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Al COPELAND - The Chicken King has left the building.

Old 12-24-2015, 10:21 PM
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Post Al COPELAND - The Chicken King has left the building.

By Chris Rose
Columnist

There were many terms applied to the larger-than-life character named Al Copeland: Larger than life, for instance. Over the top. Flamboyant. Ostentatious. In your face. Outlandish. A dreamer. A doer. A hustler. And, perhaps more than anything else: one of a kind.

There is only one term that did not apply, that he did not understand, that he would not abide: Moderation.

Copeland's life was marked by a carnival of controversy, wild schemes, wild rides, bright lights, fast cars and faster women. A New Orleans life. An American life. A never-say-die kind of life.

Until, well ... he died.

In Al Copeland style, refusing to go gently into the good night, he jetted off to Germany in recent weeks to find a cure for a rare form of cancer. Unlike most of the ambitious plans he hatched over the past several decades, this one didn't materialize. Thus, his epitaph will read that he only met two nemeses in this material world that he could not defeat: cancer and divorce lawyers.

There's that old quote about how most men live lives of quiet desperation. Not Al. He lived a life of very loud desperation. Desperate to be noticed. Desperate to go fast. Desperate to be rich. Desperate to be powerful. Desperate to make a difference. Desperate to be remembered.

By most measures, and certainly by his own yardstick, Copeland was an enormous success, a classic rags-to-riches story, a guy who simply wouldn't quit.

There's no question that Copeland's critics matched his admirers in mass and volume. But his failures were all born of the same confidence -- or was it hubris? And does it matter? -- that led to his many accomplishments and achievements.

It's impossible not to admire the guy, what he did, how he did it and who he made himself to be. That song "My Way"? Yeah, that was his song. Except he was no Sinatra. He was our Elvis.

And as for Graceland ... well. I remember the first Christmas after Katrina. It was a tough season all over. Hard times in a dark city.

My kids and I were driving around town to see what Christmas lights we could find. Naturally, we ended up at Copeland's house. It was as it always was. A fairy tale. Over the top. The Great Escape.

There was a sign in front of the house that year. It was signed by Copeland and it had an inscription about how it was more important than ever before that he put on a show for the children of the community. It had words like "sacrifice" and "spirit" and "gratitude" and all the right notes.

I cried when I read it. I cried a lot back then.

I wrote the inscription down but have long since misplaced it. I wish I still had it. I remember reading it and thinking: God bless this guy. He didn't have to do this. It was an easy time to opt out. Many did. But he didn't. Because it mattered. Because it's what Al Copeland set out to do: to set his house, the city, the world, his life ablaze.

My kids dug this guy. And they didn't even know who he was, what his name was. And now they do.

I told my daughter on Monday about Copeland dying and she said to me what I imagine a lot of local kids are saying to their parents this week: "Will we get to go see his house anymore?"

I realized it was like telling a kid that Santa Claus was dead.

"That's all right, daddy," she said to me. She can always tell when I'm getting choked up. Then: "He was a great man."

I said, "He made people smile."

My daughter, she hugged me.

Funny, shedding a tear over Al Copeland. I reckon after the many times I wrote about his lustful foibles in this newspaper over the past two decades -- he was an easy target for a newspaper columnist, to be sure -- that he would find that more than ironic.

But I'm a big fan of over-the-top. A big fan of celebration. A big fan of lust for life. A big fan of Big Fun.

Copeland epitomized these things. He was one more guy who put his life on display for all to see, another example of talking too much, living too large and laughing too loud -- those New Orleans attributes that sometimes make folks elsewhere a little leery of this place.

He made a difference. He was impossible to miss. He will be equally impossible not to miss.

Merry Christmas, Al, wherever you are.

The Chicken King has left the building.

Last edited by jusabum; 12-24-2015 at 10:24 PM.
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Old 12-24-2015, 10:42 PM
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Wow He always shared His success. I was only a safety boat but wow I was more to him. I thank you Al Copeland. You let my Daughter have the run of the Cajun Princess an she will never forget this. God Bless.
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Old 12-25-2015, 04:44 AM
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Great Epitaph, Thank You and Merry Christmas.
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Old 12-25-2015, 08:34 AM
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Never met Al Copeland Sr. but read many stories about him and his Parties at Key West. One of the Legends of Offshore Powerboat Racing for sure. Al Copeland Sr., you will not be forgotten by this generation. RIP. Merry Christmas to all.
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Old 12-25-2015, 12:46 PM
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I was fortunate enough to be around him back then.... very generous individual who shared his love for offshore and gave back in many ways, especially his own community. When he showed up to race, it was like a Toy Show for adults....Hot Rod Lincoln, Chopper, Bikes, 2-4 race boats and more. A legit Offshore Racer who gave it his "all" and then some!
He is missed by those of us who benefitted from his innovative ways.
RIP Big Al!
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Old 12-25-2015, 02:27 PM
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RIP, Al. I never met you but would have loved to sit down and talk fast boats with you.

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