Built in the early 1970s, Mason’s Las Vegas Strip was a popular, upscale entertainment complex that catered to Black New Orleanians and tourists alike. It consisted of five different clubs/music venues, a coffee shop, and a motel. The clubs included the V. I. P. Sportsman’s Hall of Fame, the Flying Fox (featuring disco with Big Daddy Kojak), the Mardi Gras Lounge, and the South Claiborne Street Car.
The posh Mardi Gras Lounge was a jazz club that regularly featured saxophonist Alvin “Red” Tyler (whose day job was liquor salesman) and vocalist Germaine Bazzle (who taught music at Xavier Prep). Early R&B singer Joe August, known as Mr. Google Eyes or Mr. G, sang and emceed at the Strip for years. National acts like William Bell and Joe Tex occasionally were featured as well.
The cover charge at the more blue-collar Street Car was seven cents — the old streetcar fare. The bar regularly featured Ironing Board Sam — aka the Eighth Wonder of the World — and drummer Kerry Brown. Sam’s story has been told many times; just let it be said he once performed submerged in a 1,500-gallon glass tank at the Jazz and Heritage Festival (and Brown has backed him with his drumsticks lit on fire).
The Strip was owned and operated by Louis C. Mason, a dapper Creole gentleman with mutton-chop sideburns whose photo often graced The Louisiana Weekly’s society page. The Strip’s demise came in the early 1980s when it was discovered that the owner was procuring stolen New Orleans School Board commodities and preparing meals in his restaurant with them. The city and federal authorities frowned on this, stripping Mason of his liquor licenses and locking him up for a time.
The clubs were demolished in the late ’80s, and the lots remain vacant. However, the hotel, coffee shop, and colorful marquee still stand under the original owner’s name. In the wake of the flood of 2005, it was a temporary home for transient laborers who flocked to New Orleans to find work in the city’s rebuilding.