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Blake Pontchartrain: The Zodiacs bowling team 

Linda Prattini and a group of rule-breaking local women in 1960s New Orleans

click to enlarge The Zodiacs bowling team designed Carnival-style costumes to attend national bowling tournaments. Linda Prattini (third from left) still bowls.

The Zodiacs bowling team designed Carnival-style costumes to attend national bowling tournaments. Linda Prattini (third from left) still bowls.

Hey Blake,

I came across this fun photo and wondered if you knew anything about it. Is this the old Pelican Lanes in Metairie?

Dear reader,

  You're looking at what some have called "The World's Best-Dressed Bowling Team," a group of local women who loved designing and wearing their costumes almost as much as bowling in them. They are the Zodiacs of New Orleans, a bowling team founded in 1969 that traveled the country for bowling tournaments.

  The founder of the Zodiacs, Linda Prattini, says the photo show here was taken at the old Pelican Lanes bowling alley on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metairie, what is now Heritage Plaza. The bowling alley, which opened in 1961, was an early headquarters and team sponsor for the Zodiacs.

  The costumes were their calling card: full-length formal gowns that would break away at the knees, decorated with beads and sequins depicting the signs of the Zodiac. Originally, Prattini said, the costumes were to protest the dress code. The Zodiacs broke the rules in style. "We wore the dresses, long white gloves and high-heeled shoes," she said. "We went out on the lanes and did a modified New Orleans strip — peeled off the gloves, threw them, kicked off the high-heeled shoes, ripped off the bottom of the dress and bowled."

  Founding Zodiacs members shown in the photo are, from left to right: Frances Plaia, Anna Western, Linda Prattini, Mary Refre and Doris Matthews. They designed dresses in different themes each year, keeping the theme secret until they showed up at that year's tournament. Often the themes matched the tournament locations (oil drilling rigs in Tulsa, the Indy 500 in Indianapolis and The Wizard of Oz in Kansas).

  The Zodiacs are still active, although Prattini is the only founder who is still bowling. This past weekend, the United States Bowling Congress in Las Vegas honored her for participating in 50 consecutive women's national championship tournaments.

An earlier version of this column misstated the location of the old Pelican Lanes bowling alley. It has been corrected.

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