I was talking to my friend William Stage a few months ago about a web site I want to start about the characters of the Soulard neighborhood. I’ve been lucky to know a lot of genuinely fascinating characters from several neighborhoods in
Unfortunately, I haven’t really had the time to devote to every project I have in my head. It has something to do with sheer exhaustion, my blogs, music, spending every waking moment working to pay child support and rent and all the other distractions we all suffer.
I was growing up in Soulard right when it was time for me to move away from home. It was the early seventies and I wouldn’t meet the great characters of the neighborhood until the early eighties.
Everyone remembers the first Mardi Gras parade from the late seventies having started from one of the bars. I remember one way before that consisting of the volunteer fire department, our alderman, a high school marching band and an antique car. Instead of beads they threw candy. The crowd was made up entirely of kids.
A lot of great St. Louisans came out of the neighborhood and I’m determined to complete the project some day. If you can think of anyone who should be included, please mention them in my comments section.
I’m thinking: Ollie Matheus, Zeno (the first Poet Laureate of Soulard), Uncle Bill (our current Poet Laureate), Nondus, Johnny Rio (the Sheriff of Soulard), Sharon Cody Smith, Chuck Auger, Nancy Theodoro, Tom Hall, David Classe (our great and prolific Painter), Mark O’Shaughnessy (owner of Heatbreak Hotel/BBs Jazz, Blues and Soups – where my band played in the 70s-80s) the women of The Soulard Ladies Auxiliary (they never understood why I laughed at the patch they wore “SLA”), and especially the Mayor of Soulard, Bob Burkhardt.
Burkhardt is probably the single most important music club owner in
I started working at Burkhardts just as it was changing its name to the Broadway Oyster Bar. My friends Dennis and Donna Jean bought the bar from Bob and his sister Bonnie. Ollie would still own the building for several years. Somehow this turned them all into enemies.
I remember one night Bob showed up and was really drunk and nasty. Dennis told me to throw him out. Man, was that awkward. I really liked him. Burkhardt got quiet, looked at me and said, “Don’t worry man; I know it’s not you.”
A few years ago Bob was called up for jury duty. He was picked for a case involving a teenager and drugs. Bob told them he shouldn’t be on the jury because he believed drugs should be legal and he would be prejudiced. They picked him. I think this is the kind of luck Burhardt has had his whole life.
Dennis called me a few days ago to tell me Burkhardt’s sisters were throwing him a going away party. That will be today. When I brought up the fact that Bob and Dennis had been enemies for years, Dennis said, “Yeah, and it was all over money.” It would be great to see the two of them resolve their differences.
I don’t want to sound cryptic but Bob will be gone for a while.