Gypsy Lou Webb, French Quarter publisher of Bukowski and Kerouac, dies at 104

(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.

The Quarter Rat presents: MYSTERY GIF THEATER 2020

What’s this all about? Just some The Quarter Rat-related GIFs I created. It’s kind of like Times Square, except on a web page.

Consider it a little visual candy as you stay locked down (and safe?) from COVID-19 inside your dwelling as you count the minutes down to 2021.

Comments, questions, suggestions? Email Eric T. Styles at styles@thequarterrat.com or Dave Minsky at dave@thequarterrat.com.

The Quarter Rat’s TOP 20 Memes of 2020

(All memes by Eric T. Styles)
The only folks who loved the “Year of the Rat, 2020” were those of us who created memes. Here are the Top 20 Memes from TheQuarterRat.com.

20. We could only find 19 memes, NEXT!

19. I posted this in February before Mardi Gras ’20 as a warning. Back then it was all in the back of our minds about the potential for an outbreak from Corona but no one even dared to utter it. I caught a few comments from “No way! Really think they are?” to “Well, what are we supposed to do? Cancel Mardi Gras? NEVER!”

18. We got to see how the mayor handled hurricanes and natural disasters.

17. It took 10 months to recover three bodies from the Hard Rock Hotel collapse, which occurred in October 2019. Months after the tragedy, a leg of one of the victims dangling from the rubble could be seen from Canal Street. Mayor Cantrell was outraged that a photo was taken of the leg and posted on social media. We were outraged that there was a leg sticking out months later to photograph.

16. Bourbon Street hadn’t been this empty or clean in over 300 years. An eerie silent street with windows boarded up. I was told that it was busier in the days after Katrina than during the shut down. A couple of friends messaged me and asked if I needed help to actually paint this on Bourbon. As tempting as it was, in my older age wisdom I decided not to. Such public messages are only tolerated if it’s approved by the establishment to promote their agenda.

15. If anyone exemplifies a political “Karen” it’s our Mayor.

14. The George Floyd protests came to our city. Thousands went out to protest in various parts of New Orleans over the course of a week. With the exception of a few protesters getting pepper sprayed by cops on the bridge, they were all peaceful. No charges were brought against any city official for the deaths of three and injured dozens of construction workers. Selective outrage.

13. LaToya Cantrell thought that this summer was a great time for a photo-shoot to update her pictures on social media. Like somehow a resting bitch face would instill a sense of confidence in a community locked in their homes from a pandemic and collapsing local economy. I didn’t think the original City Hall background did her justice.

12. Admit it guys, who hasn’t at least once.

11. Ah yes, nothing like the classic memes.

10. The Hard Rock Hotel became a great example of incompetence from the city and it’s hired contractors. “How can we fuck up a collapsed building?” “I know! We’ll set it on fire!”

9. The Quarter Rat publisher kept after me to make a temperature gun meme. I think this one is now my favorite from 2020.

8. Remember when Mayor Cantrell went off on a reporter during a press conference about opening up businesses?

7. For those of you familiar with the humble beginnings of The Quarter Rat Magazine, you would agree that no one would ever dream that it had much potential to ever be taken seriously. In 2020 this web site has shown otherwise. The talent and professionalism of Dave Minsky has shown the QR as an emerging reliable source of news information. City officials now actually take the call without saying “The WHAT?” Don’t get me wrong, self-improvement is a lifelong journey and we still have a lot of work to do. Thanks for keeping the faith.

6. In the spirit of wokeness, DIXIE beer has decided to change it’s name (we know there’s a misspelled word in there; that’s the pint).

5. We couldn’t help noticing that those who pushed for a longer shut down seem also to be the same fucks always bitching about their jobs, getting fired a lot and are, coincidentally, Bernie Sanders supporters. Just saying.

4. Best. Headline. Ever. We may never be able to top this.

And the follow up meme.

3. When it comes to making memes, sometimes things just click.

2. The intent for us is not to make light of deaths of those construction workers. Our condolences go out to their families and loved ones. We do how ever wish to see justice, and want to see those responsible for deaths due to incompetence to be held accountable.

1. As if 2020 hadn’t been scary enough for us, NOLA had the distinction of being threatened by two hurricanes simultaneously. This meme got way more likes and shares than anything else posted. It just shows where all of your heads are at.

What will 2021 hold for us? I’m not optimistic. I think a year from now we will be looking back on 2020 as “The good old days.”

Quarter Rat #18: The Halloween 2010 Issue

Tourists were often derided as part of original Quarter Rat humor, even though the magazine could not have existed without them. One of its core principles, however, was to bite the hand the fed it. The two ideas were not mutually exclusive. Staff often had fun mixing the two, similar to the way in which a local bartender makes a cocktail, then tops it off with an offensive joke — and still gets tipped.

But let’s be a little honest: anyone who makes a living working in the French Quarter and/or lives here every day bears witness to the absurd spectacle that is the balance of attempting to preserve a crumbling historic neighborhood while attracting an ever-inclusive sector of tourists by appealing to the basest of desires. Combine this with the fact that the city was built on mud and is literally sinking. People love it, though.

And one person who was able to capture this madness was Eric T. Styles, who moved from the Jersey Shore and to the Vieux Carre. He found work as a film extra, but only after getting rejected from numerous low-wage barker jobs.

He eventually started contributing art to the Quarter Rat and designed his first cover for the Halloween 2010 issue. We preserved a copy, one of the few in existence.

Quarter Rat #16: Ladies of the Vieux Carre

Dated June/July of 2010, Quarter Rat’s sixteenth edition was dedicated to the females of the French Quarter, or “ladies of the Vieux Carre,” including, but not limited to, the shot girls, strippers, bartenders and even the tourists.

It was essentially Quarter Rat’s “swimsuit issue,” but with Xeroxed photos of amateur models. And it wasn’t as colorful as previous issues. In fact, it had only three colors: black, white, and pink front and back pages. As with past issues, it was printed in a zine format.

Many of the photocopied pictures include female service industry workers, some of whom you may recognize. Do any of them still work in the French Quarter?

“We’ll stand up and salute the beautiful girls who keep ’em stiff for us every night… the drinks that is,” wrote Otis B. Easy. “These service industry girls went the extra mile for you readers. So when you see them, buy them a shot, throw them a tip, ask them to marry you or just tell them ‘thank you.'”

The issue was published shortly before the 2010 World Cup and is filled with raunchy, audacious tales illustrating the evolutionary motivations that drive commercial and personal behavior in the French Quarter: money and sex.

In one piece, seasoned bartender Jenna Tonic writes a story of how she sold her sweaty pair of $5 Victoria Secret underwear to a middle-aged, drunk male patron for $400, during a bartending shift on Bourbon Street.

“I paid my rent and then I even made a little bit of money bartending that night too,” she wrote. “I was wearing my rent making skirt. It was short. I mean really short. I tried to keep my special lady parts covered as much as possible, but I’m pretty sure my exposed ass is where the rest of my money came from.”

The issue solicited stories in one advertisement, which read:

“Submit your funniest French Quarter Moments in 1,000,000 words or less and receive a free oil-covered nutria and an authentic 2011 Super Bowl Ring. Send submissions, ideas, photos, or anything else to quarterrat@Ymail.com. Also feel free to stop by Molly’s on Toulouse Fri-Mon latenight to share your ideas or suggestions with the editor.”