Eugene Walter (1921–1998) of Mobile, Alabama was a novelist, a poet, a playwright, an actor, a costume designer, and a food writer, among myriad vocations and avocations. He had a deep love for the Mobile of his youth, which nurtured his creativity and informed much of his writing. He spent thirty years in Europe, acting in and translating films, hosting and carousing with artists, actors, and literati. Mobile called him home for the last chapter of his life. His surviving friends agree: Walter changed everyone he met. Twenty-one years after his death, why don’t more people know about him?
Sara Brooke Curtis is an award winning radio producer. Her work has aired on The Splendid Table, KCRW’s UnFictional, KCRW’s Good Food, CBC’s Love Me, BBC’s Short Cuts, among others. She lives in western Massachusetts and loves recording sounds of everyday life and producing sonic worlds for listeners to surrender to and delight in.
Sara Brooke Curtis thanks: Paul Burch, composer and performer of Trovatore: The Lives of Eugene Walter, the kind owners of Page & Palette bookstore in Fairhope Alabama, Jack Pendarvis, and Annemarie Anderson.Thanks to Katherine Clark for her incredible oral history of Eugene Walter: Milking the Moon: A Southerner’s Story of Life on This Planet which inspired the reporting of this story.Thanks to the Alabama State Archives and History. Special thanks to Ray Jones who shot the porch life footage and Melinda Mercer who shot Eugene speaking about having nine lives for her documentary ART 19. Thanks to Don Goodman, Keith Sherrill, the folks at Haint Blue Brewing Company, and the Blow House Brass Band.
Porch life audio was recorded in 1989 by Ray Jones at Archifest, a now defunct annual event at the Alabama State Archives. Nine lives audio was recorded by Melinda Mercer for her documentary ART 19.
Music from this episode is:
“Hickory Interlude” by Blue Dot Sessions
“A List of Ways to Die” by Lee Rosevere
“Jean Garrigue” by Paul Burch
“Denzel Sprak” by Blue Dot Sessions
“Topslides” by Blue Dot Sessions
“Marble Chase” by Blue Dot Sessions