Funeral of iconic artist Chris Owens draws crowds on Sunday: ‘She always seemed immortal’ | News
Some stars fade with age, but Chris Owens’ light never faded, say those who knew him.
On stage and in everyday life, mourners for the famous New Orleans entertainer said she appreciates her connection to her many fans. The tall brunette, who for decades wowed crowds at her Bourbon Street club, was laid to rest in Metairie on Sunday after succumbing to a heart attack last week. She was 89 years old.
Dozens of people flocked to the Garden of Memories Funeral Home and Cemetery in Metairie to get one last look at the show’s iconic woman. Owens was dressed in the white and lavender costume she would have worn at next week’s French Quarter Easter Parade which she presided over.
“We’re sending her out like the little Barbie doll she was,” said Kitsy Adams, her longtime manager.
Owens’ energetic Las Vegas-style performance was a constant in the city’s entertainment district where she performed, attracting residents and tourists alike.
Owens was born Christine Shaw in West Texas and moved to New Orleans in the 1950s when she was in her early twenties. Soon after, she met Sol Owens, a well-known car dealership, who purchased what became known as Club 809 at the corner of Bourbon and St. Louis streets.
At the club, Chris Owens – fiery and statuesque – regaled the audience with various song and dance routines, spanning different musical genres and dance styles.
“You would never believe someone could move like that,” said Shelly Winters, a close friend of Owens who first met her in the early 1990s after being crowned Miss Gretna and competing in the Easter parade.
When Sol Owens died in 1979, Chris took over and maintained his solo show until pandemic restrictions halted live performances last year.
The allure of his legend drew close friends, associates and admirers to the public on Sunday.
“I remember being this little kid and looking at the Chris Owens posters (at the airport). To me, she was simply the most beautiful woman I had ever seen,” said Gloria Mancada from New Orleans. Unfortunately, Mancada never got to see the act in person.
“I’ve seen videos and things like that,” she said. “And I knew she was getting old, but to me she always seemed immortal. You always think it’s time so you put it off.
A dynamo on stage, some say Owens was more than she seemed. Her larger-than-life stage performance gave way to a caring person in real life.
That’s what Kevin Edwards discovered when he started working at the club in the 1980s, first as a waiter and then on stage alongside Owens.
“It was interesting to work with Chris, to get on stage with her. It kind of overcame the fear of being on stage for me,” said Edwards, who was a DJ at the time.
Being close to Owens meant a front row seat for a revolving door of local dignitaries who would frequent the club, and occasional celebrities like actor Steven Seagal, he said. The shows were 45 minutes or more of non-stop adrenaline, he said.
“It was electrified – it really was,” said Kevin Edwards, who played alongside Owens for a time. “They say her age, but with the energy she had, you would never think that.”
Even in death, Chris Owens — hair, makeup, and character — looked radiant.
“Looks like she’s about to put on a show,” Edwards said. “Looks like she’s ready to take the stage.”