was a basement place called, The Cave. I got the impression that it had an icy motif and was a place to eat, but of course, may have included other features such as a bar.
These were early days in my father’s life, before 1915. He was born in 1902. I didn’t disbelieve my father about The Cave’s existence, but in visiting the Roosevelt (hotel’s current name since the 1940’s ?), I have never found any indication of the basement level activity, except that the men’s toilet goes down a very narrow winding staircase, definitely not ADA accessible. It is good to confirm that The Cave did exist in this early and dynamic era of New Orleans. Anything more you could say about it would be interesting.
In later years, he took me with him to Larry and Katz’s, a wholesale liquor warehouse that ran a bar too that sold drinks based on the wholesale case price; this ran about 50 cents a drink for Jack Daniels, one of the last great bargains in the world. The place was located about a block from Canal Street up a street from Charity Hospital.I miss Larry and Katz’s. In these later years I have had to go out foraging for drinks on my own, but I have never found any place as comfortable and inviting that served drinks as freely and cheaply, except maybe Tujague’s. Do you think Poydras has found any such place?
Ocean Springs, MS
The Cave opened in the basement of the Hotel Grunewald in November 1910. Replicating a subterranean cave inhabited by an assortment of gnomes, nymphs and mermaids, the unique attraction was originally promoted as a restaurant but later featured music and dancing. Its many distinctive features included a waterfall, electric lights and a unique climate control system which conveyed fresh air from the roof to the underground night club, cooling or heating as needed. The site the Cave once occupied later became the Roosevelt Hotel’s laundry.
Larry & Katz’s lacked the Cave’s distinctive décor but the neighborhood bar was around longer than the famed subterranean nightclub. Ignatius J. Catanzaro, the “Katz” of Larry & Katz, was running a bar and liquor store at 1601 Cleveland as early as the mid-1930s. By about 1941, he had taken on a partner, Lawrence J. Reynolds; it was at that time, the bar adopted its new name, Larry & Katz. It operated at the corner of Cleveland Avenue and South Robertson Street for about 37 years until it was demolished in the late 1960s, when the Tulane Medical Center was built.
Dear Ms. Julia Street,
When I was a child (in the early 1970’s) there was a horrible fire in the French Quarter (The Upstairs Lounge). I remember this very well because my uncle called from New York City to express his condolences; for the over thirty people who perished. So this tragedy made national news. Was the culprit who started the inferno ever brought to justice?
On June 24th 1973, a horrific fire tore through the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar located on the second floor of a building at 141 Chartres Street, on the uptown lake corner of Chartres and Iberville. Thirty-two people were trampled or burned to death, trying to escape the fire, which raged in an area in which windows were barred and the only access was by way of a narrow stairway. The case remains officially unsolved and all deaths remain classified as accidental. Nobody was ever tried or convicted in connection with the Upstairs Lounge fire. A bar patron who was ejected from the bar following a fight earlier that evening, Roger Nunez, was named as a suspect, but he fell ill during interrogation. Nunez committed suicide in 1974.
Win a restaurant gift certificate
Here is a chance to eat, drink and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for a Jazz Brunch for two at The Court of Two Sisters. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are Russell Thompson, Ocean Springs, MS, and Charlie Ayala, Algiers, LA.