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Signs of life emerge in French quarter as bars, cabaret reopen

NEW ORLEANS—Let the faint of heart worry about Hurricane Rita. Saint Jones just wants the power back on so he can give all the men roaming Bourbon Street what he says they want to see: naked women.

"Military. Press. Firemen. Policemen. Just men in general," said Jones, manager of the shuttered Big Daddy's Topless/Bottomless cabaret in the French Quarter. "Men want women. What do you think guys are going to spend their money on?"

Known for its booze, jazz and topless bars, the French Quarter is slowly coming back to life, even as city officials urge people to evacuate in case Hurricane Rita, brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, adds more grief and devastation to New Orleans.

A handful of bars, souvenir shops and at least one topless cabaret have begun to open their doors as electricity returns, block by block. The word "OPEN" was hand-painted on the boarded-up windows of Deja Vu Showgirls, signaling that the club had power and dancers at the ready.

"We opened up for all the people helping us out, to show them a good time," said Brent Ardenaux, manager of Deja Vu. He said the club, offering half-priced drinks, was filled to the brim Monday night with Hurricane Katrina relief workers.

"We were slam-packed," Ardenaux said. "We were standing room only for a while."

Minutes after he spoke, as if on cue, two men came by Deja Vu to ask when the bar would open Tuesday night.

Jones, a couple of blocks down Bourbon Street, has no doubt that Big Daddy's, too, will do a brisk business if he can get his electricity back on. The club is best known for the pair of mannequin legs, in fishnet and high heels, that swings in and out of the front window. Jones can't open yet, but he fired up a portable generator to keep those legs moving.

"It's kind of like a symbol. If the legs are swinging, it's like Bourbon Street is opening back up," Jones said. "Everybody comes to Bourbon Street looking for those legs."

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(Root reports for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTO (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): WEA-KATRINA-TOPLESS

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