Re: “How to: A survivor’s guide,” July 2004.
As the resident-owner of a city-licensed bed-and-breakfast, I receive a wide variety of requests from clients seeing the true “insiders” taste of New Orleans.
This year alone, I have received an increasing number of requests for reservations at a jazz funeral. Although I did send four guests to the Tuba Fats memorial, I made certain to coach them in proper etiquette for the occasion. Many tourists, sadly, do not comprehend that someone has to die before a funeral occurs – even here!
I grew up a white, Catholic kid in Jefferson Parish; although I lived and worked in the French Quarter for more than 30 years, the first jazz funeral I ever saw was given for Allan Jaffe, the founder of Preservation Hall, in 1987. It was understood that this was an honor, one reserved for African-American musicians or dignitaries and given an extra shot of “hubris” due to the fact that Jaffe was a white, Jewish tuba player from Philly.
According to the article, all anyone has to do is plan ahead and pony up some bucks in order to be guaranteed a high-steppin’ escort up to the pearly gates – wait! Are those Carnival beads around St. Peter’s neck?
Gothic novels, ghostly tours and ju-ju shops alike share in the merchandising of death in New Orleans. With your promotion of the “do-it-yourself” jazz funeral, I truly fear the death of dignity in our dear, Disneyfied Dixieland. Memento mori.
Reply: Just because we reported on how it can be done, does not mean we support just anyone doing it. While we stand behind our story, we agree with your sentiments. A jazz funeral should be an honor reflecting the deceased’s culture and contributions.