Thursday, March 14, 2013

Revisiting the Mobile Leprechaun with Scott Walker

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 5:38 PM

(Note: This first appeared on Blog of New Orleans in 2011. We're bringing it back for St. Patrick's Day. The video itself has gone from 17 to 22 million views in the meantime.)

Despite a career as a news anchor in several different cities, Scott Walker may always be known as a YouTube star. Well, one by association.

“I’ve probably been seen on YouTube by more people than in all the news casts I’ve ever anchored in my career,” Walker says.

The current WDSU anchor was working at Mobile, Ala.’s NBC affiliate WPMI-TV in 2006, and one night he just happened to be on the desk as the network aired a story that would become a YouTube sensation with, five years later, more than 17 million views. The story was of a leprechaun that residents say makes a yearly appearance in a tree in the Crichton part of Mobile. Crowds of people, wielding camera phones, binoculars and — in one guy’s case — a special flute, await the site of the elusive creature, who may or may not actually be a crackhead.

Walker says the reporter and photographer from the station who covered the story had no idea what they were getting into.

“Basically it was this crowd gathering outside Mobile in Crichton. People were gathering around, blocking traffic — it was kind of creating gridlock out there. So people called our newsroom and said ‘Something’s going on out here, police are here, there’s big crowds,’” he says. “The reporter and photographer went to check out the scene, and people were talking seeing a leprechaun in a tree, and it kinda snowballed from there.”

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Friday, April 1, 2011

A tale of two fashion weeks

Posted By on Fri, Apr 1, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Now that the loose powder has settled, the champagne flutes are drained and the catwalks disassembled, it's time to reflect on Fashion Week New Orleans and NOLA Fashion Week, two inaugural events that unfolded on consecutive weeks in March, initially leaving many retailers, bloggers and fashionistas (including me) wondering, "Why don't they just combine forces?" The explanation cited on NOLA Fashion Week's Facebook page ("Each Fashion Week has a specific goal ... and merging would simply dilute those goals and likely result in a lesser quality end product") seemed a vague, pat way to answer a question without really answering it, sort of like how when bands break up over "artistic differences," you know they really mean "jealous girlfriend" or "heroin."

Except it wasn't a pat answer. After attending both fashion weeks, it's clear that each group nurtured a different vision which manifested itself in events that shared some commonalities, but offered vastly different experiences. Both were fashion weeks in the sense that Muses and Barkus are both Mardi Gras parades - they're doing the same thing, but with different aims and end results.

With runway shows by more than 40 local boutiques and designers, Fashion Week New Orleans (March 15-18), spearheaded by Tracee Dundas, put the spotlight on regional retailers. Designer Alicia Zenobia impressed a panel of judges (including Hemline owner Brigitte Holthausen, designer Suzanne Perron and Saks Fifth Avenue PR director Steven Putt) with her exquisitely macabre collection, a harlequin-pattern soaked love child born of equal parts Alexander McQueen and Cirque du Soleil trapeze artists.

Alicia Zenobias collection took home top honors at the New Orleans Fashion Week designer competition.
  • Alicia Zenobia's collection took home top honors at the New Orleans Fashion Week designer competition.

What struck me about Fashion Week New Orleans was the celebratory, genuine sense of diversity that infused the runway shows. Models ranged from peppy 8-year-old girls to firefighters. Budding reality T.V. stars (members of the Bad Girls club) modeled House of Lounge lingerie, and zaftig bombshells worked Voluptuous Vixen's plus-size garments. Just about every age and body type came down the runway, and the sense of inclusion was extended to attendees - anybody who ponied up the $35 ticket fee could attend the runway shows.

A tiny model shows off Fairy Fashions by Lafayettes Patti Roy
  • Elite Photography
  • A tiny model shows off Fairy Fashions by Lafayette's Patti Roy

Each of Fashion Week New Orleans' charities (NO/AIDS Task Force, Dress for Success, Fashion Institute of New Orleans and the NOLA Firefighters) received more than $2,500 in donations from the silent auction proceeds. "We have achieved our goal of hosting a fashion event that would create a buzz and bring focus to the GUlf Coast fashion industry, have an economic impact and be well-received by fashion houses, buyers and enthusiasts alike," Dundas said in a press release.

From the get-go, Nick Landry, Rachael LaRoche and Andi Eaton, creators of NOLA Fashion Week (March 21-26), made it clear theirs would be a fashion week modeled after those in major markets: Guest lists for invitation-only runway shows included bloggers, buyers, boutique owners and members of the press. Attendance was limited not strictly to cultivate an aura of exclusivity, but because the venue's capacity demanded it. The Ogden Museum's Patrick F. Taylor library, a dignified, oak-clad 19th-century space with vaulted ceilings and a rotunda, played host to the runway shows. If, as Steven Putt says, the success of a fashion show hinges on the venue as much as the designs ("It's not just about the clothes and the model - it's about the whole environment"), then NOLA Fashion Week was a success before the first collection ever showed.

Apparel Architecture by Matthew Arthur
  • Apparel Architecture by Matthew Arthur

Industry parties, a fashion bazaar and workshops on topics ranging from blogging to branding filled out the roster for the six-day event, which drew praise from local designers and attention from blogs. "I was floored. This is exactly what it should be," says Liamolly designer Seema Sudan, who sold her knits at the Fashion Bazaar and who has participated in New York and Los Angeles fashion weeks. "This is a great way for up-and-coming designers to get their stuff out there. It's the idea village for fashion."

A flatware necklace modeled at the Matthew Arthur show.
  • A flatware necklace modeled at the Matthew Arthur show.

NOLA Fashion Week made tangible economic contributions to Louisiana's burgeoning fashion industry. More than 10 stores picked up the Lafayette-based Cocodri accessories line; Modeling agencies Ford and Wilhelmina approached two models who walked in the shows; online e-commerce boutique FashionStake is now in talks with Nire, a line showed at NOLA Fashion Week. Tickets sales from the events also raised $800 for Japanese Earthquake Relief.

Sudan said that one of the most exciting things to come out of these fashion weeks is the cementation of New Orleans' reputation as a fashion destination, a city with a sartorial aesthetic as sharply defined as any other major market's. "L.A., New York, Chicago - each has a look, and the New Orleans look is really emerging. That, to me, is exciting, because I feel U.S. fashion has been flat," Sudan says. " It will make American fashion so exciting if these fashion weeks take off."

For the creators of these events, it's not a question of if but when. Both groups intend to hold their fashion weeks again. The NOLA Fashion Week crew is already meeting to work out plans for fall shows. No rest for the fashionable.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Now That's Italian

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 10:20 PM

The Bucktown Allstars will close the Festa Italiana on Sunday.
  • The Bucktown Allstars will close the Festa Italiana on Sunday.

It’s time for another weekend of celebrations, this one honoring the area’s Italian heritage with a three-day fete in Kenner’s Rivertown. The 10th annual Festa Italiana starts at 6 p.m. Friday, April 1, and features Italian food, music, rides, crafts, visits to the children’s museum and more. Admission is $2, and children 12 and younger are admitted free.

The festival continues Saturday from noon to 10 p.m., with a 2-mile Sunset Levee Run/Walk starting at 6 p.m. The registration fee is $20 and includes admission to the festival, food and drink tickets and a T-shirt. Saturday’s music lineup includes the NOLA Treblemakers from 12:30p.m. To 2 p.m., Amanda Shaw from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the CheeWeez from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday the festival is open from noon to 8 p.m., with music by Mojeaux from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and the Bucktown Allstars from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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World premiere Tennessee Williams one acts at Southern Rep

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 3:17 PM

Lucy Faust and Chris Marroy in The Pretty Trap.

By Dalt Wonk

Tennessee Williams is the unrivaled master of the one-act play. Southern Rep’s recent premieres of Williams one-acts from the 1930s gave us a chance to see the young playwright at work. Aimee Hayes directed the diverse pieces with verve and sensitivity. (The one acts continue March 31-April 3)

The Pretty Trap is an early sketch of The Glass Menagerie. The domineering Amanda (Rebecca Taliancich) is determined to marry off her timid daughter Laura (Lucy Faust), and she’s prevailed upon son Tom (Sean Glazebrook) to bring his coworker Jim (Chris Marroy) to dinner.

The dynamics of Menagerie are in place. Mother Amanda is, as Tom puts it, “a perennial Southern belle.” And Jim calls Tom “Shakespeare,” alluding to his penchant for writing poetry instead of focusing on work.

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B.W. Cooper community demands jobs, transparency

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Members of the BW Cooper community stand outside new construction in the housing development to demand Housing Authority of New Orleans provide local jobs.
  • Alex Woodward
  • Members of the BW Cooper community stand outside new construction in the housing development to demand Housing Authority of New Orleans provide local jobs.

"We were washed out, now we’re being locked out," says lifelong BW Cooper housing development resident Alfred Marshall, walking outside a construction site-in-progress on South Galvez Street. The site's contractors and the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), Marshall and others say, aren't hiring local — despite HANO director David Gilmore saying 40 percent of its crew would be from the community.

The contractors already must comply with Section 3 rules under the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, which stipulate 30 percent of new hires be low-income residents. But residents and the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice say no local hires have been made.

"It doesn’t make any sense," says resident Gary Truvia. "You put something in the paper telling us what you’re going to do, but when the job kicks off, it’s not true, and you wont answer to our questions why we can’t have the jobs. You promised us a certain percent."

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

HBO food truck to give away Hubig's Pies March 31 ... in New York City

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 10:39 PM

hubigs-savory-simon-78917266.jpg
Whether it's due to their cameo appearance in Treme or food bloggers discovering their deliciousness, It appears Hubig's Pies are now on the national radar as a regional delicacy. From New York magazine's Grub Street blog, we learn that HBO will be tooling a food truck around Manhattan March 31, handing out Hubig's and Creole Delicacies pralines to promote the DVD release of Treme, or the upcoming second season of Treme, or something. Also:

Melissa Leo, Wendell Pierce, and the Treme Brass Band will be at a DVD signing (the first season is coming out) at the Best Buy in Union Square.

Will Uncle Lionel be there? We want pictures.

Hornets playoff countdown: T-minus 7 games

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 9:15 PM

Willie Green celebrates during the Hornets win over the Trailblazers

After tonight's game, the Hornets have just seven left before the end of the season and a possible playoff berth in a crowded Western Conference. There are six teams that are within five games of each other - the Hornets among them - in the bottom half of the standings, but only four them will make it to the post-season. With that in mind, we're going to keep a running tab of all the essential information and links you need to know about where the Hornets stand in the Western Conference Playoff Picture

Hornets' Record, Standing: 43-32, 6th place

What happened in their last game?: The Hornets beat the Portland Trailblazers 95-91 in one of the grittiest games New Orleans has played all season. The Hornets shot less than 50 percent from the floor and were out-rebounded, yet they managed to come back from 11 points down to win it.

The Hornets did it by clamping down defensively. After letting Portland score 31 points in the first quarter, the Hornets gave up just 19, 20 and 21 points in the next three frames. All the while, four of the Hornets five starters scored in double figures. On top of that, Willie Green came off the bench and electrified the New Orleans Arena with a four-minute stretch in which he scored 11 points, punctuated by a monster put-back slam.

This game also saw the emergence of Carl Landry as a more-than-suitable replacement for the injured David West. Landry led the team with 21 points and notched six rebounds. Chris Paul, as usual, controlled the pace of the game and notched a double-double (11 points, 12 assists).

And it all came in a game that included a flagrant foul and a scrum at mid-court that resulted in a double-technical. The Hornets fought hard and won, what more could you ask for?

What does this mean for the playoffs?: The Hornets now own a crucial tiebreaker over Portland and, should they finish with the same record, New Orleans will get the higher seed. Considering the difference between sixth and seventh in the West (where the teams now stand) is the difference between playing the Lakers or Mavericks, respectively, in the first round, this is HUGE.

New Orleans doesn't have the players to match-up against L.A. in a seven game series (or a one-game series, for that matter) but have played well enough against the Mavericks to beat them twice this season. Even more exciting is that the Hornets will play the Mavericks in their last game of the season, giving us the potential of eight-straight games against the Bees Southwest Division rivals.

Of course, David West's knee injury still looms large, but the Hornets have shown impressive resolve in his absence.

So who do the Hornets play next?: The Hornets take on Memphis this Friday, giving New Orleans a chance to clinch their second season series against a potentially playoff-bound team. Memphis is currently just a game back of New Orleans in the standings, so a win Friday will be crucial to the Hornets because it will give them tie-breakers against two teams with virtually similar records.

That's easier said than done, of course. Though the Hornet have already beaten Memphis twice this season, it was only by a combined eight points. Like New Orleans, the Grizzlies are facing injury problems of their own, recently losing Rudy Gay for the season to a shoulder injury. And also like the Hornets, the Grizz have shown resiliency since Gay went down. Most recently, Memphis beat the lowly Warriors convincingly, suggesting they'll be primed and focused for visit to the Hive on Friday.

So what does all this mean? At this point of the season, you can't overstate the value of having tiebreakers against opponents close to you in the standings. The Hornets and Trailblazers have been neck and neck in the West all season long and there's no reason to think they won't be within a few games of each other when the season ends.

We can't mention this enough: the difference between facing the Lakers and the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs could be the difference between a quick exit and a surprising post-season run. Now that they've clinched a tiebreaker against Portland, the Hornets can focus on doing the same with Memphis. Doing so would effectively guarantee that the Hornets will be in the playoffs barring some sort of epic collapse.

Of course, no game at this juncture is a guaranteed win and there's no telling if the Hornets can keep up the quality of play they showed tonight for three quarters. In the post-game press conference, Coach Monty Williams said that his players need to embrace the butterflies and nervousness that comes with playing in big games.

Every game remaining is a "Big Game" and the Hornets better heed their coach's advice — after all, tiebreakers don't matter if you don't win enough games to qualify for the post-season — but fans shouldn't bee too worried. New Orleans has beaten every team left on its schedule except for Indiana. The Pacers are eight games under .500 but you can't overlook them; by virtue of being in the Eastern Conference, they're fighting to hold onto the eighth seed. You can't overlook teams with playoff ambitions in April, no matter how weak they seem to be on paper.

What's the short version of all of that? The Hornets surmounted a big obstacle tonight in their playoff push. Now they just need to do it again on Friday and win enough of their final seven games so that the tie-breakers they earned actually mean something. This seems surprisingly doable but, as unpredictable as the Hornets' season has been, it's still not a certainty.

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Jazz Fest "cubes" online

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 11:49 AM

This morning, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival released the "cubes" — its daily grid of all the stages, acts and times. Download your copy here:

2011-nojhf-cubes.pdf

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A night at the opera

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 at 7:17 PM

It occurred to me as I listened to Sir James Galway (b. 1939) and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra during their performance Saturday night at the Mahalia Jackson Theater that I almost lost this accessible escape. Today, our computerized society tugs at us, leaving little time without interruption. A concert, at least for me, is one of the few experiences that commands an effortless mindfulness, existing without the threat of a waiting message or pressing conversation.

As the perfected tone of Galway’s breath on his golden flute darted like a dragonfly* throughout the concert hall, I scanned the rows and noticed young and old, all of us abandoning cell phones and computers. A petite Irish knight, a veritable leprechaun, brought us together and stunned us with his technical prowess in a contemporary work by William Bolcom (b. 1938) and enchanted us with Danny Boy, a piece by Galway’s favorite composer, ‘Traditional.’

“Pray for Japan, for your country, for your family,” he told us. “And pray with your eyes open. The Bible says nothing about closing one’s eyes. It says ‘watch and pray.’”

I recall specifically the first time a song moved me to such a degree that I retained the echo in my mind for years, revisiting it still today as needed. Puccini’s Chi il bel sogno di doretto as sung by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, launched my still-novice interest in classical music and an on-going passion for opera.

A Night at the Opera, circa 1985, a painting and silkscreen benefiting the New Orleans Opera Association
  • George Rodrigue
  • A Night at the Opera, circa 1985, a painting and silkscreen benefiting the New Orleans Opera Association

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Varla Jean Merman's Big Easy Awards video acceptance speech

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 at 3:48 PM

Jeffery Roberson, aka Varla Jean Merman, won the Entertainer of the Year award at last night's Big Easy Theater Awards (click here for the complete list of winners). Roberson couldn't attend last night's ceremony because he's currently rehearsing for the off Broadway show Lucky Guy, which opens for previews April 28 at New York's Little Shubert Theater. But Varla was kind enough to Skype us ("Like Oprah or whatever") from New York. Here's the video, which includes some special cameos:

Here's my cover story on Roberson and a preview of Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads, which Gambit screened at the Prytania Theatre to benefit the Big Easy Foundation.

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