Everyone knows by now that Miss Oklahoma Olivia Jordan was crowned Miss USA on the night of July 12, but being there in person for the spectacular pageant was a blast. And the after party was even more fun.
Truth be told, Jordan quickly became my favorite among the 51 contestants after Miss Louisiana Candice Bennatt and, from my native state, Miss Alabama Madison Gutherie didn’t make the final five. They were in the Top 10 though, so Louisianans and Alabamians have every reason to be proud of these two women.
My seatmates Lauren Westbook, Erin and Claude Reynaud, Carolyn Bennett and Fran Huber and I had a great time watching all the goings on of a huge, live TV production. As much fun as the pageant was, the after party at L’Auberge Casino & Hotel just kicked things up a notch. The music was in full swing, the delicious food ready to temp taste buds and the libations flowing by the time guests started arriving from the River Center. Joining in the celebration were Mayor Kip and Lois Holden, Metro Councilwoman Denise Marcelle, Visit Baton Rouge CEO Paul Arrigo and most of his staff, Gino Marino, Anisa and Dale Politz, Karen and Bill Profita, Leo Verde and Laurie Stoma, Sherry Despino and, my new buddy George, who drove down from South Carolina for the big night. I’m happy to report he fell in love with our city during his stay, and he wasn’t the only one.
Kudos to Mickey Parenton, general manager at L’Auberge, for orchestrating such a grand finale to a spectacular 12 days in our city, which again rose to the occasion in hosting the pageant for the second year in a row. Also deserving of a shout out for playing gracious host is Leo Verde, general manager of Sullivan’s Steakhouse. He turned the restaurant over to the Miss USA gang for an evening they’ll never forget the night of July 6.
After a wonderful meal, the contestants were joined by a VIP list of Leo’s friends in dancing the night away in the Ringside Lounge. The V-Tones were rocking it with a little help from the mayor and several of the contestants, who found themselves on stage playing instruments and singing along. Among the party-goers were Missy and Rock Rockenbaugh, Layne McDaniel, Michelle McCalope, Christy Reeves, Ryan Maranto, Brian Low and Stoma.
Sandwiched in the middle of all the Miss USA hoopla was another fantastic event — a reunion of those of us who worked at WBRZ back in the 1980s during the “Eyewitness News” era, hence the name “Eyewitness Heaven.” Former News Director John Spain and wife Linda graciously opened their home on False River for the get-together, which brought folks from as far away as San Diego.
It didn’t take long for the stories to start making the rounds, you know, the ones that begin with “Do you remember that time…” Prompting us along (not that we really needed it) were tapes of past newscasts and parties. I think we were all ready to go out and produce another top-notch, award-winning newscast by the time things were winding down.
I loved seeing and sharing memories with Spain, Terry Burhans, Tammi Arender, Sailor Jackson, Heath Allen, Michael Trufant, Emile Barrios, Bob Kennon, Steve Davison, Margaret Lawhon, Marvin McGraw, Andrea Clesi McMakin, David Kors, Sam Moore, Guy LaBranche, Vernoica Mosgrove and Leo Honeycutt. Bob Courtney, who has an amazing voice, transported us back in time with his famous rendition of “Rainy Night in Georgia.” Serving as his doo-wop girls for “Mustang Sally” were wife Beth Courtney, Debi Akchin Graham and yours truly … it was legendary! Also grabbing the mic to bring back memories was Burhans, of “Damn Right Chorus” fame.
And speaking of remembering, there was a display in memory of those Eyewitness Heaven employees no longer with us: Fred Brooks, Ed Buggs, Debra Davidson, Walter Hill, Bob Johnson, Dana Kaye, Bob Schadel, Walter Strickland, Jay “The Balmy Swami” Townsend and Jay Young.
Serving on the planning committee with me for the reunion were chief organizer Bob Courtney and Kors, Brenda Hodge, Skip Haley and John Mahaffey.
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