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Feature – Katrina 6 Years Later; Part 2
Written By: Tish Michel
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Feature – Katrina 6 Years Later; Part 2
Interviewer Steve Hochman with screenwriter Colman DeKay, singer/songwriter Paul Sanchez, and author Dan Baum at Jazz Fest.
Feature – Katrina 6 Years Later; Part 2
Paul Sanchez at Louisiana Music Factory.
Feature – Katrina 6 Years Later; Part 2
The Chest Pains, four of our many fantastic local musicians of Ocean City.
Feature – Katrina 6 Years Later; Part 2
Feature – Katrina 6 Years Later; Part 2
  If you recall, last week as we were all breathing a collective sigh of relief, I talked about how differently we faired with hurricanes Katrina and Irene.  I also discussed Spike Lee’s two excellent documentaries, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts and If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise. I also discussed John Swenson’s book, The New Atlantis; Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans.
    Well, my friends, I’ve saved the very best for last. Dan Baum was assigned by The New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal to report immediately following Katrina.  He was captivated by New Orleans, its people and unique culture. Baum states “About six months into this thing I was fed up with FEMA this and Brownie (FEMA Director Michael Brown) that. I was discovering New Orleans for the first time. I didn’t want to write a book about Katrina because it wasn’t the most interesting thing about New Orleans - New Orleans is the most interesting thing about New Orleans.”
    And so he wrote Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans. The book covers life in New Orleans from the time of hurricane Betsy in 1965 through post Katrina 2007 through the lives of nine New Orleanians assembling a composite portrait of The Big Easy that ain’t quite so easy now. The true life characters are Billy Grace, Mardi Gras King; band leader Wilbert Rawlins Jr. and his wife Belinda; JoAnn Guidos, transsexual bar owner; Ronald Lewis, 9th Ward museum founder; Tim Bruneau, police officer; Anthony Wells, small time drug dealer; Frank Minyard, city coroner; and Joyce Montana, widow of Mardi Gras Indian Chief Tootie Montana who transformed the violent Mardi Gras Indian culture into the competitive art and craftsmanship that exists today with the beautiful costumes.  
    I have so admired Paul Sanchez (founder of Cowboy Mouth) and his music since he broke out musically on his own after Katrina.  He and screenwriter Colman deKay were blown away with Baun’s ability to capture the soul of the city through the lives of these people that they approached Baum about rights to write a musical based on the book. Baun said “Knock yourselves out” and gave them free reign. At Sanchez’s encouragement, fan based Threadhead Records Foundation received a $50,000 grant from Pepsi for Sanchez and deKay to proceed. This past winter the musical’s soundtrack CD Nine Lives, A Musical Adaptation was released. The 24 songs on the CD feature no less than 109 New Orleans musicians including Irma Thomas, Allan Toussaint, John Boutte, Shamar Allen, Dixie Cups, etc. Some of the songs sound like good ole fashion Fats Domino type rock’n’roll; others are Marti Gras Indian chants. The song mix also includes blues, traditional jazz, hip hop, soul, chamber music and of course brass band sounds.
    Like an idiot I missed the premier of Nine Lives musical at Le Petit Theatre during Jazz Fest (I also chose visiting O.C. over Woodstock in ‘69 proving I’m getting really old and haven’t gotten much smarter over the years). I was smart enough to go to an interview with Paul Sanchez, Colman DeKay and Dan Baum at Jazz Fest as well as catch Paul Sanchez shows at Jazz Fest, Three Muses (wonderful new venue on Frenchman St.) and Louisiana Music Factory. The oh-so-sexy singer/actor Michael Cerveris flew in from Los Angeles to sing the part of Joanne and wowed us at Jazz Fest at Paul Sanchez’s road show as well as Sanchez’s show at the Louisiana Music Factory.
    I truly could not put the book down. It so helped me better understand the city and its people I so love as I learned more about the secret social aid and pleasure clubs, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans blue blood and low life. I cried reading many parts of the book;  especially coroner Minyard’s account of how frustrating it was awaiting dead bodies to arrive at the morgue. The National Guard, State Police, 82nd Airborne and others all initially agreed to collect bodies and were denied permission by the government. A week and a half after the storm the first bodies arrived in refrigerated trucks belonging to the biggest funeral home in the area. That’s when Minyard discovered the truth and said, “Dead people rot on the streets of New Orleans for a week and a half so the feds can sign a private contract.”  No kidding, my friends, please get the book and CD and let me know if the musical comes to town!
    I can just imagine Brenda Golden proofing this and thinking –“Tish – this is way too long!” so I better stop here even though I’ve just touched the tip of the iceburg concerning my thoughts and prayers the past few days as we ride out Irene and reminisce about Katrina.  Stay safe my friends and look around and appreciate all we have to be thankful for – the ocean and bay that surround us, our city, friends and family!
    Well, that’s what I wrote 8/29 and the article was too long so it became a two parter.  It’s now Labor Day and I’ve had an amazing past few days since returning to O. C.  I volunteered Thursday and Friday nights at the Freeman Stage (Bayside at routes 54 & 20). Thursday was the spectacular First State Ballet troupe and members from the Delaware Opera company.  Friday night was a total sell out Doo-Wop celebration with the Bronx Wanderers.  Saturday night Dew (my gent) and I returned to Freeman Stage for the Mid-Atlantic Symphony and Morgan State Choir with fireworks at the end. Then we caught Chest Pains at BJ’s.  Yesterday we heard No Byscuyts during the day and The Mood Swingers last night. I’m leaving now for Coconuts to see Joe Smooth and Bobby Wilkinson. We’ll have dinner at Seacrets and catch Full Circle. Tonight we’ll see 2U (U2 tribute band) at Fager’s. What a difference a week makes. Aren’t we fortunate to live in Ocean City and have such a fabulous music community.  
    The only upsetting thing was hearing a local news station report on the lost revenues at the bay bridge, in hotel stays, at restaurants, etc due to the evacuation. This really makes my blood boil! We should thank our city officials for their efforts to keep us safe and be grateful the storm weakened and did not come as close to us as predicted. Hopefully we, and no others, will ever have to experience what New Orleans did after Katrina 6 years ago.
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