John Waters: “Make Trouble,” remote controls, and the crazy people in his life

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JOHN WATERS: “THIS FILTHY WORLD: DIRTIER AND FILTHIER”
WHEN:
Sat. (March 18), 8 p.m.
WHERE: Joy Theater, 1200 Canal St.
TICKETS: $45-$90
MORE INFO: Visit the Joy Theater website

Truth be told, John Waters can do these phone interviews in his sleep. What more is there to say after a career like his, which, fortunately for New Orleans, includes what feels like an annual pilgrimage to brush up on his “This Filthy World Tour” as he holds forth on the many things that landed him the title “Pope of Trash” and many other witty titles.

And yet, he always surprises you with a few curveballs and changeup pitches.

Some of that is captured in the feature in this week’s New Orleans Advocate article as well as in a podcast interview for “PopSmart NOLA.” Waters’ assistant was kind enough to also provide a “John Waters through the years” set of images for a nice photo gallery, so it seemed appropriate to provide a post of his recollections of the many crazy and special people in his long and colorful life, with some photos of him and the others included.

Enjoy!

Would you be game if I threw out a few of the names of the folks you’ve worked with over time? Would you mind giving me a first impression?

Sure.

I’ll start with Johnny Depp.
At the time of Johnny Depp in “Cry Baby” (1990), he was basically Justin Bieber. (At the time, Depp was the star of the TV hit “21 Jump Street.) He was a teen idol and he hated it. I think he made a wise decision to come with us because he could make fun of the whole thing. Then he moved on and made “Edward Scissorhands” and became a serious actor.

Debbie Harry.
I always loved Debbie. (Debbie Harry appeared as Velma Von Tussley in 1998’s in “Hairspray.”) She was from the very beginning, like a goddess to me. She’s a really good actress, too. I’ve seen her lots of different movies, independent films. It was great to have her. She was so excited to have Sonny Bono play her husband.

Ricki Lake.
Well, Ricki’s still a very dear friend. (Lake starred as Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray.”) She’s had tragedy recently over her last husband. I don’t know if you know about that. I didn’t know. He committed suicide. It’s in People magazine this week. Anyway, she is a dear friend. I wrote the introduction to her autobiography (“Never Say Never: Finding a Life That Fits”). We’ve stayed in touch from the very beginning. She was even in “Hairspray,” the NBC thing, and a cameo thing. Ricki’s a dear, dear friend I’ve known forever. When she came in, she was Tracy Turnblad. She was in college, hated it, wanted to be an actress. She always told me she wanted to be a TV star and she became one.

Kathleen Turner.
Oh, she’s great. I still see her. We just went over and recorded something for the new “Serial Mom” (1994) DVD/blue-ray that came out. Kathleen is a brilliant actor and she works constantly. She does a lot of theater. I don’t know. She’s got a great sense of humor. She doesn’t suffer fools, but I love to be with her when she doesn’t suffer fools.

Traci Lords.
A good friend. (Lords starred in “Cry Baby.”) She was only a porn star for, what, a year and a half or something. She’s been doing everything else for the rest of her life. Traci and I hosted a big punk rock festival in Oakland last year, called Burger Boogaloo, and I’m hosting it again this year. She was great because she said for the first time ever, you know how to meet and greet, which for her can be not a good. All the lineup was mostly all women. She said, “I’ll sign their tits but those guys? I ain’t signing their tits.’ They all had their haircut from “Cry Baby” and Traci Lords tattoos and everything. It was great.

Tab Hunter.
Tab Hunter is a friend. I certainly saw him. I’m in the documentary about him. If it wasn’t for him, “Polyester” (1981) would have never crossed over to what it did. Tab is somebody that you never can predict. He’s a Republican. He always makes me laugh. He does it just to defy me, too.

Mink Stole.
Mink and I are great friends. She moved back to Baltimore after living in New York and L.A. for years and years and years. We’re very good friends. She came up to the big Writers Guild, Lifetime Achievement Award I got. Mink’s a very, very close friend. She’s like family.

What do you think of the music album she put out a couple of years ago?
It’s so good! She could sing. (“Do Re Mink,” 2013.) I said, “Why didn’t you tell me you could sing?” She said, “I didn’t know it, either.” She’s like Julie London. She can really sing.

Patricia Hearst.
Patricia is certainly my friend, I hope. (Hears appeared in “Cry Baby.) She’s somebody who, it’s all over. She doesn’t care about it, she doesn’t think about it. Her life has evolved so much further. She’s got great kids. She’s something, that like from a time warp that that happened in. She really has no interest, or there’s no trace of it. She survived it. She was always telling the truth and that’s why she’s alive.

Iggy Pop.
Iggy Pop! He’s a headliner at the punk rock festival, Burger Boogaloo, this year, both nights that we’re hosting in Oakland. I saw Iggy recently. I did his radio show (“Iggy Confidential”) with him. We talked about scary Halloween music together.

Pat Moran.
Pat Moran’s my best friend in the world. She has cast everything from all my movies, then she went on to “The Wire.” She’s, I think, won an Emmy two or three times (“Veep,” “Game Change,” “Homicide: Life on the Street”). She’s been nominated (seven) times. She was also with me at the Writers Guild (ceremony). She and her husband are my closest friends.

What did you think about her as a talent? What made her special to you?
Well, because she could just recognize people that could do it, and were believable. She knew all types. You always believed the people that Pat cast. She went to different communities to get people that maybe wouldn’t have been actors and helped turn them into them.

Finally, Divine.
Divine, I miss him. Divine would have wanted to be in every single “Hairspray” that’s ever come out. He probably would have played many different roles. By the end, when Divine died, he was playing male roles. He probably would have wanted to play, I don’t know, Corny Collins.

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Peter Holsapple on “PopSmart NOLA”: “It’s kind of on my own terms at this point”

John Gessner Pic

Peter Holsapple (Photo by John Gessner)

PETER HOLSAPPLE
WHAT:
Singer-songwriter and former db’s and Continental Drifters bandmate joins in on Alex McMurray’s weekly show
WHEN: Monday (March 13), 8 p.m.
WHERE: Chickie Wah Wah, 2828 Canal St.
MORE INFO: Visit the website link

While he’s been back to New Orleans off and on over the past since leaving for Durham, N.C., singer-songwriter Peter Holsapple hasn’t gone solo in the Crescent City for a while. And now, he figures, is the right time, given a renewed focus on his solo work in recent years — a focus he’ll sharpen for his guest spot at Alex McMurray’s Monday night session at Chickie Wah Wah on March 14.

At 61, he noted in a recent phone interview, he’s done just about everything he’s been able to do to achieve artistic and commercial success in that bands he’s either co-founded (the ’80s indie-rock band the db’s, New Orleans roots-rockers the Continental Drifters) or served as a sideman (R.E.M., Hootie & the Blowfish). He hasn’t shut all of this previous work down, having performing in some form of reunion work or another with everyone except perhaps R.E.M., and remains a go-to sideman when Hootie & the Blowfish call.

But now he’s ready to do his own thing, in a way he probably hasn’t done in decades. He’s liking what he’s hearing, and will bring a freshly pressed 7-inch vinyl 45 rpm record with him to the gig.

“I’m excited to play new songs for people,” said Holsapple, who has sharpened his work through his affiliation with the Radio Free Song Club, a podcast that features writers who work on a monthly song deadline to help connect their songs with their audience. Participating artists include such familiar names as Howe Gelb, Freedy Johnston and Victoria Williams, and guest stars have included Holsapple’s old db’s bandmate Chris Stamey, XTC’s Andy Partridge and Glen Hansard of “Once” fame.

“It’s important for me to get people to the show to prove to them that I haven’t just been, y’know, sleeping in hammock since I’ve been gone,” he said. “It’s kind of on my own terms at this point. There’s nothing left to lose. … At this point, I’m just glad I have the ability to play it, and to play it for people who’ll listen. That’s exciting for me.”

The 7-inch features the haunting “Don’t Mention the War.” Lightly inspired by the catch-phrase from the British sitcom “Fawlty Towers,” the song tells the story of a family member who’s an otherwise creative, compelling figure but suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from a horrific war experience. (The song is played out in an epic, six-minute video available on YouTube and featured here.)

“It was a ‘Song Club’ song,” he said. “I was working under a deadline. But it had swarmed pretty solidly in my head before I even ran tape on it. That was kind of a good sign. The songs that write themselves I think are implicitly worthy of trust. I think there’s something else happening there, y’know. The ones that you labor over? A lot of those are really good, too. The ones that are just borne … of whole cloth, I think that’s something remarkable. And I’m so lucky to still have that happen, y’know?”

I asked Holsapple what if anything unified all of his work — whether in the bands he’s formed or the one’s he’s contributed to as a sideman.

“If I was going to say one thing that made sense that went over all four of those groups … I would say the interplay between the melody that the singer is singing and what the bass player is doing,” he said. “I think that is really what unifies a great song, certainly, and I think all four groups … place a great emphasis on getting that part right.

“It’s the top and the bottom. It’s what the people here.”

Here in this podcast segment recorded for Sunday’s (March 11) episode of “PopSmart NOLA,” Peter Holsapple discusses more about his solo work, his time with the db’s and the Continental Drifters, some of his New Orleans friends, and life in Durham, N.C.

(NOTE: “PopSmart NOLA” moves to new its new day and time, Fridays at noon, on March 17.)

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 20: Peter Holsapple, Sideshow, and Sacred Music

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Saturday show covered a lot of cool things going on in New Orleans over the next few days, including one that started Friday night, two at Café Istanbul, and one that might make your Blue Monday a little less blue. That said, we welcomed:

Mistress Kali of Freaksheaux to Geaux and Tommy Breen of World of Wonders to discussed her third annual event, the Southern Sideshow Hootenanny, which kicked off last night at Café Istanbul and continues through Sunday.

We also welcomed Sean Johnson of Wild Lotus Yoga and co-founder of the 6th Annual New Orleans Sacred Music Festival, which takes over Café Istanbul and other parts of the New Orleans Healing Center on Saturday.

Also finally, legendary singer-songwriter Peter Holsapple discussed a career that includes incredible work in the db’s and New Orleans’ own Continental Drifters as well as collaborations with R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish. Peter Holsapple plays his first solo show in New Orleans in over a decade when he performs Monday night (March 13) at Chickie Wah Wah.

SEGMENT ONE: Mistress Kali and Tommy Breen
Mistress Kali has spent several years in the nation’s sideshow scene, producing shows that feature fire-breathing, sword-swallowing, knife-throwing, human blockhead and other feats of human strength and general craziness. New Orleans has a history of sideshow performer, and the sub-culture has enjoyed an ebb-and-flow kind of existence over the decades but currently seems in ascendance.

Mistress Kali’s been at the forefront of this scene here in New Orleans, producing such regular events as Freaksheaux to Geaux and “Storyville Rising,” but especially her third annual Southern Sideshow Hootenanny, a three-day affair at Café Istanbul. Along with celebrating the great American art form of sideshow, the Hootenanny fosters growth in the community and among individual performers through workshops, panels, peer review, and one-on-one consultations with some of the top performers and producers. It also seeks to educate the general public about sideshow, its history, and traditions.

This year’s event will also serve as a tribute to legendary Ward Hall. Several of the performers will come from the popular “10 in 1” touring sideshow troupe World of Wonders, and so I met with Kali and World of Wonders partner and manager Tommy Breen down at Café Istanbul as they prepared for Friday’s opening.

SEGMENT NO. 2: 6th Annual Sacred Music Festival
So, I had this idea: to conduct a brief interview with Wild Lotus Yoga’s Sean Johnson about the 6th Annual New Orleans Sacred Music Festival, which runs today from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the New Orleans Healing Center. (Johnson co-founded the festival along with Sallie Ann Glassman.) And then Johnson would perform a tune from the Wild Lotus Band’s 2014 CD, “Unity.” But the full band wasn’t yet available, and so Johnson did the next best thing, and gathered a about 10 friends in a semi-circle to help lend their voices to a song that Johnson says is tailor-made for a call-and-response engagement with the audience on Saturday.

The New Orleans Sacred Music Festival spans the spectrum of the city’s spiritual communities, with nods towards Western Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Japanese drumming and much more. There also will be rituals, art and altars, crafts, food, prayers, and workshops, according to its Facebook event page. The producers noted that the festival is in its second year without charging an admission fee, thanks to underwriting support from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Call and Response Foundation and Wild Lotus Yoga.

Sean Johnson’s passion for music ranges from a deep appreciation for the transcendental power of rock, Irish folk music, Indian and Sufi devotional music. He’s been leading kirtan for the last seventeen years. His voice is equally influenced by his roots in New Orleans, vocal exploration of his ancestral Irish heritage, as well as study in Indian vocal music and love of the path of bhakti yoga– the yoga of the heart.

Meeting me to discuss the festival was, along with Sean Johnson, Brandon Curran, Marketing Manager and Events Coordinator for The New Orleans Healing Center Brandon oversees all events, services, classes and workshops at The New Orleans Healing Center. He strives to use the community to lead the direction of the various services, events and offerings of the Healing Center.

Here’s our discussion, and their performance, at Wild Lotus Yoga.

SEGMENT THREE: Relevant Link
Last week’s Relevant Link was to a story about a controversy brewing from the appearance of Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman after she recorded, and commented on, a Facebook Live video of herself and her husband, Paul, costuming and riding in the Krewe of Zulu parade on Mardi Gras. In accordance with Zulu costume, this included wearing a form of blackface makeup that’s distinct for Zulu tradition. However, a comment by Paul, and repeated by Ann, drew a fierce backlash on social media, which included an exchange with a recently transplanted bartender from Chicago that led to a Facebook Live exchange all its own in which the two discussed the controversy itself as well as issues surrounding race, privilege and consciousness.

I watched the entire exchange on Facebook, after the fact, and I have to say, it’s a fascinating hour on so many levels. I’m not sure if there are any plans to post the video to an even more public site like YouTube, although anyone connected to the two participants on Facebook can download and upload it accordingly.

And then what caught my eye was a column in the news website, The Lens. The column, titled “Behind the Zulu blackface flap: liberal guilt, clueless outsiders,” contributing writer C.W. Cannon uses his participation in the Krewe du Vieux parade as a way to consider issues of cultural subversion, transgression and expropriation and argue that many people got what Tuennerman did, and said, wrong on many levels. That includes, I should point out, her husband Paul’s key comment, “Throw a little Black Face on you and you lose all your Media Skills” — which, when discussed out of context, is obviously a problematic comment. Cannon writes:

“To me, Paul Tuennerman’s comment is a critique of media, not a critique of blackness. It suggests his awareness that certain forms of expression are so explosive that they can’t be digested at all by national media, with its inability to process the ironies and inversions of carnival expression. It shows his well-founded fear that the frightened and dishonest world of America’s ‘conversation about race’ is likely to cry ‘racism’ whenever it sees an image that might be racist in some other, very different context.”

An objective observer might suggest that Cannon, who I believe is white, can offer this perspective from his own particular vantage point, while others might come to it from another place in which blacks historically have had their intellectual capabilities called into question as one of several forms of oppression and subjugation.

Regardless, Cannon’s column and Facebook Live video exchange between Ann Tuennerman and the bartender offer two fascinating and compelling elements of a dialogue about race, culture and history in New Orleans.

Read the article here.

Oh, and, apparently the Confederate monuments are coming down. What a week!

SEGMENT FOUR: Peter Holsapple flies solo Monday at Chickie Wah Wah
Our next guest could be called a legend you might not have heard of, but you’ve certain heard at least a little bit of his music. Singer-songwriter Peter Holsapple was a founding member of ‘80s indie-rock band the db’s, and later became a founding member of the roots rock band the Continental Drifters that, after setting up in New Orleans, featured Susan Cowsill as well as Vicki Peterson of the Bangles. Along the way, Holsapple served as a sideman with R.E.M., and more recently has performed with Hootie and the Blowfish, both as a keyboardist. The db’s and the Continental Drifters were critically praised bands who never seemed to get the commercial success they deserved, and now, at age 61, Holsapple — who left New Orleans for Durham, N.C., after Hurricane Katrina — is content to focus on his solo efforts. That leads us to his Monday night appearance at Chickie Wah Wah, in which he’ll offer a little overview of his work but also preview some of his most recent solo efforts, including the haunting single, “Don’t Mention the War.”

I spoke with Holsapple by phone while he was still at his home in Durham, where he juggles his projects with his life as a husband and father.

AND IN CLOSING …
Before closing Saturday’s show, I noted that, this is our 20th episode, which means we’ve been doing this for five months. Wow. So, in order to shake things up and maybe even snag a few more ears, we’re going to be moving to Friday afternoon at 12 p.m. That means our show will precede the freakishly popular “Eat, Pray, Fight” hosted by the illegally talented Chris Lane. I should also note our show will soon follow something else that’s pretty cool, so please stay tuned for more news on that front.

It’s been great doing the show on Saturdays, especially to help get folks excited about the show that follows, “La Chancla NOLA” with the very cool Mid-City Martha. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to pop back in and say hi from time to time over the weekend. So farewell, for now, from Saturday, and please tune in to “PopSmart NOLA” at its new time: Fridays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. starting this week!

So that was our show for this week. Stay tuned for info on next Friday’s episode; I’ll give details about later in the week.

I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away as always on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Our theme music is “Summertime” by Robin Mitchell.

We closed the show with Peter Holsapple’s single, “Don’t Mention the War.”

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 14: Michael Aaron Santos on “A Few Good Men,” Kathy Randels & Sean LaRocca sing, Damien Moses on “Jelly’s Last Jam,” and Alex Rawls on Jazz Fest

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Saturday’s show the “All the City’s a Stage Episode” to help celebrate so many impressive stage works opening and closing across the Crescent City, which included the openings of:

* “Jelly’s Last Jam” at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré. (Read the glowing review by Ted Mahne.)
* “A Few Good Men” at Delgado Community College. (Read my feature preview.)
* “Niagara Falls” at The Theatre at St. Claude
* “On an Average Day” at the Happyland Theater

… as well as the concluding performances of …

* “Billy Elliot” at Rivertown Theaters, including an added Sunday show
* “Disney’s The Lion King,” which I caught Thursday, at the Saenger Theatre
* “Gomela” which we discussed last week, at Ashé Powerhouse Theater
* “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit” at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church
* … and ArtSpot Productions’ “Sea of Common Catastrophe” at UNO

On “PopSmart NOLA,” we welcomed:

Michael Aaron Santos, who stars as Col. Jessup, speaker of the infamous “You can’t handle the truth” speech in “A Few Good Men,” which is being staged at Delgado Community College’s Timothy Baker Theater and runs through Feb. 11. For more information, visit www.nolaproject.com.

Kathy Randels and Sean LaRocca of ArtSpot Productions, and “Sea of Common Catastrophe“ — which Gambit’s Will Coviello described as “an abstract, figurative work about New Orleans and some of its inhabitants, who are drawn to the sea and affected by it.” While the show closed Saturday, we had Kathy and Sean discuss the production for a final push, and they favored us with a song from the show.

Damien Moses, cast member of “Jelly’s Last Jam,” the Tony Award-winning musical about the life of legendary New Orleans pianist, bandleader and composer Jelly Roll Morton. This is, amazingly, the New Orleans premiere of this work, which, among other things, delivered star Gregory Hines his lone Tony Award. Damien A. Moses is a New Orleans native. His portrayal of Hedley in “Seven Guitars”, directed by Tommye Myricke, afforded him the privilege to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C. as an Irene Ryan recipient. His most notable performance as Mister in “The Color Purple The Musical” at Anthony Bean Community Theater, earned him a Big Easy Award nomination. The show runs at Le Petit Theatre through Feb. 12. For more information visit http://www.lepetittheatre.com/.

Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk paid us a return visit to to help break down the recently announced lineups for the French Quarter Festival and of course the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. My Spilt Milk covers the music and culture in New Orleans. Alex has written for almost every New Orleans-based publication (including our years together at Gambit-then-Weekly), as well as Rolling Stone, Spin and USA Today — AND he guest-edited The Oxford American’s Louisiana music issue. He’s also done some really fascinating work examining the booking choices at Jazz Fest, is here to discuss their recently announced lineup as well as that of the French Quarter Festival, which precedes Jazz Fest this spring.

CLOSING
That’s “PopSmart NOLA” for this week. I want to again thank our guests — Michael Aaron Santos from “A Few Good Men,” Kathy Randels from ArtSpot Productions and “Sea of Common Catastrophe,” Damien Moses from “Jelly’s Last Jam” and Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, which include a focus on the upcoming James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” which hits New Orleans, and this show will include some really exciting guests. Stay tuned on that.

Want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 11: Kim Vaz-Deville, Virginia Saussy, Wayne Phillips on women and Carnival

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Carnival season is upon us, and I thought this was a good opportunity to discuss some of the more intriguing aspects of Carnival culture with some of its most notable figures. Because that’s a lot of ground to cover, I hope to dedicate the next two shows on this subject. That starts off with today’s guests. Joining us:

Dr. Kim Vaz-Deville, associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at Xavier University and author of the 2013 book, “The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the Mardi Gras Tradition.”

Virginia Saussy, marketing consultant and charter member of the Krewe of Muses, whose landmark debut in the early 2000s helped spark a massive influx of women participating in Carnival on a more formalized structure.

Wayne Philips, Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum. Wayne’s here to discuss an upcoming exhibit at the Presbytere celebrating women’s Carnival krewes (and that’s just this week!). So you can call today’s show our “Estrogen Fueled Carnival Episode.”

SEGMENT ONE: KIM VAZ DEVILLE, AUTHOR, “THE BABY DOLLS”
I was really excited to welcome our first guest. Kim Vaz-Deville, Ph.D. is professor of education and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her book, The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2013 and was the basis for a major installation, “They Call Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition” at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere unit in 2013. It is the 2016 selection of the Young Leadership Council of New Orleans’ One Book One New Orleans. Vaz-Deville guest-curated with Ron Bechet, Department Head and Victor H. Labat Endowed Professor of Art Painting, Drawing, and Community Art at Xavier University of Louisiana, an art exhibit titled “Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls” which showed work about and inspired by the tradition in Spring, 2015 at the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art in New Orleans. Normally photographed on the streets of New Orleans during the ritual times of Mardi Gras, St. Joseph’s night and Super Sunday, photographer Phillip Colwart invited maskers to take stage portraits. Vaz-Deville curated these in a photography exhibit, “Philip Colwart’s Studio Portraits of the Baby Dolls of New Orleans”, on view 2015-2016 at the Shreve Memorial Public Library, in Shreveport, LA.

SEGMENT TWO: VIRGINIA SAUSSY, KREWE OF MUSES
Virginia Saussy has been a part of one of the most fascinating developments in Carnival culture in the past two decades. The emergence of the Krewe of Muses on the parade routes back in 2001 signaled the beginning of a massive influx of women into more formalized Carnival activity even though the first female Carnival krewe rolled 100 years ago. (More on that later in the show.) We now have Muses, and Nyx, and the predominantly African-American krewe Femme Fatale, and of course myriad marching and dancing troupes as we previously discussed. Virginia Saussy, a marketing consultant who’s an original member of the krewe, is here today to talk about how Muses helped alter the Carnival scene, and what we might expect from female krewes.

SEGMENT THREE: WAYNE PHILLIPS, LOUISIANA STATE MUSEUM
Finally, welcomed 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. For this segment, Wayne discussed an upcoming exhibition at the Presbytere focusing on women and Carnival, tied to the 100th anniversary of the Krewe of Iris.

I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Thanks again for joining us. I want to remind everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going. Happy Carnival, y’all.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 6: Brooklyn Shaffer, AJay Strong, Wesley Ware, Katy Reckdahl on transgender issues

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For Episode 6 of “PopSmart NOLA” we focused on transgender issues in New Orleans.

Our lineup included:

  • Wesley Ware,co-founder and and co-director of BreakOUT!, which builds the power of LGBTQ youth most impacted by the criminal justice system to affect concrete policy change to fight the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans.
  • Katy Reckdahl, New Orleans-based journalist who profiled BreakOUT! for the New Orleans Advocate.
  • New Orleans stage performer Brooklyn Shaffer, who recently transitioned from male to female and returned to the stage after a nearly two-year hiatus to co-star in “Steel Poinsettias” at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts.
  • AJay Strong, co-producer of Bella Blue Entertainment, which presents an average of 20 burlesque shows a month around New Orleans, including “The Blue Book Cabaret” at Bourbon Pub and the “Dirty Dime Peepshow” at the AllWays Lounge.

I profiled Shaffer and Strong earlier in the week with my “Trans, Planted” feature.

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” us on Facebook. We’re also on Instagram at @popsmartnola, and I’m on Twitter as @dlsnola504.

Please join us next week for another edition of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM) — radio dedicated to human rights and social justice, and the end of all wars. You can also listen online at whivfm.org.

HELPFUL LINKS
Trans, planted: Brooklyn Bhaffer and AJay Strong look back at a life in transition and toward an uncertain future (PopSmart NOLA)
New Orleans organization helps young LGBTQ people navigate legal system, life (New Orleans Advocate)
Galvanized by election, transgender activists rally in New Orleans on Day of Remembrance (New Orleans Advocate)
Hundreds gather to support trans and gender non-conforming youth of color at Congo Square (PopSmart NOLA)
BreakOUT! — Fighting the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans (Facebook page)
Louisiana Trans Advocates — advocacy, education and support
Trans Lifeline — support and crisis counseling to transgender people. Call (877) 565-8860 or visit the website
A history of transgender health care (Scientific American)
The psychology of transgender (American Psychological Association)

PLAYLIST
“Boys and Girls,” Blur
“Born a Girl,” Manic Street Preachers
“Walk on the Wild Side,” Lou Reed
“De Camino a la Vereda,” Ibrahim Ferrer

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 4: Susan Todd, Don Vappie, Lydia Treats, Alex Rawls, Trixie Minx and Katie East & Caitlin Brodnick on the Affordable Care Act

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For Episode 4 of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), which airs Saturday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., we addressed the Affordable Care Act and New Orleans. The nation experienced a seismic political shift a couple weeks ago with the election of businessman Donald Trump, who said, among many, many other things, that he would oversee the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Since his election, on “60 Minutes,” he offered a different take on his position, saying that some parts of the law — requiring insurers to cover people with preexisting medical conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 — might remain intact. But Trump could still eliminate key parts of the ACA, which gave health insurance to 20 million Americans. Supporters are faced with a battle regardless, and their biggest argument might well be that the rising cost of premiums is a fixable problem and not the disaster critics say it is.

The ACA affects New Orleans in at least two distinct and often overlapping ways — the city and state have more than their fare share of residents living at or below the poverty level, as well as many, many culture bearers and creative artists who contribute so much to the community and get paid very little. Health care coverage is everything. Remember, the ACA had been in effect for only a couple years when Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, in January, reversed the Jindal administrations stance and agreed to accept the federal government’s offer to expand Medicaid coverage and thereby helping hundreds of thousands of residents.

So on the show we heard from several people, some in pre-recorded interviews, to offer a diversity of perspectives on how this new world might affect them:

Susan Todd, executive director of 504HealthNet, a collaboration of 22 non-profit and governmental organizations in the Greater New Orleans area that form the primary care and behavioral health safety net.
Don Vappie, a beloved figure in the New Orleans jazz community as a musician and educator.
Lydia Treats, a circus sideshow performer who also is the mother two children – a teenage girl and pre-teen boy — and who also produces “Covington Cabaret” which returns tonight to the Northshore.
Comedians Katie East and Caitlin Broadnick, whose comedy show “Victory for T&A!” tonight at The Theatre St. Claude takes a humorous and revealing look at their respect battles with cancer.

SUSAN TODD
To get a brief overview of what’s been happening with the Affordable Care Act, we turn to Susan Todd, executive director of 504HealthNet. She brings a unique blend of expertise in the area of primary care access and strengthening health systems in addition to a passion for community involvement. She has worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). While there, she worked on Medicaid, CHIP, and Marketplace enrollment. I asked Susan Todd to take us from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act back in 2014 and how it has evolved under the John Bel Edwards administration, and where she thinks it might be headed.

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Don Vappie

DON VAPPIE
Don Vappie is a world-renowned jazz musician and presenter from New Orleans. He leads the Creole Jazz Serenaders, a classic New Orleans jazz orchestra, as well as his various jazz and R&B combos. He has produced and recorded numerous CDs and film sound tracks and is star of the PBS documentary “American Creole: New Orleans Reunion.” Known for his virtuosic banjo skills, Don is a stellar bassist, guitarist and vocalist. Add to that his commitment to the cultural creole music of New Orleans he calls “creole jazz”. As an educator, he has participated, presented and/or performed for programs at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Tulane University, Historic New Orleans Collection, NPR, Smithsonian, Appalachian State University and many more. He currently serves as jazz guitar instructor at Loyola University and is a member of the Loyola Jazz Faculty Combo.CUE: Queen/David Bowie, “Under Pressure”

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Lydia Treats

LYDIA TREATS
I wanted to get an impression of what it’s like for local performing artists, and so I contacted circus sideshow producer and performer Lydia Treats, who literally ran away with the circus for several months this past year. Among her many talents, Lydia Treats is a sword swallower – perhaps the most popular in the city, and she’s gaining larger audiences with her “Covington Cabaret” show that returns tonight to the Green Room in Covington. I asked her to give me a sense of what it’s like to deal with health care coverage, especially while raising two children as a single mother, and here’s what she had to say.

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Katie East & Caitlin Brodnick

KATIE EAST AND CAITLIN BRODNICK
We also welcomed a decidedly defiant dynamic duo, New Orleans’ Katie East and New York City’s Caitlin Brodnick. They have decided not to take their respective battles with cancer sitting down. In fact, they have no problem name-checking the sources of their illness in their comedy show “Victory for T&A” tonight at The Theatre at St. Claude. Faced with a history in her family of breast cancer, Brodnick boldly decided to opt for a preventative double mastectomy in her 20s — and even had Glamour document the experience on a web series, “Screw You Cancer.” East has been beset by a range of illnesses and more hardship, including bad surgical experiences and the discovery of cancer in her buttocks — hence the “T&A” of the title. And so she has turned her experiences into what she’s calling a “Coney Island-style freak show.”

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Alex Rawls

BONUS CONTENT: ALEX RAWLS
I wanted a journalist’s perspective, and spoke with Alex Rawls. Alex Rawls has covered music, art, books and food in New Orleans since 1990. His work has appeared in NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit and OffBeat, and multiple national outlets. He’s also the creator of the music and culture website My Spilt Milk, so I asked him for his take on the scene as it relates to health care.

BONUS CONTENT: TRIXIE MINX
I also interviewed New Orleans burlesque producer and performer Trixie Minx earlier in 2016 to discuss her work with the New Orleans Musicians Clinic. Here’s the podcast.

PLAYLIST:
Chris Rock, “Robitussin”
Deluxx Folk Implosion, “I’m Just a Bill”
Don Vappie, “Please Come Home for Christmas”
The Ramones, “I Wanna Be Sedated”
B-52s, “Follow Your Bliss”

Tune in for our next show, next Saturday, Nov. 26, 3-4 p.m. for another edition of “PopSmart NOLA.” We will be discussing, among other topics, sexual harassment and sexual assault issues for local performers.

Also want to remind everyone if you like what you’re hearing you can “like” PopSmart NOLA on Facebook and follow me on Instagram at @popsmartnola and on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Remember: Keep the intelligent discussion of New Orleans culture going.

New Orleans’ own Josh Levin’s moving commentary for Slate’s “Hang Up and Listen” is the sum of all athlete essays

HANG UP AND LISTEN LOGO

Slate’s “Hang Up and Listen” is one of and possibly the best sports podcasts on a good day. But (to borrow a sports cliché) the team took their game to the next level with last week’s episode titled “The Kevin Durant Just Broke the NBA Edition” — due in no small part to New Orleans’ own Josh Levin.

Levin, a 1998 graduate of Ben Franklin High School, more recently has spent several years as the executive editor for Slate, which includes hosting “Hang Up and Listen” — a weekly roundtable discussion of sports and culture that frequently includes contributors Stefan Fatsis and Mike Pesca. (Pesca, a frequent NPR contributor, also has his own Slate podcast, “The Gist.”)

As the “Hang Up and Listen” host, Levin often serves as the steady anchor and moderator to the more colorful Fatsis and Pesca, but it’s in the “Afterballs” — a lagniappe section at the episode’s end filled with commentary — that his dry wit takes flight. In his essay, Levin satirized Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant’s decision to jump to the 2015 NBA champion Golden State Warriors as announced on the sports-athlete website The Players’ Tribune. (The site often is used by athletes to post major career announces like these.)

Levin’s piece is a compendium of essays by pro athletes, including Durant, and taps into the sometimes self-important tone that borders on the pretentious. (Kobe Bryant comes to mind.) Hence passages such as this:

The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a podcaster — as that has always steered me in the right direction. I’m at a point in my life where my ad reads need to be crisper, and my bonus segments need to be smarter. But it’s of equal importance for me to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man.”

Levin stresses that his “decision” is pure fiction — spoiler alert: he’s not switching places with Slate movie critic Dana Stevens — but with his words you have appreciate his “growth” as a podcaster.

“It’s the place where athletes go to make a big announcement, whether it’s Kevin Durant changing teams teams or someone leaving the sport so I kind of blended both,” Levin said by phone. “I don’t want to mock some for their sincerity, but there are some clichés of the form that have developed. It’s is such a new thing and it so quickly become ubiquitous, so there was an opportunity to have some fun with it and point out some of the ways that all of these announce sort of sound the same.” (I will have more from Levin later on. Stay tuned.)

You can read the essay in its text version (Levin cautions he might have reworked the wording on the air), or you can listen to the podcast embedded below; Levin’s commentary begins one hour and nine minutes into the podcast (or 1:09).

https://player.megaphone.fm/SM8189359133

New Orleans readers might be more familiar with Levin’s “dispatches” from the Crescent City in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — just a couple years after he’d started working at Slate. (You can check out those stories here.)

Enjoy:

“This has been by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional life. I understood cognitively that I was facing a crossroads in my evolution as a podcaster and as a man, and that it came with exceptionally difficult choices. What I didn’t truly understand, however, was the range of emotions I would feel during this process. A wise man once said you should trust the process, or maybe he didn’t say it and other people attributed it to him, but regardless he resigned and then the Sixers got Ben Simmons, so I wasn’t sure whether that meant I should trust the process or not. As I said, it’s been a challenging few weeks.

“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a podcaster — as that has always steered me in the right direction. I’m at a point in my life where my ad reads need to be crisper, and my bonus segments need to be smarter. But it’s of equal importance for me to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man.

“I’m from New Orleans originally, but Washington, D.C., truly raised me. I’ve been in this city for almost 14 years, at Slate for nearly 13, and recording episodes of this podcast since 2009. When I started at Slate in 2003, we were still four months away from the Guardian using the term podcasting in an article. What I’m trying to say is that, along with Mike Pesca and Stefan Fatsis but mostly by myself, afterball after afterball, one SquareSpace ad at a time, I invented podcasting and got Zelmo Beaty into the Hall of Fame. But at the same time, I was learning about family as well as what it means to be a man.

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Mike Pesca, Josh Levin, Stefan Fatsis and Billy Cundiff recording live onstage

“Podcasting brought me opportunities that I never thought possible: building a new medium, being a part of history. It has helped me build my community, build families and build young women.

“Sure, it wasn’t all fun and games. I popped my share of p’s, read the wrong promo code during a MeUndies spot, and didn’t prepare well enough for that interview with the guy whose name I never learned. But I honestly believe that all of those experiences helped make me who I am, and who I will become.

I podcasted through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

“There are no words to express what the Slate and Panoply organizations mean to me, and what they will represent in my life and in my heart forever. The memories and friendships and afterballs are something that go far beyond all the awards we haven’t won. Those invaluable relationships, with people like Mike and Stefan and Panoply chief content officer Andy Bowers and trivia champion emeritus Carman Tse, are what made this deliberation so challenging.

“With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to stay at Slate, but I’m going to switch spots with Dana Stevens. Trust me, you’ll come to love her low center of gravity. That’s my final decision, although if Stefan cuts short his Caribbean vacation and plays spades with me and Paul Pierce and JJ Redick and Blake Griffin, then maybe I’ll change my mind and sign a four-year, $88 million max deal.

“Signed Josh Levin, executive editor. Copyright 2016, The Podcasters’ Tribune.”

(Listen to this week’s episode, “The Fleek Five Edition)

(Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes)

(You can follow Josh Levin here on Twitter.)

On “Spotlight,” newspapers, the church, and institutional control

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The cast of “Spotlight.” (Photo by Kerry Hayes/Open Road Films)

In hindsight it felt like I’d been sitting by the phone and waiting for my former colleague Dave Gladow to call and invite me to join him on his new pop-culture podcast, “The Pursuit of Crappiness,” to discuss the recent Academy Award-winning movie “Spotlight.” After all, because both of us are newsroom veterans, and “Spotlight” focused on the Boston Globe’s award-winning investigation of the local archdiocese, it seemed like a natural fit.

Just as Hollywood loves making movies about Hollywood, journalists love discussing movies about journalism. Although I conceded rather late in the podcast that the deck might have been stacked in the favor of “Spotlight” to win Best Picture, as, Hollywood also loves making movies about most forms of media, and when you add its social relevance, the win probably was a slam dunk.

But the desire to discuss “Spotlight” had extra meaning for me. As soon as I left the theater after a screening, I could only think of one other thing besides the even-then-tenuous status of newspapers. (The movie is set way back in 2001, long before I’d been laid off, twice — three, counting the immediate aftermath Hurricane Katrina — by newspapers. What also struck me was the unspoken theme of institutional control, and how institutions wrestle with their role in the community and their responsibility to the people they serve.

At its core, “Spotlight” is about a newspaper trying to rise above the incremental reporting it had done on the pedophile priests — and, possibly, the extensive work already done by the rival alt-weekly the Boston Phoenix — and expose the conspiracy to cover up the priests’ illegal and immoral behavior being executed at the top levels of the archdiocese and possibly even the Vatican. As the new executive editor challenges them, why haven’t they “gotten” the big guy?

But “Spotlight” — a procedural on many levels — investigates the process of news gathering at a fragile time for a newspaper is doubly challenged to maintain its relationship with its ever-fickle readership as well as its seemingly cozy relationship with the archdiocese. There’s an early scene in which the new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) — not just a non-Bostonian but also, a Jew — meets with the archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law. It’s a formality, really, a ceremony, in which preaches to Baron of the need for the two institutions to work together to better serve the community. Baron politely and respectfully disagrees, arguing that a newspaper is at its best when serving independently of the church. Law smiles a tight smile, hands him a copy of the Catholic Catechism (another tradition!) and sends him on his way.

From there we see the Boston Globe wrestle with how to cover an institution deeply ingrained in the community, but one that clearly has lost its way in serving it. And we see a Boston Globe already suffering from ever-shrinking ad revenue, and with staffers who have their own relative relationships with the church. (Some are still devout, others not so much.) It’s also wrestling with how deep it needs to dig before getting the story to press before the competition does. (See above clip.)

I’ve probably already given away too much of the podcast, so I’ll stop here. As is once again evident, I could go on all day. I’ll just end by saying that, from this current perch, the institution of newspapers, 15 years since the setting of this movie, is more challenged and compromised than ever.

Thanks again to Dave Gladow for the invite, and I look forward to future chats. And for an early perspective, check out New Orleans author Jason Berry’s 1992 work, “Lead Us Not Into Temptation.”

Jon Cleary: Allen Toussaint and the making of “Occapella” (podcast)

Screen+Shot+2015-06-23+at+9.16.42+PMUpon learning the news of Allen Toussaint’s passing on Nov. 10 at the age of 77, the first name that came to my mind was Jon Cleary, and not just because he is my favorite New Orleans piano player, or because I’d profiled him and the making of “Pin Your Spin” for Gambit Weekly back in 2004. It was, more appropriately, Cleary’s 2012 album, “Occapella,” a brilliant reimagining of some of Toussaint’s more popular (and some less popular) works.

Cleary is one of those special musicians who loves to deconstruct the creative and technical processes when he’s both making and discussing his work, and while he conceded early on that, basically, at the time he needed to put out some kind of record, and that friend John Scofield said tribute albums get easy media recognition, there was something special about digging into what made an Allen Toussaint song “work.””

Normally when I make a record I’m writing the songs as well, so there’s this other process where you’re agonizing over lyrics and arrangements, but the thing with Allan’s tunes is that the songs are good, the lyrics are good, and the arrangements have these key little signature things. My approach to it was identifying the most important elements, breaking the song down to its fundamentals and then building it back up again.

Hopefully I’ll have more of this interview, which also touched on Cleary’s general impressions on Toussaint’s musical legacy, but because he’s already said some of this, I thought it would be fun to hear his creative process on “Occapella” straight from his lips. Listen below.