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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fame Is Fleeting - Louis Prima Version

On Sunday evening, we returned to Louisiana after our excursion to Gulfport, Mississippi. We decided to stop in Covington, due north of New Orleans. We programmed a hotel name into the Garmin for guidance and Miss Garmin took us off the interstate and up U.S. 190 and then announced, "Turn right on "LEWIS PRIMA drive."

LEWIS? She obviously meant LOUIE. But, why is there a Louis Prima Drive in Covington? After registering at the Comfort Inn, I asked the desk clerk, "Why is the street called Louis Prima Drive?"

"Because that's the address," she said. I could see I would be doing my own research.

But perhaps if you are under the age of 60, you also wonder who Louis Prima was. One of Las Vegas' biggest names, a marvelous musician/showman and a man who still can be heard singing "I, aint got no body" on many exercise videos. Wikipedia does a decent job with a brief biography, noting that Prima and his first wife, Keeley Smith "were at least partly responsible for making the lounge at The Sahara a hotspot."

But, the article doesn't mention Pretty Acres, Prima's golf course and restaurant in Covington. For that story, you can read this article.

According to the Prima biography, "Louis Prima," by Garry Boulard, after Prima's death in 1978 the Pretty Acres estate was valued at $5 million and was involved in a ten-year legal battle before it was finally settled.

Another local author recalls the old golf course in this article.
A simpler time meant taking the then-long trip from Mandeville to Covington past jazz-great Louis Prima’s Pretty Acres Golf Course & Country Club, where Harvey Marsolan recalls ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the beauty of its stately oaks and white clubhouse mansion that looked just like Tara. He recalls, that, to a kid riding with the windows down in the family car on the two-lane gravel road, it was a magnificent site on the way to nearby Hurstel’s Restaurant, a famous old haunt of Governor “Uncle” Earl K. Long and his paramour, Blaze Starr. Harvey says he never saw them there, and would have certainly remembered—’specially Blaze. The area today is Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, etc. Progress. Gotta love it.
If you walk out of the Comfort Inn, and take a look past the street sign, you can almost see the Wal-Mart Super Center just beyond the PetSmart. I wonder if those trees on the right side of the area in the second picture are survivors from the golf course?
LouisPrima-1 LouisPrima-3

I later confirmed that the hotel desk clerk had never heard of Louis Prima. Fame is indeed fleeting.

UPDATE (3/29/2011).
See the comment below from Steve. The link he gives to the article in Inside Northside magazine for March-April 2010 is well worth following. The article has some great photos and this information, "...the row of oak trees on the neutral ground in front of Home Depot; the trees once lined the driveway to the Prima's home."

The article notes a previous issue of Inside Northside from 1989 with the course on the cover and depicts a scorecard from the course.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Here's a lengthier article about Louis' Pretty Acres. Gia, Louis' widow (and I believe 4th wife; Keely was actually no. 3) talked at length about the place and shared several photos.

Local musician Bernie Cyrus commented on the situation, saying that little street by Walmart don't cut it, there should be a statue of Louis "the size of the 50-foot woman" there.

By the way, the oak trees on Park Place in your aerial photo (a few in front of the Wendy's are visible in it) lined the driveway to Louis' home and clubhouse. Some locals fought tooth and nail to keep them from getting cut down.