By the start of Mrs. K-Doe’s funeral service Saturday morning, the neighborhood church on Ursulines Avenue had exceeded its standing-room-only capacity. A police officer turned away late arrivals, who pooled on the sidewalk to await the subsequent second-line.
Mrs. K-Doe, the widow of New Orleans rhythm & blues singer Ernie K-Doe and his equal in the annals of eccentricity, died of a heart attack early Mardi Gras morning.
She spent the decade preceding her husband’s death in 2001 rescuing him from alcoholism and returning him to the stage. After his death, she transformed the Mother-in-Law Lounge, the North Claiborne Avenue nightclub named for his biggest hit, into a community center and shrine to him.
Indefatigable, unflappable and generous with her meager resources, she looked after a wide cross-section of the city’s have’s and have not’s. She served her red beans to everyone from veteran R&B singers to tattooed Bywater hipsters. She welcomed all save the occasional New York Times reporter who got under her skin.
On Friday, dozens of friends and admirers mingled in the tiki garden she installed next to the Lounge. Amid claw-foot tubs and toilets painted purple, green and gold, they traded stories, ate finger sandwiches and queued up patiently to view her body as it lay in state inside.
Hundreds of people would file past her white, glass-topped casket of 16-gauge steel. She was resplendent in an ankle-length white gown trimmed with silver sequins. Befitting the widow of the self-proclaimed Emperor of the Universe, Mrs. K-Doe also wore a tiara and grasped a scepter in her left hand.