On Painting the Mother-in-Law Lounge (Oxford American. Fall 2013)


Seems like nothing will bring Daniel Fuselier down from the ladder. He’s taken breaks from time to time since 2002, when Miss Antoinette K-Doe invited him to paint the exterior of New Orleans’s Mother-in-Law Lounge, but most weeks he can be found two stories up, a tall, thin, white man in a sun hat and paintsplattered overalls, at work on his Southern Sistine Chapel. Daniel’s canvas is shaped like a camelback Mardi Gras float: one story around front, two stories around back. By now, brightly colored scenes of local music legends traced in thick black lines cover every surface visible from Claiborne Avenue. Wrapping the building in a full-body tattoo helps Daniel battle his lifelong depression, and he all but admits he’ll never finish the project. Never mind that he hasn’t been paid for the mural. He even buys his own paint.

Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law” was the first #1 hit out of New Orleans, in 1961, but the singer floundered when his career stalled. Meeting Miss Antoinette helped him control

his drinking and take the stage again, and they opened the bar in 1994. Seven years later, cirrhosis killed Ernie, and Antoinette remade the lounge in loving tribute to her husband: his microphone lay preserved in a glass case near coffee cups and souvenir handmade pillows bearing images of the couple. In a wheelchair sat a wax statue of Ernie that Antoinette took as her date to awards shows. But as much as it looked like a small-scale David Lynch–imagined Hard Rock Café, the lounge was really just a comfortable and dimly lit living room for black and white locals alike, all of whom came for great music, endless red beans, and a loquacious and (mostly) kind host.

Daniel first walked into the Mother-inLaw after a bad day painting houses. Battling a deep depressive episode and lacking friends, he was glad to meet Miss Antoinette and flattered she took interest in his art. That very night, she began helping Daniel land his dream job painting Mardi Gras floats. CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE PIECE AT Oxford American magazine…

Or here is a video tour of the Mother-In-Law’s exterior… It’s amazing…

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