Sunday, October 19, 2008

Farewell Steve Coenen

Seems this is happening far too often these days, another dear friend departs.

I first met Steve Coenen at the 1984 Worlds Fair. We were appearing on the same stage five times a day. I was doing my one man banjo show and Steve was part of the ensemble cast of "Bananas" - A Vaudeville review.

At the time, I was new to New Orleans and was living in temporary housing provided by the Fair. Steve owned a house on Burgundy Street just outside the French Quarter and had an apartment to rent there.

I rented the apartment in July 1984 and stayed until Hurricane Katrina in 2005! Steve was my landlord for 21 years - and he NEVER raised my rent.

A natural born performer, with a flamboyant style, Steve lit up every room he ever entered.

After Hurricane Katrina, Steve ended up in California and I moved to Thailand yet we still kept in touch, even through his illness.

From his Obituary...

Stephen Foster Coenen, originally from Rayville, Louisiana and later settling in New Orleans, Louisiana, passed from this life into the Hands of our Lord during the early morning hours of September 22, 2008, following a valiant battle with lymphoma cancer.

Following graduation from LSU, Steve worked for several years as a lead entertainer for Holland America Cruise Lines, honing his skills as a singer, dancer and musician. . He was a frequent performer at the Le Petit Theatre, the La Chat Noir Theatre, as well as the Tulane Summer Lyric Theatre and the Jefferson Parish Arts Society productions.

Steve literally put his life on the line on December 7, 2002 when he rescued an individual being victimized by an assault in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Steve was shot in his chest by one of the perpetrators, but through his efforts, the life of the victim was spared.

For this act of heroism, Steve was presented with the 2003 New Orleans Public Safety Citizen of the Year award, the 2003 Storer Boone Humanitarian award for outstanding contributions to society and community and in 2005 was one of 21 individuals in the United States to receive the Carnegie Medal for extraordinary heroism.

After becoming ill, Steve continued his painting career, becoming a prolific watercolor artist, often donating his works to those critically ill at M. D. Anderson Hospital and to the doctors and caregivers as well.

He also wrote, painted watercolor scenery, and recorded songs for a children's book entitled "Little Bird" which will be published posthumously.

Steve will be long remembered for his flamboyant suits of orange, blue, and purple, "matched" with shoes of red or green, worn to events such as a niece's wedding, where he entertained the crowd with his Fred Astaire-like dance style, always leaving the crowd both amazed and full of laughter. Those who knew Steve seemed to always smile, if not downright laugh out loud, when remembering his talents, wit and charm

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 5005 Mitchelldale, No. 115, Houston, TX, 77097 or to Hospice of Brenham, TX, Hospice Brazos Valley, 302 Horton Street, Brenham, Texas, 77833.

New Caledonea, What Makes Your Big Head So Hard?

I recently had the opportunity to overnight in Noumea, New Caledonea.

For those unfamiliar, it is a beautiful French Polynesia Island off the eastern coast of Australia.

It is also VERY Expensive!!!

With 24 hours to kill, I walked along the beach and vowed not to spend too much money.

Then I saw the Casino....

The top of my head was beginning to sunburn due to the intense sunshine, so I decided to duck inside for a little while.

I quickly changed out $250 USD to French Polynesean Francs ( 20,000 Francs) and set out for some mindless slot machine play.

I was up and I was down and finally I was upgain!! 30,0000 Francs to be exact.

THEN the frustration began. Although the Casinos were more than willing to BUY my US dollars, the were equally UNWILLING to buy back my Polynesean Francs!! I was advised that I would have to go to a bank to exchange the currency.

Problem is, my flight was at 8am the next morning - no bank would be open that early.My hotel was equally no no help. They would SELL me francs but not buy them back!!

Needless to say, my frustration was growing by the minute and the attitude of the "locals" was not helping.

For a while, it looked like I'd be stuck with almost $400 USD worth of very colorful "funny money". I had been given conflicting information on whether there was a Cambio (Currency Exchange) at the Airport. My Hotel said "yes" but the Casino said "No".

To my relief, the Hotel was right!

I was able to change out the currency just prior to my flight. So, thanks to my luck at the Casino, I was able to spend 24 hours in Noumea, eat, drink, gamble and walked out almost $100 USD ahead!!

Public Domain Treasure Trove

My Brother Mike is at it again.

After developing one of the worlds' foremost blogs on Avian Flu, he has turned his talents to a long neglected area of Pop Culture - Public Domain Radio, TV & Movies.

Master of My Public Domain is a fascinating look at these free to download gems. Not just a listing of PD Files, Mike provides background detail & context rarely found surrounding these programs.

If you have a nostalgic bone in your body, check out Master of My Public Domain today!

Remembering Robert Douglas Pt. 2

In an earlier post, I talked extensively about Actor - Director Robert Douglas. Robert & his wife Sue were friends of mine during the last 13 years of his life (he passed on in 1999).

During his career he acted in such films as The Adventures of Don Juan (with Errol Flynn), The Fountainhead (With Gary Cooper & Patricia Neal),Ivanhoe (With Elizebeth Taylor) & The Young Philadelphians (with Paul Newman).

As a Television Director in the 1960's & 70's he helmed such popular shows Maverick, Surfside 6, 77 Sunset Strip, 12 O'Clock High, The Invaders, The Fugitive, Barretta, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Lost In Space, Adam-12, Mission Impossible, Dan August, Cannon, The FBI, Columbo & The Streets of San Franscisco ... to name a few!

I received a comment from a blog reader named Alison (UK) October 4, 2008 7:51 AM

"Guess what. I'm not Leonard Maltin, but yes I've heard of Robert Douglas !! I'm passionate about him, and have been a fan since I was a teenager (i'm now 46). How does that saying go, "'re never a prophet in your own land..."

Well, I can vouch for that. I live in the next door county in England to which Robert was born, and yes, I'm the only person who's heard of him in my circle of friends. It makes for a particularly lonely hero worship. I loved the intimate comments in your piece. I can't believe I've found someone who knew him so well. Thank You !!"

Thank you for the comment! You never know who is reading!!

Alison, I wanted to send you this personally, but I didn't have your return address so I'm publishing it here. I lost "most" of my papers in Hurricane Katrina, but this handwritten letter from Robert survived...

I know it's hard a little to read, but it's the best copy I have now.