Put A Little Love In Your Heart…
You know, I’ve spent a good deal of time talking about the monetary and professional side of entertainment. While there is a very good reason for that, today I want to go in a different direction. Artists put a phenomenal amount of time and money in their craft and far too often, find themselves on the short end of the proverbial monetary “stick.” I have certainly wanted to throw some attention in that direction; however, there have been a few recent acts of charity that have warmed the cockles of my entertainment-driven heart that have left me wanting to shine a light on some recent musical outpourings of love and kindness right here,
While many of you are now familiar with my background in the entertainment industry, there are likely many of you that are not aware of my journalistic background outside the pages of this beloved little magazine. In all actuality, my actual journalism days began during my earliest days of talk radio (specifically, the day of 9/11) which shifted into high gear when I became the news director of the Apex Broadcasting (now Townsquare Media) radio cluster in the immediate days following the landfall of Hurricane Rita.
I then spent two years up to my ears in all things newsworthy. A vast majority of it was disaster and even more so, disaster recovery news. I saw with my own eyes the first lights to shine in Cameron Parish weeks after Rita’s landfall.
I got to know our state and congressional delegation as they all worked to advance our recovery. I even got to hang out with the Warped Tour when they stopped to help move debris, sitting in the headlights of the tour bus drinking beer and talking to tour founder Kevin Lyman about his days working with Hunter S. Thompson when he was speaking at college campuses. It was all quite a bit for a 25 year old from Lake Charles to take in, much less find a way to manage.
I remember a phone call that kinda summed all that up. The Morganza in the Gulf issue was the topic du jour in DC and I received a press release from (then) 1st District Congressman Bobby Jindal on the floor activity on the bill. I reached out to his press secretary Trey to set up a brief phoner to get a soundbite. Trey’s reply was something along the lines of “Well, now’s good if you’d like me to hand him the phone.” In seconds, the Congressman was on the line…
Bobby Jindal: Justin, it’s so good to hear from you. In fact, we were talking about you just this morning”
Justin: Well, my condolences, Sir. It must be a very boring day in Washington if I am the topic of conversation.
Jindal (laughing): No, we were talking about the fact that you’re not even in our district and we hear from you more than we do some of the local media over there. You don’t miss anything. How do you do it?
My reply mentioned going against a 40-year radio news legacy that was better staffed and better funded than I was and second place not being good enough. That, and I personally felt that we as a broadcast entity made a promise to our listeners when we were back on the air with around-the-clock news and information within approximately 12 hours of Rita’s landfall (some of us literally moving into the radio station for weeks). That promise was that they could count on us to get them the vital information they needed to begin piecing their homes and lives back together. I took that promise to heart and felt that I had to live up to it. His reply was short but profound to a young man such as myself…
Jindal: You know, we could really use a guy like that working for us in Washington.
What do you say to that? Regardless of anyone’s political leanings, when you have a sitting member of Congress say “I want you,” even one of modest ambition has to take that pretty seriously. I should have taken a bit more time to think about my response but, in retrospect, I followed my heart and it was probably a wise call…
Justin: Congressman, don’t say it again, or I’ll have my bags packed (laughs) but, for now, I don’t think my job here is done. We are still putting SWLA back together and my heart tells me that I still have some work to do. This time has taught me a great deal about the people of the place from which I come and I think I value that place and those people more than ever before. But if you set those eyes back on that mansion in Baton Rouge, you give me a call, sir. Could be a whole lot of fun.
Well, obviously that never developed and would be outside the point anyway. I am simply trying to establish the wealth of opportunity, lessons and exposure I had in those infinitely memorable days and point out that the greatest thing I took from it was not chatting with David Vitter over hot dogs and listening to Feufollet in Hackberry, or giving General Honore a cigar or talking jazz with Mitch Landrieu at a local elementary school, or grabbing sound bites from President Bush (Sr.) and George Clooney, or EVEN getting courted for staff positions by both Jindal and later Mary Landrieu…
The greatest thing that I took away from that time is discovering what the people of my hometown are made of and what they are truly capable of and how that even when times are at their worst, these people still remember and put forward what is best about them and this place….. And here we have found ourselves watching waters rise once again.
Friends In LOW Places…
The recent flooding incident was nothing short of remarkable and although our area was spared, we’ve all had friends, family and brother and sister Louisianans that were anything but. Just because we didn’t have flooded homes and modes of transportation doesn’t mean that we are in the clear. It just means that we have the goods, services and infrastructure to lend those people a proper hand just as they did for us in the days after Rita.
And we are doing just that.
Not only have we seen the countless donations and the kindhearted people that delivered them, numerous area organizations have teamed up to provide whatever help they can. Even our beloved local musicians got together for a special event that took me back to the good I saw happen here in the days after the hurricanes.
The Louisiana1 Flood Relief Festival was a beautiful outpouring of love and support for those affected by the disaster. A lineup of musical talent including all the Ardoin Family Bands, Rusty Metoyer, The Flamethrowers, The Kadillacs and even Cajun legend Jo-El Sonnier and many more, would have alone easily cost $10,000 to $15,000 and production could have easily gone for as much.
This all-afternoon and evening festival was put on with nothing but donated time, talent and support with all of the proceeds going to help the flood victims. Founder and organizer Sean Ardoin even brought out the Cajun Navy to recognize these citizen heroes for their tireless work.
And not only are the good people of our town helping in whatever way they can, even some of our guests have jumped on board as well. On September 4, singer, comedian and ventriloquist Terry Fator played two shows at Golden Nugget Lake Charles. Not only did I find out that 100 percent of his merchandise proceeds (in Vegas, on the road and online) all go to military veterans BUT he announced from the stage that he is also donating $10,000 to the American Red Cross to aid with Louisiana flood relief and sent his love and well wishes to all
From a man who was dragging his puppets from Dallas to neighboring Louisiana to local schools and playing Contraband Days and even the Cal Cam Fair, even with all his success, he spoke to me of his love for this place and for all of South Louisiana and dug deep to throw some love to those in need. I think that’s as much of a testament to his good heart and spirit as it is to all of you who have made it a place to love, treasure and value.
So, as much as I rant and rave about making sure performers and artists get their fair dues, it’s largely because these are the very brothers and sisters that are willing to step up for their people when the need arises, along with other fine folk. They are a cultural and personal part of who we are and they reminded me of that great spirit I saw when our days were darkest. They are Cajun Country. They are South Louisiana. They are Southwest Louisiana. They are Lake Charles and they– like all of you who reminded me of the love, charity and compassion I saw now 11 years ago and that I continue to see until this very day–are what make me proudest to call this place my home.
Something Is Happening Here…
Saturday, September 10
Boudin Wars – Henning Cultural Center, Sulphur
Well, of all things that are implicitly Southwest Louisiana, boudin should most certainly be counted as one of the best and the best boudin tasting ever begins at 11 a.m. at the Henning Cultural Center on Sat., Sept. 10. Tickets are limited and are available at www.brimstonemuseum.org. MAIS, GO GET YOU SOME BOUDIN, SHA!
Friday, September 16
Steppenwolf at Golden Nugget Lake Charles
If you were born to be wild, get ready, because Steppenwolf is en route to the Golden Nugget! On Friday, Sept. 16, the magic carpet ride you remember from the ‘70s, complete with founder John Kay is coming at you for a night of great classic rock and roll! Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com. Go get rocked and GO SEE THIS SHOW!
They’re Trying To Wash Us Away…
Thank you once again SWLA for simply being you. Sadly, it often takes a tragedy to remind us sometimes of the good in those around us, but you all continue to not let me down. Please thank anyone that is contributing to relief efforts and do anything you can to be a part of that process yourself. I know firsthand that even the most catastrophic event is usually brief, but it is the recovery that will take ever so long. You can still donate by calling (800) Red Cross or by texting LAFLOODS to 90999. Please, don’t forget that and don’t forget those who need our help.
And with that poignant note, I bid you all adieu! Keep those candles lit and until next time…. I’LL SEE YOU AT THE SHOW!