Happy Birthday Ruthie
Updated: Apr 18
Ruthie in front of the Cornstalk Fence
(photo by Arthur Severio)
In the early eighties, the French Quarter was full of people who lived there. Artists, dancers, decorators, shopkeepers, and the fellas whose window displays made Canal Street department stores festive all year round were our neighbors.
Left to right Doug, the window to the right of the door where we spent our Sundays, and Kathleen during Southern Decadence celebrations.
Sundays have always been my favorite day of the week. Sunday mornings are the quietest time in the French Quarter. People are usually still asleep or going to mass at St. Louis Cathedral.
When m brother was still alive, we spent ours at home reading the Times-Picayune newspaper, having coffee and a breakfast po-boy delivered from the St. Ann Deli. Somedays, when the weather was nice, we walked over to Esplanade for brunch at a restaurant called The Rain Tree. What a way to spend a beautiful morning than eating brunch outside in a French Quarter courtyard. Local celebrity Kathleen Conlon served as waitresss/house diva was quick to tell her customerss where to get off because she was nursing a hangover from drinking with the fellas at Jewel's the night before.
Almost every Sunday, you could find us hanging out the window listening to gospel or country music, drinking coffee, and people-watching. I inherited my innate sense of observing people from not only my brother but my mother, who had no filter and said what the hell she was thinking aloud. Doug also gave me his sense of adventure of always living in the moment.
He had some of the best apartments. One of my favorites was located at 716 Dauphine, right on the corner of Orleans. The house has its own history being the site of savage murderous sultans, orgies, and harems,. There was also a story that I cannot find anymore of the internet about a father killing his 6 ? daughters in the hose in the early twentieth century and their blood soaking into the hardwood floors. When he lived there, this was before the internet, so I can't remember if he knew it or not. But, Doug, and Freddie were always talking about hearing kids playing or doors being knocked on. I never saw or heard anything except all the humans and that was scary enough.
The corner was a constant flow of folks walking downtown to work and a cast of hookers and hustlers looking for tricks driving by while they strolled to and from the gay financial district located in the St. Louis and Dauphine Streets area. The Goldmine., on the opposite corner always had a crowd drinking, cussing, and fussing to all hours of the morning. Directly across the street was a laundromat where the working girls and boys would sometimes bring their quick tricks for their quicker transactions.
We hung out the window watching all the happenings. and boy was Sundays busy. Neighbors would bring their festival chairs to sit on the sidewalk to visit.
One Fat Tuesday, when the chaos of Mardi Gras was at its pinnacle, a vision in a white wedding gown and matching veil roller skated right over to our window and asked for a Kool cigarette."I need one for now and one for late-ah." Doug tried to give her a Benson and Hedges menthol. She politely declined and asked us and said no , she wanted a Kool.
She spun double, and skated right over to the Goldmine to get her cigarette.
Ruthie in one of her many wedding veils given to her over the years.
(photo from the internet)
Ruthie , the Duck Girl /Lady or as we called her, Miss Ruthie, was always on the move. You never knew where you might run into her. Most of us locals, loved her and she didn't make that an easy thing to do, because she was such a bitch. The bartenders and bar patrons bought her her draft beers and she would make them buy her pet ducks who sat on the stool next o her one too. People remember the ducks passing out next to her at the bar.. They gave her money to get her beloved Kools from the bar's cigarette machines. On more than a few occasions, people told tales of Ruthie cursing her dead ducks out after they got ran over by passing traffic, while the poor ducks attempted to follow Ruthie as she crossed the street.
(photo by Mickey Demorelle)
(photo by Arthur Severio)
Through the years, I encountered Ruthie many times. Ruthie could be as sweet as honey when she wanted something and mean as a snake after she got it or you didn't have what she wanted. She lived in an apartment near the Port of Call in the 1300 block of Dauphine. Across Esplanade, there was a Circle K where the Esplanade Mini Mart is now, where all of us bought our liquor and sodas. It was Mardi Gras time, and I needed a Diet Coke. I was so excited when I saw her in the store. I loved her and loved to rile her up which aggravated the dickens out of her. She was one of my favorite local celebrities, and my teenage heart skipped a beat every time I saw her. I said, "Happy Mardi Gras, Miss Ruthie!"
The old heifer wearing pointed rubber cowboy boots kicked me in both of my shins and replied, "Happy Mother's Day, Mutha Fucker!"
Tracy Thompson in her Ruthie costume
(photo by Arthur Severio