NOLA lost 2 icons recently
Frank "You gotta see the special man" Trapani and "Uncle" Lionel Batiste.
NEW ORLEANS – Frank Trapani, the owner of Frankie & Johnny’s Furniture, who co-starred in the store’s offbeat, memorable and often parodied commercials featuring himself and the store’s “Special Man,” died Thursday. He was 83.
Store manager Brenda Slater, who herself appeared in many of the spots, said Trapani died in Florida, where he had recently relocated with his wife. He had been ill in recent months, she said.
Trapani owned the small furniture store, first located on N. Broad and later St. Claude Ave., which would ordinarily not have attracted much attention citywide, but for the power of television and the creativity and low-budget but memorable aspect of the commercials. They began airing locally in the 1980s and became even more popular in the 1990s, but still are instantly recognizable and often quoted.
The commercials got national attention as recently as last year, when Conan O’Brien discovered and then spotlighted them on his TBS late-night talk show, holding a contest to encourage viewers to submit their own parodies of the spot.
And I don't think I've ever seen a wake like "Uncle" Lionel Batiste's EVER. Check out the pics in the link.
Blues guitarist Little Freddie King and his drummer/manager, “Wack-O” Wade Wright, stood outside the Charbonnet-Labat-Glapion Funeral Home in Treme on Thursday afternoon, pondering the scene inside for “Uncle” Lionel Batiste’s wake. “They’ve got him fixed up beautiful,” King said of the deceased, the Treme Brass Band drummer and renowned New Orleans character.
Wade agreed. “They’ve even got his watch on the mannequin’s hand,” he said, referring to the life-like figure standing in the funeral home’s chapel.
That wasn’t a mannequin, King replied. “That’s him."
In a send-off as unique as the man himself, Mr. Batiste wasn’t lying in his cypress casket. Instead, his body was propped against a faux street lamp, standing, decked out in his signature man-about-town finery.
He wore a cream sport coat, beige slacks, tasseled loafers, ornate necktie and matching pocket square, bowler hat and sunglasses. His bass drum and his Treme Brass Band uniform were positioned nearby.