Dear Julia and Poydras,
While walking through Cypress Grove Cemetery, I noticed a large truncated column honoring Irad Ferry. I know he was a fireman, but can you tell me anything else about him?
Irad Ferry was the first New Orleans firemen to be killed in the line of duty. Born in Wilton, Conn., Ferry served as Foreman of Mississippi Fire Company No. 2 – an early volunteer company. On New Year’s Day, 1837, he was mortally injured in a fire on Camp Street. Irad Ferry was 36. His remains, along with those of other firemen who had died in the line of duty, were moved to Cypress Grove at the time the cemetery was formally dedicated, in April 1841.
Tomb of fireman Irad Ferry in Cypress Grove Cemetery.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
Tell me about the giant muffler man on Clearview Parkway. Why is he still standing? I seem to remember passing him on the way to Angelo Brocato’s when I was young … 30 years ago. Did they move the muffler man or did there used to be a second location of Brocato’s? Or, is my memory failing?
He’s still standing because he’s very firmly attached to the front of Clearview Auto Title and Notary at 2122 Clearview Parkway. His owner, Sal Mortillaro, takes special care to assure the 18-foot-tall fiberglass statue can endure high winds and survive hurricane season.
The Muffler Man’s original home was the Midas Muffler shop at 401 South Claiborne Ave., where he stood from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. While I don’t know the direction from which you were heading to Angelo Brocato’s, I can tell you that, before moving to Carrollton Avenue, Angelo Brocato’s was located at 615 Ursulines Ave., where you will now find Croissant d’Or.
Sal Mortillaro purchased the Big Man, as he calls him, in the mid-1970s when the Midas Muffler shop at the corner of Claiborne and Tulane avenues wished to change its image and ran an ad offering the statue for sale for $300. According to Mortillaro, he sent his wife to buy the statue only to have the owner tell her that competition was fierce and the price had gone up $100. Mortillaro then sent his wife with a $400 check, only to have the scene repeat itself. The third time, however, was the charm. Before sending the $500 check, Sal Mortillaro called the muffler shop, told them a $500 check was on its way and that he expected the owner not to change his mind. The deal was done and the Muffler Man boarded a flatbed truck, bound for suburbia.
The Big Man on Clearview Parkway is one of a number of such muffler men constructed in the mid-1960s. Forced to find new jobs, a number of them can still be found around the country and abroad. Some have made interesting career choices, becoming astronauts, cowboys, American Indians, golfers or football players, to name only a few. At least one has been known to dress as Santa Claus and some, for reasons unknown, bear the head of Mad Magazine’s gap-toothed Alfred E. Neuman. Our local Big Man is one of at least two in the state of Louisiana. Another, dressed as a cowboy, stands atop a pole and promotes a Bossier City trailer park.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
Can you give me any information about a Carnival club called Prophets of Persia? I have a letter opener that was probably a favor from a Mardi Gras ball. It says: Prophets of Persia – 1950. There appears to be a coat of arms on the reverse side.
Barbara P. Albert
A secretive, non-parading Carnival organization that’s still in existence, the Prophets of Persia held its first tableau ball at the Athenaeum on Feb. 11, 1927. The krewe’s theme that year was “The Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine.” Although membership rolls remain a closely guarded secret, the Prophets of Persia, like Comus, does make public the name of its female monarch. Leda de la Verne reigned as the group’s first queen.
The krewe’s insignia consists of a helmet with swans. According to Arthur Burton La Cour’s book Mardi Gras Masquerade: Chronicles of Carnival, the helmet represented gentility while the swans stood for “knight errantry, gaiety and pleasure.”
Mary Anne Hebert reigned over the Prophets of Persia’s 1950 tableau ball, which had as its theme “Esterházy the Magnificent,” so one can assume that the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) figured prominently in the evening’s entertainment – for more than 30 years, Hungarian Prince Miklós Jozsef Esterházy, also known as “Nicholas the Magnificent,” (1714-1790) employed Joseph Haydn as his Kappelmeister and court composer.
I was visiting New Orleans in 1962 and was invited to a party at a bar owned by, and I think named for, Dottie Reagan (I’m not sure of the spelling). It was a private party and several members of the cast making a movie in the French Quarter were there. The movie was A Walk on the Wild Side. I’ve now returned to this area, but I can’t find anyone who remembers Dottie Reagan or her nightclub. Can you tell me anything?
I think you may have been partying a bit hard, Herb. I looked at city directories from the early 1960s but could find no bar/nightclub proprietors named Reagan, Regan or anything similar. There were also no listings for any establishment named for Dottie Reagan.
There were a few places called “Dot’s” but they seem to have been named for, and operated by, women who were probably nicknamed “Dot” but whose last names were not Reagan. It should also be noted that none of the locations are anywhere near the French Quarter.
Mrs. Doris V. Brumfield ran Dot’s Bar and Lounge, which had two locations, at 2101 Conti St. and 2023 Washington Ave. Dorothy Parker operated Dot’s Restaurant and Bar at 2900 St. Philip St.
My late husband and I used to enjoy going to Pat O’Brien’s. Now, as I look back on those happy times, I realized that I can’t remember the last name of their long-time piano player, Mercedes. I’ve asked friends but nobody seems to remember the lady’s surname. Can you help?
Best known by her first name, Pat O’Brien’s longtime piano player was born Mercedes LeCorgne. By the time she retired from the club in 1968, Mercedes had been with Pat O’Brien’s for 32 years. The singer eventually moved to Carrollton, Ga. She was later widowed and, in 1980, she died, survived by a daughter, two grandsons and two brothers.