(Photo: Gypsy Lou Webb | Infrogmation | CC)
Gypsy Lou Webb, publisher of a 1960s French Quarter-based literary journal that featured Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski and other contemporary writers died earlier this month. She was 104 years old.
Webb resided at Greenbrier Nursing Center in Slidell at the time of her death, which was on Dec. 13, according to Michael Patrick Welch, an New Orleans-based journalist who was the first to cover her passing.
Born Louise Dorothy Madaio on April 29, 1916 in Cleveland, Ohio, Gypsy Lou was still a high school-aged teenage when she met future husband Jon Webb, who was a next door neighbor living with his family.
Years before the two met, Webb served a three-year sentence for armed robbery at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield before he was released in 1934.
Webb allegedly robbed a Cleveland jewelry store in an attempt to get a divorce from his first wife, Opal, according to researcher Leo Weddle.
Webb and Madaio married in a 1939 civil ceremony and moved to St. Louis later that year. Penniless, the newlywed couple moved to New Orleans one month later.
By 1940, they had already begun to establish themselves as writers and were among a group of French Quarter cohorts that included Tennessee Williams and New Orleans writer E. P. O’Donnell, according to Weddle.
Lou was also a painter who sold her work along Pirate’s Alley. She earned her “gypsy” nickname following a newspaper columnist who described her as a “startling” artist wearing a “full black cape, her beret or perhaps a gold-flecked bandana, and her metallic threaded slippers,” according to Weddle.
In 2013, Welch interviewed Webb about her experience.
“You do a lot of shit when you’re selling paintings,” Webb told Welch. “You talk funny, you look funny, the whole damn thing.”
In 1960, the Webbs started Loujon Press, publisher of The Outsider literary journal. The first issue, published on an old hand press in their 638 Royal St. residence, hit the stands in 1961 and they sold lifetime subscriptions for $12.90.
Following the success of the first issue, the Webbs used the proceeds to purchase a motorized Chander and Price printing press, which they operated out of the 618 Uruslines St. home, according to Weddle.
According to Welch, who interviewed Webb in 2013, the press took up much of the space inside their residence and its operation drained the couple’s finances.
Their magazine, however, continued to be a critical success. Contributors to the Webbs’ magazine also featured poetry from Diane Wakoski; and Beat Generation writers such as William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Loujon Press ventured into book publishing, printing books by Henry Miller and Bukowski, who also accepted The Outsider’s first “Outsider of the Year” award.
The Outsider folded in 1969 after publishing four issues. Jon Webb died in 1971.
A Loujon Press collection can be found inside The Historic New Orleans Collection Williams Research Center located at 410 Chartres St.