Was it a hoax? A joke? This morning, invitations for a party honoring Mayor C. Ray Nagin were making the rounds of fax machines, emails, and the Internet with a speed normally associated with the more revealing Britney Spears photo. (To see the invite's front, go to Krewe of Truth; Eli at We Could Be Famous has the obverse.)
We'll just quote here:
The Excellence in Recovery Host Committee
cordially invites you to
A Tribute to the Recovery of New Orleans
Lt. General Russell Honore (Ret.)
The Award of Distinction
For Recovery, Courage, and Leadership
Mayor C. Ray Nagin
The Katrina Community Survivors Award
New Orleans Katrina Survivors
The event was scheduled to be held Aug. 22 at the "Ritz-Carlton Juneau Penthouse," the home of developer Stewart Juneau, who was listed as event co-chair along with Bernardo, the well-known French Quarter photographer, and city contractor Donald G. Lambert, Jr.
The host committee? Dan Packer, former president of Entergy New Orleans...and New Orleans City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson.
That last name surprised us just a wee bit.
We called the councilwoman. She called back. She sounded tired.
"I was expecting to be on a host committee to honor Katrina survivors," Clarkson said. "I love Mr. Bernardo, and when he asked me to be on a committee to honor Katrina survivors, there was no mention of the mayor, and no mention of me being co-chair.
"I don't think we ought to be honoring the mayor," she added. "I think if we're honoring anybody, it ought to start with the survivors [of the storm], and then the first responders, then the neighborhood and faith-based leaders. Not the government. Not the government."
Had she spoken to the mayor about the event?
"Not yet. I have no need to."
Has she spoken to Bernardo?
"Yes. Well, my chief of staff has," Clarkson said. "He's coming over to see us now.
"Please stress this," she added. "I am not disassociating myself from honoring survivors, not from Katrina ceremonies, not from celebrating the third anniversary of the storm, and not from Bernardo. I am definitely disassociating myself from honoring the mayor."
Will she be attending the event?
"I don't know. At this point I'm annoyed, so I don't know what I'm doing."
Gambit also spoke to several of the participating restaurants listed on the invitation, with mixed results. Representatives from K-Paul's and the Bombay Club confirmed that they would be participating at the party, but one establishment (which asked not to be named) said that it had not been contacted by anyone from the "Excellence in Recovery Host Committee" to cater the event.
Melvin Rodrigue, general manager of Galatoire's, which was listed on the invitation, said that he wasn't sure whether the venerable restaurant would be feeding its famed Creole specialties to the Excellence in Recovery Host Committee. "I'm not certain. We do several events a month." When the invitation was read to him, Rodrigue said, "Bernardo and Don Lambert are customers of the restaurant...I do remember them mentioning this to me in passing in the dining room, but I don't think anything was confirmed."
Is Galatoire's participating?
"I'm saying that any time I get a request such as this, I request some information in return, and I have not received any information."
But...is Galatoire's participating?
"I'm not certain."
Right now it seems that all trails lead back to Bernardo, but no one's answering at his French Quarter gallery and there's no machine. We'll keep trying.
And Loki over at the Humid City blog recounts his conversation with the councilwoman here...