10 most-read stories on PopSmart NOLA in 2016

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The most popular stories on PopSmart NOLA in 2016 are reflection of how the site has evolved over the course of the year, in some ways serving as a forum for New Orleans’ creative community to share their stories, thoughts and ideas. There were some fascinating ideas put forth, and so I thought it would be fun to close out the year with a look back at what you read. Here’s to more fun stories in 2017.

10) Big Freedia and Carl Mack: Queens for a weekend, with Krewe du Vieux and Satyricon
“Considering their respective senses of style and ties to the LGBT community, it should come as no surprise that the two would cross paths, as they did when Mack created the costume for Big Freedia’s appearance at the 2014 Voodoo Fest. (That it had such a royal appearance should shock no one, either; check out the photos!) His ball costumes are even more elaborate.”

9) Bella Blue to launch Foxglove Revue, a new burlesque troupe in New Orleans
“The inspiration behind the troupe might sound counterintuitive when you consider her stating the obvious of the current status of the scene: ‘Burlesque is really saturated right now.’ So why add another troupe? To make it better, she said. ‘The challenge is making it stand out. Making it unique. Making it really set apart from the others,’ Blue said. ‘What we feel we have done is chosen all very strong performers who are committed to not just bringing their A-game, but are also committed to learning.’”

8) Fleur de Tease’s Chris Lane on life as a burlesque emcee: “My job is to get off the stage”
“It’s a sticky wicket to address, as a male host, sexuality and female empowerment in burlesque; I’m not a woman onstage disrobing for strangers, I don’t have to deal with real life and online stalking, or body shaming. There have been a lot of great essays and discussions about empowerment and the Male Gaze, presented by much greater intellects; but at the end of the day burlesque is still a mediated experience, people are still paying to see someone onstage, there are still voyeuristic and exhibitionistic elements, so issues of sex, power and commodification collide alongside boas, pasties and glove peels. To navigate that minefield as a host, I personally do lots of crowd control and make sure the audience is getting their money’s worth, but without indulging in ‘the customer is always right’ philosophy or throwing performers under the bus.”

7) New Orleans actress Kerry Cahill on her own loss, following Pulse Orlando shooting
“I do know that I will probably not make it out of a mass shooting alive. I won’t win against an AR-15 or a Glock 45. I won’t, and that’s OK. I never want to have to fight one again, I already got lucky once: I was robbed at gunpoint and made it out alive. And if you think you’re tired of the violence, imagine how the 13-year-old in my school who lost her 3-year-old sister to a drive-by shooting feels. Imagine how I feel, imagine how a 9/11 survivor feels, imagine how a president who has had to hug more than 100 victims’ family members feels. So don’t get tired — get mad, get energetic, and don’t stop because I’m never moving out of the USA. I will stay and make it better. I hope you do, too.”

6) Check out the best in New Orleans burlesque, circus and sideshow for 2015
I’ve looked at the New Orleans burlesque and circus scenes for 2015. This was capped off with a series of ‘best of’ polls recognizing the work in several areas. The reasons for the polls were many. It seemed like a nice way to help put a cap on what became for me a year of covering a vital facet of New Orleans’ performance scene. It also seemed like a nice way to shine a spotlight on both the performers and productions throughout the year, both to provide exposure for the scene and to serve as an informal taking of the pulse on what fans were responding to.”

5) Vinsantos: Cabaret and drag shows turn into fundraisers after French Quarter fire
“We live in a very special compound on north Rampart Street that consists of the Temple, Deity Arts, our home as well as the homes of five residents. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to put the pieces of these people’s live back together, The Voodoo Temple suffered a huge amount of fire, smoke and water damage and will not be reopening in its long-standing location. Both Hannibelle and the tenant adjacent to her have lost their homes. This is painful to us as we had the best neighbors that we could ask for. This isn’t something that can be fixed with a little drywall and some paint. This mixed-use building will be out of commission for a long while.”

4) David Bowie’s pianist Mike Garson recalls 1972 Ziggy Stardust show in New Orleans
“I loved that tour and I especially love New Orleans because I have a specific memory of, when we weren’t playing, I went into some of those clubs and just sat in with some of those Dixieland bands and played some of that music with them … So that was a thrill for me. And the inspiration for ‘Time’ I would suspect would’ve come from there. I was there, and he was writing that music through that whole tour and being affected by every city we went to.”

3) Polly Watts takes the Avenue Pub staff to Belgium (Field Trip)
The memories we created in Belgium always involved beer, but they were rarely about beer. The brewers we met talked as much about their families, the history of their regions and politics as they did about beer. In fact, geeky American-style beer discussions can be dangerous territory with a Belgian and filled with landmines when speaking to a Belgian brewer. Just like religion, converts to craft beer can be very enthusiastic and opinionated. The peeps in Belgium have been living beer for generations. There is a right way and a wrong way to brew/market/drink beers … and don’t imagine that all Belgian brewers agree on what is right and what is wrong. Introduce enthusiastic (but not professional brewers) American opinions and you will be quickly dismissed.”

2) The woman behind the coolest kiss at Southern Decadence
“The protesters seemed confused, and just tried yelling about how disgusting we were. They repeatedly condemned us, saying that we’re ‘gonna burn in hell’ and my friend calmly responded, ‘Well, at least I’ll be with her.’ And aside from a few giggles, those were the only words either of us said. The onlookers cheered and drowned out the negativity, someone with a bullhorn was taunting them asking why they liked watching it if it was such a sin, and a woman came up and “beaded” us before we walked off hand in hand.”

1) At Dook’s Place at the airport, New Orleans-style family of fare
“‘Dook’ spent a few years at Dooky Chase’s (which celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2016) after graduating from the “intensive track” program at Le Cordon Bleu in France back in 2008, and then after working for Entergy and having two children with his wife, Gretchen, helped open Dooky Chase’s out at the airport before starting to chart his own path. A spot nearby, but with more of his influences, seemed a logical progression.”

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“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM) looks back at 2016 with theater critics Brad Rhines and Ted Mahne and music writer Alison Fensterstock

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Earlier in the month we reviewed the year 2016 in New Orleans culture, providing a carefully curated set of the top stories as reported by local media (including PopSmart NOLA).

To advance the discussion, I welcomed theater critics Brad Rhines (New Orleans Advocate) and Ted Mahne (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) and veteran New Orleans music journalist Alison Fensterstock to go over their own top stories in theater and music on the radio show “PopSmart NOLA” — our first pre-recorded show, to air on WHIV (102.3 FM) from 3 p.m.-4 p.m. You also can listen online at whivfm.org. (Note: This episode originally was to air last week but had to be moved to this week due to scheduling and production issues.)

Here’s how I set up the year in review back on Dec. 20:

As New Orleans continued to shift into what could be called a “post-post-Katrina” period — that is, moving past the 10-year commemoration of the devastation, or recovery mode — evidence of a new New Orleans culture continued to reverberate all over. Sometimes we see that reflected in trends identified in other cities, like a more diverse (and ever-shifting) restaurant scene, or (more dramatically) the legalization and hopeful regulation of short-term rentals. Then there was, for a variety of reasons, a shrinking of the Hollywood South imprint and its seeming rejection of a film industry in the state. Yet there continued the boundless proliferation of festivals as New Orleans continued to almost manically celebrate itself. To be sure, the changing face of the city’s culture remained ever changing. There are those who believe that, with so many of these changes, New Orleans’ unique and often quirky culture might be threatened — that the reasons that make the city so special and so inviting to the rest of the world are shrinking like the Louisiana coastline. But 2016 also represented a year of amazing and exciting moments that reconfirmed a city’s passion for its cultural life — even when commemorating the lives of famous cultural figures not from New Orleans. Last week I posted an overview of many of these moments, a carefully curated round-up of stories pulled from several local media outlets (including PopSmart NOLA), as well as national outlets where appropriate. The year is broken down into categories, with a subjectively chosen lead story followed by links to lots of others.

In this episode I’ll go back over the year-in-review post, highlighting the top stories, and then I’ll bring on:

    • Brad Rhines, a freelance arts and culture writer. Brad regularly contributes theater coverage and criticism to The New Orleans Advocate. When he’s not at the theater he’s probably spending time with his family at one the city’s various parks, museums, or music festivals.
    • Ted Mahne. A New Orleans journalist for more than 30 years, Ted Mahne has spent a lifetime as a devoted theater-goer. He has covered the local theater and arts scene for more than 20 years, now serving as a freelance writer and chief theater critic for The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com. When not in a seat on the aisle, Ted can be found teaching sophomores at Jesuit High School.
    • We’ll also chat with veteran music journalist Alison Fensterstock, with whom I’ve worked at three different media outlets — Gambit, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and the New Orleans Advocate. Alison also has been published in several national media outlets, including NPR (where she posted a relevant piece on the David Bowie memorial parade) and Pitchfork. Alison was one of the first New Orleans journalists to cover the city’s emerging bounce scene in general and the breakout career of Big Freedia in particular — a story that became even more intriguing in 2016.

I also want to remind you that if you like what you’re hearing on this, the radio show version of “PopSmart NOLA” you can “like” PopSmart NOLA on Facebook. We’re also on Instagram at @popsmartnola, and I’m on Twitter as @dlsnola504.

Happy New Year, y’all!

(P.S. Big thanks to Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré for collaborating with us on our special ticket giveaway for Friday’s Sweet Crude concert, and congratulations to the winner, Stephen Schaefer!)

The year in culture: New Orleans 2016 in review (a curated roundup of news)

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(NOTE: This round-up will be updated as comments are added, and any notable news is reported, after the end of the year.)

As New Orleans continued to shift into what could be called a “post-post-Katrina” period — that is, moving past the 10-year commemoration of the devastation, or recovery mode — evidence of a new New Orleans culture continued to reverberate all over. Sometimes we see that reflected in trends identified in other cities, like a more diverse (and ever-shifting) restaurant scene, or (more dramatically) the legalization and hopeful regulation of short-term rentals. Then there was, for a variety of reasons, a shrinking of the Hollywood South imprint and its seeming rejection of a film industry in the state. Yet there continued the boundless proliferation of festivals as New Orleans continued to almost manically celebrate itself.

To be sure, the changing face of the city’s culture remained ever changing.

There are those who believe that, with so many of these changes, New Orleans’ unique and often quirky culture might be threatened — that the reasons that make the city so special and so inviting to the rest of the world are shrinking like the Louisiana coastline.

But 2016 also represented a year of amazing and exciting moments that reconfirmed a city’s passion for its cultural life — even when commemorating the lives of famous cultural figures not from New Orleans. Here’s an overview of many of these moments, a (hopefully) carefully curated round-up of stories pulled from several local media outlets (including PopSmart NOLA), as well as national outlets where appropriate.

The year is broken down into categories, with a subjectively chosen lead story followed by links to lots of others. I hope to continue the discussion on “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM) on Saturday (3 p.m.-4 p.m.).

What was the biggest cultural moment in New Orleans in 2016 for you? Please add any of your important moments in the comments section.

MUSIC
Irvin Mayfield resigns from the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (WWL-TV)
“Calling the last months ‘trying and difficult,’ Irvin Mayfield responded for the first time to the 14-month scandal surrounding his use of public library donations by resigning as artistic director and board member at the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, a nonprofit he founded in 2002.”

ALSO: Beyonce’s “Formation” video, with New Orleans references, is released (Curbed) … New Orleans Airlift’s Music Box finds a permanent home in Bywater (My Spilt Milk) … Trombone Shorty performs at the White House for 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts (WGNO) … Bayou Country Superfest to relocate to New Orleans in 2017 (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Skywriting turns heads at Jazz Fest (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Bayou Boogaloo policy has neighbors feeling fenced in (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Musicians rally for Lil Queenie (My Spilt Milk) … Michael Cerveris releases “Piety” (PopSmart NOLA) … Lil Wayne makes news (not all of it good) … Fats Domino documentary airs on PBS (New Orleans Advocate) … Boyfriend breaks out (My Spilt Milk) … French Quarter Festivals, Inc.’s Marci Schramm steps down (New Orleans Advocate) … David Kunian takes over as director of New Orleans Jazz Museum (New Orleans Advocate) … Local acts warm up for national acts at Jazz Fest (My Spilt Milk) … Delish Da Goddess breaks out with video (Gambit) … Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” album debuts at No. 1; album’s videos have “stunning power”; Solange pens letter after Orpheum incident; and Solange plays New Orleans tour guide for Vogue … Big Freedia crowned queen of Krewe du Vieux (PopSmart NOLA) … Big Feedia experiences legal trouble (New Orleans Advocate) … and Big Freedia saves the holiday with “A Very Big Freedia Christmass” (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Tank and the Bangas break out (My Spilt Milk)

FOOD
Shaya wins James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

“Shaya opened in Uptown New Orleans in February 2015. The restaurant, which is co-owned by John Besh, has been a sensation from the get-go. The food pays tribute to chef Shaya’s native Israel. Reservations to taste that food have been unusually hard to come by. Several national food outlets named Shaya among the country’s best new restaurant openings of the year. I gasped over the restaurant in a four-bean review in July. ‘Who woulda thought hummus in New Orleans?’ Shaya said when he accepted his medal. ‘What was everyone thinking?’”

ALSO: Nellie Murray Feast honors Leah Chase, remembers culinary legend (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Fried Chicken Fest debuts, to move to bigger venue (New Orleans Advocate) … Isaac Toups expands to SoFAB with Toups South (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Dryades Public Market opens in Central City (Biz New Orleans) … Restaurant Closings: Booty’s (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Dinner Lab (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Kyoto (New Orleans Advocate) … O’Henry’s Food & Spirits (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Tony Angello’s (New Orleans Advocate) … Horinoya (New Orleans Advocate) … and Restaurant Openings: Caribbean Room (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Dook’s Place (PopSmart NOLA) … Rosedale (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Wolf ’n’ Swallow (Gambit) … Dunbar’s Creole Cooking (New Orleans Advocate) … Brett Anderson’s top five new restaurants (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune).

BOOKS
Author Michael Tisserand releases “Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White” to universal praise (PopSmart NOLA)
“The subtitle is more than a clever pun, for Tisserand reveals the racial subtext of Herriman’s life, which often seeped into his comic-strip hero of the same name; Herriman, an African American, “passed” as a white man. The praise for Tisserand’s book — years in the making — already is overwhelmingly positive on this, its release date (Dec. 6). … “Seamlessly integrating the story of Herriman’s life, he executes an impressive history of early-20th-century race relations, the rise of Hearst and the newspaper boom, and the burgeoning cross-continental society life of New York and Los Angeles,” writes Kirkus Reviews.”

ALSO: Michael Allen Zell releases “Law & Desire” (New Orleans Advocate) … Illustrated edition of Danny Barker memoir “A Life in Jazz” is released, with forward by Gwen Thompkins (NPR) … New Orleans Poetry Festival debuts (WWNO) … Mary Badham appears at Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival (Deep South magazine) … Tulane hosts traveling “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare” exhibit; holds second line (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … New Orleans Public Library adds new hours (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … New Orleans Public Library’s new Mid-City location opens on Canal Street (New Orleans Advocate) … Michael Murphy releases “Hear Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Rich Musical Heritage and Lively Current Scene” (WWNO).

BARS/NIGHTLIFE
Louisiana stripper age-limit law challenged (New Orleans Advocate)
“Three dancers from New Orleans and Baton Rouge filed the suit claiming the state law robs them of their right to express themselves, a violation of the state and federal constitutions. They also said the ban is too broad and discriminates against dancers based on gender and age. Further, the dancers said there’s no evidence the new restrictions will have any impact on human trafficking, even though the state lawmaker who introduced it, Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, said it was ‘strictly an anti-human trafficking bill.’ All three dancers said the ban would hurt them financially. Two dancers said their income already had been sliced by at least half.”
ALSO: Polly Watts takes Avenue Pub staff to Belgium (PopSmart NOLA) … Bar Openings: Three Keys, Ace Hotel (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Bar Closings: Bellocq (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Fox & Hound (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune).

THEATER/PERFORMANCE
Tyler Perry presents nationally televised “The Passion” live in New Orleans (Deadline)

“Equal parts sermon and Super Bowl halftime show, Fox’s ‘The Passion’ live event from New Orleans tonight was an Easter basket overstuffed with sincerity, good intentions and hammy musical performances, all melting into a big batch of goo faster than a chocolate bunny in the sun.”

ALSO: Faux/Real Fest drastically reduces footprint (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … New Orleans Opera presents “Dead Man Walking” (Louisiana Life) … Richard Mayer closes Old Marquer Theatre (NOLA.com| The Times-Picayune); opens Valiant Theater & Lounge in Arabi (New Orleans Advocate) … InFringe Fest debuts, sort of (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Theater gets wet: “Waterworld: The Musical” (NOLA.co | The Times-Picayune) and “Exterior. Pool – Night” … Trixie Minx presents “Cupid’s Cabaret” at the Orpheum (PopSmart NOLA) … Transgender artists reclaim their identity (PopSmart NOLA) … Bella Blue voted No. 8 burlesque performer in 21st Century Burlesque poll (PopSmart NOLA) … Le Petit Théâtre celebrates 100 years (Biz New Orleans) … Snake Oil Festival draws huge crowds for burlesque, circus and sideshow performances (PopSmart NOLA).

MOVIES
Hollywood South turns South with tax-credit limitations (New Orleans Advocate)
“Louisiana’s film and television industry — popularly known as Hollywood South because of the large number of movies and shows filmed here over the past decade — has suffered a sharp downturn since mid-2015. Industry officials are blaming a law passed a year ago by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal — a law that aimed to control ballooning costs for a generous incentive program that independent analysts say has not provided much bang for the buck.”

ALSO: New Orleans Film Society’s Jolene Pinder steps down (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Deepwater Horizon movie debuts (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune); so does memorial “ELEVEN” (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Broad Theater opens in Mid-City (Gambit) … New Orleans’ own Bianca Del Rio stars in “Hurricane Bianca” (PopSmart NOLA) … Architecture and Design Film Festival debuts, sponsored by the Louisiana Architectural Foundation, at Carver and Broad theaters (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sell French Quarter house as marriage ends (ET).

ART
Artist Brandan Odums opens StudioBE with new exhibit in Bywater (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
“The powerful installation features mural-scale graffiti-style portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, and Muhammad Ali, plus paintings of victims of police violence, New Orleans’ past political activists, and world peace advocates. The theme of the exhibit bridges the mid-20th-century Civil Rights era and the recent Black Lives Matter movement. The title, Odums said, is meant to imply both change and continuity.”

ALSO: Bob Dylan exhibition opens at New Orleans Museum of Art (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … “La Femme” at New Orleans Arts Center captures diversity of women (New Orleans Advocate) … “Avian Aviators” sculptures dominate Poydras Street (New Orleans Advocate).

CULTURE
City Council approves short-term rental rules (New Orleans Advocate)
“Council members who supported the rules — along with officials from the Landrieu administration and Airbnb — cast the package of regulations as a model for regulating the roughly 5,000 properties in New Orleans now listed on short-term rental sites, despite a longstanding citywide ban on the practice. And, pointing to data the city would require from Airbnb and similar platforms, they argued the new rules would provide a foundation that can be made more or less restrictive if problems develop.”

ALSO: Confederate memorials spur “Take ’Em Down” movement (Curbed) … National World War II Museum commemorates 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor  (WDSU) … Ellen DeGeneres earns Presidential Medal of Freedom (PopSmart NOLA) … National Museum of African American History and Culture, with New Orleans references, opens in Washington, D.C. (NPR) … Musee Conti wax museum closes (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … One kiss goes viral at Southern Decadence (PopSmart NOLA) … Sinkhole de Mayo becomes a thing (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

SPORTS
NBA moves 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans over HB2 controversy (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
“The NBA … gets a chance to make a powerful political statement by placing its midseason classic in one of America’s most socially progressive cities. New Orleans ranked fourth among American cities with the highest rates of LGBT population, according to a 2015 New York Times study. It ranked as 12th most ‘LGBT-friendly’ city in the U.S, in a study by nerdwallet.com, which based its rankings on statistics from the FBI, Gallup and Human Rights Campaign.”

ALSO: New Orleans Zephyrs renamed as Baby Cakes (Washington Post).

IN MEMORIAM
Musician Pete Fountain remembered (New Orleans Advocate); second line (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Keith Spera: “In their glory years, he and partner-in-crime Al Hirt lived large, laughed loud and drank a whole lot. But when it came time to toot — at his club, during a Super Bowl halftime show, at the White House, wherever — Fountain inevitably delivered. He could make a clarinet sing with a deep, rich, bluesy tone all his own. Styles may change — in a publicity photo from the 1970s, he rocks a toupee, collars the size of eagle wings, and a scarf — but his sound was timeless.”

ALSO: Musician and restaurateur Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr. remembered (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Herb Hardesty, longtime Fats Domino saxophonist (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Buckwheat Zydeco, music pioneer and Jazz Fest favorite (OffBeat) … Sharon Litwin, arts journalist, promoter, activist (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) … Prince remembered through the years, at Jazz Fest, at Essence Fest, and with second line … David Bowie remembered with tributes, second line (Alison Fensterstock/NPR) … Mercedes “Miss Mercy” Stevenson, Big Queen, Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indians, remembered (WWOZ) … Helen Koenig, Carnival costume supplier (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune).

UPDATE: NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune weighed in with a list of 10 highlights, which included noting that Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest happened again.

What were some of your most memorable cultural moments in 2016? Tell us what is missing in the comments section, and we will add them at the beginning of the year.