Heart of The Quarter - Uncle Louie and Lil Willie

November 08, 2012
By the time I was 9 years old I had run out of excuses to get out of going to church. I had more sore throats than anyone else I knew, I had headaches, back aches, got attacked by a opossum, my best friend got attacked by a opossum, my best friend's cousin got attacked y a opossum. It was not that I didn't like church or God or the singing, I did. I liked it all. I just could not sit still for longer than five minutes. This affliction carried on to high school where I developed a very intricate string of stories to allow me exit from my desk. I would clap erasers all day, run errands for teachers, and the number of times I need to use the bathroom was completely uncalled for. In college, I simply skipped class. As an adult I make sure I work in a position that allows me to free myself of its restraints as often as I might need, somewhere between Jan1 - Dec 31 and all the time. I fidget, I move and I just cannot keep still.

The French Quarter's Uncle Louie defines keeping still. The tall figure dressed in a French Quarter version of Uncle Sam keeps tourist attention and gets their dollars with a great solid stride and a tiny stuffed dog he affectionately calls Lil Willie. His street art is known nationwide and he has been the subject of as many photographs as The St. Louis Cathedral.

Positioned dead still in the dead center of Royal Street, Uncle Louie walks the dog right into the hearts of tourists and has become an iconic figure in the French Quarter.

I sat still long enough to ask him a few questions about one of the constant characters in our favorite neighborhood.

1. What did you do for a living before you were Uncle Louie? How long have you been Uncle Louie?

U.L. Some things are supposed to be a secret and better to let people guess. I have been Uncle Louie for about twenty years.

2. Is that your original stuffed dog or do you have more than one that you alternate out, like the Olsen twins? Name please?

U.L. His Name is Lil Willie.

R.T. I really should get that on a T-shirt

U.L. He has been with me since the nineties. He is particularly close to me because we survived Katrina and a whole lot of other stuff together. (no pun intended) He is the real talent in the show. (laughs)

3. What is the best part of doing this for a living? Would you ever consider brining on a partner? Say a lady friend Uncle Louie?

U.L. Well I would have to talk to Lil Willie about the lady friend. The best part is the people, they smile and some try to make me move or laugh. I love working with people, local and tourists.

4. Where did this idea come from?

U.L. It came from me seeing people do street art for years. I said to myself if I ever do this I am going to take it to another level. This is my other level, a higher level! I call my version "street art" .

5. If I told you that I was putting three video tapes of locals with extreme talent in a capsule...what three locals would you pick?

U.L. In this city, there is no way to answer that question. I can tell you, you would need a big time capsule, like a DC10 or a train.

6. Do you think you are talented? Do you care if others do?

U.L. I do not think I am talented but I hope other people think I am talented.

R.T. We do Uncle Louie....we do!

7. Let's say someone walks up to you and offers you an office job for any amount of money you like? Would you take? And if not would you give them my number?

U.L. I need to be outdoors; no office for me at all. I also like the fact that I get to be around people who are having fun. I am an entertainer, you never let that go. Entertainers work till they are dead; we never retire or take a break. Yes, I'll give them your number. Do I have your number?

R.T. Umm yes!! You are here aren't you? Geeez!

8. Most important one: How the hell do you stay so still for all that time and what do you think about while you are doing? Like little ponies..... last night's episode of The Walking Dead....what am I having for dinner? OMG, Is she really wearing that???

U.L. You baffle me with that one. I guess I think about the food. Dinner, lunch, breakfast tomorrow, that kind of thing. I concentrate... that is how I stay still. I learn from Lil Willie, he never moves. I am getting better and better by his teaching.

R.T. Like your sensei then. My this is becoming very cultural.

9. Last question, what other city would you live in besides New Orleans?

U.L. There is no other city besides New Orleans. It is home. We all know it. I know it, you know it, the tourists know it, and even Willie knows it!

R.T. Now that's my kind of answer.