Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fleur D Licious fires up Saints fans

Photo:  Dinah Rogers, Times-Picayune
By Jeff Duncan, New Orleans Times-Picayune

Denham Springs - Edward Becker salvaged one thing from his Katrina-flooded home inChalmette before contractors leveled it in 2005.

The black jumpsuit and sequined cape he'd worn to the New Orleans Saints' preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens on that fateful August weekend were still hanging in the bathroom where he he'd left them three months earlier. He took the muddy, oil-stained outfit to the dry cleaners and made an impassioned plea.
"I told them, I lost all of my pictures and family valuables - I need this," Becker said. "I don't care what it costs me, I want it cleaned."
Because the dry cleaners did their jobs, Becker was able to do his at Saints games again in 2006. Becker, aka super fan Fleur D Licious, returned to the Superdome and the Saints went on to win the NFC South Division and advance to their first NFC championship game.
Today the outfit hangs in the office of Becker's new home in suburban Baton Rouge. He's long-since replaced it with a new custom-made model. But i the Saints Hall of Fame ever dedicates a wing to its celebrated super fans, Becker's original Fleur De Licious outfit will be its Shroud of Turin.
"I'm just a normal Saints fan but I have this addiction to do this," Becker said. "I need to dress up. It's just my passion for the Saints and the city. That's why I saved it (the outfit)."
To those that know Becker well, the Fleur D Licious incarnation comes as no surprise. TheChalmette native has always been a free spirit, the kind of guy who relished the opportunity to dress up at Halloween parties or on '80s nights. He used to haunt the French Quarter as "Doctor Disco" in white leisure suit and patent leather shoes and was famous for his annual Budweiser-themed Christmas parties.
A diehard Saints fan since birth, he'd always had a fascination with super fans Lionel "Da Pope" Alphonso and Mac "The Quack" Cuenca. When he bought his Saints season tickets in 2002, it was an easy transition from Doctor Disco to Fleur D Licious.
"When it came to the Saints, he's always been a diehard," said childhood buddy Kevin Guerrera. "He's always had a history of partying and dressing up so it was no surprise to any of us when he said he wanted to do this. That's Ed."
Guerrera sketched the outfit and the pair glued sequins to the cape with toothpicks one weekend over beers and Saints rally songs.
The outfit complete, Becker just needed a name to complete his super fan persona. After weeks of contemplation, the lightning bolt occurred to him while he was driving home from work.
"Fleur D Licious just rolled off my tongue," Becker said. "I knew right away. That's it. That's what I'm going to be."
The simplicity of the outfit requires just 15 minutes for Becker to make the Fleur De Licious transformation on game days. The stretchy nylon jumpsuit was custom-made for him by a seamstress. The afro, sunglasses and black leather platform boots were special-ordered from online costume outlets.
A massive gold ring and "FLEUR D" belt buckle complete the outfit. He pins a Super Bowl XLIV pin and buttons of Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Steve Gleason and Buddy Diliberto to his jumpsuit for effect.
"As Ed, I'm pretty much a laid-back guy," said Becker, 38. "When I slip into costume, it's more of an aggression. It's time to do my job as a super fan. It's time to get out there and pump these fans up. I'm not that laid back person as 'Fleur.' I'm more like in freak mode."
On game days, he leaves his house before sunrise and makes the 90-mile commute in full costume sans wig. A police officer once pulled him over and informed Becker that his six-inch afro was a potential safety hazard while he was behind the wheel.
"He said it interfered with my driving because I couldn't see the rear-view mirror," Becker said.
Even without the wig, it's hard to miss Becker on the road. His gold pick-up truck sports a personalized "FLEUR-D" license plate and "I Partied with Fleur D'Licious" bumper sticker.
His traditional pre-game routine starts at Allegro on Poydras Street, strategically located across the street from the Dome. He has served as the unofficial master of ceremonies for the bistro's raucous tailgate party for the past decade, stoking the festivities with dance moves and koozie distribution from his perch atop the DJ speakers.
Afterward, he follows the party wherever it takes him, Magazine StreetSt. Charles Avenue or the French Quarter. He punctuates the countless photo ops with his unofficial mantra, "I do 12-ounce curls for all of my girls."
"You usually can see Ed long before you get to the party," said Katie Hoffman, the manager at Allegro. "He's become a permanent fixture here. We love him. He's definitely a dedicated fan and is very passionate about what he does."
Becker has missed just one home game since buying season tickets in 2002. A bad case of the flu sidelined him for the Nov. 28 Monday night game against the New York Giants last year.
Unlike many of his super fan brethren who are positioned in the front row of the lower sections, Becker does his work on game days in the upper deck. He sits in Section 633 but his domain extends to three adjacent sections.
He often attends road games in full costume for the entire weekend, creating a scene at whatever bar or restaurant he visits as he did this past weekend in Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wis.
"You get a lot of looks, especially from tourists," he said. "They're just like, 'Whoa, what is this?' I'm not sure some of the cities 'get' New Orleans. I've been called Elvis, Superfly, Jimi Hendrix. You just roll with it."
In New Orleans, his celebrity status is well established. His Youtube videos have a cult following and more than 8,000 people have liked his Facebook fan page. He picks a weekly "Fleur D fan of the week" from the ones who submit photos of themselves with him at games. The winner gets an autographed photo and "Drinkin' it up with Fleur D'Licious" koozie.
A baseball team in Texas nicknamed the Saints invited him to attend a game as their official mascot. Strangers imitate him at Halloween parties. A friend had a son attend games with him one year as Mini-Licious.
"I have fans from all over the U.S.," Becker said. "It's crazy. I never thought I'd still be doing this 10 years later."
Becker tries to maintain a low-profile away from Saints games. He rarely if ever mentions his alter-ego in public and regularly attends LSU games as a normal fan. His clients at John Controls know him as the mild-mannered fire security engineer who programs the fire and security alarm systems at their businesses. His neighbors in the Westminster subdivision of Denham Springs had never seen him in costume until last week when he stepped outside for a session with photographers. The impromptu photo shoot ignited a mini-scene as neighbors raced for their cameras to pose for photos.
"I love having a famous neighbor," said next-door Lisa Madere, while snapping photos of Becker in costume. "He's a great neighbor. Usually the only time I see him is mowing the grass in his bathing suit."
Becker admitted that he almost hung up his cape three years ago after the Saints' Super Bowl title. The endless partying and countless public appearances exhausted him. But an outcry from friends and fans changed his mind. Now he says he hopes to keep going for another decade.
"So now I'm stuck with being Fleur D Licious," he said kiddingly. "It's an addiction and a dedication that we have for the team and the city. Just like the players put on their helmets and their cleats and their uniforms, I slip into my jump suit, pull on my wig and glasses. My job is to get my section and other sections fired up. Just like the Saints job is to go out there and to win for us."

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