Louisville Magazine

MAR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 121 Joe's Palm Room, which retained the name long after Joe Hammond had sold the club, was where the powerful, the powerless and the curious con- verged to listen to live jazz, blues and R&B, have a few drinks, talk business and talk trash. It was a long and narrow space with a party room on one side and two levels of seating on the other. e top level was called a balcony, even though it was more like a two-step riser. Many people liked the balcony because they could observe who came and went. Musicians and singers practically performed on top of each other on a small raised stage up front. My favorite was Vic Frierson, who covered Luther Vandross' music with the respect and reverence it deserved. As is true at many churches, Joe's regulars had preferred spots to sit. For example, I don't drink, so I rarely took up space at the bar, which ran nearly the length of the club. I could be found most often sipping soda, smoking Marlboros and not conversing but conversating at one of the tables near the rear door closest to the parking lot and back patio. e after-work matinees at Joe's featured live music, and if you didn't get there by 5:30 you were liable to have to stand all evening. e place would be so packed some evenings that one had to say "excuse me" many times to get to and from the restrooms. Club Cedar, which wasn't nearly as fancy as the Palm Room, often catered to some of the same crowd. It sold delicious fried fish and chicken sandwiches from the window of a tiny kitchen. I ought to know how good the food was because I wasn't doing much cooking at home. Club Cedar, only blocks from my house, was my go-to spot and could explain why I began packing on the pounds. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a lot of people who had ridden in the holiday motorcade through west Louisville would afterward ease on down to Club Cedar for free chicken wings. Coming from New York, life west of Ninth Street felt like living in a small town within a small town. For a city of its size, Louisville had quite a few black journalists in the 1980s. It also had one of the most active chapters of the National Association of Black Journal- ists. Many journalists, black and white, eventually found their ways to the pool parties and barbecues at the Southwest- ern Parkway home of my C-J colleague Merv Aubespin. One year, I managed to snag an in- vitation to Dr. Ralph and Lois Morris' Kentucky Derby party, which I had heard was the Derby party. Most of the partygoers were much older than I was at the time. As I wound my way through the slivers of space between bodies and furniture, it was clear to me that Louisville's pioneer black profes- sionals sure loved to ball. Bob Douglas, then a professor at the University of Louisville, and his wife Laura, an attorney, opened their home off Southwestern Parkway for Christ- mas Eve and Fourth of July parties. Bob's running buddy Carman Weath- ers, an educator who loved to argue, would always lure someone into a heavy political debate that would end with him and his opponent standing shoul- der to shoulder at the bar, exhausted and no closer to agreement. James "Stretch" Ealy was a tall, lanky, suspen- dered, funny-as-hell school security of- ficer, and he would always crack us up. He was Louisville's own Richard Pryor. At one party, a certain woman showed up with a certain man. Stretch, may he rest in peace, looked the woman up and down and, with a straight face, hollered over the din, "Damn, girl, you must be the loneliest woman in Louisville to be out with him." State Sen. Gerald Neal and his wife Kathy drew epic crowds to their annual backyard Derby parties over on Winnrose Way near Chickasaw Park. ey've since turned the event into a scholarship fundraiser and moved the festivities to the Kentucky Center. But the Derby parties on Winnrose were magnets for politicos wanting to get up close and personal with their Afri- can-American constituents. I threw a few parties at my house on Chestnut. My soirees tended to be informal and centered mostly on conversation, music and card games, especially bid whist. My sweet and thoughtful friend Charles Douglas, Bob's younger brother who passed away last summer, colluded with my homegirl Lynette Taylor to pull off a surprise 40th birthday party for me at the house. ey designed the cake to look like a newspaper. I said yes when my hairstylist asked to have her wedding in my backyard. We erected a small tent on the deck, which is where the actual ceremony took place. We festooned the deck with crepe-paper streamers in her wedding colors, baby blue and white, and dec- orated the tables with matching paper tablecloths, napkins and centerpieces of white artificial flowers. We piped in music from speakers standing on the steps to the side door. It was a low-bud- get affair. e marriage didn't last long, but my backyard never looked more beautiful. I loved my house and I loved my life west of Ninth Street until some time in the mid-1990s. at's when ill winds blew in, and my sweet Chestnut Street was in its path. Several of my elderly neighbors had fallen ill or passed on. Mrs. Kidd, bless her heart, had lost most of her vision by then, and other infirmities required her to leave the home she had meticulously taken care of for so long. Hundred-year-old houses need a special kind of care that wasn't forthcoming from the new players in the neighborhood, particularly the ab- sentee landlords. An alarming number Continued from page 97 SWEET CHESTNUT STREET

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