The Irish Channel Saint Patrick’s Day parade is on the day itself this year. I’m not sure if this will increase drunken revelry but I plan to do some day drinking. Dr. A and I have been going to our friends Greg and Christy’s open house for the last 11 or 12 years. It’s hard to be precise since whiskey and beer are involved. Whiskey, of course, is the devil.
The big local news is the death of New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson at the age of 90. The local media has done some cringeworthy coverage of this gruff car dealer whose demeanor and voice reminded me of Archie Bunker. The hagiography is a bit much given Benson’s attempt to move the Saints to his *other* hometown of San Antonio as the region reeled from the Katrina and the Federal Flood. He sent his image to rehab with donations to charity, the Super Bowl win didn’t hurt either. He was also a supporter of the GOP and other dubious conservative rich guy causes. As Archie would surely say at this point, goodnight nurse.
This week’s featured image is by the Irish painter Jack Butler Yeats. And, yes, he was related to the poet William Butler Yeats: he was his kid brother. I’m uncertain as to whether he was a pesky one. It would be poetic justice if he were…
Our theme song is a traditional Irish folk song. The Pogues and the Dubliners recorded The Irish Rover together in 1987. It was a hit in Ireland and the UK.
Now that we’ve taken a trip on a ill-fated ship, let’s jump to the break and hope we land in a lifeboat.
We begin our second act with an event at the Johnson White House that created quite a stir in 1968 but has been long forgotten.
Fa-Fa-Fa-Fashion: All I know about fashion, I learned from watching Project Runway. I know that when America’s favorite gay uncle Tim Gunn furrows his brow and puts his hand on his chin, a designer is in trouble. I also prefer Alyssa Milano as a host/judge to Heidi Klum, which may be seen as heresy in some quarters. Uncle Tim, however, is the best. Who among us wouldn’t benefit from a Tim Gunn save?
There’s a fabulous piece by Kimberly Chrisman-Chapman at Politico Magazine about the day Lady Bird Johnson threw a fashion show at the White House:
This week marked the 50th anniversary of the first—and only—fashion show ever held in the White House. While the February 29, 1968, event hosted by first lady Lady Bird Johnson has been virtually forgotten today, it received extensive and glowing media coverage at the time. Before the show, organizers and journalists even predicted that it would become an annual occurrence—a permanent fixture on the American fashion calendar along with Press Week and the Party of the Year, now respectively known as New York Fashion Week and the Met Ball.
But the first White House fashion show would be the last. The PR stunt turned into a PR disaster, plagued by bad weather and bad timing (in the middle of the Tet Offensive). It left a swarm of bad feelings in its wake; designers who had been left out lashed out and well-meaning organizers felt stung by complaints that the administration was out of touch, partying while Vietnam burned. Just a month later, on March 31, President Lyndon B. Johnson shocked the country by announcing that he would not seek reelection that fall.
The author goes on to upbraid Melania Trump for rarely wearing American fashions unlike her predecessors. Perhaps she’s afraid of being subjected to wisecracks from the likes of past and present Project Runway judges such as Michael Kors, Zac Posen, and Issac Mizrahi. So much for MAGA. Perhaps they need a fashion forward acronym: Make America Fashionable Again. The downside is that MAFA sounds a bit too much like a certain organization Melania’s husband is familiar with. Never mind.
David Bowie gets the last word of the segment.
Let’s move on to a tastier topic: food glorious food.
The Tex-Mex Blues: I don’t know about you but I think that many foodies are pretentious posers. And I say as a Top Chef fan, prodigious eater, and not bad home cook. Celebrity chef worship eludes me as do certain food trends including the cult of barbecue. I like barbecue but its exponents tend to be obnoxious and mouthy white dudes. Remind me to tell you about the twitter exploits of the BBQ Buddhist some day.
That brings me to a tasty piece by Melissa McCarron at Eater.com wherein she takes a look at how barbecue has eclipsed Tex Mex as the state cuisine in the Lone Star state. McCarron finds that mostly unconscious racial and gender politics are at the root of the current disdain for Tex-Mex, which I happen to like:
What does barbecue have that Tex-Mex doesn’t? It has meat, it has fire, it has an aura of mastery — and, currently, it’s associated primarily with Anglos, and the area in and around Texas’s famously progressive, and also profoundly segregated city, Austin. The state has a robust tradition of black pitmasters; Franklin Barbecue is located in what was formerly Ben’s Long Branch Bar-B-Q, a black-owned business in a historically black neighborhood, originally created by Austin’s segregationalist 1928 city plan. Black pitmasters at restaurants like Sam’s Bar-B-Que and Hoover’s still smoke nearby. And Mexican pit-smoked barbacoa, a weekend staple in the Rio Grande Valley, existed before Texas was Texas.
But the “easy story” of central Texas barbecue, as Daniel Vaughn calls it, disseminated across the country, is about, and told by, people who are almost entirely white, and male. Each of these cooks and obsessives are individually passionate and often brilliant — and some, like Aaron Franklin, are downright leery of their own fame — but the aggregate effect is Texas barbecue being treated with almost comical importance, driven by a self-perpetuating cycle where tastemakers champion genuinely wonderful food made by people who look like them.
It’s a fascinating piece that, much to my relief, does not use the term cultural appropriation. When well executed, fusion food is fabulous and Tex-Mex was fusion food before the term was coined. Who among us wouldn’t like to dive into a gooey bowl of Queso right now? Yeah, I know: vegans and those wishing to avoid a heart attack.
Pondering barbecue fanatics gave me an earworm. I think many of them would sound like the narrator of this Lyle Lovett tune:
It’s time to revive an oddball Odds & Sods feature that debuted in December. Exhume or disinter might be a better word.
Oddball Obits: Today on Adrastos’ obsession with FNYT (Failing New York Times) obituaries, we have two obits that caught my eye recently. We begin with the passing of the founder of Tower Records, Russ Solomon.
In my early days as a music geek, I was obsessed with Tower Records and their wonderful store at Columbus and Bay in San Francisco. Any time I was in The City with my parents, I insisted on a stop at Tower so I could peruse the records. I’m surprised that my father had the patience but my mother was fine with it. Lou would wait in the car and listen to news radio and mom would come inside with me. The catch was that I had to spend my own money.
When Tower Records followed me to New Orleans, I was a happy man. Dr. A referred to it as my religious shrine. Tower was, of course, an early Bezos victim and went out of business long ago but I have my memories.
Our second oddball obit involves a man who insisted he was George Gershwin’s love child. He certainly looked like him.
I had never heard of Alan Gershwin before but I’m fascinated by imposters, especially those who seem convinced they’re the real deal:
But many continued to credit a story that, while improbable, was also strangely plausible, and appealing. Though occasionally stuck up about his claimed lineage, Mr. Gershwin was, despite living in meager circumstances, good-natured and optimistic — a modern Micawber. He was also the ultimate underdog, taking on the mighty, unfeeling and — in some music circles, at least — arrogant Gershwin establishment. And legions of fans were heartened by the thought that George Gershwin, who never married, had left something behind besides his music. People hoped Alan was who he claimed to be.
Ira Gershwin, in particular, was apoplectic over Alan’s claims. He definitely did not think the imposter was S’wonderful or S’Gershwin:
Saturday GIF Horse: Modern Times was Charlie Chaplin’s last silent film. It’s a brilliant satire of mechanization and the impersonality of modern life circa 1936. It still holds up quite well, particularly the man versus machine bits:
I wonder if he was eating Tex-Mex or barbecue?
Benign Earworm Of The Week: My allergies have been horrible this week. Achoo. It was inevitable that Going Down The Road Feeling Bad would get stuck in my head while strolling the polleny streets of Uptown New Orleans. Achoo
This version has some phenomenal Hammond B-3 playing by Brent Myland. Not Fade Away is lagniappe. Besides, the transition is as swell as hell albeit disconcerting for Deadheads used to the song order being reversed.
Let’s close out this week’s festivities with some music to eat corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread to.
Saturday Classic: Planxty are a venerable Irish folk band who have been making great music since 1972. We’re featuring their eponymous first record, which is often called The Black Album because of its cover. Go figure.
That’s it for this Saint Patrick’s Day edition of Saturday Odds & Sods. The last word goes to Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in John Ford’s tribute to an Ireland that never existed, The Quiet Man.