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'Fats' Domino Discovers a Good Samaritan in LSU Quarterback

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By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 3, 2005

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 2 -- New Orleans music legend Antoine "Fats" Domino survived Hurricane Katrina, but he's still unsure, he said Friday, about how he'll survive its aftermath.

Domino spent the last three nights sleeping on a couch in the two-bedroom, Baton Rouge apartment of Louisiana State starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell, a distant family friend. Domino left the apartment Friday afternoon with his wife, Rosemary, two daughters and a son-in-law. He had no idea, he said, where he would go next.

"We've lost everything," said Domino, 77. "I don't know what we're going to do. I never wanted to leave."

Domino, who helped fortify the New Orleans music scene in the 1950s with hit singles such as "Blueberry Hill" and "Ain't That a Shame," waited until the last possible minute to evacuate the city. His agent, Al Embry, called Domino on Sunday afternoon at his home in the low-lying 9th ward and begged him to flee.

"Antoine said he had a boat and a generator if he needed it," Embry said. "He told me he wasn't going to leave New Orleans and that I should wait and pray for him. I hung up the phone and started to cry. I honestly never thought I'd talk to him again."

The water rose nearly 20 feet up Domino's house Monday, chasing the family to a third-floor deck. It was from there that Domino hailed an emergency boat, which took the family to the edge of the city. Rescue workers transported Domino to a shelter in Baton Rouge, where he spent two hours before Russell picked him up.

"It was God's will. That's all I know," Domino said. "I'm worried about all the people in New Orleans. Tell them I love them and I wish I was home with them. I hope we'll see them soon."

Domino didn't contact anybody in the three days after the hurricane. Embry reported him missing. He set up a Web site that received more than 500 e-mails. Domino's daughter, Karen Domino White, put up a missing notice on http://craigslist.com .

Little did the family know that Russell, who said he'd met Domino once before through a girlfriend, had welcomed Domino and his family into an apartment already crowded with more than 15 people.

"Fats just stayed at my apartment, rested, watched the news," the sophomore quarterback said. "I've had people sleeping on the floor, the couch, everywhere. It's been pretty crazy."

"Without JaMarcus, it would have been even worse," Domino said.

Domino, wearing a blue striped shirt and a gold necklace, sat in the passenger seat of a car that prepared to leave Russell's apartment for good Friday afternoon. He felt perfectly healthy, he said, and his family had escaped. "We'll be okay," Domino said. "But I really wish I was in New Orleans."


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