“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.

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.


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”


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.


Katie East & 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.”


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.

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.

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.


“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 2: A.J. Allegra, Gary Rucker, Jason Brad Berry and Corey Mack

PROMO 11-5-16.pngOur sophomore effort of the radio version of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM) was, if nothing else, a very fun time — an “Outsized Political Discussion” episode with interesting observations, an embarrassing technical difficulty (my bad) and Donald Trump showing up in the most unlikely places (in the conversation).

We welcomed director A.J. Allegra and co-star Gary Rucker of Rivertown Theaters’ current production of “1776” and its relevance heading into Tuesday’s (Nov. 8) elections, investigative journalist Jason Brad Berry of American Zombie, and comedian (and guest co-host) Corey Mack. We also had a chance to hear southwest Louisiana journalist Herman Fuselier read an excerpt from his new book, “Ghosts of Good Times: Louisiana Dance Halls Past and Present” (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press), a coffee-table book in collaboration with photographer Philip Gould. (My apologies to listeners for the minute-long gap of dead silence, cleaned up here in the edit.)

This week’s playlist:
Tupac Shakur — “Changes”
“1776” soundtrack — “Sit Down John”
“1776” soundtrack — “Piddle Twiddle and Resolve”
Vivaldi — “The Four Seasons”

[Read more: A.J. Allegra’s Top 5 political-themed musicals]

Tune in next Saturday at 3 p.m. for our next episode, in which we examine the Affordable Care Act and its impact on New Orleans musicians and other artists, now that the registration period has opened. Until then, keep following along on Facebook as well as on Instagram (@popsmartnola) and Twitter (@dlsnola504), and please remember to keep the intelligent conversation of New Orleans culture going.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 1: James Bartelle, Beau Bratcher, Quinn McCourt

popsmart-soundcloud-thumbnailThe premiere episode of “PopSmart NOLA” on Saturday (Oct. 29) on WHIV (102.3 FM) was a tremendous success as we shared our time with the workers performing excellent renovations on the kitchen!

We welcomed guests James Bartelle and Beau Bratcher — the star and director of The NOLA Project’s “4000 Miles” — and Quinn McCourt from The New Movement’s “Broadcast Delay” and “The Megaphone Show.” You also can listen online at whivfm.org.

My favorite part of the show: Bartelle and Batcher discussing the notions of color-blind and color-conscious casting in theatrical productions as well as the progress New Orleans theater has made in casting for performers of color.

This episode’s playlist:
“Hot Tamale Baby” — Buckwheat Zydeco (RIP)
“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” — Gill Scott-Heron
“Custom Concern” — Modest Mouse
“Creature from the Black Lagoon” — Dave Edmunds
“Cranes in the Sky” — Solange Knowles
“Don’t Go” — Yaz
“Halloween” — Siouxsie & the Banshees
“Halloween” — Dead Kennedys

Please forgive the truncated recording of this show, due to technical difficulties, which lopped off the Dead Kennedys song and these closing thoughts.

That’s our show for this week. Tune in for our next show, next Saturday, Nov. 5, 3-4 p.m. for another edition of “PopSmart NOLA.” We’ll have in, among others, Gary Rucker and A.J. Allegra of Rivertown Theaters’ timely production of the musical, “1776.”

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. Keep the smart conversation going.

Please continue tuning into 102.3 WHIV LPFM, New Orleans. We are: community radio dedicated to human rights and social justice, end all wars. Stream us online (if you aren’t already) at whivfm.org.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM): Let’s start a discussion together


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About a year ago, I launched PopSmart NOLA as a website dedicated to intelligent coverage of New Orleans culture. It might have sounded like a pretentious line at the time but over the past year I at least hope the site has added to the conversation about the arts, culture and entertainment of the Crescent City. The first post was an impression of my first experience with the New Orleans Volunteer Orchestra, the second a review of Cecile Monteyne’s excellent “You Don’t Know the Half of It,” followed by a kooky preview of The NOLA Project’s “Clown Bar,” and then an open question about how to talk to my son about racism in movies.

The feedback has been great, and from time to time it even appears to have started a discussion.

Now, with WHIV’s help, I’d like to make that discussion more literal. On Saturday, I will premiere the radio version of “PopSmart NOLA” as way to bring in and engage the cultural figures of our city to talk about the work they do and help place it in a more focused context with the rest of what’s happening around us. Many of these people will be familiar to lots of listeners, and many will come from my years as an arts journalist at Gambit Weekly (back when it was called Gambit Weekly, my too-brief tenure at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, and subsequent work as a freelance journalist (the New Orleans Advocate, Biz New Orleans and New Orleans magazine, to name a few) – and of course, good old PopSmart NOLA.

To be fair, there’s a lot of good arts journalism being done around New Orleans; it’s just become a bit spread out and around. And it’s a constantly shifting landscape — I found that out the hard way last fall, but even more recently we’ve seen the hiatus of the NOLA Defender, or even the tragic loss of NOLA Vie’s Sharon Litwin. On the positive side, we’ve witnessed the emergence of WWNO’s “Inside the Arts” coverage with Diane Mack, who’s been kind enough to accept my pleas to discuss my work on her show, and both newspapers seem to have adjusted to life after the shakeup of last year. And then there’s NOLA Vie, Alex Rawls’ excellent music site “My Spilt Milk,” and the continued good work being done at OffBeat and Gambit, to name a few.

But yet, there’s still more to cover, and even more to talk about. We’ll start the discussion on Saturday (Oct. 29), from 3 p.m. to p.m. on WHIV-FM (102.3) — community radio dedicated to human rights, social justice, and the end of all wars. Our guests: James Bartelle and Beau Bratcher — the star and director of The NOLA Project’s “4000 Miles” — Jim Fitzmorris (with his latest show, “Things That Go Trump in the Night”) and comedy from The New Movement’s “The Megaphone Show.” You also can listen online at whivfm.org.

The inspiration for “PopSmart NOLA” the radio show are many, and not just the website. There’s also my favorite culture podcast, “The Dinner Party Download,” which structures amazing entertainment coverage around the concept of a party (complete with music, small talk, plenty of food, and a crafty cocktail). I’m also inspired by NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” as well as Slate’s “Culture Gabfest” and (perhaps a bit tangentially, Slate’s excellent sports podcast “Hang Up and Listen.” If you see resemblances of these shows in “PopSmart NOLA,” I hope will be in the form of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

We’ll have lots of guests, occasional co-hosts, look back at the week in culture, and look ahead to what’s on the horizon. And we’ll have lots of music (live and recorded) — hopefully timed to the performances of the week — and plenty of active engagement with our listeners (especially on social media). On that note, you can like PopSmart NOLA on Facebook, and follow me on Instagram (@popsmartnola) and Twitter (@dlsnola). If you’d like to make a comment or ask questions while the show’s going on, I’ll do my best to answer in real time, but definitely ASAP. I want this to be much, much more than a one-sided conversation. As with all things New Orleans, we know that everyone’s got a story to tell.

I hope to apply some of the lessons learned from previous experiences in radio, which include serving as an arts contributor to WABE, the NPR affiliate in Atlanta, as well as appearances on New Orleans television shows including John McConnell’s “The Spudcast.”

If you’d like to suggest an idea for a show, or come on as a guest, or would like to serve as an underwriter for the show, please email me at dlsnola@gmail.com, and I’ll response in as timely a fashion as possible.

Until then, please listen in, and join us in the discussion.