One night, a decade or so ago, the phone rang around 3am. The caller knew I was still up (as I usually am) because he had called many times
before at that hour. The voice said: “ Hey Great Pooh-Bah… did you know that the word “nifty” is coming back. Ain’t gonna date me any more.
It’s coming back and I’m coming back. I’m gonna stop zinging around in this Nawlins swamp and head for D.C. They need me there, yeah and my Tao. I’m gonna
tell little George about my father… hey did you know he was in the Merchant Marine? Did you know I wasn’t? How are you mi amigo?” The rest was nearly an hour of
shared quips, and stories, jokes and critiques… and a lot of laughter. It was part of a stream of contact that included dozens of phone calls and hundreds of emails.
All with Steve EsquerrÃ©.
Steve was a Boulevardier, and a FlÃ¢neur in the “Big Easy”, his beloved New Orleans. He had a wonderful sense of humor and a zest for life, the cultures of the world and… baseball! A passionata passion for baseball. He once wrote: “Baseball imitates life or vice versa, forget about the vice.” He was also an inveterate world-traveler always fascinated by new sights and sounds and the differences and sameness of people.
Although he always wrote for his own enjoyment, late in his life he began to take it seriously. A few years prior, he started a column in the
then Â¿QuÃ© Pasa? Section of Scene4, with his wife and lover of 42 years, Lucille. It was a shaky start that grew into a strong monthly presence and developed a hefty
following. It became a must-read in the New Orleans scene and often a controversial one. Along with this, he fell in love with the theatre. He only wrote three
plays and two screenplays. His play,OH… THAT LIGHT!, had a series of performances and was under consideration for a true premiere in America-enamored, baseball-crazy Japan.
This is how he portrayed the play in vintage EsquerrÃ©:
“Out-of-body, from above, incredulously, Walter Esquerre witnesses his final moments on Earth. He 'awakens’ in a dark
tunnel. A LIGHT glows in the distance. The ever-lurking manCHILD in him comes out even now (humor/immaturity), ALL THE BETTER to avoid dealing with his life’s failing
trials and tribulations. He’s drawn to it/reflects briefly upon his wasted life/wants to return/gets over that. Carries on in THE tunnel: Sings/Dances/
Imitates/Impersonates/Flies. Repertoire includes: Ethel Merman, Sinatra, Fats Domino, James Brown, Tommy Tune (Tommy Tune?!), James, Cagney, Michael Jackson, Lou Costello, and
Peter Pan. Initially, he believes an odor is from Hell. He does Costello’s, “I’ve been a baaaad boy”. But, it’s cigar smoke! Aromatherapy/Chicken
Soup for the soul. He also smells popcorn; as does the audience. [as PLAY continues, vendors pass out free popcorn]. Three angels greet him donned in Baseball uniforms (unawares,
so is Esquerre.) One is gay: chic, (no ready-to-wear rack stuff for him, he insists) matching accessories, hand-fan; one talks Brooklynese; one is a yuppie. They have tiny,
rookie-wings. The LIGHT: an illuminated Baseball Field with lots of people (in stands, behind FRO fence is Purgatory, and players on field, vendors). He is elated. The first thing
you do in Heaven is go to a Baseball game! GO to the game? Oh no, the angels say. He will be the Pitcher. It’s the Home Plate Ump’s idea. Good GOD …
it’s GOD!!! “
Steve’s writing is deceptively awkward at times and seemingly clichÃ©-ridden. “Zany-madcap," he called it. Deceptive because
with an audience his writing is hilariously provocative, often delightfully sinister, and it lingers in the memory. His forte is the “pirouette,”. a “pirouetting
for words” which is the title of one of his last columns.
On March 19, 2004, Steve EsquerrÃ© left us after a long illness. His family and friends miss him deeply. So do I.
A note (or “gumbo-grease” as Steve called it): When he stopped, he was working on a new hip-hop-rap play, Don’t Talk For Me. Said the author about this work:
“Brother Steve may have taken his leave.”
Look for him in the Archives. He’s there.