Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Visitor reviews of the Grand Palace Hotel on Canal Street

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Today the once rat-infested Grand Palace Hotel (or what remains of it) at Canal and Claiborne avenues was once again spared planned implosion. An original November demolition was put off till the week before Christmas, but today the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said not-so-fast, citing "additional amounts of hazardous material" (unspecified "hazardous material") inside that must be removed before the building can be imploded.

For years, the Grand Palace was one of those places that snared unwary tourists (It's so cheap! And on Canal Street! Walking distance from the French Quarter!) with misleading descriptions like this one, on JazzReview (!), dated earlier this year (!!!):

Essentially, this may be the best looking jazz space in the South. With brass railings, tiered seating and huge plate glass windows providing a view of a passing parade of stopping streetcars and ambulances on their way to Charity Hospital, the feel is as much Chicago as it is New Orleans. It's no wonder the movie location people have been eyeballing the place and it's likely that one of these days you might see yourself in a film shot here.

"Shot here" are the operative words.

Or this one, from — uh — the city's official tourism website, which is still up there:

The city of New Orleans beckons you to the Grand Palace Hotel.
  • The city of New Orleans beckons you to the Grand Palace Hotel.

But travelers who were savvy enough to go to TripAdvisor (which has now taken down its Grand Palace reviews) or Yahoo Travel got a very different picture of the Grand Palace — both pre- and post-Katrina:

Well, where do we begin...the filthiest hotel rooms I have ever seen. The bathroom floor looks like it hasen't been washed in makes a Mobil gas station restroom look like the Taj Mahal. I was told that out of 1000 rooms, only 300 are "non-condemed".

I consider it an achievement to have gotten out of there without being robbed, catching a disease or sharing my room with a crack addict. I think Travelocity owes its customers more than just listing any dump that posts incorrect information.

Under the cut: more reviews, and it gets even more vivid, both in terms of experience and language ...

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IG letter says Serpas did nothing wrong

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 4:33 PM

New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux's office has reviewed a series of questions, raised last week in a Fox 8 investigation, about New Orleans Police Department Chief Ronal Serpas' pension paperwork.

The news report found that city pension documents listed Serpas' starting date as May 6, 2010, even though he was still heading up the Metro Nashville Police Department at the time. The paperwork was even dated and notarized (by Assistant City Attorney Vic Papai) "May 6" even though that would have been impossible. Serpas' move to New Orleans was announced on May 6. He stayed in Nashville to help with recovery from a devastating flood through May 10.

(Full IG letter after the jump)

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Feelings Cafe: Meatless in the Marigny

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 4:26 PM

Feelings Cafe in the Marigny.

No holiday menu would be complete without Sri Lankan borscht, right? And can it really feel like December until you’ve had hearts of palm stuffed with marrow bean and cashew cheese?

Those are a few of the dishes to be served next week at what’s looking like one of the season’s most unusual holiday dinners, which is dubbed the “Vegan Fine Dining Festivals of Light.” The menu, from a selection of hors d'oeuvres through four courses (see below), is all vegan and it will be served Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Feelings Café, a Marigny restaurant with old New Orleans ambiance in overdrive.

The restaurant usually serves a menu full of meat and local seafood, to say nothing of dairy and assorted other vegan verbotens, but the rambling old Creole restaurant has been branching out lately. Last summer saw the transformation of one of its under-used upstairs dining rooms into a twice-weekly pop-up wine bar called Sentiments, and another part of the restaurant is now a yoga studio.

The courtyard at Feelings Cafe.

Feelings also added a number of vegan dishes to its regular menu, like mushroom boudin and brochette of marinated tofu. Those dishes were created by local freelance chef and caterer Anne Churchill, who is also behind next week's Vegan Fine Dining Festivals of Light.

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@PresHall announces special guests for 50th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Preservation Hall, the off-Bourbon Street institution, is, yes, in the midst of a golden anniversary. It'll celebrate at New York's Carnegie Hall in January, and joining the band are the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Del McCoury Band, GIVERS, Mos Def, My Morning Jacket, Tao Seeger, Allen Toussaint and Trombone Shorty.

In conjunction with the anniversary, the Louisiana State Museum at the Old U.S. Mint opened Preservation Hall at 50, which tells the history of the band and hall through artifacts, photographs, film and audio clips, interviews and oral histories. The exhibit is open now and through 2012.

If you want to catch the Jan. 7 show at Carnegie, tickets are on sale this Friday, Dec. 2.

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The Most Murderous Hour

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Is not the clunkily translated title of a soon-to-be released Burzum album. It's actually 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in New Orleans, according to Times-Picayune reporter Brendan McCarthy.


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All-male burlesque show Boylesk debuts Friday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Male dancers have appeared sporadically in local burlesque shows, but the all-male burlesque show Boylesk debuts Friday at the House of Blues. It features dancers from Chicago's Stage Door Johnnies, an all-male troupe formed three years ago, plus New York's The Evil Hate Monkey and features a female host and a magician. (There also is an appearance by the New Orleans Firefighters.) The show was put together by Bustout Burlesque and New Orleans Burlesque Festival Founder Rick Delaup. Originally, there were plans for a show during Southern Decadence, but it couldn't be arranged in time. But both Delaup and the HOB are testing the waters on a broad audience, expecting interest from the city's ample burlesque scene and gay and straight audiences alike. Male burlesque dancers have already carved out a niche in the national burlesque scene. The festivities at the Miss Exotic World pageant, an annual burlesque festival in Las Vegas, now include a competition for best male burlesque act.

There's a longer preview of Boylesk here. Some of the dancers, like the Johnnies' Ray Gunn, come from a dance background. Other Johnnies have a stage background. But some men came to it through the female burlesque revival. The Evil Hate Monkey is traveling for the first time as a solo act. For nine years, he has toured with Trixie Little, and their show had solo and duet acts. But he says many guys found their way on stage in half steps.

"Guys are more serious now," he says. "Before it was just boyfriends — guys who were essentially props in their girlfriends' acts. Then those guys started hamming it up. And then some said, 'Hey, I can do this.'"

More photos and videos after the jump.

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Study: Avondale shipyard closure "will devastate New Orleans economy"

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 2:50 PM

Researchers from the University of New Orleans and Loyola University teamed for the Avondale Research Project, tasked with looking at what impacts the closure of the Avondale shipyard would have on the area.

Obviously, the thousands of now-planned (and in-progress) layoffs would devastate the workers there. The project, in its recently released report "Avondale: The Uncertain Future of a Great American Shipyard," says it also would impact the New Orleans area economy and beyond. The report points to laid off workers unable to "make house payments, purchase cars, send children to college or support local businesses," and an uncertain job market for skilled labor would keep many of the thousands of Avondale workers without a comparable job.

Last month, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the state would kick in $214 million in incentives should the yard remain open, though the yard owner, Huntington Ingalls Industries, still needs a "business partner" for the site.

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Review: South Pacific

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 2:34 PM

Katie Reid and Shane Donovan in South Pacific, which is at the Mahalia Jackson Theater this week.
  • Katie Reid and Shane Donovan in "South Pacific," which is at the Mahalia Jackson Theater this week.
In this season of Broadway Across America offerings that includes a ribald rock musical (Rock of Ages), a campy flop (The Addams Family), a tourist standby (Blue Man Group) and a contemporary Broadway hit (The Lion King), South Pacific is the Good Old-Fashioned Musical of the pack. The show may be a standard, but this iteration of the Rodgers & Hammerstein wartime romance certainly isn’t staid: the touring production is based on the Tony-winning 2008 Broadway revival, which was punched up with lush sets, colorful period costumes and some mild sexual humor (a moment of brief nudity was very exciting for the primarily older audience at the opening night of the New Orleans stop). Although this production fails to live up to the near-unanimous praise of the revival (The New York Times described it as nearly flawless), it’s still a solid show that delivers on its signature songbook.

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Group accuses mayor, police of "racial divisiveness" in denying NAACP head entry to Gallier Hall event

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Last Tuesday, Nov. 22, when the city's 2011 homicide tally was merely very close to, and not yet above, 175, the total for all of last year, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas unveiled a new murder reduction initiative at a press conference at Gallier Hall.

The murder number wasn't Serpas' only PR problem that afternoon. On Nov. 21, Fox 8 aired an investigative report that brought to light a number of apparent inconsistencies in Serpas' pension paperwork he signed upon taking the superintendent job in May 2010.

Local NAACP chapter head Danatus King — who resigned from Landrieu's police chief search committee in 2010 citing a lack of transparency from the incoming Landrieu administration — tried to attend the Gallier Hall event in order to publicly address the report. But King was denied access.

Now a group called the United New Orleans Front plans to hold a press conference outside City Hall tomorrow afternoon to "respond to the blatant denial and the racial divisiveness shown these groups attempting to enter Gallier Hall."

(Full press release after the jump)

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Friends at the Apple Barrel remember Coco Robicheaux

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 2:00 PM

A sign behind the bar at the Apple Barrel on Frenchmen Street.
  • A sign behind the bar at the Apple Barrel on Frenchmen Street.

By Mark Folse

When news of the death of local blues and spiritual icon Coco Robicheaux went viral on the Internet Nov. 25, some said his last words were, “I’m home.” Bartender Sara Shaw at the Apple Barrel bar on Frenchmen Street, who attended to him in his last moments, as well as the patrons seated next to him when he collapsed, remember them as “The next round is on me.”

Either would fit. The Barrel is a cramped space with a single unisex bathroom, walls covered with dollars and photographs, its best feature a mural of musicians behind the stage. There is a tricky step up to the bar that often trips up drunk tourists, and there are never enough ashtrays for the mostly-smoking crowd. The stage is one narrow end of the room, at ground level, with no amplification. The tip bucket is an old spittoon atop a barstool patrons must pass to get in or out.

It was Coco Robicheaux’s favorite bar — that Quarter Rat second living room, a place many tourists miss — where everyone is a friend or a tolerated eccentric.

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