I don’t remember his exact words, I just remember that the guy who made the most music in this group of (close to 20) great musicians went out of his way to say something encouraging to me. He made me think that maybe I could make some music that mattered. Those few words from him really did change my life.
All who follow Louisiana politics lost a great friend today (Sunday, May 25) with the passing of John Maginnis, the veteran political columnist and publisher of LaPolitics Weekly, at the age of 66.
In recent months John battled a blood disorder, said friend and business partner Jeremy Alford, also a Baton Rouge-based political columnist and editor of LaPolitics. Several years ago, John suffered a mild heart attack. Despite those medical conditions, Alford said, John’s passing caught everyone by surprise. “You always think there’s more time,” he said.
To me, John was the Tim Russert of Louisiana — his comments were always the most authoritative and the most respected among journalists and politicians alike. For four decades, he had no equal when it came to dissecting, analyzing and explaining Louisiana politics. His columns and speeches combined equal measures of humor, insight and accuracy. If John printed it or said it, you could count it as gospel, yet he never boasted or put on airs.
He consistently approached his subject and those who played the game with respect, humility and objectivity. Alford noted in a LaPolitics statement announcing John’s death that whenever someone complimented John’s work, he would respond, “I owe it all to the material.” To that, Alford said, “Those who knew him best, however, knew better.”
Dr. Ellis Ralph Lupin, a prominent New Orleans physician, philanthropist, attorney, civic leader and public servant, died Friday morning after a valiant battle with cancer. He was 83.
A native and lifelong resident of New Orleans, Ralph leaves behind a legacy that touched — and will continue to touch — generations of New Orleanians. He served the community in many ways: as an OB/GYN who delivered thousands of children; as a co-founder of St. Charles General Hospital; as first assistant Orleans Parish coroner who testified in numerous high-profile criminal trials; as a generous donor to educational, charitable, civic and religious causes; as a leader on the Louisiana State Museum Board and the Vieux Carré Commission; and as a tireless volunteer activist and board member on many other public and private boards.
I had the privilege of calling Ralph my friend for more than 30 years. In addition to embracing countless civic and charitable causes, Ralph had an infectious, passionate love for New Orleans and a wonderful sense of humor. I can't recall a single conversation that I ever had with him that didn't end with both of us smiling.
Ralph and his brothers, Dr. Arnold Lupin and Dr. Sam Lupin, founded and operated St. Charles General Hospital in New Orleans and successfully operated the facility until its sale to Tenet Healthcare Corp. in 1985. Their successes led the brothers to form the Lupin Foundation, which has helped many other non-profits, community service providers, churches and the needy with grants of $2 million a year for nearly 30 years.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu described Ralph as “a great friend and one-of-a-kind person. He gave his life, his time and his treasure to improve the lives of the people of New Orleans. We will miss him.”
Lt. Gov. Jay Darden likewise praised him as “the heart and soul of the State Museum System. He served on the board for more than 35 years, was elected chairman on three different occasions. His love of New Orleans, the French Quarter and its heritage was unsurpassed.”
Among Ralph's many charitable causes was the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), whose board he chaired and where the performing arts theatre bears his family’s name. NOCCA Institute Executive Director Sally Perry called Dr. Lupin “a remarkable, tireless man [and] one of the most generous, passionate, and engaged. More than once, I saw tears in Ralph’s eyes when he spoke about NOCCA and the work that students and faculty do here. He believed firmly in the importance of education and the arts, and the role that both play in improving the city and the state.”
Even as he neared the end of his life, Ralph continued to look for ways to serve and to share. One of this last acts of charity was the Lupin Foundation’s recent decision to fund and underwrite the creation of the Holocaust Wing of the World War II Museum. The wing is currently under construction. He added a major personal contribution to the foundation’s donation to help ensure successful completion of the wing. Museum director Nick Mueller called Ralph “a major contributor, very generous supporter and dear friend of the museum.”
New Orleans lost another of its unique political characters this past week when Mickey Easterling passed away at her Lakefront home. She was a tireless supporter of many civic, political and cultural causes, and I was honored to call her my friend. In true Mickey fashion, she never divulged her age. Suffice it to say she was one for the ages.
I first met Mickey in 1981, when I was invited to a soiree she hosted at her home for a political candidate. She greeted me at the door, decked in one of her hallmark hats, one that had feathers going in all directions, with an equally memorable long gown. As she puffed a cigarette through a slender silver tube, she introduced herself and said of her candidate, “I’m his campaign’s director of protocol.”
“Well,” I answered, “he could sure use one of those.”
She responded with her wicked, legendary laugh, which always seemed to come from somewhere between a pack of smokes and a bottle of Dom Perignon. We hit it off immediately.
Mickey stood barely five feet tall, but she was larger than life in so many ways. She was fun-loving, purposeful, outspoken, and above all generous. She donated her time and money to many charitable causes, particularly Easter Seals.
She was a quintessential hostess and conversationalist, and she counted among her friends scores of politicians, celebrities, musicians, artists and business people. She loved politics, but she never chose her friends based on their political leanings. To Mickey, the only unforgivable sin was to be boring. Life around her was never dull. She could be discussing international affairs one minute and telling a ribald joke the next.
In 1984, as National Political Correspondent for NBC News, I came to Louisiana to cover the Democratic presidential primary. At the suggestion of my friend Clancy DuBos, I wandered into George Rodrigue’s studio in Lafayette. We spent a couple of hours shooting pool, drinking beers and talking about his Cajun art. That night he took me to Mulate’s Restaurant in Breaux Bridge and introduced me to Kerry Boutte, the fellow who kicked off the appetite for Cajun cooking all over America.
That trip began friendships and a conversation that has gone on for 30 years, involving art, politics (especially Edwin Edwards), football (especially LSU and the Saints), Cajun cooking and endless Cajun jokes. Let me share a few moments from my memory bank.
In 1988, as Ronald Reagan was preparing to leave office, George called to say he was doing a portrait of Mr. Reagan and asked if I could help get some photos of the President riding his favorite horse. I went to the White House press office, explained my mission, handed over George’s address and they promised to accommodate.
A few days later George called to say a dozen photos had arrived. “Bode, these are no good,” he said. “I can’t paint the leader of the Free World on this pale, short-legged, spindly horse! Can’t you get me some better pictures?” My next visit to the press office was less well received: “Well, you just tell Mr. Rodrigue that is the horse the President rides.”
When I called George to tell him he was out of luck, he exclaimed, “It’s OK. I solved the problem. I went to the library and got a book on Hollywood cowboys. I’m painting Reagan on Hopalong Cassidy’s horse.” That’s the painting and the steed that George personally presented to Mr. Reagan. It was received with no complaints.
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