An exclusive interview with Fats Domino’s daughter Anola Domino-Hartzog
In an exclusive interview with COMMDIGINEWS (CDN), Ms. Anola Domino-Hartzog talks about her father, and beloved entertainer, Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr.
CDN: Ms. Domino-Hartzog, we appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: It’s my pleasure; you’re welcome.
CDN: How would you describe “Fats” as your parent, and as your mom’s husband?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: He was a caring father and provider. He also admired my mother for her strength and intelligence. She was also very supportive of his traveling for various performances. He was most appreciative of her maintaining the household in his absence. He appreciated her running the financial and administrative aspects of his business (as an entertainer).
CDN: What is your favorite memory of your dad?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: I remember how people loved him after his performances. After all, he was “Fats Domino,” and he loved his audiences. He would also bring unique food home from special events. When he traveled, he made it a point to bring fancy dolls, odd gifts, and jewelry from other countries.
CDN: What did you and your siblings call him (and your mom)? Did you have any special terms of endearment for them?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Interesting that you’d ask that question. We actually called our mother and father by their first names: Rose, and Antoine. They didn’t mind that at all, as long as we remained respectful.
CDN: Did he have a pet name for you? How about your siblings?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Well, my name is Anola, and he called me “No-No” to follow the phonetic flow. Dad called all of my brothers: “Papa Stoppas.” He called my sister (Andonica) “Dee-Naah.”
CDN: What difficulties did he experience on the road, especially in the Deep South, as an entertainer who was also a Black man?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Segregation was prevalent in his earlier years in the entertainment business. When he was on the road, he (and other Black entertainers) could not stay in the same hotel as Whites. In fact, there were very few hotels that catered to Blacks back in the day.
It was so bad that it was not unusual for him to have to sleep and get dressed in his vehicle. Occasionally, fans (Black and White) would rise up against the injustices of segregation, and incite protest.
Note: Many Blacks came to rely on the “Negro Motorist Green Book” https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Green-Book-travel-guide which referenced businesses and resources that were available for their patronage. This book was first published in 1936, and its last edition was published as late as 1967. (The story behind the Green Book: The Black persons guide to America
CDN: Is there a particular lesson you learned from your dad?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: I learned from his perseverance, despite great difficulties he encountered. In addition to dealing with Jim Crow situations, he was also involved in a few car accidents (some resulting in the death of a couple of his band members). Yet, he carried on, despite the hardships; despite the challenges.
CDN: Was there any difficulties or awkwardness in being raised as the child of a celebrity?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Not really. People thought that I and my siblings would be snobbish or stuck up. They were pleasantly surprised to find that we were very down-to-earth and personable.
CDN: What do you think your dad valued most in life?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Family and faith. He loved his family and did strive to live out his faith. In his later years I noticed that he was reading his Bible more often.
CDN: How would you describe your dad’s personality to the public and his fans, as compared to what it was to his family?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: He was witty and funny; always cracking jokes. He was also humble, and wanted to make his fans happy. If he noticed that the crowd was really getting into the songs, he would string along several together in a medley. With his family, he was loving and caring, but he could also have a sense of humor and have fun. We loved him.
CDN: What is a particular time you recall that your dad was especially joyful?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: He loved celebrating his birthday, and looked forward to it. He was also joyful when he observed his sons playing the piano. Since we’re from New Orleans, you know that he had to love cooking, and he would often be found in the kitchen cooking Red beans & rice, jambalaya, turtle, and other dishes. His enjoyment in the kitchen was shared with friends, family and neighbors.
CDN: What is your earliest memory of your dad?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: His playing the piano in the house (in the music room).
CDN: How would your mother describe the memories of your dad?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: He was a hard worker, loving husband, and took care of his family.
CDN: What was your dad’s laugh like?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Hearty! His face would light up!
CDN: Do you have any funny stories about times you spent together?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: When we opened Christmas presents as a family, he would take his wrapped gift and shake it (to guess its contents). He was correct at least half the time!
CDN: Do you remember any favorite stories about his childhood that he loved to tell?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: As a teenager, he worked on an ice truck. Whenever the delivery route brought him to a home or business that had a piano, he would take the liberty to play a few notes.
CDN: Your parents named you and your siblings to all have initials “A.D.” Is there any reason for this? What are your siblings’ names?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: My dad wanted all of his children to share the same initials as his. From oldest to youngest, his children are Antoinette, Antoine III, Andrea, Andre, Anatole, Anola, Adonica, and Antonio. Brothers Antoine III and Andre are now deceased.
CDN: Did “Fats” ever discuss big decisions he made that impacted his life with the family?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: He chose to discuss such issues directly and exclusively with our mom.
CDN: Your family’s home was in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Your home was devastated by hurricanes Betsy (1965), and Katrina (2005). What recollections do you have for each, and how did they affect the Domino family?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Hurricane Betsy brought about 4 ft. of water to our house. We were evacuated in a boat and moved to the Crescent Arms Apartments for 3 months. We were cramped like sardines as a family of 10 in only 2 rooms.
Hurricane Katrina was a different story (40 years later). I and my siblings were all adults, and a few of us stayed with our parents from time to time. When Katrina hit, the water level was 15 ft. and rose to the top stair on the second floor of the house.
We evacuated to Texas from late Aug 2005 through May/June 2006. After returning, our parents relocated on the West Bank of New Orleans (in Harvey, LA), and never returned to the old homestead in the Lower Ninth Ward.
Mom grieved about not making it back to the old residence. She passed away on March 10, 2008. Dad passed away on October 24, 2017 at the age of 89.
Video tribute to Fats Domino (courtesy of WWL-TV, New Orleans):
CDN: Were there any major changes to Fats’ life that affected him in big ways?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: His success brought him to an affluent status. He introduced a new style of music that many consider being the start of “Rock and Roll.” The Beatles held him in high esteem as an artist. He was also among the first to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
CDN: What was Fats’ favorite color (if any)? Favorite flower?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: He loved vibrant colors (especially pink). He had a pink and blue Cadillac. Our house was trimmed with pink and yellow. His favorite flower was called “Birds of Paradise.”
CDN: If (hypothetically) Fats could drop by and visit you tomorrow, what would your ideal day spent together look like?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: I would certainly enjoy seeing him again! We would probably spend the day cooking and baking, as well as singing and playing music.
CDN: Besides jazz and blues, what type of music did he listen to?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Surprisingly, it was Country and Western music. He also listened to Nat King Cole.
CDN: Was there a piece of clothing or something that Fats owned that especially liked to wear?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Diamonds and jewelry. In his later years, he liked to wear his Captain’s hat.
CDN: Did he have a “special saying” that you remember?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: “See you later, alligator. After a while, crocodile.”
CDN: How did Fats’ life impact yours?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: He remained humble, and personified it in every way. He was a great example!
CDN: Of all the hit songs, did he have a favorite? Any other thoughts about songs he recorded?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Not really, but “I am the Fat Man” was his first song. That song led to his getting the nickname: “Fats.”
CDN: Is there something you wish you had said to him before he passed away?
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: Not really. There were a few times prior to his death that the family thought were his last moments. That led us to visit with him up-close-and-personal. During those times, I expressed to him how much he meant to me, and how much I loved and appreciated him.
CDN: Ms. Domino-Hartzog, on behalf of COMMDIGINEWS and music lovers and fans of Antoine “Fats” Domino, thank you very much for your time, information and insight.
Ms. Domino-Hartzog: No problem. I really don’t like interviews, but I enjoyed doing this.