Shortly after the clock struck just past midnight Sunday, Erykah Badu, behind the wheel of a matte black Stingray, led a funeral procession down Main Street -- not far, mind you, just from Pegasus Plaza at Main and Akard to the front door of PM Nightlife Lounge at The Joule, which is all of, what, 407 feet. A band trailed behind Badu, their soundtrack morphing from mournful to joyful along the abbreviated route, and not just any band but the Rebirth Brass Band, who filled downtown with a big, brief blast of their New Orleans-imported heavy funk. Behind them: a hearse.
The event, after which Badu was to deejay till the wee small hours, was intended to mark the adios of the lounge in the hotel's basement, which is now closed as Joule owner Tim Headington begins that much-talked-about expansion that will see the danceteria turned into a screening room and recording studio. But it was also something bigger: "a funeral for Main Street as it is today, before its rebirth," in the words of one of Badu's business partners, Paul Levatino. Which is why there were camera crews on hand to capture the brief, wonderful moment -- prolonged when Badu, clad in top hat and trench coat, danced among the band and onlookers who'd joined in and filled up the closed-off Main Street. A film of some sorts is in the works; details remain a bit blurry.
But in coming days there will be much action to document: City officials confirmed this week that the old Praetorian at 1607 Main -- the tallest skyscraper in the West upon its completion in 1909 -- is being prepared for its imminent demise, with interior demolition and abatement taking place at this moment. Theresa O'Donnell, head of Sustainable Development, says that according to the plans at present: "One half of the building will be dismantled; the other half will be imploded." Those historic buildings next to it are either gone already or about to meet the wrecking ball. Last night the funeral procession was as much for them as for a dance club; those buildings deserve their proper send-off, after all.
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