I’m pretty late with this news, but those of you who follow things in New Orleans are no doubt aware that Al Copeland passed away recently.
He died of a malignant salivary gland tumor, near Munich German; he was 64. The Times obit failed to explain what he was doing in Germany, but it did provide a nice overview of Copeland’s interesting life. Just to review:
He founded Popeye’s, the fried-chicken chain, which did really well until he tried to take over rival chain Church’s, and ended up being pushed by a pile of debt into bankruptcy. He stared another chain, Copeland’s, which I believe is still doing all right. He was also definitely a leading character in New Orleans public life, from his over-the-top Christmas lights that became a quasi-tourist attraction, to the ups and downs of his four marriages. He also tried to get into the gambling business, and during the period when we lived in New Orleans, ended up in a brawl at an area steakhouse when seated near one of the people who had beaten him out for a casino license.
Plus, he had a big public feud with Anne Rice about putting up one of his restaurants on a site that had some importance in her most famous books. Oddly, the site in question was a former – I believe defunct – car dealership. So it’s not like it was pretty, or useful. It was just important to Anne Rice, or rather to the fate of one of her, you know, fictional characters. Copeland prevailed on that one. Silly.
Anyway, I bring all this up because of the writeup about his funeral in the T-P:
Although Copeland may have eschewed much of his characteristic bravado in his final months, mourners saw plenty of reminders of his over-the-top style when they reached the family mausoleum in Metairie Cemetery. Nine cars, eight motorcycles, a sport-utility vehicle and a dune buggy were parked in a semicircle. A motorcycle was at the gate, and Copeland’s outsize speedboat, with tongues of flame on each side, was nearby.
And the SJI connection:
Copeland’s body was borne in a horse-drawn hearse with oval windows that let everyone see the gleaming bronze casket. Leading the way was the New Orleans Spice Jazz Band, which played a doleful medley of “My Way” and “St. James Infirmary” as grand marshal Jennifer Jones took long, slow steps in her spats-covered shoes, her gloved hand over her heart.
Full account here.