My second time I ever went to New Orleans, I was on a tour with a show that included a clown (yawn), World class juggler, Tommy Curtin, and myself doing ventriloquism and magic. We did shows all through Cajun country, New Iberia, Houma, Alexandria, Thibodeaux, Slidell, Baton Rouge, etc. and finally New Orleans.
While in New Orleans we stayed at Magician Ralph Fountain's house with his lovely wife Laura, and their banjo playing poodle, Frankie was his name I believe. If the name sounds familiar, he was the cousin of Pete Fountain the legendary New Orleans jazz clarinettist. From what I gathered, they were raised as brothers by one of their mothers. I am not sure of the exact relationship.
Ralph was the consummate host, feeding us on crabs, crawfish, and shrimp, piled high on newspaper layered tables. Ralph taught me about Cajun and Creole cooking. Of my favorites, he made white beans in the same spirit as red beans. His white beans were phenomenal. I still make them from time to time.
I stayed in touch with Ralph over the years and saw him last about 10 yrs. ago when I first came to NOLA to work on a ship, the Celebration. He picked me up at the airport and we went and had soft-shelled crabs, somewhere in Metairie. He took me to his home in Arabi and gave me a huge bag of fresh figs from the trees in his back yard. We sat for a few hours and talked about magic a passion we both shared.
After Katrina, I could not find where he had been moved to. All the area magicians I asked knew nothing as to how to contact him. I did read online that he was OK, but had been declining in health in years even before Katrina. He and area magicians had a falling out years before and none of them had much to do with him anyway. He had become a bit reclusive, all the while his health was failing. I still loved him and missed him. I even attempted to contact Pete Fountain to no avail.
I heard recently Ralph had passed away while living in Florida. I was very saddened, not so much about his passing, he was after all in his late 80's and I have a feeling he went somewhere glorious. What made me sad was the fact I had never located nor spoke to him again. Ralph would always get all teary-eyed whenever you'd be leaving after staying at his home. He was a sweet man who I really miss. I will try to contact Laura, and send my condolences. For now though, here's a little goodbye to Ralphie-Boy.
He was a magician, entertainer, great cook, and good friend. I will miss him and think about him whenever I cook white beans or eat crawfish over a newspaper draped table. Farewell and adieu old pal.
Ralph Fountain - In Memorium - September 14, 1924 - March 02, 2008