Last Laugh Float
Before she did the Swamptown Shuffle off this mortal coil, Reese Phillips lived by two adages, “It’s all Theater” and “Nothing is sacred,” the conflation of which could not have been more exquisitely played out than when Mr. Y. Parker Pharr escorts her parents, the stone-faced Mr. & Mrs. Chaffe McCall Bruns Toler Phillips IV (Elsbeth, but she goes by “Muffin”), and their son Prieur (goes by “Prieur”) to view her body at Bultman Funeral Home[i] on St. Charles Avenue.
Mr. Pharr, who’s been in the funeral business for fifty-two years, is of the school of mortuary deportment favoring the slightly bowed posture and tone of voice that evokes the stickiness of axle grease. He lays a soft, age-spotted hand on Muffin’s forearm and oozes, “Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, I’m so sorry, so very, very sorry. Such a tragedy.”
[i] Once owned by patrons of the arts, Johann Bultman (descendent of the original founder Fritz Bultman) and his wife Bethany Ewald Bultman, this august establishment has been in business since 1883 and is the preferred mortuary for the elite. Tennessee Williams set his play, Suddenly Last Summer, there, and such notables as Confederate President Jefferson Davis, actress Jayne Mansfield and poet Stan Rice (husband of Anne) once lay in state in the parlors. In 2008 the beautiful interior was desecrated with lowered ceilings and corporate blandness when it was converted to a Border’s bookstore—which, ironically kicked the bucket in 2011. It was the only mortuary to have a jazz funeral for its demise. Search Terms: Developer Lewis Stirling turns storied New Orleans funeral home into a Borders bookstore.