The title of my column seems less than fitting as of late.
With the crazy coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing panic that has occurred, it seems like a person needs to party more now than ever before. But alas, they closed all the bars, restaurants, movies, literally everything, so what is a lonely social butterfly to do in these troubled times? But before they shut everything down, I was able to attend a few events leading up to the Quarantine.
Two weeks ago started innocently enough before the panic (and the virus spreading rapidly). I attended the Renegade Art Collective’s premiere exhibition at THE BUILDING located at 1427 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. They had their special preview night on Tuesday and had quite a good crowd to support the sixteen talented artists that make up the Renegade Artists Collective. All of them are based in Louisiana and their art encompasses a diverse range of media and genres with over 100 works of art for sale.
The members of the Renegade Artists Collective are: Kim Bernadas, Thomas Deaton, Cheryl Anne Grace, Chris Granger, Nurhan Gokturk, Michael Guidry, Danny Jupiter, Curtis Knapp, Markus Lacabe, Erin McNutt, Kelly Mueller, Sarah Nelson, Nonney Oddlokken, Herb Roe, Clifton Webb and Carlos Zervigon. I was excited to be introduced to some new artists whose works I was not familiar with. One of the artists, Cheryl Anne Grace, I adore and have two of her Princesse Stephaney works in my home. Herb Roe is also excellent. I am looking forward to seeing more from this accomplished group.
I started my first weekend by attending the French Quarter Festival Gala Fundraiser on Friday at the Fillmore. The evening was awesome with incredible food, cocktails, an impressive silent auction (I wanted the painted Jack Daniels statue so bad, I hope the winner of this fine piece of art appreciates it as much as I would) and spirited entertainment.
They had two of my favorite performers beginning with Sweet Crude and ending with Rebirth Brass Band. The 2020 Gala Honorees were Earl Bernhardt from Tropical Isle who recently passed away, Jan Ramsey, Vance Vaucresson, and Walter “Wolfman” Washington.
Afterwards my friend Laura Tennyson and I made our way to Santos Bar to hear the release of Epic Reflexes new album, Skin. The Fruit Machines and the Push Pops opened for the band. I have to say, I normally do not frequent Santos Bar, but it was quite the scene. There was a great crowd of music lovers and these local bands are amazing. So if you have a chance, buy Skin by Epic Reflexes and check them out.
On Saturday, I did one of my cameo tours. You may wonder what a cameo tour is, well, I will explain.
When I was younger, I was always fascinated by stars on TV shows who made cameo appearances. They would pop in briefly, steal the scene and then exit. I was enthralled, so I decided on days when I have numerous stops to make and little time, to do a cameo tour. I come in, get a cocktail (which is always important), make my rounds through the event, thank the host, maybe grab a nibble and then onto my next location.
Cameo appearances are normally 30 minutes, but I have had them turn into a guest starring role, where I end up spending most of the night. Everything is fluid. But one thing is very important, always thank your host. I always bring a Host gift, thank them for inviting me that evening and then follow up with a thank you email or card. Parties are wonderful and you should always be grateful for being invited. Now more than ever will I never take another party or event for granted.
But I digress. I began Saturday evening by going to AJ Angellotti’s housewarming party for his new place. I love a home where the first thing you see when you walk through the door is a bar. It was a wonderful little soiree at his home and I have to say the guy can make a stiff drink.
Next, I attended the Grand Opening of Betty’s Bar and Bistro. Located in the space that was once the 700 Club, Betty’s is a welcome new addition to the LGBT community. Owned by Ambush proprietor Tomy Acosta, the bar has a refreshed new look with a extra new touches like additional televisions for your game day viewing pleasure and more usable cocktail space. Congratulations to Tomy and the staff of Betty’s for a fabulous opening event.
Next were visits to both the Crossing and the Corner Pocket to see the lovely Felicia Phillips before calling it a night. Cameo tour complete.
On Sunday, I attended the last of my theatre outings for what may be a few months, I went to see The Piano Lesson at Le Petit Theatre. Premiering in New Haven in 1987, August Wilson’s play would go on to receive the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Set in 1936 Pittsburgh during the aftermath of the Great Depression, The Piano Lesson follows the lives of the Charles family and an heirloom, the family piano, which is decorated with designs carved by an enslaved ancestor. The play focuses on the arguments between a brother and a sister who have different ideas on what to do with the piano. There is also an eerie supernatural aspect to the play that adds another layer to the drama. Directed by Dawn Monique Williams, this engrossing play had a stellar cast with special standout performances by Renaldo McClinto as Boy Willie, Zeb Hollis III as Daoker Charles and Lauren Turner as Berneice.
Maybe I knew weird things were on the horizon, so the next week, I went to every event I had been invited to starting with a reception on Tuesday at The Burgundy House located at 2000 Burgundy Street in the Marigny. This 19th-century space boasts a renovated interior of exposed brick, breathtaking chandeliers, and authentic New Orleans architectural details. It is a great event venue for up to 150 guests and also has several upstairs apartments available as well. It is a nice addition to our event spaces in the city filled with charm and a beautiful aesthetic.
The next day, I went to the Chicory for a reception hosted by Herbivore Floral Designs. Herbivore Floral Designs was established in 2017 and specializes in weddings and special events with a team led by owner Herb Oldknow who has over 10 years experience in the New Orleans market. The event was as gorgeous as one could imagine; Herb and his team’s designs are inspired. His mannequin head with a floral coif was brilliant. I love all his work and his party was equally fun, with unique florals, a DJ, food and lots of cocktails (which by this time we all needed).
Thursday had one more event hosted by Joel’s Catering at his lovely event space il Mercato. Built in 1931, Il Mercato’s unique architecture features an expansive private courtyard surrounding an outdoor fireplace; a beautiful ballroom with herringbone wood floors and Italianate chandeliers and an intimate library. Owner Joel Dondis was unveiling some of his new (and featured) dishes on his catering menu. In addition to a full bar, there were specialty cocktails like Bees Knees and Rose Sangria. Some of the delectable dishes were Beignets with Cafe Au Last Mousse, Deconstructed Jambalaya, Celery Root and Porcini Mushroom Ravioli and Hanger Steak. Everything was just divine. I can see why il Mercato is such a popular venue among brides.
I started the weekend unfortunately not going to any St. Patrick’s Day parades, but the Rex Room did have their hospitality St. Patty’s Day Party. The Rex Room is located on the 400 block of Bourbon and is a gorgeous, private event space for up to 75 people. There was a light crowd, but those who were there enjoyed an evening of good food and drink. From the balcony, we watched the craziness of Bourbon Street below. There was no stopping the party. But even though the evening was festive, I think we all had a feeling that something was about to happen soon. After the party, I had one drink at Crossing and one at Betty’s before heading home.
On Sunday, I woke up early and started watching the news – never a good thing to do first thing in the morning. I called all my friends and said, we need to go to brunch today, no excuses. Maybe it was a premonition of things to come, but I knew that this was going to be our last day of normalcy for a while.
We went to brunch at Meauxbar which was absolutely fantastic and they had bottomless champagne. We drank our fill (five people and six bottles of champagne in two hours) and ate like there were no diets in our lives. The service was topnotch and their staff was gracious and lovely.
After brunch, and not wanting to go home, we went to the Phoenix to attend the Lords of Leather Rush Party. They had a great turnout and had lots of new members sign up. Congrats again to them for throwing one of the more fabulous balls of the season.
That concludes my two weeks of events. It looks like it may be awhile before I am able to write about fabulous parties in our city. But it is not these soirees I am going to miss so much, but it is seeing all my friends out and about. I jokingly tell people us New Orleanians have been through a few apocalyptic events in the last twenty years from Katrina, the BP oil spill and falling hotels to national ones like 9/11 and 2008’s economic crisis.
But we New Orleanians are tough, we work hard, play harder and when we are knocked down, we get back up swinging. I love this city and everyone here. Stay safe and well, and remember the party will start back up soon enough!