March 26: Jennifer LeBlanc and I go back to New Orleans Fashion Week for the runway shows at the Board of Trade on Magazine. This time we have a driver from Limousines Limited. Amos is completing his personal security training, which helps when you drive people like Ben Affleck around.
We pull up to Valobra in the Quarter, where Jennifer’s longtime friend, Giorgio Valobra, has chilled the Veuve Cliquot. Jennifer knows a lot of people who do things like chill the Veuve Cliquot.
At the Board of Trade, we sit on the front row only because we printed out signs that say “Reservato” in Italian before we left Giorgio’s store. Everyone is fashionable, especially Raoul Blanco and photographer Jake Revolt.
Afterwards, Giorgio makes reservations for dinner at Tommy’s Cuisine, where the waiter leans over and says to him, “You are the king of queens tonight.” The one man-two women combination gets them every time.
We get home at 1:00 in the morning, but attend the Gridiron Show the next day in Baton Rouge just the same. Gridiron is where reporters make fun of politicians in parody and song.
Where else can you serenade Bobby Jindal’s portrait with “Whiter Shade of Pale?”
Saturday, March 21: Designer Raoul Blanco, Jennifer LeBlanc, and I set out for the VIP party that kicks off New Orleans Fashion Week, a series of high-end runway shows, presentations, and social experiences. I-10’s a breeze in Jennifer’s new $120K Mercedes. We want to be back by 10 p.m.
Over Lake Ponchartrain, the traffic is backed up for miles due to marsh fires. The locals have slowed down to film with their phones and rubberneck. That Orleanians even notice when something’s on fire is noteworthy.
Raoul decides to take a shortcut to the Quarter. We are an hour late.
People are very fashionable at Presbytère, and there’s no party like a New Orleans party.
We want to eat dinner at Galatoire’s afterwards, but have to park at the Royal Sonesta, go through the lobby, and then walk down Bourbon Street. Anyone on Bourbon Street in a cocktail dress on Saturday night is presumed to be a prostitute. The Sonesta concierge gives us the fish-eye, which says “Not in my hotel.”
The Galatoire maître d’ makes us wait 20 minutes while considering whether or not to seat us. A waiter winks and tells Raoul, “You have your hands full tonight.”
Later, Raoul goes to get the car while we stand on the corner outside. Assuming we’re call girls, cabbies honk.
Not home until 1:00 a.m. I can’t wait to go again next week.
Second Week in March: The Cajundome hosts a bridal expo and The Advocate has a booth to roll out its new bridal section. The Zydeco Marathon is running that same day and puts orange cones across three lanes of Congress blocking access so that nobody rolls. Inside the Dome, the Limousines Limited guys are on a roll.
My daughter goes dress shopping at a David’s Bridal sale with her friend who’s getting married and says she’ll elope first. This is no reflection on The Advocate’s bridal section.
Real Estate mogul Van Eaton & Romero honors its elite with a swanky City Club breakfast. They are an hour off on the arrival time. Good that it wasn’t a closing.
Work begins on fake rigs in Chalmette for the $156 million filming of Deepwater Horizon starring Mark Wahlberg and a casting call goes out for actual rig workers to appear in on-rig scenes. I recommend my daughter’s boyfriend, because he’s a natural and nobody elopes to Chalmette.
First Week in March: The Symphony League hosts their Mad Hatter’s Luncheon at La Marquise, whose supplier chooses that moment to unload his truck and block the parking lot. No one can see this until they’ve already turned the corner, forcing several cars of women in very large hats to back up and drive around to the front, where La Marquise has put out traffic cones to block its other lot entrance. The cones are scorned.
The Lafayette Education Foundation has a ReProm social at the home of Iggy and Tia Castille. A winter storm causes temperatures to fall below freezing and Mr. Castille, who owns a landscaping firm, is happy as a clam. ReProm is an excellent fundraiser that puts money directly in the hands of teachers and bypasses bureaucracy altogether. It’s also good to know you can relive high school, including photo bombing.
The Alzheimer’s Association readies itself for Blondes vs. Brunettes, a women’s tag team football fundraiser for which several genuine players have been recruited as coaches, including former NFL defensive end and Ragin’ Cajun Chris Gannon. I remember when I used to accidentally get phone calls from his team late at night.
Last week in February: The weather turns cold and dismal, but not the men. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette brings Irvin Mayfield to heat things up with a jazz concert and three-day residency, courtesy of the Ernest Gaines Center and others, while Chan Kiat Lim’s piano is on fire at a faculty recital.
Dr. Todd Howell opens up a vast new anti-aging operation in the Abraham Center and celebrates with a cocktail party, courtesy of Ruffino’s. Hordes interested in the fountain of youth arrive, and I have to hike in from the field across the way. The doctor and his partners appear to partake of their own stash.
The University welcomes dignitaries from Mexico with a reception at The International Center downtown. They are here to sign an agreement encouraging cooperation and exchange in education and technology. The Mexican Consulate comes from Nueva Orleans, including Enrique May, who has only been in this country for 15 days and whose friends took him to Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street. Welcome to the United States.
Hundreds of women happily converge upstairs at the Lafayette Hilton for the annual American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women luncheon. As they say in North Dakota, it sounded like sunrise on a guinea farm.
Mardi Gras Day: I cover the King’s Breakfast, the Queen’s Breakfast, and drive downtown to The Advocate.
Our Advocate office happens to be on the parade route. Randy in circulation is cooking outdoors, and no one barbecues like he does. Zeke Zimmermann looks like Sylvester Stallone is Cliffhanger, only taller. I make the mistake of wearing a biker jacket to the parade and get hit in the head so many times I start to wonder WWGD. What would Gemma do.
My daughter drops by, steals my cup and a good time is had by all, especially The Advocate.
Second week in February: My daughter has her birthday and I take her to lunch at Charley G’s. Owner Charlie Goodson still thinks I moved to Baton Rouge.
Queen Evangeline Ann-Riley Lane and King Gabriel PJ Voorhies III meet the press at her parents’ house. It takes almost an hour to drive there due to an accident on University and another one on Cajundome Blvd. in addition to the barricades. Her Majesty says the best part for her will be Tuesday’s presentation by her father. King Gabriel says, “We have police. All of the lights and sirens are neat.”
Xanadu has its ball at the Cajundome Convention Center. Sometimes Mardi Gras is not such a difficult job.
Triton has its ball at the Cajundome. Then there are other times.
Last week in January: Don Allen gets measured for a tuxedo at Mary Ellen’s Tux Shop and becomes The Most Interesting Man in the World. Mardi Gras Kings bow to him, float riders throw him real jewels, and French Quarter women call him by name.
My daughter invites me to Townsquare Media’s Red Hot Vixens & Villains Ball at La Marquise. Queen Rouge II Michele Ezell and King Cayenne II Moon Griffon, the Voice of Louisiana and conservative radio talk show host, reign together.
Apollo holds its ball at The Cajundome. There are red hot vixens here too, but no one conservative. There were several moons, however.
Late January: Mardi Gras continues, and emissaries send pictures from Washington D.C. Mardi Gras, although the Hilton D.C. ballroom is notorious for zero cell service. It has steel reinforced walls suitable for presidential stops. Thursday evening is a very loud party, Friday is a formal sit-down dinner, and Saturday, the actual Mardi Gras, is an extreme party for select VIPs. Several years ago a doctor died and they simply dragged the body bag through the faux New Orleans “street” with the floats and out the side door. No one noticed.
Attakapas holds its ball at the old Heymann Center. Attakapas is a highly secret women’s krewe whose members dress like Indians. Daniel Snyder would like them.
Triton’s Queen has her luncheon. Triton used to bounce me out the door when I showed up in my Armani tuxedo on ball night. God, I miss those days.