Trouble is, Barnicle appears to have borrowed heavily from A.J. Liebling's
classic 1961 biography of Long, The Earl of Louisiana (Louisiana State
University, 1970), complete with exact quotes and, in some cases, idiosyncratic
spelling (see underlined text below). Now, for the first time, the
Phoenix reveals the details of Barnicle's apparent plagiarism.
Forget that New Orleans is actually a little like the Combat Zone
with French cooking, it still happens to be part of the great state of
Louisiana where people play the political game the same way it's played in
Lebanon. The place is one layer after another of tribes, factions and at least
a million laughs.
The busybodies and goo-goos who adorn Beacon Hill would soon be calling room
service at McLean Hospital if they plied their preachy trade in Baton Rouge.
The suspender set around Boston, so easily offended by the likes of Eddie King
or any pol who came out of parochial school instead of Camelot High, would be
babbling to a Vienna-bred shrink if they found themselves going one on one with
a bunch of down-home pols who think that Ben Franklin is famous because he
invented the $100 bill. You see, a portion of my misspent youth occurred at the
edges of politics. It was a corner filled with great tales and most of those
who told the best hailed from places far south of our parochial little world in
Gillis Long, cousin to the legendary Longs of Louisiana, had stories that
would not quit. He was a New Orleans congressman who especially loved to talk
about "Uncle Earl."
Earl Long was Huey's brother. Huey, of course, was first a governor, then a
U.S. Senator and then a body lying in the corridor of the state Capitol, dead
at the hand of an assassin.
Earl was certifiably insane. As a matter of fact, his wife and nephew, Sen.
Russell Long, once had him hauled off to a mental hospital in Texas.
Earl used to begin his mornings in the governor's mansion handicapping the
horses and reading the supermarket ads. He bought everything at supermarkets:
Clothes, food, candy, everything.
"A $400 suit on old Uncle Earl," he used to say, "would look like socks on
One day, Uncle Earl saw that Schwegmann's Market was having a sale on
potatoes. He ran out of the mansion, hopped in his Cadillac and, with troopers
blazing the way -- sirens blaring -- headed off to buy potatoes.
He filled the limo with hundreds of pounds of potatoes. Then, always with
an eye out for bargains, he purchased $300 worth of alarm clocks, 87 dozen
goldfish and two cases of Mogen-David wine.
Because the stuff weighed him down a bit, Earl called a couple judges and
state senators and ordered them to report immediately to Schwegmann's. When
they arrived, Uncle Earl, governor of the great state of Louisiana, had them
carry the stuff out, pack what they could in the car then tie the rest of it on
the roof and hood. Can you imagine the look on the faces of Globe editorial
writers if Billy Bulger tried that?
"A four-hundred-dollar suit on old Uncle Earl would look like
socks on a rooster."
[Attributed to Earl Long, speaking of himself in the third person.]
"Like the morning he saw that Schwegmann's was selling potatoes for
forty-nine cents a ten-pound sack. Schwegmann's is a string of three big
supermarkets here that sell everything -- furniture, automobile parts, grits,
steak....Earl says, 'Come on, boys, I can't
afford to pass that up,' and he goes downstairs and gets into his
eleven-thousand-dollar air-conditioned official Cadillac ... , and the
state troopers get out in front on motorcycles to clear the way, . . . and they
take off. They pull up in front of Schwegmann's -- all the sirens blowing,
frightening hell out of the other shoppers. . . . [S]o he buys a
pounds of the potatoes and tells a state senator to pick them up and carry them
to the car, and then he sees some alarm clocks on sale and buys three hundred
dollars' worth, and tells some representatives from upcountry to carry them.
And eighty-seven dozen goldfish in individual plastic bags of water, and two
cases of that sweet Mogen David wine. . ..
"Well, when they got out there on the sidewalk, under about a hundred degrees
of heat, the stuff won't all go in the trunk of the Cadillac. . . . So Uncle
Earl sends a couple of senators and a judge into the store again to buy some
rope . . ."
-- pages 43-44
When Uncle Earl ran for re-election, his lieutenant governor was a local
dummer named Oscar Guidry. Earl proudly pointed out that Oscar was, "a fine
Frenchman, a fine Catholic and the father of 23 children."
Guidry, no relation to Ron, felt compelled to correct Uncle Earl. It
seems Oscar came from a family of 23 brothers and sisters but had only 14
children. "Oscar says he has only 14 children," Earl said, "but that's a
"And first," he [Long] said, "I want to introduce to you the man
I have selected to serve under me as Lieutenant Governor during my next term of
office -- a fine Frenchmun, a fine Catholic, the father of twenty-three children,
Mr. Oscar Guidry." . . .
Mr. Guidry . . . . appeared embarrassed, and he whispered rapidly to Uncle
"Oscar says he has only fourteen children," the Governor announced. "But
that's a good beginnin'."
Mr. Guidry whispered again, agitated, and Earl said, "But he is a
member of a family of twenty-three brothers and sisters."
-- pages 98-99
Of course, Earl will live forever in the Rooster Hall of Fame because
of his affair with stripper Blaze Starr. He never cared what the public thought
because much of Louisiana was then in the process of going from paper ballot to
voting machines and, as Earl wisely pointed out, "If I have da raight
commissioners I can make dem machines play 'Home Sweet Home.' "
But the governor had such a case of the hots for Starr that when
Charles DeGaulle visited the state, Earl, sitting in the lead car of the parade
honoring the French president, ordered the driver to swing down Bourbon Street.
It wasn't the official route; Earl just wanted to bring the general past the
Sho-Bar so Blaze could get a peek at history. Can you imagine what the
pencil-pushers and green eyeshade set at "The Vault" would do with a governor
Around here, people got squeamish during Eddie King's last few days in office.
Then, you might remember, anybody wearing corduroy pants with whales on them
got one thing or another from the governor before he took the big walk.
But on Uncle Earl's last night as governor of Louisiana, he invited every
stripper from the Sho-Bar to a big blowout at the mansion. With his help and
encouragement, the party-goers stripped the house of silverware, glasses and
all china. Then, with the radio playing "You Ain't Nothin' but a Hound Dog,"
Blaze Starr took it all off as Uncle Earl Long shouted to the assembled crowd,
"Last strip at the governor's mansion."
Let's see Mike Dukakis match that.
Da voting machines won't hold me up," he [Long] said. "If I
have da raight commissioners, I can make dem machines play 'Home
Sweet Home.' "
-- page 136