[Article Content Provided by Burke Bischoff and Phil LaMancusa]

20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

12:04 September 13, 2017
By: Burke Bischoff, Phil LaMancusa, Debbie Lindsey & Andrew Alexander

Everybody loves birthdays. They are not only a time of celebration, but they also serve as a time of reflection on all of the accomplishments one has achieved prior to that date. Speaking of birthdays, not only is New Orleans about to be the ripe old age of 300 in 2018, our very own Where Y’at Magazine is turning 20 years old this year! As a celebration, we at Where Y’at want to recognize 20 different people, things, and events that have left an impact on New Orleans during the past 20 years. Take a trip with us as we present to you our 20 selections for Where Y’at Magazine’s 20th anniversary. 


20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

1. C. Ray Nagin 

He came on like gangbusters. Native son of the Seventh Ward and Treme who went to college on a baseball scholarship, took a BS in accounting, and became a CPA. He took jobs around the country and landed with Cox Communications where he rose, at 33 years of age, to vice president and general manager in 1989 with a pay of $400,000 a year. He was active in city, state, and national politics as a lobbyist and functioned well at the local level, performing with many civic organizations. He also had irons in the fire in many local business deals; he was a shrewd operator. At 46 years old, he entered the New Orleans political scene by announcing his candidacy for mayor. He touted himself as a poor son, born among us in Charity Hospital, and as a business leader who would take the city to a new level. He was elected mayor in 2002. Katrina came in 2005, and the mayor lost his effectiveness. He holed up at City Hall and rarely ventured out to see to his constituents’ well-being. He did make a forceful rant against the federal government on WWL Radio with an impassioned plea for help and a demand for assistance. He narrowly won a second term, with two-thirds of voters still displaced, and helped to contribute to the city’s slow progress on a path to recovery. However, it appears that he was working both sides of the street—wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering got him a trial and a sentence in the slammer where you’ll find him today. He remains a lesson in greed, ineptness, and showmanship bravado. His release is scheduled for May 25, 2023. -Phil LaMancusa

20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

2. Mitch Landrieu

What can you say about Mitchell Landrieu? Politician and lawyer, son of a mayor, brother of a senator, one-time deputy governor and state representative, present mayor of New Orleans. He first ran for mayor in 1994, narrowly lost in 2006, and took two-thirds of the vote to win it in 2010. The city was left with a $100 million shortfall, thanks to the previous administration (C. Ray Nagin). He placed a hiring freeze on the police department, and crime rates rose as police ranks dwindled. He did things to beautify the city that our visitors will notice and left other parts to wither. He oversaw the removal of city monuments (statues) that represented personages that were pro-slavery, and a minority of radicals on both sides of the argument disrupted the city with protests that took an additional portion of our police department from other duties. His infrastructure projects have cost money and have inconvenienced citizens. He is very adept at using federal monies for city projects, and one of his gaffs is known as the “streetcar to nowhere” on Rampart Street. Landrieu is a career politician and is a staunch advocate for juvenile justice system reforms. He also is a fiscal conservative actively working on and repealing an Orleans parish “amusement tax” (two percent of gross sales), and as a career politician, is widely regarded as someone who has his eye on Washington, D.C. He has reached term limits as a mayor and leaves the city with mixed viewpoints of his legacy. As mayor, he has done nothing wrong. -Phil LaMancusa

20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

3. Chris Rose

Sometimes a disaster will spawn greatness in otherwise ordinary folks. But there is a price to be paid for such opportunities that allow a person to be in the right place at such a wrong time. Chris Rose was a good writer, but might never have been thrust into a venue that allowed him to dig deep into humanity, darkness, and a position to actually save the lives and sanity of many, had Katrina not struck. Prior to Katrina, Chris Rose had taken over a former Times-Picayune society/polite gossip column, turning it into a laugh-out-loud, silly, witty, and well-crafted poke-fun-at-celebrities/commentary on New Orleans’s quirky social culture. Then the levees broke, and broke, and broke. And he and a handful of Times-Picayune writers had to jump into the trenches and report, cover, and document a broken city and its people. He wrote of every aspect of life and death in this damaged city, including his own trip down the rabbit hole of depression, and this resonated profoundly with others suffering this intrusion into their sanity and well-being. He helped readers identify their own depression and put into laymen’s terms the symptoms and treatments. Countless folks sought help as a result. His 1 Dead in Attic (a compilation of his post-K columns) became a New York Times Best Seller. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in ’06, won a Pulitzer for his contributions to the The Times-Picayune’s Public Service Awards, and much more. Through his ups and downs, he has remained an excellent writer. -Debbie Lindsey

20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

4. Sidney Torres

Sidney D. Torres IV, or simply known as Sidney Torres, is a man who has been keeping himself busy bettering the city of New Orleans through the art of business. Best described as a serial entrepreneur, Torres, also the creator of the firm IV Capital, has made a name for himself by transforming houses and other historical buildings into hotels that strive to offer a uniquely New Orleans type of charm. In fact, over the past 15 years, Torres has been able to cultivate over $250 million in both residential and commercial real estate. Torres was so prolific in real estate, in fact, that from 2012 to 2015, he became the owner of The Cove, a multimillion-dollar luxury resort in the Bahamas. Torres’s exploits are not just limited to hotels. After Hurricane Katrina turned New Orleans into a damaged, garbage-filled mess, he created the SDT Waste and Debris Services—which was seen by national media outlets as one of the signs that the city was starting to recover—to help clean up the French Quarter. Having received a number of leadership and role model awards, Torres and his accomplishments have been acknowledged by national publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. -Burke Bischoff

20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

5. Trombone Shorty

Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, has been building up his musical repertoire since he first appeared at Jazz Fest with Bo Diddley at four years old. Since then, he has made a name for himself with his superior trombone- and trumpet-playing skills. In addition to releasing a good number of albums and touring with his band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Andrews has been able to work with a number of well-known musicians like U2, CeeLo Green, the Zac Brown Band, and Dierks Bentley. Andrews has also appeared as a musical guest for a lot of late-night talk shows like David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan, and Craig Ferguson. Andrews has been able to break into the acting world as well with appearances in Treme and The Peanuts Movie. He’s also collaborated with Mayor Mitch Landrieu to form The Trombone Shorty Foundation (originally named Horns For Schools Project), which dedicates itself to preserving New Orleans’s musical culture by passing it down to future generations of musicians. The foundation accomplishes this by giving quality instruments, donated by Andrews himself, to different schools all across New Orleans, as well as offering mentoring programs to high school students in the city. -Burke Bischoff

20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

6. 610 Stompers

Known as ordinary men with extraordinary moves, the 610 Stompers have come a long way since their humble beginnings in 2009. Started by Brett Patron as a way to help pay for his Saints season tickets, the 610 Stompers went from a small handful of friends to a 100-piece all-male dance krewe (with members ranging from 20-year-olds to 80-year-olds) that has attained local celebrity status. The 610 Stompers are now Mardi Gras staples and have participated in many, many charity events around the city, raising thousands of dollars for different causes. These men have also been able to spread their unique brand of charm to the rest of the country as well. The 610 Stompers have delighted and confused Americans all over with appearances in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and on the Today Show. The Stompers have also been able to take their talents overseas with their inclusion in London’s 2017 New Year’s Day Parade. The 610 Stompers are so popular nowadays that tons of men from all over the country come to New Orleans just to try out to be a Stomper. Women shouldn’t feel left out because, along with the 610 Stompers, there are also the 610 Splits, who serve as an all-female security component for the Stompers along parade routes. You can see the Stompers on September 21 at Where Y'at's 20th Anniversary Party at Generations Hall. Get your tickets today! -Burke Bischoff

20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

7. Joseph Cao

Born in Saigon in 1967 during the Vietnam War, and eventually migrating to the U.S. when he was eight, Ánh Quang Cao, better known as Joseph Cao, has shown that his loyalties lie firmly embedded in New Orleans when he decided to enter politics after seeing the government’s poor response to helping the city during Hurricane Katrina. Cao, who got his J.D. from the Loyola University School of Law in 2000, tried to run for District 103 of the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2006, but was unsuccessful. He didn’t make history until 2008 when he ran as the Republican nominee in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District election against Bill Jefferson, the Democratic nominee who was up for reelection. Despite Louisiana’s 2nd District having a Democratic majority and consisting mostly of African Americans, Cao narrowly defeated Jefferson (33,132 to 31,318), becoming not only the first Vietnamese American to serve in Congress, but also the first Republican to serve from Louisiana’s 2nd District since 1891. While he was in office from 2009 to 2010, Cao served in three different committees: Oversight and Government Reform, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Homeland Security. While he did lose his reelection attempt in 2010 by a large margin (when he was up against Representative Cedric Richmond), Cao is largely remembered as a strong lawmaker with a high level of integrity towards helping the city he represented, especially during the aftermath of Katrina. -Burke Bischoff


20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

8. Voodoo Fest

Since its inauguration in October 1999, The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, or just Voodoo Fest, has been an annual Halloween tradition in New Orleans for almost 20 years. Created by Stephen Rehage, CEO of Rehage Entertainment, Voodoo Fest began as a single-day event, containing a mix of local and national musical acts, and was held at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park. As the years went on, Voodoo Fest’s popularity continued to increase, which contributed to the festival’s growth. It went from a one-day event to a three-day event in 2007, and has brought in around one million festivalgoers to New Orleans since its inception. In 2005, when the city was reeling from Hurricane Katrina, Voodoo Fest was relocated to Memphis for that year. Wanting to get the festival back to the city, Rehage decided to put on Voodoo as a one-day celebration at Riverview Park on October 29, 2005, and made it a tribute event to all of the relief workers and people who aided in New Orleans’s recovery, making it the first major multi-musical event to be held in the city two months after Katrina. Voodoo Fest has had many types of musicians on its stages throughout the years, from local talents like The Meters, Trombone Shorty, and Dr. John, to internationally famous acts like Metallica, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, KISS, R.E.M., Eminem, and Snoop Dogg. -Burke Bischoff

20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

9. Essence Fest

The Essence Festival, having been a part of New Orleans culture since around 1994, is considered to be the largest event celebrating African American music and culture in the United States. Often referred to as “the party with a purpose,” Essence Fest found its start as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Essence, a magazine that is mainly marketed towards African American women. A local and annual tradition for the city, Essence Fest has only been held outside of New Orleans twice: in 2006, when it was held in Houston because of Hurricane Katrina, and in 2016, when the festival was held in Durban (the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal). Held in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Essence Fest has been able to draw in a large number of people to the city. This year, in fact, organizers reported that Essence Fest was able to draw in more than 470,000 attendees. Bringing together musical acts ranging from hip hop to gospel and everything in between, Essence Fest has been able to amass an impressive selection of world-famous talent like Diana Ross, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Usher, and Earth, Wind & Fire. -Burke Bischoff


20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 1

10. National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum, located in the CBD on Andrew Higgins Drive, is a history museum dedicated to focusing on America’s involvement in World War II and the contributions the U.S. made towards an Allied victory over the Axis Powers. Established on June 6, 2000 (which was actually the 56th anniversary of D-Day), the WWII Museum was originally known as the D-Day Museum and primarily focused on the Normandy landings of June 6, 1944. In 2003, Congress decided to make the museum America’s official and national World War II museum, thus helping to bring more tourism to New Orleans. Throughout the years, the WWII Museum has seen many expansions and additions to the main museum: the Solomon Victory Theater with the award-winning 4-D film Beyond All Boundaries, the American Sector restaurant, the Stage Door Canteen theater, interactive exhibits like the Road to Berlin and the Road to Tokyo, and a number of different pavilions containing different WWII bombers, galleries, and other items from the war. The museum has also hosted numerous events that honored WWII veterans and allowed them to recount their stories and involvement with the war. As of 2016, the museum brings thousands of visitors regularly through its doors, and TripAdvisor ranked it the #4 museum in the United States for its 2016 Travelers’ Choice Awards. -Burke Bischoff

Be sure to check out 20 Stories From the Past 20 Years: Part 2 as well!

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