Though we spent most of the weekend in shorts backstage at concerts sponsored by the NCAA’s Final 4, we did manage to squeeze in some dress-up events too. The first was the 3rd annual My Darlin’ New Orleans party hosted by HBO’s Treme benefiting Sweet Home New Orleans, the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic and my beloved The Roots of Music.
After nearly 18 years in Los Angeles, I’ve walked my share of red carpets. L.A. loves red carpets, lists and velvet ropes like New Orleanians love costumes, parades and second lines – any excuse will do. I’ve walked carpets for award shows and accessory launches, premieres and gallery openings. I even saw one at a children’s art auction at a preschool, though the “press line” was just a teacher with a pocket camera. NOLA put its own twist on the red carpet with Guardians of the Flame tribe Mardi Gras Indians greeting us. Queen Reesie enveloped the woman in front of me in her white and aqua feathered arms and fluttered them like breathing several times before finally releasing her to continue to walk. I was so jealous.
Almost immediately, I crossed paths with several Treme cast members, including David Morse. Though I haven’t mentioned it before, I will be appearing in the premiere episode season 3 of HBO’s Treme as the ex-wife of Morse’s “Lieutenant Terry Colson.” As readers of this blog know, I never miss an episode and post on each one, so I’m thrilled to have finally found my place in the story.
Delicious food for the event was provided by chefs Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace, Susan Spicer of Bayona and Alon Shaya of Domenica. Susan Spicer has served as the show’s consultant and inspiration for Kim Dicken’s character, “Janette Desautel” and has appeared on Treme as herself. Shaya, too, has appeared on the show and Commander’s Palace was featured in 2 episodes.
Powerhouses Little Freddie King and Irma Thomas gave amazing performances. We got a full-on show despite the intimate setting. King brought sexy back and “Soul Queen” Irma roused the crowd with her traditional second line. People in suits and gowns paraded around the room waving their kerchiefs and keeping their “backsides in motion.” When she slowed it down and couples embraced to dance, I felt part of the history of people who’ve romanced to her music.
But the musical highlight for me was definitely when The Roots of Music Crusaders filled the stage and much of the floor and played just inches from me. The discipline of these kids always impresses. I wish the organization could take in the 400 kids on the waiting list hoping for the chance to learn about music history, music theory, and playing an instrument while receiving tutoring for school, a hot meal and a safe ride to their home. I love watching the Crusaders march in parades and I felt badly that so many of them were crammed into such a cozy space indoors, but it was amazing to be so close you could touch, to be able to look into each other’s eyes and really see each other.
There was a silent and a live auction with such prizes as a signed Saints football, tickets to Jazz Fest, a day of golf and a framed, signed cover of the album that earned Rebirth Brass Band it’s first Grammy this year. Between the items from the show that were up for auction, the cast members, the music and the food, the night was like a fan’s dream come true. My love for the show and my love for the city all came together in one place and time. As someone who’d actually worked with some of the people in the room, it was like my L.A. life and my NOLA life all came together in a mix of real and surreal. I even ran into avid Roots of Music supporter and my fellow castmate from Green Lantern, Tim Robbins.
Though, of course, I’m thrilled to be on Treme‘s first episode this year, I’m at least as excited to finally be following the show again. It can be tough to watch sometimes, but it’s comforting that we already know that the city will prevail, people will continue to find their way home and the Saints will win the Super Bowl.
Because of the Final 4, all weekend, the city was filled with people in red shirts and people in blue shirts who’d come to cheer on their basketball teams. Even without the t-shirts, you could usually tell the tourists by the drinks in their hands – big, plastic hand grenades or goldfish bowls carried with the aid of a strap around the neck. Tourists come for short bursts of “partying,” but we locals live with the marathon of activities this city hosts and have to try to pace themselves a bit.
Our last big event of the weekend was attending the tour of Lion King at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre in Armstrong Park. The show was amazing. In a city that loves costumes, this show has some of the most creative and elaborate ever put of a stage. If you haven’t seen the spectacle, it would be impossible to convey its magic. The many children’s faces in the crowd and their squeals of delight said it best.
Tony Crane, who plays conniving lion, “Scar,” is the son of a friend in L.A.. As this was a weekend of backstage passes, he gave us a great tour. We got to see and touch set pieces, costumes and props, including the baby Simba animatronic doll the lions hold up to the heavens from atop their great rock.
As we were leaving the theatre, the NCAA’s Big Dance concert weekend came to a close and fireworks burst in the distance over the river. It was a beautiful ending to another great weekend in the Big Easy.
I didn’t bring my camera so please excuse the quality of the video and photos.