John Kennedy Toole house in Carrollton under review for landmark status

A center-hall cottage in the Carrollton neighborhood is on its way to becoming a local landmark for its distinction as the last residence of John Kennedy Toole, the author of the Pulitzer-awarded novel “A Confederacy of Dunces.” 
The Historic District Landmarks Commission approved the building at 7632 Hampson St. at its October meeting for further study, the next step in becoming an official landmark. 
Although the property has displayed a Orleans Parish Landmarks Commission plaque since 1987, it does not have landmark protection. The designation would help to safeguard the site’s preservation. Toole lived in the house from 1966 to 1969, the year he died at 31. During that time, the “Dunces” manuscript mostly stayed at the top of an armoire in his bedroom, according to a biography. The senior editor at Simon & Schuster had returned the manuscript in 1966 after a year of back-and-forth correspondence and revisions.

Film Festival’s opener explores musical connection between New Orleans and Havana

By Jeanne D’Arcy, Uptown Messenger
The 2023 New Orleans Film Festival will open with a screening of Música! It follows student musicians from Cuba on a musical exchange that includes Preservation Hall in New Orleans. The first screening takes place at the Prytania Theatre Uptown on Thursday (Nov. 2) at 7:30 p.m.
Film goers have another opportunity to see the Música! by Academy Award winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music) at the Prytania Theatre at Canal Place 2, on Monday, Nov. 6, at 12:30 p.m.
Viewers meet three young musicians and watch their lives over five years – at school, with their families, performing around town, and on a musical exchange to Preservation Hall in New Orleans.

Ghoul’s paradise on St. Charles Avenue is to die for

By Jeanne D’Arcy, Uptown Messenger

Once again, the queen of ghostly puns has pulled off a Halloween extravaganza on St. Charles Avenue. Crowds gather and a line of cars slows down to see the Skeleton House at 6000 St. Charles Ave., the creation of homeowner Louellen Berger. 

The skeleton krewe is an established fixture on the New Orleans’ Halloween scene. There’s local satire, like the “Scourge and Water Board” on an orange cone in the street, and the “Corpse of Engineers.” New this year are the “Pearly Gates,” Berger’s own front gate draped in long pearls, better known as Mardi Gras beads. 

In the front yard – and spilling over onto the sidewalk and up into the trees — are more than 100 skeletons wearing costumes with wonderfully punny labels.

Dew Drop Inn set to reopen before year’s end

The Dew Drop Inn is set to reopen in winter 2023, the developers announced Thursday (Oct. 19) in a press release. The distinctly New Orleans landmark in Central City has been restored to its former glory as one of the country’s most culturally significant music venues. 

Once known as “the South’s swankiest spot,” the Dew Drop Inn’s current revival is led by real estate developer and New Orleans native Curtis Doucette Jr., whose passion for historical Black culture and music led him to acquire the Dew Drop in 2021 and spend three years restoring the beloved site, reimagining it as a destination that blends a legendary music venue, 17-room boutique hotel, restaurant and pool club. 

From the late 1930s until the late 1960s, the Dew Drop Inn hosted some of the most iconic musicians of our time, including legendary artists like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Tina Turner and Etta James, as well as local legends like Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas, among many others. The venue served as an incubator for the birth of rhythm & blues and rock ’n’ roll. More than just a music venue, the Dew Drop Inn was a place where artists not only played but hung out, recorded and sometimes lived.

After 50 years, Dew Drop Inn gets ready to open its doors

Beginning this fall,  the legendary Dew Drop Inn in Central City is set to host live music for the first time in more than half a century. The city’s leading Black music venue for three mid-century decades, the club billed as “the swankiest spot in the South” holds a hallowed place in New Orleans cultural history and in rock ’n’ roll and rhythm-and-blues history. Lead developer Curtis Doucette Jr. told Uptown Messenger they are planning a mid-October opening for the music club. No word yet on the opening act, but he said he wants to bring back as many of the original Dew Drop musicians as he can. Of course, the Dew Drop community of musicians dates from the 1940s to 1970, so few remain on the scene.

Neutral Ground Coffee House planning move to Carrollton area

Neutral Ground Coffee House owners Caroline “Phant” Williams and James Naylor were driving through the Carrollton neighborhood recently in their quest to find a new home for the city’s oldest coffeehouse and entertainment venue. They had decided Carrollton would good fit for the Neutral Ground, exiled since it lost its lease on its longtime Danneel Street space in April. At the corner of Oak and Adams, the partners noticed an empty, dilapidated commercial building. “There’s just something very attractive about this building,” Williams said. “So we stopped and were like, ‘Wow, wouldn’t this be a great spot!’”

After a Google search failed to turn up any information on the building, they dropped the idea.

Uptown musician Kate Fagan finds herself suddenly too cool

By Jeanne D’Arcy, Uptown Messenger

More than four decades after its release, Uptown musician Kate Fagan’s “I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool” and Fagan herself have caught the public’s attention. 

When she recorded “I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool” (Side B: “Waiting for the Crisis”) in 1979, the singer-songwriter was making waves in the Chicago punk rock scene. Fagan hustled for exposure — printing and distributing fliers, calling radio station DJs — but never gained much traction beyond her ardent fan base. 

With her punk days behind her, Fagan had been living in New Orleans for nearly 10 years when a New York City number popped up on her phone. She picked up, thinking it could be an old friend, and found herself talking to a record producer from the Omnian Music Group in Brooklyn. They wanted to reissue the single on their new rerelease label Manufactured Recordings. The producer told Fagan: “I want you to be our first project.”

Fagan still had the original recording.

Latter Library to host spring edition of Really, Really Big Book Sale

The Friends of the New Orleans Public Library will hold its annual Really, Really Big Book Sale on Saturday (May 13). 

Held on the front porch of the iconic Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue on the Saturday before Mothers Day, the Really, Really Big Book Sale is a signature fundraiser of Friends of New Orleans Public Library. Sales of used books fund important New Orleans Public Library programs, such as the Summer Fun Reading program and adult literacy classes. 

The first hour of the sale will be reserved for members of Friends of New Orleans Public Library exclusively. From 10 to 11 a.m., members will have their first choice of local interest books, literature, biographies, children’s and young adult books, DVDs, comic books and everything in between. The sale is open to the general public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For a chance to make an early purchase, individuals can join as members of FNOPL.

Richard Campanella presents ‘Draining New Orleans’ at Octavia Books

Uptown author Richard Campanella will present and sign his newest book, “Draining New Orleans: The 300-Year Quest to Dewater the Crescent City” tonight (May 10) at Octavia Books. With many other books to his credit, Campanella, a geographer and associate dean for research at the Tulane School of Architecture, wrote “Draining New Orleans” as the first full-length book devoted to “the world’s toughest drainage problem.”

The book chronicles the herculean attempts to reclaim the city’s swamps and marshes and install subsurface drainage for massive urban expansion. It addresses geography, public health, engineering, architecture, politics, sociology, race relations and disaster response. Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St., will host the presentation and signing on Wednesday (May 10) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. See here for more information on “Draining New Orleans.”

Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp offers new workshop on hip-hop

The 29th annual Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp will, for the first time, For the first time, offer classes in hip-hop. They will be taught by two of that industry’s most notable professionals: Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Adam “BlaqnMilD” Pigott and Grammy-winner rapper, producer and singer Darius “Deezle” Harrison. 

The jazz camp will take place June 19 through July 7 at Loyola University’s Communications and Music Complex, 6363 St. Charles Ave. Aspiring young musicians ages 10 through 21 are urged to apply now, said Jackie Harris, executive director of camp and the Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Educational Foundation. Classes have traditionally been offered in woodwinds, brass, piano, electric and upright bass, drums, strings, vocals, large and small ensembles, big band, music theory, and swing and second-line dance.