A brown paper bag is about as simple as it comes. But the bag was so important to Saints fan – or in this case, Aints fan – Robert “Bobby” LeCompte’s life story, that it was in the first line of his obituary in Wednesday’s New Orleans Advocate.
LeCompte, who died July 26 at age 64, was the man who teamed up with famed sportscaster Buddy Diliberto in 1980 to launch a craze that united fans of the then-losing Saints franchise in an unforgettable way: as “bagheads,” or “Aints." They lamented the sorry state of their team by showing up to games wearing brown paper bags over their heads, with eyeholes cut out and colorful messages scrawled on them.
At the time LeCompte was bartender of Buddy D’s, the Metairie lounge once owned by the late WDSU and WVUE sports anchor, who was also a former Times-Picayune sports writer and legendary WWL Radio host.
In a 1988 Times-Picayune article, LeCompte shared credit for the original idea with a friend and fellow suffering fan, Jerry Gogreve. He said the two were in Charlie’s Saints Marching Club Bar when LeCompte first saw Gogreve wearing a bag over his head in disgust with the team, which at that point had an 0-7 record. “I didn’t want anyone to know I was a Saints fan,” Gogreve said. “It was meant to be fun, not malicious. Bobby picked it up and carried it further.”
LeCompte said he was also inspired by the paper bag-wearing Unknown Comic, popular on TV's “The Gong Show” at the time. LeCompte took the idea to his friend Buddy D. and suggested he wear a bag on his TV sportscast, which he did. Before long, national news outlets published and broadcast photos of Diliberto and the bagheads, and a Saints craze was born. It was the perfect, though sad, reminder of a season that saw the team go 1-15.
“With the Saints having a terrible year, Sunday night business (at the lounge) was really bad,” LeCompte told writer Bob Marshall for a November 1980 article in The Times-Picayune/The States-Item. “Buddy wanted an idea to kinda spruce up interest, something he could do on his show that would make things interesting, or at least funny."
"I had just come back from the grocery one day and I was thinking how embarrassing it was to show your face at the stadium," he said. "At first I thought about making a mask, then I looked at the bags laying all over the place." He cut eye holes, ear holes, nose and mouth holes in the bag, added a helmet decal and question mark, and then the pièce de résistance – the word “Aints,” because he said, the Saints “ain’t been doing nothin’ all year long.”
He later told Times-Picayune writer Jeff Duncan that a handful of fans wore the bags to the Saints-Falcons game that season. The number grew to about 200 for the next home game and increased from there. At one point, LeCompte tried to turn the bags’ popularity into a cottage industry, selling bags for $1 each. At the height of the craze, according to Duncan, he was selling as many as 5,000 bags a game.
During a nationally-televised ABC Monday Night Football game, announcer Howard Cosell said he thought the bags were a disgrace to the game of football. Saints players and officials also criticized the bags and tried to confiscate them at one game, by order of the fire marshal, who said they were not flame retardant.
In 1987, LeCompte celebrated the Saints’ first winning season and appearance in the playoffs by leading a ceremony to burn what he said was the original "Aints" bag. That also made national news.
LeCompte's brother said the Saints’ Super Bowl victory in 2010 meant even more to him since his brother, known to family as Robby, had endured so many losing seasons. “He was insane, just like everybody that year. He was just ecstatic,” Charles LeCompte said.
LeCompte was an Archbishop Rummel High School and University of New Orleans graduate. A longtime worker in the hospitality industry, later in his career, he worked at the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner. He retired in 2013.
In addition to his brother, survivors include an aunt and uncle, two stepsisters, several cousins, nieces and nephews.
A memorial gathering will be held Saturday at Leitz-Eagan Funeral Home, 4747 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie. Visitation begins at 9 a.m. with a service at 11 a.m.