No Place like Home for the Holidays

And a new one at that. Last January, The New Orleans Advocate moved into 840 St. Charles Ave., on the streetcar and Carnival parade routes, and called it home. No longer an automobile showroom or Michaul’s Live Cajun Music Restaurant, the renovated site morphed into a busy newsroom with second-floor offices and socializing spaces, and an adjacent long rectangular room for community events, either sponsored by The Advocate or representative nonprofits.

Several days ago, it housed the merry, massive holiday party given by Advocate owners Dathel and John Georges. Making rounds, too, were some of the paper’s top brass, such as publisher Dan Shea and wife Stephanie Stokes, general manager Sheila Runnels, and editor Peter Kovacs and Ruth. Martha Carr, managing editor, New Orleans; Gordon Russell, managing editor, investigations; Sara Barnard, vice president of advertising and marketing, New Orleans; Stephanie Grace, who moderated a number of panels in the recent Advocate-sponsored debates for mayoral candidates; and Walt Handelsman, cartoonist, were on hand, along with a slew of staff members, to welcome guests. The latter lot had responded to the Handelsman-created invitation that depicted two front-page New Orleans Advocate newspapers being opened from a green gift box filled with white tissue paper and beribboned in red. The front-page headlines were, “We’re Having A Holiday Party!” and “Come See Our New Home!!” Two for one.

Some of the first to arrive — all having a professional and/or civic title or two, as do the following — were Tommy Coleman (Dathel’s dad), Joel Chaisson, Larry Eustis, Christine LeBlanc, Sandy Sanchez, Newell Normand, Mike Fitts, Tania Tetlow, Suzanne and Gregory Rusovich, David Hammer, David M. “Buck” Landry, Joe Exnicios, Erin Doucette, Liz Williams, and Anne and King Milling, who were also in the assembly three nights before when, on the premises, The New Orleans Advocate presented “An Evening with Walter Isaacson.” The New Orleans native, a professor of history at Tulane, was the attraction of the “Author Discussion and Q&A Session” moderated by Susan Larson, who among other endeavors, is a book writer for The New Orleans Advocate. Their talk was about Walter Isaacson’s latest book, “Leonardo da Vinci.” In partnership, Garden District Books sold the exciting biography by the acclaimed, multi-hyphenated  Isaacson, which he signed.

Prior to the discussion, there was the VIP reception with Isaacson, with purveyance from Catering by Laura Arrowood and sponsorship by Republic National Distributing Company.

Both Arrowood and Republic sated the collective appetite and thirst at the gala holiday party. Guests nibbled on such buffet table offerings as baked brie, an assortment of cheeses, crab and shrimp gratin, beef and pork tenderloin sandwiches, chocolate/peanut butter bites (yummy!) and chocolate caramel tarts. Otis Duvernay Services tended the bars that had drinks donated by Republic National Distributors and Crescent Crown Distributors. Vicki Herman Evans was the party planner.

Tables in the community room were covered in rich red cloths and surrounded by black chairs. The higher tables with smaller surfaces had chic black linens. Noted mingling there were Richard “Rick” Haase, Bill Kearney, Maria Pote, Marguerite Andrews, Sonia Perez, Leon Cannizzaro, Hill Riddle Jr., Mark Rubin, Fallon Young, Val Grubb, Bryan Batt and Tom Cianfichi, Billie Andersson, Danae Columbus, and Betsie Gambel.

On the walls were banner panels about The Advocate, which has three locations: Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette. Several panels featured choice pages of the newspaper photographed in collage form. A particularly noteworthy one touted the forthcoming 300th anniversary of the Crescent City and the paper’s role in featuring “Tricentennial Moments.”

On opposite walls were photographs by photo editor Max Becherer; staff photographers Matthew Hinton, Scott Threlkeld and Sophia Germer; and guest photos by Bruce Sunpie Barnes, who was one of the many party attendees.

So were Boysie Bollinger, Wayne Baquet Jr., Linda Babineaux, Taslin Alonzo, David Grissett, Christie Anderson, Morgan Ballard, Paul Barker, Monika Baudoin, Marc Beerman, Blake Bennett, Arthur Boisfontaine, Julie Bordes, Zach Monroe, Jacques Morial, Kortney Morrow, Julie O’Callaghan, Clint Bowie, Camille Breland, Leslie Browning, and Joy Bruce. And, Malcolm Finkelstein, Marjorie Esman, Christen DeNicholas, the Rev. Henry Davis, SSJ, John Davis, Denise Davila, Sandra Dartus, Katy Danos, Tania Dall, Ken Daley, Tracy Cunningham, Rachel Clayton, Jessica Civello, Edward Chervenak, Emily Chambon, Mirella Cameran, Lynn and Thomas Long, Renee LeBoeuf, Anna LeDonne, Diane Lyons, David Marcello and Greg Buisson.

Enjoying holiday cheer as well were Eleanor Farnsworth, Judie Oudt, Ricky Lemann, Ruthie Frierson, Richard Green, Laura Gurievsky, Patsy Green (wearing red), Olivia Haskins, Ron Hendrix, Laren Holzer, Whit Huguley, Michelle Johnson, Alisha Johnson, Nicole Kaitz, Robert Kazik, Robert E. Young, Andy Kopplin, Chris Keene, Barry and Tina Kern, Haley Oliver, Marianne Ortiz, Christopher Palermo, Lesley Poche, Krista Pouncy-Dyson, Timothy David Ray, Kristin Raspanti, Dede Redfearn, David Reeves, Shauna Reginelli, Bob Ross, Taylor Savoie, Cassie Schwartzmann and Kim Singletary.

In the lobby, the collective eye beheld four silver Christmas trees topped by red bows with cascading streamers, garlands, two silver decorative deer with pearl hooves, and a cigarette machine. Yep!, but one done with an artistic twist. Befitting the venue it contained, in miniature form, an old-timey press room. Murals of City Park and of historic New Orleans newspapers and landmarks were found, respectively, in the building’s entrance and in the carpeted newsroom. Guests wandered about all the open spaces, including the second floor and the outer deck available for parade and St. Charles Avenue viewing. Food and drinks were also placed upstairs, which scores accessed by the impressive circular staircase.

Sharing the space and seasonal goodwill were Kenneth St. Charles, Scott Sternberg, Bobby Talbot, Coleman Warner, Chris Wegmann, Kurt Weigle, Jenny Windstrup, Jan Weiner, Margarita Bergen and Sammy Steele, Teresa Devlin, Lauren Noel, Jack Forbes, John Fortunato and Kriss Fairbairn, Malana Joseph, Ron Faucheaux, Nike Georges, Zana Georges, Pat Kahn, Eric Stuart, Lacey Toledano and dozens more. During the buzz of animated conversation, strains of Christmas carols could be heard playing faintly in the background.

After all the general bonhomie and thanks issued to the hosting Dathel and John Georges, guests departed the building, duly impressed. As souvenirs, each received a party favor. It was a red, The New Orleans Advocate mug and a packet of French Market Coffee & Chicory, both placed in a small red tote bag, and to be enjoyed in the morning (at your home) along with the reading of the paper. As interior wrapping paper, there were sheets of The New Orleans Advocate.