If you've been watching HBO's Treme (written and produced by the same incredible team that brought us The Wire) you know New Orleans is rich in art, music and cuisine.
I've had the pleasure of experiencing the city on two occasions, both times using OPM (Other People's Money) which may account for my rose-tinted view. Hell, when you're on an expense account, even Detroit can be bearable.
Ten years ago we were there to film a major portion of our documentary Home Movie. We met Wild Bill Treagle, owner and operator of Zam's Swamp Tour. Wild Bill is the real deal. A born and bred bayou boy who wrestles and collects alligators.
During our three days of production we got to know Bill and his extended family, who might be described as "right out of central casting." But people, like books, should not be judged by their covers.
To this day I remember the story told to me by one of Bill's snaggle-toothed cousins. She explained how in the early 20th century the extremely bigoted white population of Southern Louisiana found itself in danger. The practice of cousins marrying cousins had seriously depleted the gene pool--resulting in a growing problem of mental retardation. Not until a few brave souls broke rank and started interracial dating did the problem begin to subside. Fewer babies were born with genetic defects. And today the bayou boasts many families of mixed racial background.
Ironically, this provincial close-minded culture was saved by what it feared most -- interaction with African Americans.
Shortly before Katrina hit, I found myself in New Orleans again. This time to shoot a car commercial. The day of the shoot went swimmingly well and we wrapped the set early. Early enough to start drinking Mint Juleps. Many, many Mint Juleps. We stumbled into the cab to catch a late flight back to LA. But on the way, we made the cabbie make a quick impromptu stop somewhere along Canal Street.
I got out of the car and quickly snapped a photo of a theater marquis. (Sadly, I am unable to locate that picture.) In big black letters, the theater proudly announced the showing of newest production, "The A*Hole Monologues." Maybe it was the Mint Juleps talking but it struck us all as being hilariously funny at the time.
And now that I look back on it, I'm left to wonder whether The A*Hole Monologues was playing at a gay theater or a straight one. Of course, it was in the land of Mardi Gras, maybe it doesn't matter.