Everyone knows Louis Armstrong. Global celebrity. Louie. Satchmo. New Orleans' Favorite Son. Music icon. Revolutionized jazz. Reinvented the trumpet. Graced TIME magazine. King Zulu. Signed everything, “Red beans and ricely yours.”
New Orleanians recognize International House, the city’s first boutique hotel, for its Creative Ones, a fluctuating multi-media series honoring those underground “rebels with a cause” who have helped define the city and its culture with their enduring artistic contributions. Ruby Bridges, Nicola Tesla, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Audrey Hepburn, and Banksy are among the cultural icons the hotel’s event series has celebrated.
Now this August, International House will pay tribute to another local legend that needs no introduction: Louis Armstrong. The month-long salute will incorporate jazz music, classic art – and, most notably, the debut of a fashionable remake of Satchmo’s “Secret 9.”
While most know Armstrong for being “The Emperor of the Trumpet,” as Louisiana Weekly– the city’s formidable Afro-centric newspaper–once dubbed him, few realize that New Orleans’ favorite son was an avid baseball fan and player. In the early 1930s, Armstrong sponsored his own baseball team, composed of players who were all members of the Zulu Aid & Social Club. Formerly known as the Raggedy Nine, the Secret 9 was part of a countercultural baseball scene in New Orleans that boasted players that could have gone pro. In signature Armstrong style, the always en-point dandy decked out the Secret Nine players in the “finest, whitest uniforms ever seen on the sandlots of New Orleans.” (So noted a local sportswriter at the time.) The jerseys were in fact so stunningly pristine that they were said to have negatively impacted the Secret 9’s field play. The athletes were skittish to slide into a base or dive to make a catch for fear of dirtying their white jerseys.
For the month of August the front door and front desk team at the International House hotel will wear the jerseys, which read “Armstrong” in bold black letters across white, 100%-cotton classic baseball button-downs.
The story of the Secret 9 lives on through a handful of salvaged Louisiana Weekly articles from August 1931. They will be displayed in the hotel lobby through September 1. Louis Armstrong records will be in 24-hour rotation. And original Herman Leonard portraits of the New Orleans-born trumpeter-singer will adorn the lobby walls. The hotel’s bar, Loa, will concoct an Armstrong-themed libation–a riff on a Ramos’ Gin Fizz, the bon vivant’s favored New Orleans cocktail.
To purchase a limited-edition Armstrong baseball jersey
As Louis Armstrong invariably signed off:
"Red Beans and Ricely Yours…"