For this week’s episode of “PopSmart NOLA” we continued our look at Carnival with two new guests and the return of another:
Christy Hackenberg, director of public relations and information technology for the Pussyfooters marching group — which helped spark a massive wave of marching groups in Carnival parades that continues to grow in 2017, but might be facing a turning point.
Rebecca Snedeker, director of “By Invitation Only,” landmark documentary about an insider’s look at the old-line Carnival scene that has defined her family, and why she left it.
And a return visit with Wayne Phillips, curator at the Louisiana State Museum, this time offering us an update on the gay Carnival culture that once featured a dozen krewes but has shrunken to a few, proud group of me also facing their own turning point. And, a new book!
We also had a ticket giveaway for Sunday’s 5-year anniversary production of “You Don’t Know The Half of It.” Big thanks to Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré and Cecile Monteyne for making this happen.
SEGMENT ONE: CHRISTY HACKENBERG
I was happy to welcome our first guest, Christy Hackenberg, and not just because she’s a fellow Florida State University grad. (Go ‘Noles.) Christy moved to New Orleans in 1992 and adapted to the unique life led here. She became very involved with various graphic design organizations. After Katrina and the Federal Flood, her focus became more about New Orleans and she got involved with socially minded groups and the New Orleans blogging community. In 2008 she joined the Krewe of Muses. In 2009 she join Krewe du Vieux and currently serves as secretary of Krewe of Spank. In 2010 she joined the Pussyfooters and currently serves as the PR and IT chair. She is working to compile a comprehensive history and archive of the Pussyfooters. In this pre-recorded interview, we discussed the impact of the Pussyfooters on Carnival parade culture, and what she sees happening with the group marching forward.
The Pussyfooters Blush Ball 2017 will be held Saturday (Jan. 20) at Generations Hall, with proceeds to benefit the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Visit the Facebook event page for details.
I introduced a new segment on “PopSmart NOLA” in which I share an interesting story I’ve come across over the past week. First up:
Kevin Alexander’s piece in Thrillist, titled, “There’s a massive restaurant industry bubble, and it’s about to burst.” This is a notion that was on my mind as soon as I returned to New Orleans in 2013 after being away for seven years, and I was constantly hoping for a localized version of this. Alexander cites “[r]ising labor costs, rent increases, a pandemic of similar restaurants, demanding customers unwilling to come to terms with higher prices” as root causes.
Alexander has several New Orleans connections in the piece, including an interview with chef James Cullen (previously of Treo and Press Street Station) who, as noted in the article, “talked at length about the glut of copycats: “If one guy opens a cool barbecue place and that’s successful, the next year we see five or six new cool barbecue places,” he told Alexander. “… We see it all the time here.”
You’ll also find references to Company Burger and St. Roch Market in the piece, which is very much worth the time. Highly recommended.
SEGMENT TWO: REBECCA SNEDEKER
Joining us in the studio Saturday was Rebecca Snedeker, the Clark Executive Director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University. Through her work as an independent documentary filmmaker, writer, and program curator, she has cultivated a body of work that supports human rights, creative expression, and care for place in her native city, New Orleans. Snedeker co-authored Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (University of California Press, 2013), a book of 22 imaginative maps and essays, with Rebecca Solnit. She produced several documentaries that take place in the Gulf South, including Preservation Hall (commission, 2000), By Invitation Only (PBS, 2007), Witness: Katrina (National Geographic Channel, 2010), and Land of Opportunity (ARTE, 2010) and contributed to many others, including Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (PBS, 2007) and A Village Called Versailles (PBS, 2008). Snedeker served on the Steering Committee of New Day Films, a filmmaker-owned educational distribution company, and the boards of the New Orleans Film Society and Patois: The New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival. She is the recipient of an Emmy Award and director of projects funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“By Invitation Only” was a seminal work in the way it brought viewers into the secret world of old-line Carnival culture, one that, while blessed with incredible history, pageantry and beauty, had another side that included racism, sexism and classism. A decade later, we discussed how in her mind does the work still resonate with viewers, and New Orleanians? What has been the fallout since?
SEGMENT THREE: WAYNE PHILLIPS, LOUISIANA STATE MUSEUM
For our final segment for this, our second consecutive show dedicated to New Orleans’ Carnival culture, we once ago spoke with Wayne Phillips, who has served as the Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum since 1998. Wayne is responsible for a collection of over 30,000 artifacts, including historic and contemporary clothing, accessories, and textiles of all kinds, as well as an encyclopedic collection of artifacts documenting all aspects of Louisiana Carnival celebrations statewide. Wayne has made strides in expanding the State Museum’s holdings documenting the LGBTQ community in Louisiana, with particular interest in gay Carnival krewes. In 2014, Wayne served on the Steering Committee that founded the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, and he serves on the board of directors for the organization today. I spoke with Wayne about how the gay Carnival culture has evolved over the past few decades, and about its interesting future — which includes the release a book on the subject, hopefully later in 2017.
Before closing I offered suggestions on what’s going Saturday in the Crescent City if you were looking for something fun to do:
Paul Oswell and Benjamin Hoffman bring you the second show of “Local Uproar” for 2017 over the AllWays Lounge. I interviewed Paul about the show in particular and New Orleans comedy in particular this week on PopSmart NOLA.
The new play “Red Rabbit White Rabbit” premieres this weekend over at the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church. I also offered details on this new play and a new theater company, at PopSmart NOLA.
Something I did not write about for PopSmart NOLA (but wish I had) is tonight’s opening reception of New Orleans-born artist Rashaad Newsome’s interdisciplinary presentation, “Mélange,” figuring a series of films and works on paper in conversation with Newsome’s upcoming performance of FIVE. That’s at the Contemporary Arts Center from 7 to 9 p.m.
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Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going. Happy Carnival!