About

For those who were hoping the About page would tell them about the author, I am a professional actor with over 20 years experience doing film, TV and commercials. I’ve appeared in such things as Kill Bill, Enemy of the State, Friends and True Detective and played Leonardo DiCaprio’s sister in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

I have a Master’s Degree in creative writing and English literature from the University of South Alabama and was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2014. I taught graduate students in the film department of University of New Orleans and English composition at a community college. I’ve produced a few things including the Quentin Tarantino presentation, Hell Ride, in which I played “Dani,” the owner of a biker bar. I even tried my hand at directing, garnering a couple of awards for my first short film, Intermission, and eventually directing Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss in 8 minutes of Lone Star Trixie.

In addition to this blog, I’ve written a book – Know Small Parts: An Actor’s Guide to Turning Minutes into Moments and Moments into a Career with foreword by Richard Dreyfuss. Know Small Parts is the book I was searching for when I started out. I wrote the book I most wanted to read, highlight, dog-ear and reference while navigating my career. I’ve learned so much from directors like Tony Scott, Quentin Tarantino and Sam Raimi and actors like Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine, Samuel L. Jackson,  Dick Van Dyke and many more.

My novel, Lemonade Farm, is a 20 year labor of love set in a communal home in 1976. What starts as the coming-of-age odyssey of a hyper-aware preteen, evolves into the story of an era and the evolution of the American family.

When I first wrote this “About” page, it was an explanation of my inspiration for the blog. The tagline of L.A. to N.O.LA was “One woman’s journey from LaLaLand to the Big Easy.” I started the blog at the insistence of friends in Los Angeles who wanted a central place they could go to see what I was up to. I wrote it anonymously because my friends already knew the author. The first few months, I wrote about settling into a new city and a very old culture. I covered things like getting my car street legal and my first big storm. I didn’t know how to embed links or use tags, I just told stories and made observations and tried to include photos and the occasional video.

Then the Saints made their way to the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras arrived and I starting wanting the whole world to know what it felt like to be here for that slice of time. It felt so good to share about my growing love for the city that I started going to events in order to blog about them. Despite my ignorance about reaching a larger audience, my readership increased and LAtoNOLA is now read in over 100 countries.

Though I still write about moving from L.A. occasionally, L.A. to N.O.LA has become more of a resource. Whether you’re relocating here, planning a trip, or wondering if I caught your high school band on my video of a parade, I’ve tried to make the blog user friendly with categories, tags, a search engine and pages including my annual list of  “favorite things” and links to most of the restaurants, musicians, clubs, events, charities, and cool things I’ve mentioned in L.A. to N.O.LA.

You can even find local t-shirts and greeting cards I’ve designed and articles I wrote for a local online paper, NOLA Defender, including interviews with Richard Dreyfuss and Jeff “The Dude” Dowd. And there’s my aunt Norma’s uplifting and often funny guide through loss, How to Be a Widow: A Journey from Grief to Growth, for which I wrote the introduction and epilogue and served as editor.

This was the story of “One woman’s journey from LaLaLand to the Big Easy,” but now I have arrived. New Orleans is my home and my heart. My focus now is on “Carnival, Concerts, Cuisine, Culture.” And the Saints. Who Dat!?!

Since writing my first post in late 2009, this blog continues to be a source of great joy and connection for me, a way of braiding my story with the city’s. The original “About” page, with it’s explanation of why I left L.A. and how I came to be in New Orleans, appears in its entirety below. I thank you for 5 years of ever-increasing readership and, if you haven’t already, I hope you will consider subscribing  so you can receive email alerts when I post.

OLD “ABOUT” PAGE:

My family has been from Louisiana for generations so, if home is where the heart is, my home is Louisiana. However, I was born in our Nation’s Capitol, just below the Mason-Dixon line, but not actually Southern. And I felt that disconnect, like an adopted child longing to know where it came from, to understand its nature. Many of my happiest memories are dripping with the humidity, music, food, laughter, family, sno-balls, fireworks, street performers, fireflies, spanish moss, Mardi Gras beads, architecture, dancing, colorful characters, elegance, history and overwhelming indomitable spirit of the the Great State of Louisiana.

I’ve always wondered what my southern story is. Turns out it starts in the other L.A.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1992. I was a realist with a dreamer’s goal – to earn my living as an actor. Within 3 years of arriving, I’d achieved my goal and it has remained that way since. My nearly 18 years in L.A. were a big adventure filled with exotic travel and amazing individuals. I accomplished goals I hadn’t had the foresight to set when I first arrived. And I cultivated many lifelong friendships with people I might never have met any other way. BUT, if home is where the heart is, my heart was never truly at home in L.A.

I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I lived in L.A. and I don’t leave a circle of friends lightly and the idea of starting over is both exhilarating and exhausting, but Christmas 2008, I came back to Louisiana and within one day, I knew it was over with me and L.A. I began looking into moving to New Orleans as the new year began. I knew I’d want to give myself the experience of living in a true New Orleans home for at least my first year here. And I hoped I could continue to act for a living as my last two films were shot in Louisiana. Turns out they’re 3rd in the nation for filming, after L.A and New York (2nd in 2010). It’s not just the amazing incentives, it’s a full grown industry here with all the facilities and qualified personnel needed to shoot.

I found a place on Craigslist, walked “virtually” around the neighborhood on googlemaps, and researched everything within walking distance, the streetcar schedule, the closest theaters and my future favorite restaurants – all without ever leaving my modest condo-apartment in Hollywood.

Then, after Thanksgiving, I (my friends) packed up a truck and drove away from the sunset.

Leaving L.A. was like leaving a semi-abusive relationship I’d stayed in too long. My self-esteem was down and my guards were up. And, most insidious of all, my perspective was warped. How long had it been since I’d been in a nightclub full of women – and no enhanced breasts? When was the last time I left my house to go somewhere 10 miles away and gotten there in 15 minutes?

There are some moments in life that beg questions. Total strangers feel compelled to ask (and you to answer), “What’d you do to your arm?” when you’re wearing a cast. In college, it was, “What’s your major?” In L.A., it was, “Who’s your agent?” (Although my male friends say it was, “What do you drive?”) Since I’ve moved to New Orleans, both the people of L.A. and the people of New Orleans have all been asking why I left L.A. and/or why I moved to New Orleans. It’s really 2 separate questions so, for the record, here are the answers.

Top 3 reasons I left L.A. –

I got a movie made, which was a dream come true after 7 years of working to make it happen, and it was an amazing and wonderful experience so stained by cliche bad behavior I’d always heard about that I didn’t want to repeat the experience. That meant my dreams would have to evolve.

I was setting up another movie (I’m not just an eternal optimist, “This time will be different,” I’m also a creature of habit and loyalty) and it looked like the movie was going to happen. It potentially meant I’d get my biggest paycheck ever. I fantasized that maybe now I could be a homeowner again, as I had been so easily at 24 years old in Maryland. But when I looked at all the numbers, I realized that I could barely afford to purchase the 800 foot condo I was living in by then, much less buy a house. With the kind of check I was fantasizing about, there are literally hundreds of lovely homes in decent neighborhoods in New Orleans that I could have bought for cash.

And I had never intended to date in L.A.  I was still married when I moved there and thought I would have a partner on my journey in a new career in a new town with all new people. Most people move to L.A. to pursue a dream, a single-minded vision of what their life could be. They separate themselves from all the dreamers who never leave their hometown and move thousands of miles to a place where they don’t know anyone or how to get around (and a lot of us moved there before GPS – ever heard of a Thomas Guide?) or who to trust or how to get started or which dentist to go to or even what to wear. A person willing to dive that far into the unknown to pursue a dream is to be admired. Even if they end up never doing more than bussing tables or valeting cars, they got up the couch and pursued their dream, they have moxie.

But people who pursue a single-minded vision of what they dream for themselves tend not to be great partners. And no one ever moved to L.A. to meet their soul mate (except stalkers).  So, what’s a single girl to do? I focused on my career and did my best with dating. I learned to be happy single, though I hated not being paired. I made amazing friends, got reunited with my best friends from high school, found my favorite places to go and things to do and I went on big adventures. But, they say happiness shared is happiness doubled, sorrow shared is sorrow halved. I was living with half my potential happiness and double the sorrow. Every rejection, backstab, and failure was mine to process and every victory was mine to celebrate. I got good at doing both, but knew my nature was to couple. I began to wonder if I should stop trying to find a needle in a haystack and just move to a hayfield.

Top 3 reasons to move to New Orleans –

My family is from here for generations. If my father had gotten a job here out of college, I would have been born and raised here. Like that adopted kid who loves their parents but longs to understand why they are the way they are, I wanted to live in the culture that had been passed to me from my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents. This is our dirt. My family has history here. Here, I meet people who know people in my family and once I met someone who turned out to BE family.

I feel normal here, not like an anthropologist studying humans to understand them. People are crazy everywhere but big cities have their own breeds of crazy. In the D.C. area, government is king. When Nancy Reagan was in the White House, everyone wore “Reagan Red” with gold. When Barbara Bush was there, they wore, “Bush Blue” with pearls. I wore things that made people look at me funny (that they’d end up wearing a few years later). In N.Y., people don’t interact unless they need you to move out of the way. I’d smile at people, make eye contact, say “crazy” things like, “How you doing?” and they’d look at me like I was a Martian. In L.A., I couldn’t make myself care who people’s agents were or what car anyone drove. Here, everyone celebrates everything. They even put the fun in funeral. Is it crazy to have so many festivals that you have a “Fete Festival” when the word “Fete” means “festival?” Sure, but is it wrong to have a festival celebrating festivals? Not in my book.

And the men. I followed my heart here. My gut told me that everything I was looking for, denying myself while I furthered my career, was right here where I always wanted to be. There are some amazing men in L.A., but people follow their hearts to New Orleans, not their dreams. I’ve never seen a city so in love with its city. These people are deeply committed to happiness and get it that pleasure is often followed by a hangover.

Oh yeah, and there’s also the food, music, culture, art, beauty, lifestyle, values, sno-balls, architecture, humor, character, exuberance and the indomitable nature of the people committed to this town and its football team.

I left L.A. for a thousand reasons, some of which have been enumerated, but I’m loathe to badmouth a place I CHOSE to live in for nearly 18 years. There’s plenty to love about L.A.. There’s weather (or the lack of it), some amazing people, my beloved canyon, amazing movie theaters and the mountains crash into the beaches with palm trees like upturned exclamation points saying, “Can you believe how beautiful this is?” L.A. is that charming, good looking sweet talker with an agenda. It’s seductive as hell but it confuses pleasure with happiness. It’s the boyfriend that’s with the prettiest girl in the room, but keeps it’s eye on the door in case a prettier one comes in.

New Orleans is the boyfriend I felt like I’ve known my whole life. It’s my soul mate.

54 responses to “About

  1. Hi Laura,
    We too rode in Orpheus last night. Time of our lives, we never dreamed we would have the pleasure of participating in such an amazing event. We moved from LA to NOLA in 2009, due to so many of the same reasons you mentioned above. We fell in love with the city as well and have now made a home here. It was great hearing your perspective and the reasons behind your move. Being a born/raised Valley Girl, it was a welcome change and one I don’t regret at all.
    Thanks for sharing your story! Happy Mardi Gras!

  2. I tried leaving a comment in your recent posting, but my iPad was on the fritz. What I wanted to say was
    Found your blog vis-a-vis the nola article this evening re: Quentin in Orpheus. Since moving from the “other LA”, I’ve been wanting to blog about the differences as well, and am glad to see someone has and can relate! Hope to see y’all tomorrow night. We will be hovering around Napoleon and Pitt streets.
    Melany
    PS it’s just a regular Tuesday in Los Angeles this week! 🙂
    PPS now that I have read your About page, you have so eloquently describe how I feel about LA, now that I am living here.

  3. Perfectly wonderfully beautifully awesomely said!

  4. Amanda Schmid

    I have just stumbled upon your blog and am so glad I did! You really put into words the same feelings I have about not belonging in LA. I am also thinking about leaving LA for NOLA, but I’m not sure if it Is the right decision for me yet. Maybe your blog can help me decide! Thanks so much for writing and sharing your journey 🙂

    • You’re very welcome and I wish you well with your decision. If you’re an actor, I do speak on the topics of when to move to Los Angeles as well as working in a secondary market in my book, “Know Small Parts: An Actor’s Guide to Turning Minutes into Moments and Moments into a Career” with foreword by Richard Dreyfuss. I don’t know if you’ll find the information directly applies to your situation but you may find it helpful.
      The book is available on Amazon, Kindle or at http://knowsmallparts.com

  5. Am sorry to miss Mardi Gras- it has been a while- but Sundance starts tomorrow night and it looks like a very good year, from what I can tell from the catalog. BTW, if you haven’t discovered Elizabeth’s in Bywater yet, it is a great little neighborhood place and one of my absolute favorites (along with Frankie and Johnny’s and Domilise’s).

  6. Laura, just discovered your blog. Greatly enjoyed it and your performances in Django and Treme- in fact, met David Morse last month at the hotel in Birmingham (I was at Porsche Driving School- he and the family were either coming from or going to New Orleans/Philadephia. Nice man, very self-effacing. If you are coming up for Sundance, you have friends in Salt Lake City if you need anything: we are ex- New Orleans/Baton Rouge/Shreveporters, still desperately in love with Louisiana (I was in N.O. November 8-11, right after Birmingham.) best regards, Jim

  7. Scott Smith

    Laura, I was curious about something. Did your mom go to Zelden Physical Therapy for her shoulder? If so, how is she doing? I remember all the hard work she did. I was one of the assistant

    • Yes she did! She calls you all her “healing angels” and had as positive an experience as someone can in that situation. She said to tell you her shoulder is great and that she can do things other people can’t, even if they’re in perfect health. She was also curious to know how you stumbled onto my blog.
      Thanks so much for any part you had in taking care of my mother and bringing her back to health.

  8. Pat Edmonds

    Laura,
    So happy to find your blog. It is a wonderful read. I am part of your extended family in Mobile. I met you at the Crayfish Boil in B. R. and thought you most beautiful. My husband’s grandmother was born on Bourbon Street right above the Club 500 (at that time a jewelry store. Her father designed jewels for the New Orleans Opera house). He feels the same charm of the city as you and I am glad you are back in that city. Keep blogging.
    Pat

  9. Karan Altavilla

    Thx for information.

  10. Hello Laura–

    I can relate so much to your story. I grew up in Shreveport and Baton Rouge and then left BR for Santa Cruz, CA and stayed for 23 years. It was a wonderful time, but I always thought about getting back to Louisiana. I met a great California gal who was charmed by our State (whew, Thank You!) and we moved to New Orleans last Summer. It was so much the right thing to do for both of us. Look forward to reading more of your journey!

  11. DaninBoca

    We miss the “mudbugs”. We can get them here in Ft Lauderdale but they ain’t that good.

    Enjoy them. We “ohn-vey” you

  12. Laurie

    What y’all are describing is an “envie for Louisiana” (pronounced ‘ohn-vee’ It is a Cajun/Creole term that means a “yearning or a desire”. I know what you mean, after marrying we moved to Tampa area for 4 years and I was like a fish out of water. I loved meeting new people and all of that, but something was just missing. Every year in the early springtime, I had a restlessness that I couldn’t describe. I finally figured it out. I was missing Mardi Gras and Crawfish season. As a teacher, I had to teach during Mardi Gras week and that just didn’t seem right, so I did a unit on Mardi Gras, more for myself than for the students. Once I saw a sign on a telephone pole that said “Live Crawfish” and a number. I called so excited and said, “Y’all have crawfsh?!!” and the little boy said, “Yes ma’am.” It was the first spontaneous “ma’am” that I had experienced form a child and it made me homesick. One of the parents of my students questioned me ablout my practice of having the kids say “Ma’am.” It went like this. “Parent: “I understand that you have the kids call you ma’am.” Me: “Yes, ma’am, I do.”
    Parent: “Why do you do that?” Me: “Well, because it is how I was raised. We always had to speak that way. My father or mother would make us repeat sir or ma’am anytime we responded with simple a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ . It was considered polite.” She then went on to explain that it was considered rude where she was from (midwest) because, “that is how you would speak to a waitress”. I thought, “Doesn’t a waitress deserve respect too?” I asked her if she wanted me to stop, but she said it was okay and she just wanted to clarify. I was still confused…it is just a cultural thing I guess. Anyway, I guess what I am saying is I, too,” Know what it means to miss New Orleans”. I am glad you got back to your roots. 🙂

  13. Hi Laura,

    Really like your blog, especially the idea that “a house is not a home”, its something i really identify with personally. Contributing to the local culture and getting to know your community is so important. As a matter of fact I am working on an event in NOLA for March 24 called CitySolve Urban Race, which involves running, using public transportation, clue solving, and much more. Its like the Amazing Race, but better! What i wanted to ask is if you would be interested in publishing a blog post on the event. We are certain that it will contribute to the vibrant culture that is NOLA! If you are interested more in the event here is our website: http://www.citysolveurbanrace.com/

    Thanks,
    Chris

  14. I just fell in love with New Orleans too. Thank you for this. Such evocative writing.

  15. RickinBoca

    Your writing conveys a heartfelt message about the healing power of knowing where you belong.

    Rick

  16. Laura, you have described my love for my city in a nutshell. People often ask me why I returned to NOLA after the storm. She gets in your blood and becomes a part of your being. People either love this city or they hate it. I used to live in San Diego for a while and as much as enjoyed being there, my soul was still at home. I’m a New Orleanian to the core!
    I’m glad that you share my love for her.

  17. Great article. I have heard similiar stories and am hoping more people make it here. Still a lot of people have not discovered our “time warp” as I sometimes think of it.

  18. Puja Eaton

    Thankyou for your writing. I live in Colorado and am looking so forward to visiting your area. II’ll be down in Oct., and will soak every minute of it up !

  19. Cornell P. Landry

    I just wanted to drop you a line to tell you what a pleasure it was to meet you and your boyfriend at the French Quarter Fest. Thank you for realizing the beauty and magic of the great city of New Orleans. So many of our locals take all of this for granted. Welcome home.

    Cornell

  20. Catherine

    Exactly how I feel about New Orleans after being away most of my adult life. Phew! I thought I was strange to think that New Orleans is my true love, my soulmate. What a relief to know that it feels like that to others. Hope you don’t mind sharing your soulmate. I say the more (of us) the merrier we’ll all be in the Big Easy. Thank you for prose.

  21. Laura, love your blog! As a transplant from Florida to Louisiana, I admire your love for NOLA! I have grown to love Louisiana and proud of it…so many people asked me “why” would u move there…my response is always, you must of never been there! My husband is from River Ridge and has missed home for over 20 years…but now he is back where he belongs. We visit NOLA often, we are only about 10 mins south of Baton Rouge. My husband works in the convention business and loves when he can “represent” in NOLA. Thank you for all the information and insight…I have added you to my blog list as a must read…:-)

  22. Oh, my! I happened upon your website through a Muses link. And you beautifully express the homesickness that seems to grow stronger the longer I’ve been away from New Orleans. Amazing how this silly, seductive, passionate, playful city makes everyplace else look pale and simply pleasant (with pleasant being pejorative) . I’m just dreaming of a retreat where I can hear the streetcar change gears or fall out of my door into Audubon Park. But I applaud your gumption in moving Home -lock stock and barrel.

  23. Dupsi Brown-Kuria

    How can I make you know how soul stirring it is to find you. My family’s roots & traditions, for generations, have been in New Orleans, Baton Rouge & Maringouin, LA. Born in Los Angeles, I never thought of myself as just an LA girl. I wld proudly tell anyone who asked where I was from or about that ‘some kinda accent’ they heard in my speech, “…well my family is from NEW ORLEANS!” Growing up I was surrounded by people from NOLA; a large family of aunts, uncles & cousins, extended family of ‘aunties & uncles’ who my parents knew from Home, good food, grocery stores, meat & fish markets carrying Louisiana oysters & shrimp for Friday dinner, all dat! But I hadn’t bn to New Orleans since I was 7 yrs old…until last August. Spending 10 days in Louisiana opened up something in my soul. I was blessed to be there w/ my mother’s 90 yr old sister, for a family reunion. I will never b the same. By the fifth day, I told my Auntie that I know I will live in New Orleans. There is a part of me that can not breath in California; could not exhale, and then, I got to New Orleans. Ah-h-h-h-h!

  24. Hi Laura,

    You may not remember me, it’s been a few years. I was a photographer that did some testing with you in New York and Baltimore. It seems like it was in another life. I’m glad your career worked out. I will enjoy reading about the next chapter.

  25. Michael Mansy

    Laura….I have not spoken to you since we worked together in Tyson’s Corner. You were kind enough to invite my wife and I to your party in your Maryland home. It was warm just like you.

    It seems that you are the same sweet person that you were years ago. Love and miss you. All the best……

  26. Shanetone

    Nice post, enjoyed reading your descriptions of new orleans. I find it interesting that someone who has lived in LA (I did once too and long to go back) can actually like it here in New Orleans….different strokes I guess…!

  27. janell

    Thanks for keeping us up to date. Love to read your thoughts!

    Miss ya, love ya!

  28. Margaret

    Well, just plain ol’ Welcome home baby! Welcome home.

  29. Lynn Holmes

    when it’s right, it’s right!

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