March 25, 2008

R.I.P. Al Copeland

I'm a little late on this, but pour a little fountain Coke on the ground for Al Copeland, Popeye's founder and true G of New Orleans low culture.

Really, I have a special spot in my heart for the man and his creation. A Popeye's meal was the first one I ever shared with Kim, probably one of the most memorable 30 minutes of my life. A friend of mine babysat for Copeland's grandchildren one summer and had more than a few tales of excess and odd parenting. When I moved from N.O. to Philly, I ate so much Popeye's, I converted half my office to the special spices and had people collecting coupons for me (those were tough times). One of my favorite advertising schemes was the slot machine set-up at the cash registers at the Popeye's on 46th St. in Manhattan, where you'd hit a button and round up your change, getting a free side dish or drink, depending on how the slots treated you. After my dad had heart surgery in '03, I gave up eating Popeye's for the most part, but since moving back, I've hit it up for special occasions, like Saints games or Mardi Gras or anniversaries. Before the Hornets started selling out games and Al's health went downhill, he was the only celebrity you'd see at games, walking around like a black rooster with some candy girl/new wife. I wouldn't say he added a touch of class to the proceedings, but he was a certain kind of N.O. royalty and people would gawk at him. Everybody knew--Al Copeland lived large.

Much respect to the man. In a city where the phrase is over-used, Al Copeland was a New Orleans original.