1. Circle Bar Building Sold
Oil and gas executive and philanthropist Phyllis M. Taylor has purchased the building at 1032 St. Charles Ave. — which houses the longtime dive bar and music venue Circle Bar — for $1.6 million. Taylor's purchasing entity, 1032 St. Charles Ave. LLC, was registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State in June. The purchase adds the building to Taylor's cache of Lee Circle properties. Taylor is chairwoman and CEO of Taylor Energy Company and president of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, which operates from a Lee Circle office. She's also a former board chair at Lee Circle's Greater New Orleans Foundation. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art also maintains the Patrick F. Taylor Library, also near Lee Circle, and Taylor owns the open lot adjacent to Circle Bar.
Bar owner Dave Clements says Circle Bar isn't going anywhere just yet. "We'll be there for the next five to seven years" remaining on the bar's lease, Clements told Gambit. Clements said he had 10 days in which to match the $1.6 million offer. "I was a little panicked ... but she couldn't have been nicer," he said of Taylor. "So far she's indicated she'll honor the remaining years of the lease. ... As far as that, no future plans.
"I do love the bar and want to see it open," he added. "I'm encouraged the business will continue as it is."
2. Quote of the week
"I want to be very clear that my campaign played absolutely no role in creating this story alleging Congressman Boustany's sexual relationships with prostitutes that were later murdered, his staff's alleged involvement in running the bar and hotel where this illicit behavior took place, or publishing the book Murder In the Bayou written by Ethan Brown and published by Simon and Schuster. ... My wife, Becky, and I are keeping the Congressman, Mrs. Boustany and their children in our prayers as they deal with this as a family." — State Treasurer John Kennedy, expressing "sympathy" for U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, one of his opponents in the November U.S. Senate race. The Washington Post called it "a historically great denial of spreading rumors."
Boustany's spokesman and wife both have denied the charges by Brown, a New Orleans journalist. In the book, Brown doesn't connect Boustany to the killings, but he cites unnamed sources saying Boustany was involved with some of eight Jefferson Davis Parish prostitutes who ended up murdered under similar and strange circumstances.
Fayard tout Senate endorsements
On the day that Mayor Mitch Landrieu endorsed Democrat Caroline Fayard in the November U.S. Senate primary, Fayard's chief Democratic rival, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, was quick to tout his own list of endorsements from the Crescent City, including former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, Orleans Parish Court Clerk Dale Atkins, state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, Criminal Court Clerk Arthur Morrell, former City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and District E City Councilman James Gray.
To drive the point home, his campaign noted, "Campbell earned the endorsements over candidate Caroline Fayard, a prominent New Orleans resident." The Campbell campaign made the same point the next day when the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee (OPDEC) endorsed him.
4. CABL, LPB announce major Senate candidate forum
The Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) and Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) have announced the date and time of their joint U.S. Senate debate: Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. The hourlong debate will be held on the campus of Louisiana Tech University in Ruston and aired on television stations throughout the state.
5. City Council and strip clubs (again)
A second round of recommendations from the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) staff will head to the New Orleans City Council to decide the fate of adult entertainment in the Vieux Carre. On Sept. 13, the CPC agreed to send the staff report to the City Council, which will vote on whether new zoning rules should include a cap on the number of strip clubs in the French Quarter (there are 19) and whether to allow "conditional use" applications, a process through which the CPC and the City Council can grant exceptions to the restrictions. Commissioners also stressed the importance of regulating and enforcing laws already in place.
In a move supported by Covenant House to combat human trafficking, the city approved a measure earlier this year to prohibit dancers under 21 from performing. A similar statewide measure followed in this year's legislative session. Former Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who held the District C seat serving most of downtown, urged the CPC and the City Council to strengthen age limit laws by prohibiting any employees under 21. Palmer's sister Rebecca started dancing at 19 and killed herself in 1998; Rebecca's twin sister Rachel took her own life following her sister's death.
6. "Free Bird" in Gretna
The Gretna Heritage Festival announced the final music lineup and schedule for its Oct. 7-9 festival in downtown Gretna. Kool and the Gang performs Friday night. Lynyrd Skynyrd headlines Saturday, and Melissa Etheridge and LeAnn Rimes perform Sunday. The lineup also includes Lost Bayou Ramblers, Rockin' Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters, Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk, Amanda Shaw, New Orleans Suspects and others.
Tickets are $20 at the gate and $45 for a weekend pass. For more information, visit www.gretnafest.com.
7. A win for Wynton
Add another award to the portfolio of Wynton Marsalis: The New Orleans trumpeter and composer will be awarded a National Humanities Medal Sept. 22 in a White House ceremony hosted by President Barack Obama. While Marsalis won't be at the ceremony — he's playing a concert at New York's Rose Theater that night — it's an accolade he can add to his 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Music and several Grammy Awards, as well as his 2005 National Medal of Arts.
Eleven other people will receive this year's Humanities medal, and the event will be livestreamed on the White House website. Marsalis currently is the director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in New York.
8. New Orleans Film Society head steps down
The New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) announced last week that Executive Director Jolene Pinder will step down next January. During her six-year tenure, Pinder transformed the organization into a national force by expanding its signature event, the annual New Orleans Film Festival (which takes place Oct. 12-20). Pinder and her staff parlayed that success into a constant stream of public screenings and other film-related events for local audiences, many of them free of charge. The NOFS Board of Directors will conduct a national search for Pinder's replacement.
9. Deepwater Horizon holds local premiere
Peter Berg's disaster-thriller film Deepwater Horizon, which was shot locally last year, opens around the U.S. Sept. 30, but local invitees will get an early glimpse of the movie Sept. 19 at a red-carpet event at the Orpheum Theater. Deepwater Horizon stars Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and John Malkovich in a fictionalized story of the 2010 BP oil disaster.
10. Former Gusman Chief Deputy Ursin pleads guilty
Gerald Ursin Jr., the former chief deputy of Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud last week and faces up to five years in jail and up to $250,000 in fines. Ursin admitted that he participated in a scheme to defraud local entities and events — including Mardi Gras krewes, festivals and sporting events — by padding bills with "ghost employees" who did not work. He also admitted he got a portion of the overbilled payments via checks made out to his family members.