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Blake Pontchartrain: The Puppy House on Bourbon Street

From a Puppy House to a Hunk Oasis

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Hey Blake,

In going through some of my deceased uncle's possessions, I found a photo that has created much discussion in the family. We know it is from the 1940s when my uncle was in the service but can't seem to recall anything about The Puppy House. Can you enlighten us?

—Jackie

Dear Jackie,

  The Puppy House was the name of a bar and nightclub at 228 Bourbon St. It did indeed operate in the 1940s, when your uncle would have visited and had his picture taken. Like many other clubs of that time, The Puppy House featured burlesque and striptease acts as well as live music.

  According to a 1975 column by Howard Jacobs in The Times-Picayune, The Puppy House actually was the second name for the club located at that spot. Owner Frank Ferrara opened a club there called The Circus in 1938. The name change must have come soon after, because a 1940 story in The New Orleans Item called it The Puppy House. By 1948, Ferrara had changed the name of the club to the Sho-Bar.

  He retired in 1958 and sold the Sho-Bar, though it remained a fixture on Bourbon Street for decades. Among performers who took the stage there were Cupcake and Candy Barr, Sally Rand with her "world famous fan dance," Lili St. Cyr and Rita Alexander, the striptease artist known as "the Champagne girl." The biggest star of all, Blaze Starr, even drew the attention of Louisiana Gov. Earl K. Long.

  In his book Bourbon Street: A History, Richard Campanella points out that Long's limousine could be seen parked outside the club several nights a week beginning in 1959. "That's where he fell head over heels in lust with the buxom Appalachian girl who went by the stage name Blaze Starr," Campanella writes. "The sensational story of the 63-year- old governor and the 23-year-old dancer helped make Long, Starr, Bourbon Street and Louisiana all the more delectably notorious to the national consciousness."

  In the 1980s, the Sho-Bar moved to the 300 block of Bourbon but has since closed. As for the original club in the 200 block, it was Deja Vu Showgirls for many years but is now Hunk Oasis, a club featuring male dancers.

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