Huey Long's fan base
Many people who meet
Long make an instant connection with him.
Tommy Gay, a 75-year-old Heights resident, stops in, too, on this
Holy Saturday, wearing a bicycle helmet. His bike is parked outside.
"I want all those old favorites I heard as a kid," Gay says. "I
heard Huey singing my whole childhood. He's a blue blood and a
treasure. We're lucky to have you here in the Heights."
"I'm happy to be around good people," Long responds. "If you try
to be a good person, you attract a lot of good people."
"Did y'all know the Mills brothers?" Gay wonders.
"Oh, yes, in the theatrical world, we were all friends," Long
Pat Malloy of Tuscon, Ariz., says he had been thinking of his
father earlier in the day, before he saw Long's display, and came in
to buy a CD. "A lot of connections will happen when you are thinking
of someone who is deceased," he says. "The music is my link to my
father. He was from South Texas, and he just loved the Ink Spots. My
father saw him perform live."
Karen Robertson of Houston has an appointment at Venus Hair but
she has also come to flirt with Long, bringing him an Easter card
and a chocolate bunny. She jokes that she has finally found a
boyfriend who may not be able to outrun her.
"So is it going to be a big party this year? Lots of dancing
girls?" she teases him. "Is everything good? Are you happy?"
"I'm happy since I've seen you," Long replies.
"Well, I am a good-looking woman," she says. "And you're as
popular as ever. When you're a handsome man you can't help but be
popular. Are you staying out of trouble?"
"I have to. I'm over 100 years old," says Long, who sometimes
walks with a cane but admits to no serious health problems.
Robertson says she has visited Long at his home, where he played
piano and serenaded her.
"It's his good looks and his charm that got me hooked," Robertson
says. "My aunties and uncles in Australia grew up with his music.
That they are in Australia and they know who Mr. Long is is very
Last year, Robertson says, she made Long a pineapple upside-down
cake for his birthday. This year, though, she has to send her
regrets. She'll be out of town on business.
For the record, although he doesn't mind flirting a bit, Long's
heart belongs to Juanita Marco Richardson, "his lady friend" who
still lives in New York. They've been close for 35 years.
While Long is delighted to talk to any interested visitors, he
becomes particularly animated when he meets another musician or
someone who knows something about the music of his eras.
At 101, he
can lay claim to more than one era.
Marji Messer, a jazz singer who moved to the neighborhood
recently, says she grew up on Long's music. They become friends
within minutes, and Long invites her to participate in his birthday
"I'd be honored to sing something for your party," she says. "You
better rest because we're going to party all night."
She confides she is almost 53 herself.
"You are a young 53," Long says, "a very young 53."
"Did you see that?" Robertson asks, as Messer says goodbye. "He
got 15 years younger, and his eyes lit up."
Local musician Susan Jackson
relishes the opportunity to visit
"Every time I sit down at the piano with Huey, I learn something
amazing about theory and composition," Jackson says.
awesome teacher and so patient. I also learn the history of musical
styles throughout the years. And great stories about musicians
hanging out with each other, stories about people like Thelonious
When asked for advice from musicians, Long is succinct: "Hone
your craft and they will come to you."
Venus manages to keep working amid all the chaos of a Saturday
afternoon. Near closing time, as stylist Jill Hernandez falls into a
chair, exhausted, Venus offers to style Helen Harbridge's hair. She
is always the last client of the day, being in no particular hurry
Harbridge, 91, a cancer survivor, hangs out at Venus every
Saturday, too, sometimes chatting, sometimes watching the Hallmark
Channel on a television in the back, sometimes passing out prayer
"Being here is my therapy. And Huey Long is a great
conversationalist," Harbridge says.
At 5:30, artist Anne Hernandez
drops by to pick up Long, who is
still finishing his lunch, due to constant interruptions. Hernandez
provides him with round-trip transportation every Saturday to and
But for his birthday celebration, Hernandez confides, his friends
have hired a limousine. His daughter, Anita Long, will accompany him
as well as a date, whose name he isn't ready to disclose.
"He is such a character," Venus says, as she takes a rare
five-minute break. "He is a super salesman. And if no one is inside
talking to him, he'll go out onto the street to find someone to talk
That's how Robertson met him, she says. "I was walking by and out
came this hand and he goes, 'You know who I am? I am Huey Long.'"
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