A few weeks back, I relayed the sad news about the passing of Stefan Lutak, the proprietor of The Holiday Cocktail Lounge, one of my favorite joints of all time. Now another one has been taken away from us–Antoinette K Doe, proprietress of The Mother-in-Law Lounge in New Orleans.
Antoinette was the widow of Ernie K Doe, who had a big R&B hit back in the 1960s called (wait for it) “Mother-in-Law”. She rescued Ernie from a decades-long alcoholic funk and helped him open the aforementioned bar on Claiborne Avenue, where Ernie entertained into the wee hours and performed with himself (via jukebox).
The Mother-in-Law Lounge was a little like the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, in that its operating hours were determined by the whims of its owners, and it seemed to exist for the enjoyment of its patrons and its proprietors, rather than to make money. But it was even more of a cottage business because The Lounge was literally Ernie’s living room. And when you were there, you totally felt like you were just having some drinks in a friend’s living room.
I never got to see Ernie there, sadly, but I did go a few times in the years after his death, when Antoinette carried on his legacy via The Lounge. The ceiling hung with cardboard cutouts of stars, each containing the name of a star who’d passed into the great beyond–everyone from Buddy Holly to Frank Zappa.
One time I went to The Lounge, I was completely beat from a combination of lingering jet lag and New Orleans-induced party exhaustion. I didn’t want to chump out on hanging out with pals, but another drink would’ve totally leveled me. Antoinette–who always manned the bar–seemed to sense this without me saying a word (maybe it was the enormous bags under my eyes).
So she offered me some coffee, then refused to let me pay for it. “I got it on anyway,” she said. I left a generous tip on the bar.
I hope someone keeps The Lounge open, but even if they do, it won’t be the same without her.