I’ve known about the Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans all my life. I grew up in the Greater NO area, of course. I recall, probably in the mid-60′s, often listening to WWL Radio on Friday nights when, at 8:00, the announcer introduced the weekly radio broadcast, exclaiming “Live, from the world famous Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans!” The live entertainment featured big band music (the Leon Kelner orchestra was the standy-by) as well as weekly guest celebrities from the local and national scene.
I didn’t listen much to the music, and I always got the impression that the Blue Room was a fancy joint, not the kind of place my social cast would frequent. Indeed, the clientele my imagination conjured wore tuxedos and formal ball room gowns. I could almost smell blue sinews of tobacco smoke that I imagined drifting lazily among the low lights of chandeliers as the Friday night romantics sipped martinis at tables in dimly-lit corners or swayed gracefully across the dance floor of the crowded room.
Several years ago on a New Orleans date trip not long after the Roosevelt had been refurbished, I finally got to see the Blue Room for real. My wife and I were looking for a brief air-conditioned retreat from the sultry sidewalks, so we ducked into the exotic Roosevelt Hotel lobby to gulp at the high class opulence and cool off at the same time. I decided to look for the Blue Room, that place I had heard of so many years earlier. At the far end of the lobby, there it was: Not as big as I imagined, but just as elegant and just as “blue” in terms of the color scheme. As I stood in the door to see what was going on, a hotel staffer came up to shoo me away since some private party was going on inside, but I got to stand there long enough to satisfy my curiosity.
Fast forward to this past Saturday. The wedding reception for my coozan-in-law’s daughter just married in an uptown church on St. Charles Avenue was at the Roosevelt. That sounded pretty cool. When my family arrived at the hotel after the wedding, I looked for the concierge to ask where the Fontenot-Brown reception was taking place, but luckily I ran into Coo-zan father-of-the-bride in the middle of the lobby and asked him where we were headed. He told me, “The last room on the left” as he pointed down the hall.
‘Gardes-y donc, all these home town Cajuns in the Blue Room of the Roosevelt Hotel!
I knew that the last room down the hall was the Blue Room! Stunned, I asked him, for clarity, “You mean the Blue Room?”
“Yep,” he replied.
So on we ambled to the end of the lobby to join the festivity in this celebrated meeting room, really unique because the wedding celebrants were country Prairie Cajun folks. These were South Louisiana family and neighbors we live and work among, ordinary people who hardly resemble the New Orleans Garden District aristocrats that my mind always imagined frequenting this establishment. We had a blast hanging out with so many familiar family and friends in this exotic venue 165 miles east of more familiar, homey places.
As memorable as New Orleans is to me and my family, holding a life time of treasured memories and experiences from my earliest childhood to the wedding reception, this weekend past adds another highlight to my rich gallery of Crescent City remembrance.
“Hey, yi-yaille, mes amis, allons au Blue Room!”
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