THE ICON: Chris Owens
THE LEGACY: Christine Shaw loved to dance, so she danced. She danced at the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blue Room. She danced at Havana’s famed Tropicana Club. She danced wherever there was good music. As much as she loved it, people seemed to love watching her dance more. So, her business-savvy husband, Sol Owens — whose name she would take, becoming Chris Owens — gave her a stage, opening a club on Bourbon Street in 1956 built around her Latin-fueled performances. (In a 1974 interview with The Times-Picayune, Owens proudly described it as “the only legitimate (Bourbon Street) act that didn’t include taking all my clothes off.”). She was an overnight sensation, drawing positive notices from as far away as New York and helping transform the French Quarter into an entertainment mecca. She’s been dancing ever since, too, a portrait of grace, business smarts and good times — and an essential part of New Orleans’ entertainment landscape.
THE ARTIST: Alexandra Kilburn
THE INSPIRATION: “We hereby nominate as the girl most likely to succeed one Chris Owens. … She is a regal, vivid and sensuous-looking brunette of undeniable beauty and grace. But the prime factor that has brought her to the attention of New York and Hollywood is a dynamic quality which, translated into the torrid Latin rhythms, suggests the throbbing power of a DC-6 warming up for the takeoff.” — Times-Picayune entertainment columnist Howard Jacobs, writing about Chris Owens in September 1956