At Gambit Weekly, we've done it both ways.
As we look back over the past 25 years of publishing Louisiana's largest weekly newspaper, clearly it's the events that fill those years with so much meaning. Our city and state have changed dramatically in some ways; in others, hardly at all.
The Saints -- and Saints fans -- still struggle for respect in the NFL. And now the Saints compete locally for the hearts and minds of sports fans. The NBA Hornets, the baseball Zephyrs, and for a while the East Coast Hockey League Brass all earned a seat at New Orleans' sports banquet.
We've come into our own as a destination during the past quarter-century. Although the 1984 World's Fair was not a financial success, it spawned a new neighborhood from a cluster of old warehouses and triggered a return to downtown living. Art galleries and a movie industry blossomed. Tourists and convention-goers came in record numbers as the riverfront transformed itself from empty docks to one of the nation's leading convention facilities. Cruise ships now call us home.
The Friends of the Zoo, a fledgling organization in 1981, is now The Audubon Nature Institute with a half-dozen major attractions and research institutions in its orbit. Tulane University became the city's largest employer, operating a major hospital as well as a world-class institution of higher learning. Xavier University earned national acclaim as America's leading undergraduate program for minority medical students.
Musically, New Orleans seems richer than ever -- yet no closer to establishing itself as a center of the music business than it was a century ago, when Louis Armstrong heard the first notes of America's only native art form -- jazz -- taking shape in the streets of Trem. The world's greatest jazz, roots, rock, folk and alternative musicians still come here for inspiration and renewal, then leave to lay down their tracks elsewhere.
Our food is hotter than ever, and we don't mean spicy. Our city's average neighborhood restaurants are a cut above most cities' best. We're still spoiled that way. Many great chefs have come and gone in the past 25 years, yet most of our great restaurants remain. You know them by name. They're the places you get your po-boys, your oysters Rockefeller, your gumbo, your red beans and rice, your steak and your etouffee.
And of course, our politics seem to change course less than the Mississippi River -- even though some of the biggest names have drowned in scandal and gone to jail.
Through it all, Gambit Weekly has recorded and commented on stories large and small. The timeline below includes national and international events alongside the local stories covered in Gambit Weekly. They provide touchstones as well as mirrors to the rest of the world, and a context for this place we call home.
If each issue is a snapshot in time, 25 years' worth of issues is an epic tale.
We hope you enjoy reading it again as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you.
Gambit is created, marking the beginning of 25 years as New Orleans' most successful alternative publication. Another staple of New Orleans readers is awarded the Pulitzer Prize -- A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. "Physical" is the No. 1 song in the country, causing a headbands-and-leg-warmer fashion craze. Pope John Paul II is shot in St. Peter's Square, and there is an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. Gov. Dave Treen, Louisiana's first Republican governor since Reconstruction, has a tough time with a Legislature still under the spell of former Gov. Edwin Edwards. The federal government puts local mob kingpin Carlos Marcello, former state Commissioner of Administration Charles Roemer II and others on trial in the "Brilab" racketeering case, which ends in convictions for both Marcello and Roemer. New Orleans' first black mayor, Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, gears up for a tough re-election fight against state Sen. Bill Jefferson and state Rep. Ron Faucheux. Promoters of the 1984 World's Fair hit a few stumbling blocks, mostly financial, in a prelude to the fair's later troubles. In a special election paid for, literally, by local electric and gas utility NOPSI, New Orleans votes to transfer regulatory authority over the utility from the City Council to the state Public Service Commission. In December, Clancy DuBos joins Gambit as a freelance political columnist. The Saints' new head coach, Bum Phillips, earns his nickname after a lackluster season. Tulane wallops LSU.
Errol Laborde joins Gambit as associate editor and launches "Scuttlebutt," a section dedicated to the political talk of the town. After a grueling primary and runoff, Mayor Dutch Morial wins re-election over Ron Faucheux by a margin of 53-47 percent, but hizzoner's support among white voters slips to 13 percent. A court fight erupts over control of Audubon Park, pitting Mayor Morial against what's left of his Uptown supporters. Morial ultimately wins this one as Audubon is declared a city asset. Paul Valteau becomes New Orleans' first black sheriff, succeeding the retired Milton "Snake" Stire as civil sheriff. Michael Jackson's Thriller and the movie E.T. explode onto the scene while everyone is playing the game Trivial Pursuit. The New Orleans City Council authorizes a study to determine the efficacy of buying the assets of the local electric and gas utility NOPSI, forerunner to today's Entergy New Orleans, in order to avoid the high costs of the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant under construction by NOPSI's parent company, Middle South Utilities, now Entergy. Across town, everyone is looking forward to the economic boom predicted to accompany the 1984 World's Fair.
The beloved Pontchartrain Beach closes, ending years of family fun at the lakefront amusement park. Edwin Edwards ousts incumbent Dave Treen in a landslide victory to win a third elected term as governor, an unprecedented feat in Louisiana. On the same ballot, Mayor Dutch Morial loses a bid to remove mayoral term limits from the City Charter -- but Morial succeeds in removing several black legislators who supported his white opponent in the 1982 citywide elections. The last episode of M*A*S*H airs and Cabbage Patch Kids are the No. 1 selling toy of the year.
Edwin Edwards reaches the zenith of his popularity and takes a triumphant fundraising trip to Paris with 600 of his closest friends -- at a cost of $25,000 each. The trip nets $5 million to erase EWE's debt from the most expensive governor's race in history. Later in the year, however, U.S. Attorney John Volz opens a racketeering investigation into The Silver Zipper's dealings with hospital developers. Rev. Jesse Jackson wins the first Louisiana Democratic presidential preference primary with a plurality of votes. The highly anticipated World Fair opens along New Orleans' riverfront, but fails to pay its own way because of lower-than-anticipated tourist patrons. Locals, however, love the fair and turn out in large numbers -- but not enough to sustain it. The fair files for bankruptcy protection before its six-month run is completed, forcing the city and state to come to its aid. Despite the financial, political and emotional hangover left in the fair's immediate wake, a vibrant new neighborhood -- the Warehouse District -- slowly but steadily rises from the ashes as developers follow Pres Kabacoff's lead and begin replicating the Federal Fiber Mills project. The Orleans Parish School Board gets a black majority. Sherman Copelin becomes the city's first black assessor when he lands the appointment as interim Third District assessor, but loses a special election in 1985 to Erroll Williams, who still holds the job. Ronald Reagan is re-elected president, and Mary Lou Retton wins two gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, which the USSR boycotts. New Orleans DA Harry Connick wins a surprisingly close re-election bid against former Office of Municipal Investigations director Morris Reed -- the first of three titanic battles between the two men. French Quarter Festival debuts and claims the world's largest jazz brunch.
The Tulane men's basketball program is disbanded following a point-shaving scandal. Auto dealer and banker Tom Benson buys the Saints with a group of investors for $71 million, and Gov. Edwin Edwards pushes through a massive state subsidy program (giving Benson control over the Louisiana Superdome's lucrative game-day revenues) to make the Saints deal work. Meanwhile, EWE is indicted on federal racketeering charges, beginning a long, steady decline in his political fortunes. Mayor Dutch Morial loses a second bid to amend the City Charter to allow him "Just 3" terms as mayor. The New Orleans mayoral contest begins in earnest right after the Morial referendum fails. City Councilman Wayne Babovich of eastern New Orleans resigns amid a zoning scandal. The council gains a black majority when Babovich is replaced by Ulysses Williams. New Orleans elects two black assessors -- Erroll Williams and Ken Carter. "We Are the World" is the No. 1 record of the year and Michael J. Fox stars in Back to the Future. Count Basiné's legendary coverage of Jazz Fest begins. The Alliance for Affordable Energy is created to fight the high cost of the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant, and the drive to "municipalize" NOPSI takes shape. Meanwhile, voters reverse their decision to let the Public Service Commission regulate NOPSI, returning control to the City Council. In December, Gambit is purchased by Landmark Communications Inc. of Norfolk, VA; editor and publisher Gary Esolen stays on in his original capacities.
America celebrates the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes, killing all aboard as the tragedy is televised around the globe. In New Orleans, Gambit stops its home delivery service and switches to its current distribution system of free drop locations around the metro area. Councilman-at-Large Sidney Barthelemy runs a centrist campaign to defeat Bill Jefferson and attorney Sam LeBlanc for mayor, overcoming Mayor Dutch Morial's support for Jefferson. Jim Mora is hired as the Saints head coach and leads the team to a 7-8-1 record. Edwin Edwards is acquitted of all charges. He proposes a single land-based casino in New Orleans the day he is cleared, but his image and popularity never recover from the trial and his casino idea folds as lawmakers lose faith in him. Instead, legislators enact the first of many successive "temporary" sales taxes to cobble together a state budget. The Oprah Winfrey Show makes it debut, Top Gun is the top-grossing movie of the year, and Nintendo's home entertainment center is introduced in the U.S.
A mixed bag of cultural news: The city imposes a temporary ban on coconuts during the Zulu parade; Big Shot Bottling Company moves out of state; and a second Friday is added to Jazz Fest. New Orleans hosts the NCAA Final Four men's basketball tournament for the first time. Upstart Congressman Buddy Roemer wins the governor's race after promising a "revolution" in Louisiana. Roemer shocks the political establishment when he runs first in the primary, and incumbent Gov. Edwin Edwards, who finishes second, drops his own bombshell when he opts not to contest the runoff. On Black Monday, the stock market takes its worst plunge ever, bursting some people's 1980s bubble of wealth. Bill Gates becomes the first computer billionaire. The Saints put up an impressive 12-3 record, the first-ever winning record of the franchise, and clinch their first-ever playoff berth only to get romped 44-10 by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round. George Michael's "Faith" is the top-selling song of the year, and Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze rules the hearts of girls everywhere. Also, hair bands like Poison and Motley Crue take 1980s excess to new heights. Gary Esolen resigns as editor and publisher of Gambit to pursue other interests. Margo DuBos named publisher; Errol Laborde, editor.
Publisher Margo DuBos and Gambit present the First Annual Big Easy Awards -- New Orleans' first and largest music awards program -- in the Fairmont Hotel's legendary Blue Room. Hosted by Allen Toussaint and featuring the Neville Brothers in an impromptu concert at the end of the show, the event is an immediate hit with local musicians. New Orleans plays host to the Republican National Convention in the Superdome to rave reviews. The historic Cabildo on Jackson Square catches fire but remains standing as museum workers frantically try to remove irreplaceable artifacts. The second span of the Crescent City Connection opens to traffic. Coconuts return to Zulu as the ban is lifted under the condition that they be handed out and not thrown from floats. George Herbert Walker Bush is elected the 41st president, and Prozac enters drugstores for the first time. New Gov. Buddy Roemer ousts veteran state Sen. Sammy Nunez as Senate President, then decides not to push the fiscal reform plan developed by businessman Jim Bob Moffett -- because, sources say, he wants a plan with his own name on it. Instead, Roemer confects a half-baked plan that lawmakers reject in a preview of tough times to come. The Saints post another winning record of 10-6 only to barely miss the playoffs, as rival San Francisco 49ers would best their record.
David Duke wins a seat in the state Legislature in a low-turnout special election in Old Metairie and Bucktown. The news brings the world's attention -- and opprobrium -- as Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is outed for selling Nazi literature from his basement. The Berlin Wall falls. Chinese students march on Tiananmen Square. The Exxon Valdez accidentally spills a massive amount of oil into the sea near the coast of Alaska, causing widespread environmental damage. Images from the spill are broadcast around the globe in an environmental wake-up call. Arsenio Hall makes his debut as the first African-American late-night talk show host. Gov. Buddy Roemer's second fiscal reform plan fizzles as voters reject it in a special election. Roemer then begins a public mid-life crisis when his wife Patty leaves him. DA Harry Connick is indicted by the feds, but later beats the rap. Former Mayor Dutch Morial announces he will not run against Sidney Barthelemy for mayor, then dies from an asthma attack days before Christmas.
Mayor Sidney Barthelemy wins re-election against attorney Donald Mintz after a slugfest. The Aquarium of the Americas opens. Louisiana voters approve a state lottery. Lawmakers pass a controversial anti-abortion bill that catapults Woody Jenkins into the national conservative limelight. Seinfeld makes its debut on television. Congresswoman Lindy Boggs announces her retirement, and Bill Jefferson wins a hard-fought battle against the late Dutch Morial's son, Marc, to become New Orleans' first black congressman. Round Two of DA Harry Connick vs. Morris Reed ends with Connick winning his fourth term as the city's top prosecutor. David Duke shocks the state and the nation by garnering 43 percent of the vote statewide against U.S. Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, who wins his fourth term. The Saints sneak into the newly created sixth playoff spot with a record of 8-8 and lose to the Chicago Bears in the first round. MC Hammer releases the single "U Can't Touch This," while Vanilla Ice releases "Ice, Ice, Baby" -- both sample-heavy tunes that will rock dance floors and bar-mitzvahs for years to come.
Margo and Clancy DuBos buy Gambit with limited partners Nancy Marsiglia and Gregory Gambel. Margo DuBos remains publisher; Clancy DuBos joins the staff full-time as editor. The Persian Gulf War begins. Gov. Buddy Roemer's opponents start calling him "Nutty Buddy" when news surfaces of his life-coach making him wear rubber bands on his wrist with instructions to snap them and say, "Cancel," whenever a negative thought enters his mind. Lawmakers at the final hour approve a bill legalizing riverboat casinos -- and they approve another little-publicized bill legalizing video poker. Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart is caught messing with an ugly prostitute that he picks up while cruising the seedy side of Airline Highway. In an even seedier sex scandal, former priest Dino Cinel is arrested in a pedophile priest scandal. Fried chicken king Al Copeland puts Popeyes into bankruptcy. Insurance Commissioner Doug Green is convicted on federal fraud charges. New Orleans voters impose term limits on City Council members. The infamous gubernatorial "runoff from hell" pits David Duke against Edwin Edwards after incumbent Buddy Roemer switches to the GOP and then tanks, finishing third. Reformers hold their noses and vote for EWE as cars sport the memorable bumper sticker, "Vote for the crook -- it's important." In the runoff, Edwards promises not to push for casino gambling if elected. Fox McKeithen becomes Louisiana's highest-ranking Republican by winning re-election as secretary of state after a party switch. Newcomer David Vitter wins Duke's legislative seat in Old Metairie. The Saints get off to their best start in franchise history (7-0) but finish the year 11-5, only to lose in the first round of the playoffs to division rivals the Atlanta Falcons, 27-20. Nirvana releases "Smells Like Teen Spirit," sparking the grunge movement that popularizes dark flannel shirts, an apathetic attitude, and Doc Martin boots. Anthony Hopkins wins the Oscar for Best Actor of the year in the psychological thriller The Silence of the Lambs.
Comus, Momus, and Proteus withdraw from Mardi Gras parade schedule after refusing to sign a new anti-discriminatory ordinance authored by City Councilwoman Dorothy Mae Taylor. (Proteus would later sign the ordinance in 2000 and return to the parade schedule.) State lawmakers pass a land-based casino bill after a controversial vote in which the House voting machines are closed "quickly" by Speaker John Alario. Smooth-talking Chris Hemmeter breezes into town selling dreams of a Grand Palais casino and promptly takes pols on a free trip to Hawaii. He wins the right to lease the city-owned Rivergate auditorium from Mayor Sidney Barthelemy -- but the state will decide who gets to operate Louisiana's only land-based casino. Neo-Nazi David Duke enters the Republican primaries as a candidate for president but wins no delegates -- not even in Louisiana. Bill Clinton is elected the 42nd president; he carries Louisiana with 46 percent plurality to George H.W. Bush's 41 percent and Ross Perot's 12 percent. U.S. Sen. John Breaux wins easy re-election. After 1990 Census shows stagnant population, Louisiana loses one of its eight seats in Congress. Cleo Fields becomes Louisiana's second black congressman, winning election in the newly redistricted Fourth District, which has a black majority. Branford Marsalis joins The Tonight Show as the musical director for new host Jay Leno. Riots break out in Los Angeles after police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King are acquitted of criminal charges. Hurricane Andrew damages parts of Louisiana but saves its worst punch for Florida. The Saints boast the league's best defense and a 12-4 record heading into their first-round playoff game at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. Up 20-7, it appears the Saints will finally win a playoff game -- but some Bobby Herbert interceptions and 29 unanswered points by the Eagles leave the Saints without a playoff victory after 26 years in the league. The Times-Picayune insults St. Bernard Parish residents by printing tasteless jokes in a front-page story about the parish's image woes. Wayne's World makes the leap from Saturday Night Live skit to the big screen and everybody says, "Schwing!"
Widespread corruption is suspected as Louisiana awards a limited number of riverboat gambling licenses to firms with ties to Gov. Edwin Edwards and his cronies. The state casino board awards Harrah's the land-based casino franchise -- a year after Mayor Sidney Barthelemy gives Chris Hemmeter's Grand Palais the exclusive lease to the city-owned Rivergate property. Gov. Edwin Edwards officiates a shotgun marriage between the two feuding casino clans -- and Harrah's ultimately buys or forces out all others. Lawmakers approve funding for Mayor Barthelemy's proposed Arena next to the Superdome. Tulane scholarship scandal breaks news that children of many Louisiana politicians, including Mayor Barthelemy, get free college tuitions via program that lets legislators and the mayor dole out scholarships. Carmella Lamarque, estranged wife of auto dealer Ronnie Lamarque, is busted for trying to hire a hit-man to kill her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Police corruption grows worse, as does the crime rate. The final episode of Cheers airs. A standoff in Waco, Texas, between cult leader David Koresh and federal officials leads to tragedy. Allen Johnson Jr. succeeds Clancy DuBos as editor of Gambit Weekly.
Marc Morial is elected mayor on promises of reform; after a lengthy search, he appoints Richard Pennington as new NOPD chief. 60 Minutes airs a scathing story on crime and police corruption in New Orleans as the city is crowned the murder capital of the country -- averaging more than a murder per day between 1993-1995. Gov. Edwin Edwards announces he will not seek re-election; predicts everyone will be shocked at the great job he ultimately gets after leaving politics. Beanie Babies are the latest rage. Tonya Harding hires a hit-man to attack fellow ice-skater Nancy Kerrigan, and actor Jim Carrey dominates the big screen with three comedies, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber.
State lawmakers propose a constitutional amendment, which voters ratify overwhelmingly, imposing legislative term limits. State Sen. Mike Foster switches to the GOP the day before qualifying opens and pours $3 million of mostly his own money into the campaign for governor. Congressman Cleo Fields barely edges out Mary Landrieu for a runoff spot against Foster, who coasts past Fields to victory. Fields still makes history by becoming the first black candidate to make a statewide runoff in Louisiana. O.J. Simpson is found not guilty of murdering his wife Nicole and Ron Goldman. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by a Jewish extremist after Rabin negotiates a peace process between Israel and Palestine. One hundred sixty-eight people are killed in the Oklahoma City bombing of the federal building; domestic terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are ultimately held responsible for the attack. Harrah's opens its temporary casino in the Municipal Auditorium to mixed reviews. The show Friends rises to popularity, and the movie Toy Story, a huge hit among kids and parents, changes motion picture animation forever with the use of computer graphics. Harrah's Casino files for bankruptcy protection the day before Thanksgiving, weeks after denying rumors that it would do just that.
Margo and Clancy DuBos buy out their partners to become sole owners of Gambit Weekly. The Bright Field motor vessel slams into the Riverwalk mall, injuring hundreds. President Bill Clinton wins easy re-election; carries Louisiana with a 52 percent majority against Bob Dole. After a bitter court battle, Louisiana is forced to draw new congressional districts; the big loser is Cleo Fields, whose district gains a white majority. With key help from Mayor Marc Morial, DA Harry Connick wins his third bout against Morris Reed -- and a fifth term as the city's top prosecutor. His nephew, Paul Connick Jr., defeats Jack Capella to succeed long-time Jefferson Parish DA John Mamoulides. Jim Mora delivers his famous "We Suck" speech at the beginning of the season only to resign the next day after coaching the Saints for 10-and-a-half years. The Saints would put up a measly 3-13 record, making Mora's speech all the more poignant. Tickle Me Elmo is the year's hottest toy. Tiger Woods turns pro with a breakout year, and everyone is trying to learn the moves to the newest dance craze, the Macarena.
Some local establishments say goodbye as the beloved drugstore chain K&B sells out to Rite-Aid, the Krauss Department Store on Canal street closes, the curtain falls on the Lakeside Theatre (across from the mall), and The Old Absinthe Bar on Bourbon issues its final "last call." The Saints hire Mike Ditka, who leads the team to a slightly improved 6-10 record. Federal agents raid the Baton Rouge home of former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who only thought he was leaving public life. They pull $400,000 in cash from a safe in his home, which he says is, um, gambling winnings. Hockey -- yes, hockey! -- comes to the city via The New Orleans Brass. The minor league hockey team starts its inaugural season with home games in the Municipal Auditorium.
Marc Morial wins re-election as mayor against a weak field. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards is indicted on fraud, racketeering and money-laundering charges -- along with his son Stephen and several cronies -- in connection with the licensing of riverboat casinos. New Orleans dodges the brunt of Hurricane Georges. Congress impeaches President Bill Clinton amid the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In a sad tangent, Louisiana's Bob Livingston resigns from Congress -- citing his own marital infidelity -- soon after emerging as the clear favorite to become the new Speaker of the House. Gambit Weekly pleads unsuccessfully for Livingston to reconsider as his stature in Congress would greatly benefit Louisiana. At the behest of business interests (mostly polluters), the Louisiana Supreme Court passes a rule barring law students from litigating at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic -- a move that draws national criticism. Titanic becomes the top-grossing movie of all time. Seinfeld airs its final episode to more than 78 million households. Michael Tisserand becomes new editor of Gambit Weekly.
Gambit Weekly Baton Rouge launches in February. After much in-fighting, legal and financial wrangling, Harrah's Casino finally opens at its permanent home on Canal Street, site of the old Rivergate auditorium. The Columbine school tragedy tops off a spate of youth violence. Gov. Mike Foster easily wins re-election against Congressman Bill Jefferson. President Clinton survives impeachment. David Vitter wins a hard-fought special election against David Duke, former Gov. Dave Treen and others to succeed Bob Livingston in Louisiana's 1st Congressional District. The Saints make a trade to draft standout running back Ricky Williams. Talk and paranoia of the Y2K upgrade enter everyone's consciousness. The Blair Witch Project makes some people scared, and some just dizzy.
The National D-Day Museum opens. George W. Bush is elected the 43rd president after an election controversy and a recount in Florida must ultimately be resolved by the United States Supreme Court. The Saints, under new coach Jim Haslett (who wins Coach of the Year honors this year) win the NFC West to face defending Super Bowl champs the St. Louis Rams. After the Saints jump out to an early lead, the Rams mount a comeback and it appears the Saints are on the verge of another playoff collapse. Rams punt returner Az-Hakim muffs a key punt and the Saints recover to seal their first-ever playoff victory. Saints radio announcer Jim Henderson delivers the famous words, "There is a God! The Saints recover the football!" Reality TV bursts into mainstream culture as New Orleans hosts its own reality crew, MTV's The Real World. File-sharing networks like Napster spread and allow millions to share free music over the Internet. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards gets convicted of 17 counts of fraud, money-laundering and racketeering; his son Stephen is convicted of 18 counts. They get 10 years each in the pen. Former Congressman Cleo Fields is caught on tape by the FBI stuffing $20,000 in cash down his pants in EWE's law offices as Edwards warns him to be careful spreading that stuff around. Fields later refuses to discuss what he did with the money or why he got it, claiming he was a "private citizen" at the time. (Hint: so was every armed robber in Angola at the time of his crimes.)
The nation grieves after terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 change the world forever. President Bush promises to bring terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden to justice. U.S. invades Afghanistan after ruling Taliban refuses to turn over Bin Laden, who continues to evade capture. Britney Spears tops the charts with her album Britney, but the biggest pop trend of the year is anything patriotic, red, white and blue. Marc Morial's bid to change the city's charter to allow for a run at a third term fails, and the mayoral contest of 2002 starts late. Gov. Foster brokers a less-than-favorable deal for the state to keep the Saints. Gambit Weekly Baton Rouge folds after two years in Red Stick. While hosting the annual Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention for the second time in its history, Gambit Weekly wins an unprecedented number of awards -- nine overall, including four first-place honors.
The Super Bowl returns to New Orleans -- during Mardi Gras -- after 9/11 forces the NFL to reschedule the playoffs. "Cable Guy" C. Ray Nagin is elected mayor in stunning, come-from-nowhere campaign that circumvents established black political organizations. Nagin brings slate of newcomers to City Hall, including DDD Executive Director Kimberly Williamson as new chief administrative officer. Three months after inauguration, she announces a spectacular "corruption raid" that nets only cabbies, then fizzles. Feds, meanwhile, launch a widespread probe of Marc Morial's administration and New Orleans Public Schools. Two snipers work together to terrorize citizens in and around Washington, D.C. New Orleans welcomes a new NBA franchise, the Hornets. Long-time New Orleans DA Harry Connick retires. Former U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan wins a close runoff against Clerk of Civil Court Dale Atkins to succeed Connick and become city's first black district attorney. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards reports to federal prison to serve a 10-year sentence after his appeal fails. Halle Berry wins best actress for her role in Monster's Ball, becoming the first African-American woman to win the award; the film is shot in Louisiana. Modeled after the British version, American Idol first appears and will become one of the most successful television shows in history.
The U.S. goes to war against Iraq after President Bush accuses Saddam Hussein of manufacturing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction -- though none are ever found. SARS, a new disease, spreads in Asia and parts of Canada. Hornets make NBA playoffs after debut season in New Orleans, but lose in first round. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco becomes Louisiana's first woman governor after defeating 31-year-old wunderkind Bobby Jindal in a cliffhanger of a runoff. Mayor Ray Nagin shocks the political establishment by endorsing Jindal, a Republican, over Democrat Blanco. DA Eddie Jordan fires dozens of white employees in one day, sparking an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court. Finding Nemo is the No. 1 movie at the box office. The music industry fights back against free file-sharing networks by establishing their own pay sites and taking widespread legal action against operators of the file networks and their users.
Tropical Storm Frances and Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne give Louisiana a triple scare. Gambit Weekly investigates recent changes to FEMA (per the Homeland Security Department) that could hinder federal response if a major hurricane hits New Orleans. The Hornets make the NBA playoffs for second year in a row in New Orleans, but once again lose in the first round. Coach Paul Silas is fired, replaced by Byron Scott. President George W. Bush again wins a close race for president, this time against U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. State lawmakers pass a bill to take over New Orleans public school finances after some board members try to oust reform Supt. Anthony Amato. Two board members go to federal court to protect Amato's job until the new law takes effect, and all anti-Amato incumbents are defeated in school board elections. New Orleans earns the nickname, "Hollywood South" as a record number of film productions come to town to take advantage of a series of tax incentives passed two years earlier.
The new "reform" school board takes less than 90 days to fire Anthony Amato after reports of fiscal disarray and failure to manage effectively. DA Eddie Jordan loses a federal discrimination suit, is found to have fired white workers for racial reasons, and is assessed millions in back pay and legal fees. Jefferson Parish Judge Alan Green is convicted in the federal "Wrinkled Robe" corruption case. Former Mayor Marc Morial's uncle, Glenn Haydel, is charged in a federal theft and money-laundering case. Several other Morial pals are indicted in another federal corruption case. Feds in New Orleans and Virginia raid the homes and offices of Congressman Bill Jefferson, pulling thousands in cash from his freezer. Months later, one of Jefferson's former aides pleads guilty and promises to cooperate. Meanwhile, civilian crimes were inching skyward again as the city's violent crime rate soared -- particularly its murder rate. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita deliver a one-two punch that changes Louisiana forever, sending flood waters over 80 percent of the city and killing more than 1,100. Everyone from Mayor Ray Nagin to Gov. Kathleen Blanco to FEMA Director Michael Brown to Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff to President Bush drops the ball at least once -- sometimes over and over. Bush comes to town and promises to do "whatever it takes," but aid is s-l-o-o-o-o-o-w in coming. Meanwhile, the Saints relocate "temporarily" to San Antonio, while the Hornets nest for now (and maybe later) in Oklahoma City. Both teams play several games in Baton Rouge to tepid crowds, prompting speculation that one or both may leave permanently. Gambit Weekly shuts down for nine weeks, then returns on All Saints Day, vowing to be a part of New Orleans' recovery. Clancy DuBos returns as editor. The year ends with the best hope for a housing plan -- a bailout bill by Congressman Richard Baker of Baton Rouge -- failing because the White House has its doubts. Citywide elections, scheduled for Feb. 4 and March 4, are delayed because of the hurricanes.
Recovery is slow in the Post-Katrina world, but New Orleans manages to pull off a Mardi Gras that instills hope when there was precious little left. New Orleans' elections are scheduled for April 22 and May 20. Mayor Ray Nagin gives his infamous "chocolate city" and "God is punishing America for Iraq" speech on MLK Day, then draws 22 opponents when qualifying opens. State lawmakers approve modified consolidation of local levee boards in contentious special session. Gambit Weekly prepares to return to its offices in Mid-City -- aiming for mid-April move-in and a (hopefully) dry remainder of the year!