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ENJOY THE SUGAR BOWL IN NEW ORLEANS ...
BUT BRING THIS AD !
If you get in trouble, we can help you out !
If you need a lawyer while in New Orleans, call us.
Guy Lillian * Dennis Dolbear
Attorneys at Law * (504)821-2362 / (504)831-9271
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Let me explain a brouhaha which made my friend Dennis Dolbear and I nationally famous -- briefly, I hope -- at the end of 1996. It was originally my idea: advertise in the home papers of tourists soon to visit New Orleans, some of whom would be bound to get in trouble on the streets of the Crescent City, and need lawyers.
It only makes sense. People flock to New Orleans for events like the Sugar Bowl and Mardi Gras looking for a Good Time. Such people sometimes take their quest for Fun a bit far, and run afoul of the constabulary. To put it bluntly, they get arrested.
They need lawyers. Strangely enough, I need something too. Money. When I was a boy, all life used to begin with play. Now all life begins with work, for the paying of bills is the root of all evil. How -- to quote Star Trek -- could the needs of the many (the desperate tourists) be reconciled with the needs of the few (me)?
You hustle. Central Lock-Up is the facility where new arrestees are booked and bonded. The hungry lawyer meanders through the door, casting his eye about for civilians with a desperate, deserted set to their countenances. To the trained eye such expressions connote one thing: "My boyfriend's been arrested and I don't know what to do!"
It happens all the time, of course. Her boyfriend may have done nothing more deadly than imbibe to excess, and/or fail to find proper facilities for the sanitary disposal thereof ... but our constabulary is not known for turning a blind eye to such transgressions. He ends up in handcuffs and she in hysterics. What does she do? Her usual course is to pay a bond at Central Lock-Up -- about $500 for the usual minor malfeasance. The boyfriend is released after a few hours and given a time to appear in Municipal Court. He either pleads Not Guilty on that occasion and receives a trial date, or Guilty and receives part of his bond back, the rest being kept as a fine. (Or blows the whole thing off and skips town, forfeiting the entire bond.)
Or. She can hire me. In that case I call Dennis Dolbear, who calls his contact with clout (hereafter known as 'Our Man'), who calls the jail and gets the boyfriend paroled. This means he is released without bond. The money which would have gone to the bond goes, instead, to me. In exchange, he gets a lawyer to stand up for him at his arraignment, get his trial date, and fight the forces of oppression. Actually, since we only dun our clients to the tune of $250, they save half their money -- and get legal representation, to boot. A better bargain, really. The trouble is getting people to realize it. So, step two is invoked: you advertise.
This is ethical. There's nothing wrong with lawyers advertising as long as they adhere to certain standards promulgated by the Bar Association. A lawyer can't guarantee results, for instance, or outside of a few specific disciplines proclaim himself a 'specialist'. There are lawyers who push the envelope and tout themselves like toothpaste, but when I advanced the idea to Dennis that we try to pick up some business from the Sugar Bowl, and he gave his enthusiastic okay, I vowed to cling to the canons and say nothing iniquitous. When I wrote the ad, I called the Louisiana Bar Association to clear the wording. The decree of the Liaison for Lawyer Advertising was abrupt and unequivocal: "Run it!"
Next question: Run it where?
I found the names of the student newspapers at the two schools competing in the Sugar Bowl football game, Florida State University and the University of Florida, and called `em up. I'd missed the deadlines for each school's final papers of the semester, but Tallahassee had another outlet, The Florida Flambeau. A nice kid named Carlos assured me that they had available space, so I faxed them the above, and they ran it, and all Hell broke loose.
The phone hurled itself off the hook... but not with clients. With media. Apparently advertising in out-of-town newspapers was such a unique and original idea that my little amateur ad was news. The calls came roaring in from Florida radio stations and Florida newspapers. All had similar questions: Why are you doing this? "Make money and serve the public." No use denying the former, and it didn't hurt to schmooze the shmucks with the latter. Why didn't you advertise in Gainesville papers? As if we were stating that only FSU students ran the risk of getting busted. "Missed the deadline." Will you do this again? "If we make some money, we'll try it again for Mardi Gras... and saturate Southern colleges."
The tone of all the interviews was also similar, and not good. I sensed offense. Part of it was the usual, tedious loathing for our profession: lawyers being slimy shysters, how dare such vermin try to make money off innocent, pristine, and guiltless college kids? I began to worry a little. That worry cascaded into dizzying panic when the call arrived from WDSU-TV, the local NBC affiliate. They wanted an interview.
Dennis arranged for the TV station to sit us down in a downtown office where, presumably, we'd look lawyerly. Harried from a busy end-of-the-year work day, and a run of several blocks from the nearest parking spot, I arrived to find him smiling with an exquisite young black girl -- originally from Dallas, which befitted her look of money -- and a cameraman. They sat us down, set us up, and let us talk.
I watched the broadcast through a mesh of fingers, and I must say that Dennis looked good on tape. Me, I appeared -- here it comes -- thoroughly fubbo*, though I don't know how anyone could tell that I'm broke just by looking. We sounded okay, although I could have garroted Dolbear when the girl asked what crimes we anticipated, and he proudly answered, "Public urination."
Then Sports Illustrated called.
The guy asked all the standard questions and got all the standard replies (with a request on the side for more stories about Jimmy Connors, my sports idol). When I scored the issue and scanned the squib in "Sportstalk," I didn't care for its tone; it mentioned Shakespeare's line about 'killing all the lawyers' and was headlined "Ill Legal Pitch." Well, SI never treated Connors right, either. (My cousin Johnny read it and called from California, pretending to be an arrestee from Florida State. Nice try, chum; I recognized the voice.) But... Sports Illustrated! How many lawyers who have to scrimp and save to buy an issue of SI end up in it?!?
It was all too much. Gratefully I fled north for the holidays. Safe at my mother's house in Buffalo, the only fallout was welcome: a call from Southern trufan George Inzer, who had read the national feed after our first radio interview. He said they were calling us 'smart lawyers'. Now that I could handle!
As `96 waned and the Sugar Bowl approached, I returned home. Waiting was a letter from a Florida fan (no return address), its upshot that true Gators and `Noles aficionados would save their money to bribe cops, not pay shysters. Mentally wishing the writer much opportunity to explore this possibility, I set up a strong communications link with Dolbear (that is, I kept my phone by my side) and prepared for New Year's Eve.
The phone melted. Call after call came in. Three former clients asked for loans. My neighbor Cindy called twice to tell me what a great time she was having at her boyfriend's sister's party. However, no students, jailed or otherwise, bothered me.
I was feeling pretty glum about the silence, but New Year's Eve fell on Tuesday and the Sugar Bowl itself wasn't until Thursday. We had another night of mad French Quarter revelry to look forward to... with plenty more chances for
The local tube claimed there had been only five arrests in the Quarter on New Year's Eve. Hard to believe! True, the city had borrowed police from all over this part of the state and the Vieux Carre was literally crawling with cops. But to me that meant more busts, not fewer... so that low figure sounded like public relations bushwah to me. I resolved to forget about the phone and keep a personal eye on Central Lock Up, where arrestees would be brought. Good move.
I was there at seven o'clock the next morning. Bead-bedecked college kids covered the place, dejected, exhausted, bleary, worried. Without seeming to pounce (since Bar Association rules forbid lawyers from approaching potential clients for work**) I spoke to several. Most were washouts -- they'd already paid the bond and would face the judge without lawyerly representation. Rotsa ruck. But one sad-faced trio...
Like them, their 'downed bro' was a member of the FSU marching band. He had been caught using informal bathroom facilities in and upon the streets of the French Quarter. After his arrest for this 'lewd conduct', the lad was frisked and lo, a pipeful of marijuana was found. "We can get him out," I told the kids. "Here's my card." Still glum, they taxied off. A couple of hours later, they called. "Here's our friend's father's 800 number," they said. "He wants you to call him."
Daddy was an Orlando pharmacist, a solid citizen who, more than anything, wanted his boy to march in the Sugar Bowl. He was understanding of the occasional imbecilities of youth, and smart enough to realize the value of an attorney when you've been thrown in jail. He wired the fee to my bank and DD and I rushed to the courthouse, in search of a judge. At three o'clock in the afternoon on January 2nd, you can imagine how many still thronged the halls of justice. But we found one, and spilled the sad story of a wayward boy losing the chance of a trombonist's lifetime... and he made the call.
Dennis and I returned to CLU to wait for the kid's release. We didn't have to do this. But I'd promised Pops that I'd do everything possible to get Junior to the game, which meant, if the need arose, hauling him there from jail. So we sat and sat and sat, and while we sat picked up two other cases. One involved a beautiful young lady from Mississippi and her boyfriend, busted for fighting with a butt-squeezing local; the girl had been thrown down, slugged, tit-grabbed and called filthy names. By the cop! No no no no. I'd have something to say about that!
Anyway, the tinkling trombonist was eventually freed, and DD and I putt-putted him to his hotel. He got to toodle his horn in the Big Game and watch his team get porked, 52-20. I told his story in our second WDSU interview... and gamely autographed an issue of Sports Illustrated for another lawyer, who allowed that he, too, might start spending holiday nights hanging around Central Lock Up. Just what we needed: competition,with Mardi Gras just around the bend.
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Actually, it turned out to be a good Mardi Gras, despite my ambition to make money from it, and despite a week of lou'ring clouds and temperatures fit for chilblains. Carnival, it seems, continues to conquer all.
Not like it used to, of course. Not like the early years, when Carnival was new to me and catching every bead had the success of the season riding on it, and every Rex doubloon was a valued treasure instead of a meaningless disc of anodized aluminum. Or when Dennis' immortal GrasCon was in swing, and a glut of partying maniacs would descend onto Nawlins, shouts of "EH-pic!" echoing, and the call of this town to the prodigal grew stronger and stronger... No, not like those days, for one has since become jaded with the repetitive parades, and the jostling, howling crowds, and the interminable waits, and the gawdawful traffic. Now, none of Our People visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras (fans come to Jazz Fest, if they come at all), and the krewe that used to coalesce around fandom in this town has drifted along differing (and diverging) paths. Now, Mardi Gras is mostly a bore, a bitter reminder of the lost joys of youth... and a way to make extra money grubbing behind the demands of my exalted and squalid profession. Everything has changed with the years, practically none of it for the better.
What was good about this Gras? Well, for one thing, I did make some money. Not a lot, not the tons that could have been collected, but enough to pay the odd bill or two for the month, which I'm old enough to regard as a triumph.
For Mardi Gras I decided to place an ad in the local fishwrapper. This act was called into question when the ad came out not on the eve of Mardi Gras' big weekend, but at the very start of Carnival, two weeks before. Porked again.
Carnival began. The early parades rolled. The minor krewes held their balls (so to speak). I ignored all. Not until the weekend before Fat Tuesday would the big parades hit the asphalt and the cops really get crackin'. Indeed, t'was on the afternoon before Bacchus, among Carnival's biggest and best parades, that I struck what gold there was to be struck.
Outside the gates to CLU a group of tourists stood, confused, upset, concerned, baffled... ripe for plucking. I sashayed up. They blubbered forth wonderful stories. You've heard what women do here for Mardi Gras beads?*** Men can act with similar foolishness. One lady -- very handsome gal in her late forties, wearing a parka with a flag on it -- had seen her paramour hauled off by the gendarmes after he whipped out his schween in front of Galatoire's, one of the finest restaurants in this (or any other) city. Nuns were supping in the front window! She asked Dolbear -- whom I quickly summoned -- a zillion questions, but finally came up with the loot. The other folks told a more poignant tale.
The elder of the two was named Alison, and the younger was her daughter, although I could barely believe it. Alison possessed the smooth countenance of nubile youth but the bearing of adult care. That morning, on sheerest whim, she had joined her cute daughter and her daughter's boyfriend, and driven down from Biloxi, Mississippi. They'd had a fabulous day carousing in the French Quarter. And then some schmuck had put a move on the daughter in the French Quarter. The boyfriend had objected and naturally, it was him who had ended up behind bars.
In her own words, Alison had brought nothing but cigarettes. No money. No checkbook. No driver's license. No way to rescue anyone from jail. Despair! Despair! Alison was literally shivering with anxiety.
No money? No problem! Smitten to my idiot wits, I first offered to drive Alison -- and her daughter, if she insisted on coming -- home to Biloxi to pick up her checkbook. What's a three-hour jaunt to Mississippi and back on the busiest day of the season? For once saner, Dennis overruled me, and simply assured Alison that she could pay us later. The beautiful lady smiled, my heart split like a melon, and off went Dolbear to call Our Man, the elected official who would parole the miscreants out of jail.
He wasn't home.
Not to worry, Dennis assured me. Our Man is just out at the Bacchus parade. He'll call his answering machine anytime now, hear DD's entreaties, and free our clients. We went to dinner. DD kept his beeper by his ear. Nothing.
Not to worry, Dennis told me. Our Man is at a party, no doubt, and will call as soon as he gets home. Which will be any time now. We stared at the beeper. Nothing. We drove by Our Man's uptown house. It was as dark as the tomb. Had this ever happened before? No.
Now worry, Dennis said.
I did my best to reassure our clients, who were still at CLU, staring at the door, waiting for their friends to be freed. Undoubtedly our contact is... delayed. Not to worry, I smiled... through clenched teeth. Alison gazed up at me with concern softened by limitless faith. My heart oozed out of my chest and dripped over my shoes. Oh, that she could think me untrue to my word. Dennis called and called. Our Man stayed gone. We called three judges, reaching none. They were also incommunicado.
I fled home and to bed. Twice during the night the other clients called to bitch about the long wait. I told them all that I knew, and somehow garnered enough sleep to have enough wit about me to know that it was good news when Dennis called at seven o'clock. "It's done," he reported. Seems Our Man had indeed been to a party and had indeed taken advantage of the Mardi Gras ambience and had indeed passed out. His first act upon staggering home had been to make our calls for us. Breathing a great sigh of relief, I dashed to CLU and reported same to our weary but comforted clients. In fact, I took Alison and her daughter to breakfast -- their first meal in twenty-four hours. I was doubly a hero.
Later, Dennis and I got to meet the felons who had put the ladies through such an ordeal -- a chubby, fortyish, bald-pated fellow and a skinny kid with a pierced ear. You, I told them, are lucky men. Not because they'd spent the night in jail, of course; but because they had such splendid people on their team. (Think about it. Say you were in a strange city and got arrested for an embarrassing offense. Who could you call? Who would ride to your rescue?)
So: were our experiments in advertising worthwhile? We didn't cull a single sou that could be distinctly traced to the advertisements... but we did get famous. Eve Ackerman, a fan friend who owns a radio station in Florida, told me that I'm still known as 'that New Orleans lawyer' to wags in Gainesville. For whatever that's worth, the ad was a triumph.
But I think I'd trade it for a kind word from Alison.
* fubbo: fat, ugly, bald, broke, old. C'est moi, I'm afraid.
** This rule is mainly designed to deter ambulance-chasing in civil cases, but also applies to criminal law. So what the hungry attorney must do is stand around, look lawyerish... and wait for the client to bite his lure. *ahem*
*** Ed. Note: The reader is referred to the photospread in Challenger #6, available from the writer of this article.
- - - - - - - - - -If being mentioned in Sports Illustrated was surreal to Guy and Dennis, it was even more so to a friend of theirs, Janice Gelb, who wrote: "you have no idea how weird it was to casually thumb through an issue of Sports Illustrated only to find a squib on the ad Guy and Dennis put in The Florida Flambeau. If I had to bet on fans whose names might appear in SI one day, theirs would probably be last on the list!" Another friend of Guy's, R Laurraine Tutihasi, was not quite as impressed by his tale: "Guy's story about his lawyering does not change my opinion of lawyers." Finally, David Bratman took Guy's article as proof of a fannish maxim when he wrote that "It's true: all knowledge is contained in fanzines, including how to find a lawyer when you're in the New Orleans lockup."
Mimosa 21 was published in December 1997, just a few months after we'd won our 4th Hugo Award in San Antonio, Texas. M21 had a "LoneStarCon" theme and featured a spectacular wrap-around scratchboard cover by Julia Morgan-Scott which inspired Pamela Boal to pay compliment: "What a marvelous cover! It has everything -- humour, good design, excellent drawing and reproduction."
A friendly presence at LSC was Forry Ackerman, who was regarded as a living fan legend. His article in M21 was about one of his favorite topics, the movies, and in particular, about two cinematic legends:
Mimosa 21 cover by Julia Morgan-Scott
All other illustrations by Charlie Williams