How's Bayou? Puttin' on the Dog
Over the years, Madewood has welcomed scores of celebrities -- a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and his wife, an astronaut or two, phalanxes of Frenchmen sporting Legion d'Honneur patches on their blue blazers and Brad Pitt.
During the filming of Interview with the Vampire at Oak Alley plantation, Pitt rented a room in the Charlet House -- an 1822 riverboat captain's house I'd moved to Madewood -- to relax, study lines and sleep during the day before returning to the nighttime filming.
At the time, we had no idea who he was; female staff members were sorely disappointed that he wasn't Tom Cruise, star of the film.
As Pitt's star rose, we decided to name the two-room unit The Brad Pitt Suite in his honor. A discreet brass plaque near the bed glistens "Brad Pitt Slept Here," and a huge poster of the star in "Legends of the Fall" greets guests when they open the closet door.
We've received a couple of e-mails chastising us for naming a suite after the man who dumped that cute little Jennifer Aniston; but the majority have come from husbands requesting the suite because their wives don't want any room at Madewood except the one that Brad Pitt slept in.
We're great fans of his and all that he's done for New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina -- and Brad, if you read this, we want you and Angelina to be our guests in your suite. But, truth be told, we loved Jen, too; and after one of the tabloids branded him a dog for what he did to her, I decided to make the Brad Pitt Suite our pet-friendly room.
This worked well for the Times-Picayune staffers who lived with us at Madewood the six weeks following Katrina and drove into Baton Rouge daily to turn out the paper.
The first writer had two corgis, who barked most of the day in a lively duet that sounded like a canine version of God Save the Queen.
The next writer had an ancient dachshund that spent the day sleeping, except for the day he broke free and came charging down the long front staircase of the Charlet House and headed for the highway.
As he barreled down the patio, I reached out to grab him, afraid that he might make it to the highway. He sank his teeth into my wrist, and nothing I could do would unlock his jaw. Finally I twirled him around until he flew off into the grass for a soft landing. Grabbing a blanket, I wrestled the demon canine into submission and returned him to captivity.
Then I headed to Thibodaux General, where I got a tetanus shot, stitches and a hefty bandage.
I was on the screen porch that night when the writer walked up, dachshund under arm, and sighed, "Poor baby, he's so old . . . lost all his teeth."
"Lost all his teeth?" I thought as I slipped the bandaged wrist behind my back. "What does he do? Drop in dentures before he chomps down on someone like me?"
I can't remember if I ever told her what happened. With my de-facto training in guest relations, I didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable.
This past weekend, the worlds of celebrities and dogs merged at Madewood, when Max, a huge white wonder poodle who starred in an Intercontinental Hotel print ad, moved into the Brad Pitt Suite.
We usually have champagne and flowers in a suite when a celebrity arrives, but we pondered what we should have waiting for Max. The postman squeaky toy that (we wouldn't tell him, of course) my canine assistant, Clio, had rejected? A thick, juicy steak?
We decided just to be extra nice to his guardian, Lynda Kass, of Hot Springs, Ark., who had e-mailed us impressive things about Max when she requested a reservation:
"My Max is a highly trained, sophisticated Standard Poodle. Photos attached of his tour of Garvan Woodland Gardens; his stay at the Doubletree in Tulsa, Ok.; and an ad he was in for the Intercontinental in Atlanta, Georgia."
In anticipation of his arrival, I ramped up my host-alertness level to orange, as large poodles always turn Clio into a Whirling Dervish of anxiety. With no idea of how tiny she is, she rushes toward the huge interloper, barking frantically as she defends her territory.
And what about poor 16-year old blind-and-nearly-deaf Millie Dog, who no doubt would just stroll up under the poodle -- and, with her sense of smell heightened in the wake of her other deficiencies, start moaning as she tried to sniff out an exit through Max's fluffy legs?
To my great relief, Angie, my assistant, reported that Clio, apparently aware of Max's status as celebrity guest at Madewood, deftly executed the five-second-sniff welcome and went on her way. Millie Dog steered clear of the whole situation, opting to continue sleeping.
The last I heard, Max was busy playing with his favorite ball.
My father, who worshipped his silver-gray miniature poodle, Morton, always claimed he preferred dogs to humans.
If Max is any indication, celebrity dogs are the clear winners.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.