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Gambit's 2013 Year in Review 

A look at the strangest, most interesting and in some cases, most alarming stories of the year.

Page 2 of 5

Clear purses at Saints games

The NFL ticked off lots of Saints fans when it mandated new rules for bags carried into football arenas. Anything larger than a clutch bag had to be transparent — the NFL website actually recommended Who Dats carry their possessions in Ziploc bags, or (ahem) purchase one of the league's nifty new clear tote bags for $10. Fans who hadn't gotten the word were turned away at the gates, and there were plenty of anecdotes about Who Dats who missed most of the first quarter trudging back to their cars. Local comics Colleen Allerton and Lauren LaBorde (a former Gambit staffer) made a funny video ("My Purse, My Choice") about the brouhaha, which went viral and even got a writeup in The New York Times. The NBA followed the NFL's lead on bag restrictions, but its rules were less onerous — they could be larger, and they didn't have to be transparent, protecting Pelicans fans' privacy.

Hor ... uh, Pelicans

Even though the name "Pelicans" was first proposed more than a year ago, we're still not used to saying it.

Angela Hill

In April, when Angela Hill stepped down from the WWL-TV anchor desk, she had been reporting news in New Orleans for 38 years. The station promised she'd be back to do special reports (it hasn't happened yet), but in September, she re-emerged as a host on WWL radio in the afternoons.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JEANIE RIESS
  • Photo by Jeanie Riess

The Saenger Theatre

Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre reopened in July and the Civic Theatre followed suit in September, but it was the return of the Saenger Theatre — closed since Hurricane Katrina — that heralded the return of a complete downtown theater district. A $52 million renovation brought back everything from the twinkling stars in the ceiling to the lighted blade marquee outside, along with an entirely new stage area that will allow modern mega-musical productions (like the Broadway Across America opener The Book of Mormon) to once again play on Canal Street.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Big Freedia, the Robertson family and Trina Scott Edwards

We don't mean to be rude, but this was Big Freedia's year on reality TV. The Queen Diva's Fuse TV show spread her fame even further, while the Robertson family of north Louisiana saw their Duck Dynasty become one of the most popular reality shows of all time, sometimes outrating network shows. Several of the Robertsons used their popularity to champion evangelical issues and politics, most notably in Louisiana's 5th Congressional District race, where Duck patriarch Phil Robertson endorsed novice politician Vance McAllister — who went on to thump the presumed favorite, State Sen. Neil Riser.

  Not so lucky was Trina Scott (Mrs. Edwin) Edwards, whose A&E show The Governor's Wife was delayed nearly a year. When the dull, contrived show finally aired in the fall, it had the only thing worse than bad reviews: near-complete disinterest. After three weeks of disappointing ratings, A&E abruptly burned off the rest of the series on an early Sunday morning and filled The Governor's Wife's timeslot with reruns of Duck Dynasty.

Peche Seafood Grill, Brennan's, Tujague's

Donald Link's Peche Seafood Grill was an immediate smash hit when it opened in April. The Warehouse District restaurant specializes in tip-to-tail seafood — think whole fish, coated in flavorful herbs and oils, cooked over an open wood fire. Bon Appetit named it one of America's top new eateries, and when Dana Cowin, editor of Food & Wine, gushed over Link's new restaurant in an editor's letter, tables became harder and harder to get at Peche.

  Meanwhile, Brennan's — the pink doyenne of Royal Street where $35 breakfasts and a heavy tourist trade were the norm — was sold at auction in May, beginning a restaurant soap opera to rival Dynasty, or maybe Falcon Crest. The company that bought it was run by rival restaurateur Ralph Brennan, who announced plans to open his own eatery on the spot. Meanwhile, former Brennan's employees claimed the company was stiffing them for their last paychecks and tips. Earlier this month, Brennan's Inc., the company that had run Brennan's for decades, filed for bankruptcy, and on Dec. 12, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put the company in the hands of Ted Brennan, shifting long-time control from his brother Pip. The family hopes to reopen, possibly at another location. Currently the familiar gold script letters that spell "Brennan's" have been taken off the facade, leaving an ugly scar.

  And it was Gambit that broke the news last March: After the death of longtime owner/restaurateur Steven Latter, Tujague's — the second-oldest restaurant in New Orleans, founded in 1856 — was rumored to be in danger of closing. Hot rumor around the French Quarter had it that the brisket-and-horseradish emporium might be turned into yet another tourist T-shirt shop. By the end of May, however, Latter's son Mark announced he had signed a new lease on the building and urged New Orleanians to come eat there if they wanted to support the restaurant's continued existence. Local chefs and culinarians came to Tujague's support, and food doyenne Poppy Tooker announced she would collaborate with the restaurant to produce its first cookbook.

Superdome blackout

Oh, New Orleans. We've become accustomed to all-too-frequent boil-water orders, and having our electrical power knocked out for hours if it so much as drizzles outside. So it shouldn't have been too much of a surprise when the one glitch in an otherwise-smooth Super Bowl XLVII week came during the game itself. At 7:38 p.m. on Feb. 3, as the Baltimore Ravens were spanking the San Francisco 49ers 28-6, most of the lights in the Superdome went dark — and stayed that way for half an hour, embarrassing city officials and leaving New Orleanians shaking their heads. During the pause, Baltimore lost a lot of momentum, but still went on to win 34-31. Still, it didn't stop the Ravens' Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis from suggesting that the blackout had been purposely orchestrated by none other than Who Dat Public Enemy No. 1: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. We can live with that.

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