From beautiful lacy balconies and from the corner of Desire and Bourbon Streets, from inside the Silver Frolics (Female Impersonators! Boys Will Be Girls!) and from the doorstep of (wooowaaaahhh) The Voodoo Hut, from the Old Absinthe House bar (John Matuszak's rest home)--from out of mouths that had lost radio contact with their brains, there came the question all over New Orleans, "What the hell's a Hoya?"

Here was the world famous investigative reporter on Bourbon Street at 1 o'clock this morning. Deep in conversation with a brain-dead preppie identifiable by his unfocused eyes as a Georgetown University student, the WFIR said, "When they ask you what's a Hoya, what do you tell them?"

"I say, 'Yeah.' " His loose-marble eyes clinked together.

"Huh?"

"Yeah, 'what' is a Hoya. The dreaded 'what' that roamed unchecked during the swamp age of this orb called Earth. You're right. 'What' is a Hoya."

"Your name, sir?"

"Henry Kissinger."

If you had sanity for sale here, you'd go bankrupt. Nobody's buying. Look, coaches are calling each other crooks in a hotel with a bar every 15 feet. There's a Louisville woman with a cardinal (stuffed) nesting in her hairdo. Like bristly bookends, a Georgetown student shaved his head in the shape of a "G" while his buddy is the "U." There'll be three basketball games in a 61,000-seat football hall. The voodoo psychic lady, Mary Ann, wears a lumberjack shirt and eats corned beef while foreseeing a Georgetown victory.

Somewhere Dr. Naismith is saying to Coach Rupp, "What hath we wrought?"

Georgetown's 2,500 ticket buyers arrived by three chartered jets, by a 25-hour bus ride, by train and by piling nine people into a Volkswagen. Dan McConville, a senior, is the G, and junior Mark Hesse the U. At 10 a.m. Sunday, win or lose, Georgetown's president, the Rev. Timothy S. Healy, was going to say a mass for Hoyaddicts at St. Louis Cathedral.

The bus stopped twice in the 25 hours and 1,153 miles, according to GU students Lisa Semmes and Carolyn Parris. Now it was 1:09 this morning in Pat O'Brien's, a night club featuring $5 drinks called "Hurricanes" that blow your brain out to sea. For a half hour, 200 Georgetown zealots filled O'Brien's courtyard, throwing back and forth "Hoya!" and "Saxa!"

By then, Bourbon Street was papered with business cards handed out by Georgetownies. The cards carried the familiar explanation that the Greek and Latin words "Hoya Saxa" meaning "What Rocks!" had been applied long ago to the school's baseball team then known as the Stonewalls. But only the brain-disconnected would cheer for the Whats, and so Georgetown sticks with the mystery of the pretentious Hoyas.

Unintelligible conversation out of Washington is irritable, whether it comes from the Gipper or a Hoya. So as "Hoya" and "Saxa" flew across O'Brien's courtyard, the Louisville folks soon came up with their own translation of the Greek/Latin phrase.

Whenever one of New Orleans' quaint surreys rolled by, with a jackass pulling, Louisville fans stood on tippy-toes and pointed at the jackass while chanting, "Hoy-a, Hoy-a, Hoy-a."

Fran Connors loved it all. The Hoyas' sports publicity man when John Thompson was hired 10 years ago, Connors now thumps tubs for Pete Rozelle's gang on Park Avenue. Connors was astonished to find out Georgetown's alumni had arranged a chartered jet out of New York to New Orleans.

"There were more Georgetown people on that plane than came to games John's first season," Connors said. "John's first game, the school band didn't even show up. They didn't want to come back from Thanksgiving vacation just for a basketball game. I know because I got my cousin's rock band to play for us."

Connors stood at the corner of Bourbon and Orleans, eating a $2 hot dog and saying, yes, he had seen Ralph Sampson in a gray sport coat walking through the ten thousand-man zone defense down there. Al McGuire was out and around, too.

"Who'd ever believe the Hoyas would do this?" Connors said.

Those of greater faith, such as young lawyer Frank Lacey, made the pilgrimage to Utah last week for Georgetown's three games in the West Regional. The Hoya band, cheerleaders and maybe 15-20 lawyers, doctors and other idlers went to Logan and Provo where, if the basketball was fine, the living was rough. The Mormons out there think caffeine will transport you to the devil's living room.

So Lacey right away noticed a difference between the Marriott Center in Provo, a 22,000-seat basketball palace built by the Mormon millionaire J. Willard Marriott, and this city's elegant Marriott Hotel.

"I went from one Mormon building to another," Lacey said, "but the one here had nine bars in the lobby and in Utah they didn't have nine bars in the state."

Lacey also had a question for the world famous investigative reporter.

"What the hell's a Tar Heel?" the lawyer asked.

"I dunno," the WFIR said.

Whatever they are, a collection of Tar Heels, identifiable by their navy blazers and countenances aglow with righteousness, stood on the sidewalk outside Pat O'Brien's. They were locked in saintly conversation. From 50 feet away, eavesdroppers covered their ears but still could hear the Tar Heels chanting.

"Okay, o-KAY, OKAY! . . . All right, all RIGHT, ALL RIGHT! . . . LET'S GET NAKED!"

One of the unwilling eavesdroppers, the owner of a Georgetown bar, watched all this with a seasoned eye. Dennis Brown, on the worn side of 40, has a salt-and-pepper beard and remnants of black hair scattered over his skull. This was 10 o'clock Friday night. Brown had been in town 90 minutes.

"Twenty-four beers, is how long I've been here," he said.

The Louisville drinkers? The Tar Heels? What did Brown think of the mass murder being done to the brain cells of the Hoyas?

"Amateurs," the saloonkeeper said. "And they'll go to sleep tonight." John Wayne couldn't have dismissed Tiny Tim with more disdain.

Brown runs a bus from his place in Georgetown to the Hoya basketball games, but he said he doesn't encourage much student business at Baker Brown.

"I was a student at Georgetown," he said, adding, "And why would I want somebody like me in my bar?"

How many beers, the WFIR asked, would Brown drink that night?

"How many are there in New Orleans?" he said, arching an eyebrow.

Four guys from Chicago chanted, "We WERE . . . De Paul, We WERE . . . De Paul."

An obese woman taxi driver drinking Hawaiian Punch honked at a jackass blocking the street.

The voodoo lady in her lumberjacker's plaid flannel shirt took the WFIR's $10 bill, told him to shuffle the cards and deal 25 face down. "You are a very psychic person," Mary Ann said. She stopped for a bite of her day-old corned beef sandwich. "You are a very spiritual person, and you are on a good karmic trip emotionally, physically, socially . . . "

"All I want to know," the WFIR said, "is if Georgetown is going to win the tournament."

"Oh, I don't bet on amateur sports," Mary Ann said.

"For $10, that's it?"

She reconsidered the dealt cards, turning over two straight aces. "I see triumph here," she said. "Georgetown will win."

And they say you can't get a straight deal anywhere anymore.