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New Orleans Economy: Will The Big Easy Survive the Brexit Vote?

How will Brexit affect New Orleans economy? When the results came in revealing the Leave campaign had won it shocked the world with the media and rummy politicians touting it as being as destructive as one million atomic bombs. Here in the Crescent City there were panicked people running up and down Bourbon Street screaming, crying at the news, the shocking news of the exit of the UK from the EU. Some opted to tear their eyes out when they heard, others to rend their clothing in old-fashioned Biblical style.

New Orleans Economy: Will The Big Easy Survive the Brexit Vote?

Bourbon St. crowd in panic after the Brexit vote.

Bourbon St. crowd in panic after the Brexit vote.

Meetings were, and still are, being taken all over the city by politicians and city managers, with businessmen in searsucker suits drowning their sorrows in the latest iteration of New Orleans Rum. Yes, lives have been destroyed, billions if not trillions of dollaras have been lost, down the storm sewers out to Lake Pontchartrain and into the Gulf of Mexico to be eaten by the sharks and minnows.

I can’t stand it, I can’t stand it, the Brexit vote will destroy us all!!! What will Europe be without England in the EU? What will Britain be without the EU? Will New Orleans finally be washed out to sea?

These are the very important questions of the day yearning for an explicable answer and… yawn….

Really? So England decides that it wants to take back its freedom from faceless bureaucrats in Brussels who are not only stomping on the sovereingty of the English people by allowing the free flow of immigrants who, for the most part, refuse to assimilate into British society meanwhile taking advatage of all the free social safety nets Britain has to offer, but also puts restrictions on such things as how the Brits make their Stilton cheese, something they’ve have been doing really well for centuries, thank you.

I just can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would want to get out from under such an overwhelming, soul-squashing type of government? Can you?

A Tale of Terrific Ham
A few years ago while on one of my visits to Spain I got a taste of what it was like living under the thumb of these EU bureaucrats. For one thing it was a common topic of conversation about how much Spain was suffering economically from the conversion from the peseta to the Euro.

At that time Spanish unemployment was around, I don’t know, 20%. And let me tell you there ain’t nothing worse than a Spaniard with nothing to do. Everyday life seemed to click along OK but everyone’s money seemed to have a lot less spending power than it used to. And, yeah, the EU was instructing businesses on how they should run their business.

We took a tour of the place where they process jamon iberico, a beautiful spot in the mountains close to the coast in southern Spain. This jamon is gotten from black-footed pigs who forage on open pieces of land. No warehouse-locked porcine these, like our “normal” pigs packed together in filthy surroundings. They get to live their lives out on open fields feasting on filberts and roots and such.

black footed pigs jamon iberico

Black footed pigs, that produce jamon iberico graze in an open Spanish field.

What they ate made for not only delicious ham but their fat was healthy, almost like olive oil. We were privileged enough to be given a tour at this Osbourne plant where they make this fantastic, and fantastically expensive, ham.

As they brought us into through front door into the oldest part of the facility – a big-spaced patio-like area open to the sky with a covered walkway on all four sides – our guide told us this was where they used to hang their ham, exposed to the unique air that came in over the mountains from the sea, which also provided cooler air at night.

Now, in Spain their jamon is not like ours. If you go into any bar you’ll see hanging from the rafters pigs’ legs, covered in mold with little cups underneath to catch the dripping fat. You see to make jamon serrano or iberico, they slaughter the pig, take the leg and cover it with a layer of salt. That’s it.  Then they hang it for, well, a long time.

The jamon develops a mold all around it that helps to cure, ferment and preserve it at the same time. When they serve it they slice it really thin and just eat it maybe with a little piece of bread or something. Very simple eating and very delicious and tastes nothing like our ham in the States. A completely different experience.

Our guide told us that before the EU started their central planning the hanging of the ham in the open mountain and sea air would help to cure the jamon, and give it its unique flavor. And they’d been doing this with no problems from generations.

But the EU decided that well, no, they were doing it all wrong and now they had to build a “sanitary” facility where they had to hang the ham inside with perfectly controlled temperature and that to just tour the place you needed to put on little white paper suits, and a paper hat and wear little paper booties on your shoes. They did have windows at the top of the walls they could open to get some outside air in, but that had to be controlled too.

So that gave us a taste of how bureucrats in Brussels were telling jamon makers in southern Spain how to incorporate “best practices” into their business. Basically Osbourne had no choice but to comply otherwise they couldn’t sell their jamon.

So Brexit was a vote against central-planning elites in Brussels – who think they know better how everyone should live their lives and run their businesses – in favor of liberty and national sovereignty. I for one was pulling for Leave and was ecstatic when liberty had won out. And, of course, the news media was up in arms, Oh my God! Panic in the streets! What do we do now!! The markets will crash! … and all this ridiculous political theatre. Please.

The UK will not only survive but thrive. For now the panic on Bourbon Street has been reduced to the usual din of drunks and strippers, seersucker-suited men (and some women) have returned to their tables at Galatoire’s and the world pretty much has returned to near normal, but with a more free Britain who can now return to making their Stilton cheese the way they used to. Vive la revolucion! I think our New Orleans economy will survive Brexit.

Posted in New Orleans Business, New Orleans Life.

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Frenchy Brouillette and Torrid Tales of New Orleans Underworld – Book Review

Imagine being a side-kick to one of the more colorful characters of the New Orleans underworld and getting to see first hand all the crooked dealings and juicy tidbits of famous celebrities and Louisiana politicians. Well, that’s what it’s like to read Matthew Randazzo’s new book Mr. New Orleans: The Life of a Big Easy Underworld Legend.

Frenchy Brouillette and Torrid Tales of New Orleans Underworld – Book Review

mr new orleans and new orleans underworld

This first person account of the alternate reality of the Crescent City unfolds like a quirky novel. Randazzo interviewed the colorful and well-liked gangster Frenchy Brouillete for several years even at times when Frenchy was on the lam from the law, which seemed to be most of the time.

The book is a real page turner that lays out the life of this Cajun boy from the little town of Marksville that produced not only Frenchy but Edwin Edwards, a distant cousin who became one of the most corrupt Louisiana governors in history.

In fact, as Frenchy tells it, Edwards did things so corrupt that Huey Long, another corrupt Louisiana governor, couldn’t have even imagined doing.

Not only is this an intimate and fascinating account of a legendary New Orleans mobster, it’s got to be one of the funniest books I’ve read in a while and found myself laughing out loud several times.

To read about the corruption that was rife in the French Quarter and the main characters involved all the way from the famous madame Norma Wallace, one of Frenchy’s best friends and mentors, to his friendship with possibly the most notorious Mafia figure in American history, yes, our own Carlos Marcello, to incredibly corrupt politicians, one being a famous New Orleans district attorney, and a well-known TV personality and newsman whose public persona was quite the opposite of his private one, is to get an inside glimpse, sometimes uncomfortable, of how the “other half” lives. Some of his revelations about local well-known characters are in fact shocking.

Frenchy was even friends with the world-famous, flamboyant pianist Liberace who would call him up whenever he came into town because he enjoyed his company and depended upon the gangster to show him a good time. Also, a good bit of the book is dedicated to the characters apparently involved in the Kennedy assassination and the Mafia’s and the CIA’s role in it. Frenchy knew these people, some of them very well.

Unfortunately for us, Frenchy was murdered in 2015 apparently by his roommate after they supposedly got into an argument. Knowing this as you read the book and characters he exposes involved in the New Orleans underworld, you wonder if someone didn’t have it out for him. He even mentions that he wouldn’t be telling his story if any of the people he talks about were still alive. You can read more about this from The Times Picayune.

The book is worth reading as not only a historical piece but as one that delves into the psychology of someone who is unapologetic of his chronically criminal past. As he puts it, his childhood in Marksville was boring and just could not see himself in his father’s business doing hard manual labor for the rest of his life in the produce business.

From a devout Catholic family he early on showed signs of just wanting to have adventures of all sorts, seeming to be addicted to excitement. When as a teenager he ran away to New Orleans he immediately gravitated to the underworld characters and their exciting life. He felt he was in heaven. This was the life for him.

For upstanding citizens who always want to try to do the right thing and follow the law, Mr. New Orleans is an interesting glimpse into a different and sometimes bizarre way of looking at life. It’s definitely eye-opening and has me look at our criminal and political class in a different light, as almost two sides of the same coin.

Get this book, read it. How the author Randazoo pulled this off is probably another story in itself. But the writing is first rate and he seems to really capture Frenchy’s personality in how he narrates his own life.

And strangely, you can’t help but like Frenchy. I lent this book to my brother and hope to get it back, because it’s one of those books that I want to read again. It really sticks with you and gives you a take on late 20th century New Orleans history from a completely different angle.

You can get Mr. New Orleans, this unique glimpse into the New Orleans underworld from

Posted in New Orleans Books, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life.

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How Many Ways Can You Play Happy Birthday?

OK, full disclosure. Today is my birthday and a buddy of mine sent me these three videos of jazzy happy birthday renditions. The first two are Wynton Marsalis and the last is by pianist Nicole Pesce.

How Many Ways Can You Play Happy Birthday?

This is a video of Wynton Marsalis in a masterclass somewhere in France jammin’, jivin’ and improvising this simple melody. Gives you a real idea of how jazz is done.

And here we go with Wynton Marsalis in a sextet. The piano improv is wild, all over the place, brilliant. And he’s not even looking at the freaking keys! At the end it feels like we’re on the streets of New Orleans.

Ever wondered how Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin or Mozart would attack Happy Birthday. Well, here we got Nicole Pesce showing us how. The best is when she does a drunk Mozart playing the keyboard upside down. Wow!

So Happy Birthday to everyone!

Posted in New Orleans Life, New Orleans Music, New Orleans Videos.

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New Orleans Musician Gina Forsyth – The Sweetest Sound: One of the Best Songs Ever Written? – Watch

New Orleans musician Gina Forsyth is a regular at the Neutral Ground Coffee House and can be seen backing such artists as Cajun musician Bruce Daigrepont, singer/songwriter Tom Paxton, and recently Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. Just as talented on guitar as she is on fiddle she also has a unique and distinctive voice.

New Orleans Musician Gina Forsyth’s The Sweetest Sound: One of the Best Songs Ever Written?

Cover are from New Orleans musician Gina Forsyth latest CD Promised Land. Photo Phillip Gould

Cover are from Gina’s latest CD Promised Land. Photo Phillip Gould

Besides being such an excellent musician she is also a great songwriter. In the video below she performs what in my view is one of the best songs ever written. Have a listen. You can also find on iTunes the studio version which has a very mysterious, haunting quality that gives me goose bumps no matter how many times I’ve heard it.

Gina also performs with her all woman trio The Malvinas. I heard them play at the Neutral Ground and let me tell ya that each voice is not only unique but excellent and the blending of voices is exquisite. You can tell they are having fun performing which makes it fun for the audience as well. Gina will also be performing with the Diagrepont band at the 2016 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on the Fais Do Do stage.

New Orleans musician Gina Forsyth is a powerful musical force to be reckoned with. Indeed. Just another of our excellent musicians that makes New Orleans music so special

Posted in Cajun Music, Louisiana, New Orleans Festivals, New Orleans Jazz Festival, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Music, New Orleans Videos.

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Rich Collins of New Orleans Band Imagination Movers Releases Solo Album Golden Pick – Watch

Rich Collins of the New Orleans band Imagination Movers has just released his second solo album. The Imagination Movers are one of the most popular bands for kids in the world owing to the Disney show they had going for three seasons that was translated in many different languages. That show was shot on a soundstage in Harahan not far from my house.

Rich Collins of New Orleans Band Imagination Movers Releases Solo Album Golden Pick – Watch

rich collins imagination movers new orleans band

Rich Collins and his Golden Pick playing music in the park.

I watched that show several times and was amazed at the music, the fun and the creativity. It was very entertaining. The four Movers were all naturals on camera and is probably one of the reasons they are so popular in their live shows.

The group was started by four best friends in New Orleans who had an idea for a band that would create and perform pop music for kids but still could be appreciated by adults, too.

Well, they’ve done a good job of it because they’ve been going strong for many years now playing gigs in New Orleans as well as traveling the United States doing festivals and major events in New York and Washington D.C. So I guess you could say that they’ve become a big deal.

This song Golden Pick is the title track to the new CD. It’s fun, upbeat and just has this infections rhythm that makes ya wanna dance. And it’s shot right there on the banks of the Mississippi River and what looks to be City Park.

The New Orleans Band Imagination Movers is a great project and can’t wait to see what other great music and art projects happen in this city that go global.


Posted in New Orleans Art, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Music, New Orleans Videos.

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