These days, Paul Arrigo is the happiest man in Baton Rouge.

As head of Visit Baton Rouge, it is his duty to shepherd two score and 11 of the nation’s most attractive women around town prior to Sunday’s Miss USA contest at the River Center.

It seems every time I see a photo of the lovelies, there in the center is Paul, wearing a bow tie and a big smile.

To check out how well he’s doing his job, I dropped by Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s to view a karaoke contest for the contestants.

The young ladies, who sang in pairs, were presented with Carnival beads, and Miss Nevada and Miss New Hampshire got into the Mardi Gras spirit right away, offering the audience beads in exchange for votes.

Miss Pennsylvania, who sang with Miss Tennessee, cried, “I love y’all, Baton Rouge.”

Miss Washington, who sang with Miss Texas, told the crowd, “I’m learning to say ‘y’all!’ ”

But Miss Illinois and Miss Idaho got the most approval when they changed the lyrics to Van Morrison’s classic “Brown Eyed Girl.”

Instead of opening with “Hey, where did we go …” they sang “Hey, Paul Arrigo …”

Then they sang “Making love in the green grass, behind Tiger Stadium …”

When the DJ put on some throbbing electronic dance music, the contestants took over the dance floor, and I knew it was time to leave.

But as I toddled out into the Third Street nightlife, I turned to look back at that acre or so of pulchritude, and there in the midst of the dancing queens was Paul, looking like … well, like the happiest man in Baton Rouge. …

Flamingo love

At the above-mentioned karaoke contest, Paul Arrigo introduced me to Miss USA, Erin Brady, and told me she absolutely LOVES pink flamingos — although she hails from Connecticut, which I imagine doesn’t have too many of the tropical birds.

Erin confirmed this passion by proudly displaying the “Flamingo Dynasty” T-shirt from this year’s Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade, which Paul had just given her.

When I told her that the flamingo was the official mascot of the Spanish Town parade, she seemed thrilled and asked, “When is it?”

“The Saturday before Mardi Gras,” I told her.

“Oh, I want to see it! Can I come?” she asked.

Paul chimed in with, “Sure you can. Smiley will handle it. …”

As they left, I thought, “Handle what? What just happened here?”

I may have more on this later. Stay tuned. …

A Louisiana thing

Algie Petrere tells how she discovered that not everyone appreciates Louisiana’s love affair with food:

“My son Darrin lives in Arkansas and misses all the Louisiana food.

“For his birthday, I always take him packages of Jerry Lee’s boudin and andouille.

“It seemed like a perfectly normal birthday present to me until a couple of years ago.

“His wife Susan’s niece Olivia (about 5 at the time) lived out of town, so they set up a video call so she could share in the day.

“Olivia excitedly asked what he had gotten for his birthday.

“He showed her the boudin and andouille. She looked for a minute, then asked incredulously, ‘You got MEAT?’ ”

Worthy causes

“The Mind’s Eye,” an art exhibition featuring works by artists living with mental illness, will open Saturday with a reception and gala at 7 p.m. at the Community Gallery of the Arts Council, 427 Laurel St.

It is presented by the Baton Rouge chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Call (225) 769-0361 or visit

Special People Dept.

  • Ida LeBlanc, of Williamsburg Senior Living Community, celebrated her 100th birthday Monday.
  • Helen McRee Cambre, of Port Vincent, celebrates her 92nd birthday Tuesday.

    Billy and Janelle Stevens celebrated 56 years of marriage Saturday.

    Johnny and Shirley O’Conner celebrated their 56th anniversary May 24.

    John and Janell Richard celebrated their 55th anniversary Monday.

Thought for the Day

From Bo Bienvenu, of Prairieville: “If you test positive for stupid, don’t bother to retest.”

Grade expectations

Richard Fossey, who teaches in the College of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, says the dispute over Common Core academic standards makes him think that “we should consult the wisdom of our ancestors concerning education policy.”

For instance, this story:

T-Boy, Boudreaux’s grandson, comes home from school with his report card in his hand. “Paw Paw,” T-Boy says, “look at my report card. I got one D and four Fs! What am I doin’ wrong?”

Boudreaux looks at the report card a long time, then says, “Well, T-Boy, it’s clear to me what your problem is. You’re spending all your time studying one subject.”

Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.