Julia Street | WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
In 1956, my mom’s graduating class took their senior trip to New Orleans via rail. They went to nearby Sallisaw, Oklahoma and boarded the Southern Belle, which was Kansas City Southern’s passenger train that connected Kansas City to New Orleans. Not only was it exciting to be riding a passenger train for the first time, but New Orleans would be the first big city she had ever visited. She even purchased a skirt with scenes of Paris on it to wear since she would be visiting America’s most French city. She fondly recalls the time her class had in the Big Easy. They took a bus tour of the city and toured the French Quarter, where her best friend’s portrait was drawn by one of the street artists. Because they were from Oklahoma, her friend’s Native American ancestry gave her a unique, exotic look. They also toured City Park and had a picnic among the live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. I am familiar with all of these locations but she has mentioned a dining experience at Diamond Jim’s restaurant, which was their one sit-down restaurant experience in the city. I’ve been unable to find out anything about this restaurant. Obviously it no longer exists, but does she have the name right? If so, when was it in business, where was it located and what is located there now? I know my mom would love to know about the history of the restaurant since this trip was a special time during her youth.
Established in the 19th century and formerly associated with the Alciatore family of restaurateurs, La Louisiane had an established reputation for fine dining and well-known guests. When the restaurant changed hands in 1954, there were some new attractions on the menu – a larger-than life owner who was born James Brocato but better known as “Diamond Jim” Moran and the diamond-studded meatballs diners occasionally found on their plates.
The 1957 photograph accompanying this column was taken inside La Louisiane the year following your mom’s visit. It shows Diamond Jim in all his glittery glory, sporting a mink tie, jewel-encrusted horseshoe-framed glasses and a bedazzled dental appliance. The less shiny gentleman seated in front of him is boxer Rocky Marciano.
“Diamond Jim” passed away in 1958 at the age of 61. Following his demise, his sons took over, selling in 1978 to Joseph Marcello, Jr. and Nick Mosca who revived at La Louisiane the menu of their Elmwood Plantation restaurant. 725 Iberville has since changed hands. The name La Louisiane has survived and the renovated site currently operates as a meeting and event location.
As a young boy growing up in the St. Thomas Housing Development we often went to Magazine Street for retail shops, movies, etc. I have fond memories of going to the Happy Hour theatre, the Dairy Queen, Baehr’s Bakery and Sciortino’s poultry market.
On occasion my parents used to visit the various bars and dance places that lined Magazine Street between Jackson Avenue and St. Andrew Street. One in particularly comes to mind: the Fun House. My question is do you have any information on the Fun House? What was its exact address, when was it established, how long did it stay in business, etc. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.
Around 1958, Lionel N. Acy opened Acy’s Fun House at 2104 Magazine Street, which operated under that name until about 1962. The bar then changed hands multiple times before Lance J. Stark took over, renaming it Lance’s Fun House.
On the night of January 27, 1964, an explosion and fire of unknown origin gutted the Fun House and damaged the adjacent Garden of Italy restaurant and Joe’s Discount Store. The bar soon reopened at 2100 Magazine, next door to its former location. It seems to have originally featured music and dancing, but details are scant.
Lance Stark’s original Fun House cocktail lounge, 2100 Magazine Street at Josephine Street, existed from about 1964 to 1973. In its latter years, it was a popular boxing location where the Viking Athletic Club hosted amateur bouts. By the summer of 1972, the Fun House was offered for sale or lease as a country and western club with a capacity of 250. Under Kire C. Mitchell’s management, the short-lived New Fun House cocktail lounge operated for about two years. The premises then remained empty until a salvage shop opened there in the late 1970s.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
As native born Yats, and kids in the ‘50s, my sisters and I would walk the stretch of Franklin Avenue from a few blocks riverside of the then Capdau Jr. High School building up to Gentilly Boulevard. On many of the sidewalk panels (likely still there), “LCCO” was stamped. In addition to yelling out “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back,” we always competed to be first to call out “LCCO.” I’d always assumed that this was Louisiana Concrete Company, but alas, Google hasn’t helped. Got anything on this?
Poydras flew through that part of Gentilly but did not find the LCCO lettering. Since your youth, tree roots, post-Katrina levee failures, scattered repairs and ADA-related curb modifications have significantly altered how the sidewalks originally looked. While some parts appear to be in good repair, others remain severely cracked and uneven.
It is reasonable to presume that LCCO was an acronym for the firm the city contracted to pour the sidewalks. However, there are numerous companies whose names begin with “Louisiana Concrete” including Louisiana Concrete Products, which operated on France Road.
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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 Adrian Deshotel, Skillman, NJ and Robert Wilson, Muldrow, OK.