Howard Calloway, Harry Friedman and Preston Davis
“Wheel of Fortune” recently returned to New Orleans for the first time since the weekend Hurricane Katrina struck and failed levees flooded the city.
Three weeks of episodes shot here during that return visit will air starting at 6:30 p.m. Monday (May 2) onWVUE-TV.
The visit also included a special reunion.
Preston Davis and Howard Calloway weren’t scheduled to work on August 28, 2005.
“We got a call early that Sunday stating that there’s a group of people that needed to be picked up at the Lowe’s hotel in New Orleans, and we’re taking them to Houston, and we need to get to them as soon as possible,” said Davis, a bus driver for Calco Travel in New Orleans at the time. “You never know who you’re picking up. It’s just to get them from point A to point B.
“(We) met up with these people that looked like everyday people to us. They were very anxious to get on the bus, very anxious to get out of the city. We loaded like normal and headed out of the city.”
The passengers on this trip, which has really never ended, was the “Wheel of Fortune” production crew. The syndicated game show had been taping episodes in New Orleans that weekend. The approach of Hurricane Katrina cut the production short by a day.
Stars Pat Sajak and Vanna White were able to leave by private jet after Saturday’s tapings. Evacuating the rest of the company – dozens of staffers – was more of a challenge.
“One by one, all of our flight reservations went away,” said Harry Friedman, executive producer for the show since 1999. “The trains were not an option. Every rental car was taken up. So, we thought, ‘We’ll get buses.’
“We contacted the bus lines we work with and they were all booked. One in particular said, ‘We have a couple of buses, but they’re reserved for a convention group coming in tomorrow.’ Our travel coordinator said in the nicest but firmest way, ‘There’s not going to be a convention.’ We literally commandeered these two buses.
“When we boarded the buses the next morning, we knew it was going to be a long drive. We had no idea how long.”
In the first four hours of the trip, the buses moved 10 miles.
“It was harrowing,” Friedman said. “It was arduous. It was the unknown. We didn’t have enough food or water.”
Breaks and attempted meals came at depleted convenience stores.
“It was the first time since college that I’d had a wine cooler,” Friedman said. “Anything was sounding good.”
All involved knew that every mile of the trip to Houston was a mile farther from what was happening in New Orleans.
And a mile farther from their bus drivers’ homes, families and lives.
“It was a scary task,” said Calloway, who lives in Gray, La. “At the time, we didn’t know what was going to happen.”
As the buses inched along, Friedman and others on board kept up a stream of conversation with their drivers.
“We were just tired, and they talked to us the entire time,” Davis said. “Each stop we made, they made sure we were OK.”
“That was a blessing right there, to have them on board,” Calloway said. “They kept us energized.”
“Some of the efforts were to take my mind off of what was happening back home,” Davis said. “We didn’t know how bad it was going to be. I don’t think any of us really did.”
The drive took more than 23 hours. Neither Davis nor Calloway had driven such a long stretch before.
Both men and their families attended a day of “Wheel” tapings while the show was in town to shoot the episodes that begin airing Sunday (May 2).
“That was a big experience,” Calloway said. “They treated us like royalty.”
“It was a great reunion,” Davis added. “Had a chance to see old friends and hug and talk about that night.
“It was amazing that they continued to talk with me and keep in touch with me even after the fact.
“The ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ they’re family to me, and will always be family to me.”
Read the whole story on Nola.com
HBO will be filming today at Oakdale Park in Gretna, Louisiana. Kaboom and Direct TV have donated a new playground to the Gretna park. There will be a brass band, DJ, Bart Simpson from Fox and 'Treme' star Wendell Pierce.
Business, nonprofit and government are continuing to work together for the betterment of the community.
In planning for hurricane season, the Louisiana chapters of the American Red Cross and the Louisiana Industry for Film and Entertainment are joining in a new agreement this Friday to increase capacity to provide for disaster services and support for those services.
“Readiness is half the battle in recovering from disaster,” said Bobbi Zaunbrecher, CEO of the Louisiana Capital Area Chapter of the Red Cross. “This agreement with LIFE allows us to better plan – to identify in advance the goods and services we can count on. It’s a partnership that will benefit people all across Louisiana in times of disaster.”
The mutually beneficial relationship will enhance and support disaster response. LIFE members are encouraged to engage their employees in Red Cross disaster preparedness training so that they and their families are more ready when disaster strikes and are able to recover more quickly, as well as be able to assist in disaster response in their community. The organizations also will consider how facility, human resource or material assets might be used to support Red Cross disaster response and fundraising, as well as other areas of cooperation and support.
To read more visit Scene Magazine
Glen David Andrews' Trumpets Not Guns
When: Saturday April 16, 2011 (Doors open at 9:00pm, Show begins at 10:00pm)
Where: Tipitina's Uptown (501 Napoleon Ave.)
The mission of "Trumpets NOT Guns" is to help preserve the culture of traditional jazz and to enrich the lives of children through music not violence by providing musical instruments to the youth of the City of New Orleans. The benefit will include Special Guests Cyril and Gaynielle Neville, Irvin Mayfield, Jon Cleary, Kermit Ruffins, Pfister Sisters, and Davi Jay from HBO's "Treme," Baby Boyz Brass Band, the Black Feather Mardi Gras Indians, and much more.
We will also have some great local chefs providing food for the VIP reception preceding the show, including Susan Spicer from Bayona and Mondo, Dan Esses from Three Muses, Thomas Woods from Maximo's Italian Grill, Mark Falgoust from Grand Isle, Roy Grillot from Grillot's Restaurant and more!
The New Orleans Horror Film Festival adopts an Official Charity for the 2011 season! “Scares That Care!” is a not-for-profit organization that provides money, toys and other items to help sick children. To date, they have raised $10,000 for both the Johns Hopkins Children’s Cancer Center and The Kennedy-Krieger Institute. For 2011, they are raising money for the kids at the “Make-A-Wish” Foundation. Click here to visit their site and learn more about how you can help. For more information on the New Orleans Horror Film Festival, please visit their site.
Harry Connick Jr. in front of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music
Harry Connick Jr., the multitalented son of New Orleans who found fame and fortune in New York, is a one-man entertainment industry and advocate for his hometown.
His latest DVD/CD, “Harry Connick Jr. in Concert on Broadway,” documents a 15-day run of concerts in New York last year; the same run yielded a recent episode of “Great Performances” on PBS. His set, as always, leaned heavily on Big Easy-inspired music.
Connick has not performed a formal concert in New Orleans since closing out the 2007 Jazz Fest. His Monday, April 4 gig with his orchestra at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts is a benefit for the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in the Musicians Village. Connick and Branford Marsalis spearheaded the effort to build cottages for musicians and others in the Upper 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina; the Marsalis Center, slated for completion this summer, will serve as a community center and performance and teaching space, one that just might yield the next Harry Connick Jr.
Show time is 7:30 p.m. Check Ticketmaster.com for ticket availability.
The Young Pinstripes Brass Band will take part in a '2nd Line Against Crime' Tuesday.
Lots going on today in NOLA! Check it out!2nd Line Against Crime (Pal's Lounge, 925 North Rendon) The Young Pinstripes Brass Band will lead a second line through Faubourg St. John in a "citizen solidarity against crime" march. According to the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association website, the procession starts at the corner of St. Phillip and Rendon, heads riverbound on St. Phillip, turns left on North Gayoso , left on Esplanade Avenue, left onto Grand Rt. St. John, left again onto Moss Street and back to St. Phillip. 6 p.m.
Dinner With Tennessee Williams(Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St., 504.899.7323, octaviabooks.com) If you missed the sold-out Tennessee Williams Festival version of this event, collaborators Troy Gilbert, Greg Picolo (chef at Bistro Maison de Ville) and Kenneth Holditch reprise their presentation, signing and tasting inspired by the book of the same name. 6 p.m.
WWII Film Screening (The National World War II Museum, 945 Magazine St., 528.1944, ext. 229) The 2003 film "Berga: Soldiers of Another War" is screened at The Stage Door Canteen. The film tells the story of soldiers captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge who were sent to concentration camps instead of POW camps because they were (or looked) Jewish. Admission by museum admission. 6-8 p.m.
Steve Masakowski (Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta) The guitarist performs the music of James Black, 8 p.m. It's one of music writer Keith Spera's Tuesday Hot Picks.
Harry Shearer, in a shot from 'The Big Uneasy'
For those of you who follow the blog, you will remember the post last week about the screening of "The Big Uneasy", a documentary uncovering the real villains of Hurricane Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers. The film was produced and funded by Mr. Harry Shearer, the voice of three The Simpsons characters. According to an article on nola.com, "an Army Corps whistleblower, whose claims that the Corps did not adequately test hydraulic pumps in the city's outfall canals, and that they contain flaws that could cause them to fail catastrophically in a hurricane, were validated by a special analysis commissioned by the Office of Special Counsel".
Senator David Vitter, R-LA, who made an appearance in "The Big Uneasy", at first got a slight groan from the packed audience. After his demanding to know why the corps was choosing a cheaper, but less adequate flood protection plan for the city, he was seen as the "good guy" instead of a part of Team Villains. Overall, the screening went was a success. New Orleans thanks you Mr. Shearer for exposing such harsh truths. Can't wait to see this film!
“Once that band gives you that down beat…just for that brief two or three minutes you forget every problem you had. You have no cares in the world...Yeah it must be nice to live like that with no cares in the world” – Wilbert Rawlins Jr., band directorThe Whole Gritty City is a documentary that tells the story of two high school marching bands and the struggles, tragedies and triumphs, these kids experience. It is set post-Katrina before the opening of Mardi Gras season, focusing on an African American community and the battles they encompass. These are the bands that drive Mardi Gras parades. And they are on the front lines in a battle for survival. As the quote above says, "for that brief two or three minutes you forget every problem you had". If only it was like that for these kids. As soon as they walk out the door of that band room, their cares return, and its more than most of us can ever imagine. The documentary is part of a project. It needs funding to be completed. If you would like to donate to this project, please visit their site. Please hurry! There's only 23 days left to reach the goal!
Jennifer Coolidge with local supporters
On Monday, March 7th The Pub on Bourbon Street sponsored a celebrity brunch benefiting The Trevor Project. Celebrities included dance music artist, Taylor Dane, and the monarch for the Krewe of Orpheus, Jennifer Coolidge, also known as Stifler's mom from American Pie
and the manicurist from Legally Blonde.
The Trevor Project's goal is to end suicide among LGBTQ youths by providing them with life-saving and live-affirming resources such as a 24/7 crisis intervention hotline. Trevor's executive director was very honored to be a part of this event and is looking forward to expanding their visibility in the South. If you want any more information on The Trevor Project and their efforts please go to http://www.thetrevorproject.org
Taylor Dane with local supporters