THE ICON: Al Copeland
THE LEGACY: Even in a city filled with colorful characters, fried-chicken magnate Al Copeland stands out as a true original. His multi-million-dollar Popeyes chicken empire, which now spans the globe, is easily his most conspicuous legacy. (Who, after all, could imagine Carnival without Popeyes? Who would even want to?) But Copeland’s larger-than-life personality and love of life left an equally indelible mark on New Orleans. Whether he was racing his speedboats in Lake Pontchartrain, delighting the city with his annual Christmas lights, or feuding with author and fellow New Orleanian Anne Rice, Copeland was an often garish but never apologetic embodiment of the city that produced him — and one that was decidedly more spicy than mild.
THE ARTIST: Gabriel Flores, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “What Al Copeland is, is what everybody wants to be. He’s young, he’s good-looking, he’s flamboyant, he’s got a lot of power and he’s extremely rich. He’s the American dream. People who don’t like him, they can’t accept that he is what they want to be.” — Copeland confidante Andrew Jaeger, in a 1985 interview with The Times-Picayune