If you came of age in New Orleans in the 1960s, you know that every part of town touted watering holes where neighborhood teens could hang out. In Lakeview, one of those social places was Velvet Swing on Harrison Avenue.
“It was a bar, but back then it didn’t matter,” said New Orleans musician Benny Grunch, who first visited Velvet Swing while attending St. Aloysius High School. Parents figured their teens were close to home and safe at the bar “because you were in there with a cop,” and if a fight broke out it was settled with fists not guns, Grunch said.
A reunion of folks who frequented the “ain’t dere no more” landmark — as Grunch says in perfect Yat — will be held from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22, at the old address, 911 Harrison Ave., now home to a restaurant and bar called Lakeview Harbor. The Benny Grunch and the Bunch band will entertain, and “just like the olden days, there is no door cover; just come on in,” Grunch said.
This will be the third Velvet Swing reunion and the first since Katrina, Grunch, 69, said. He is busy building a replica of the original red velvet swing that used to be over the bar. “The hooks are still there in the ceiling, but now the swing is gonna hang over a dining table by the window by the alley.”
Back in the 1960s, “a real girl” held court on the swing, Grunch said. “On Nov. 22, believe me, there’s gonna be a few maw-maws climbing on it.”
Grunch said he is hoping to see faces from the past, including “Julie, Curley, Mouse, Ernie, Woody, Hans, Gail’n Sharon” and several Ronnies.
Grunch welcomes calls from people who want to bring old cars, motorcycles and bicycles to the reunion. “I’ll have somebody watching the parking lot,” he said.
If you have suggestions or Velvet Swing memorabilia, call Grunch at (504) 231-8916 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information, visit bennygrunchandthebunch.com.
Benny Grunch and the Bunch is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a musical group and the 25th anniversary of one of their most popular CDs, “The 12 Yats of Christmas.” Here’s a bit of Yat trivia: The original and short-lived name of Grunch’s band was the Dirty Virgins. They played their first gig in 1964 at the Brown Door in Hammond, when Grunch was a student at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Wear ya hat on the avenue
The annual St. Catherine’s Day Hat Parade will kick off at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, at the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Pleasant Street. The theme of the 1-mile walk on the sidewalk is “Wear Y’Hat!” Anyone can participate by wearing a decorative hat, and the hats get more creative every year, said organizer Claudia Lynch. Walkers will be joined by Bart Ramsay and members of Zazou City, playing French music.
Bring a bottle of champagne, and the Chevaliers du Champagne will pour some into a complimentary commemorative glass. For information visit www.HatNOLA.com.
Ooh La La Croissant Contest
The Alliance Française de la Nouvelle-Orléans is launching the Crescent City’s Concours de Croissant contest from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
Celebrity judges will pick the person or organization that produces the best croissant in three categories: amateur bakers, professional pastry chefs and freestyler. There also will be a People’s Choice award.
Aurelie Champvert, executive director of AFNO, and Liz Williams, president and director of SoFAB, said anyone can fill out a contest entry form, and the public is invited to taste croissants, sip coffee provided by Cool Brew and vote for the People’s Choice award.
Contest participation is free. Voting tickets are $1, and ballot box stuffing is encouraged. There will be activities for adults and children and discussions about the history of the croissant.
SoFAB admission prices apply for nonmembers. For information, visit af-neworleans.org/events/2014/12/concours-de-croissant.
Lynne Jensen writes about New Orleans community events and people. Contact her at email@example.com.