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Edwin Edwards Will Live Forever


Father and son strolling near their house.  

Long time, huh, Governor,” said Harvey Gaspard, an old Edwards friend, as he steered the Ford truck up Highway 19.

“Say that again,” replied Edwards, leaning back in his factory-outlet shirt and blue jeans rather than the expensive suits he once favored. Strip malls and Popeyes franchises whizzed by. In 1972, during EWE’s first term, there was only one Popeyes outlet. It was in Arabi, just across the St. Bernard Parish line, and was owned by Edwards’s confidant Al Copeland. Now Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., was the property of a Georgia-based concern with more than 2,000 franchises worldwide.

Treasured verities of the Louisiana Way were fading into the refinery-spew-laced mists of the dammed-up and diverted bayous. Earl Long once said, “Don’t write anything you can phone. Don’t phone anything you can talk. Don’t talk anything you can whisper. Don’t whisper anything you can smile. Don’t smile anything you can nod. Don’t nod anything you can wink.” Once that was good advice, Edwards noted, but now, “you can meet someone in the middle of a field at midnight and they’re zooming in on you with a camera from outer space.” Plus, people were dying. “During the time I was in jail, I lost 34 good friends,” the former governor reported. “I know the exact number because I kept a list.”

Even if time had passed, Edwards was not about to let it pass him by. Not by a long shot.

“I thought people would spit on me, throw rocks. But they still loved me,” Edwards said of his jail time. “One day I got 173 pieces of mail.” One correspondence stood out. It was from Trina Grimes Scott, a 30-something-year-old divorced mother of two living in nearby Alexandria. Moved by Edwards’s story, Trina, an attractive blue-eyed blonde with a toothy smile, sent a picture of herself.

“It was like tossing a raft to a drowning man,” said Edwards, who at 61 and after 40 years of marriage had divorced his first wife. Soon after, he wed his 29-year-old girlfriend, Candy Picou. Candy got to hold her tenth high-school reunion at the governor’s mansion, but after many tearful moments at Edwards’s racketeering trial, the Zipper divorced her too.

With Edwards single again, Trina began visiting him in jail. “I looked forward to seeing her,” said EWE, recalling how he used to watch the other inmates stare out the window just to see Trina walk across the parking lot. “Everyone was congratulating me. That made me a real hero in there.” Upon Edwards’s release, he and Trina were married at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter. EWE was 83; Trina, who wore a spectacular gown, was 32.

Before his imprisonment, Edwards, who has claimed “I give blood for them to make Viagra,” had stashed away an ample measure of sperm for “safekeeping.” This enabled the couple to conceive in vitro, with Trina giving birth to a son named Eli Wallace Edwards to carry on the EWE initials. The impregnation story was reprised on the 2013 A&E reality show The Governor’s Wife, which depicted the doings of the new Edwards family in their gated-community Camelot. Trina, who appears in the show’s promo in a marvelous form-fitting red-white-and-blue body-con dress, said she and Edwin could have had a child “the old-fashioned way,” but finding this “baby gravy that’s 20 years younger” was a great thing.

The Governor’s Wife was a flop, leading Trina to lament, “I guess when they heard ‘Louisiana,’ everyone thought we were going to be wrestling alligators.” On the other hand, marriage and fatherhood have done wonders for the late-stage EWE narrative.

This was clear the other day in Zachary, as a local ne’er-do-well (but a potential voter nonetheless) stumbled up to ask Edwards for a light. The man was asking the wrong person. For even if Edwards once had a cameo as a slavery-era cardsharp in the 1975 film Mandingo, the ultrafastidious Zipper does not drink or smoke, a Louisiana anomaly that once led New Orleans Mafia chieftain Carlos Marcello to remark, “He’s the strongest son­of­a­bitchin’ governor we ever had. He fucks with all the women and plays dice. But he don’t drink or smoke. How do you like dat?”

“Sorry, no light,” Edwards told the man, who kept staring at the politician’s pinkish face. “Hey! I know you. You the governor. You got a bad-looking woman at home.”

A similar sentiment was expressed when I visited James Carville at his elegant home near Tulane University. Asked for his take on Edwards, the Ragin’ Cajun said, “You got a week?” The man was “incredible,” Carville remarked, marveling that if he won, not only would Edwards return to Congress after half a century but he’d be accompanied by a woman the same age as the one he was married to in 1965. “He comes out of prison, and he’s not only not bitter but he’s got a beautiful young wife and brand-new baby. Talk about carrying your punch into the late rounds! What’s not to like about that story?”


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