Eugene Walter was a screenwriter, poet, short story writer, actor, puppeteer, chef, translator, editor, playwright, cookbook author, novelist, costume designer, and raconteur. After serving in Alaska during World War II, Eugene moved to New York City, hopped a ride on an ice cream freighter to Paris and helped found The Paris Review, then relocated to Rome at the request of an Italian princess. During his time in Italy, he appeared in Fellini films and began hosting the lavish parties that catapulted him to fame, entertaining the likes of T.S.Eliot, Dylan Thomas, his childhood friend Truman Capote, and fellow Mobilian Tallulah Bankhead. While known to be a storyteller of epic proportions, Eugene is said to have carried two items wherever he traveled: a box of Alabama red clay and a stuffed monkey named Coco. When he returned to Mobile he was shocked to see the number of historic buildings and homes that had vanished and a way of life largely gone.
According to people who knew him, a visit to Eugene’s Midtown home was always memorable. Shelves of books, tables of books, and stacks of books everywhere. He was a great cook and had written cookbooks as well as articles for Gourmet Magazine. Called a walking one man show with a constant monologue he could entertain, enlighten and at times even confuse his listeners. Unfortunately his daily visits with his friend Jim Beam did little for his health. Eugene Walter died on March 29, 1998 and his friends obtained special permission to bury him in the old Church Street Cemetery, at the feet of another beloved Mobile character, Joe Cain. Walter took with him a view of old Mobile that is fast disappearing. He once said that if he were Mayor he would decree that a bar be located on Bienville Square.
It is to this legacy and background that Eugene’s Monkey Bar & Grill, overlooking Bienville Square as directed, sits as a connection to the old Mobile that surrounds it on all sides, and lives on in its buildings, people and stories. A starting point for exploring the past. The kind of place Eugene might have frequented.