Stacy Head: Ambassador for New Orleans April 29, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 504, fuckmook, FYYFF, Jazz Fest, Lakefront, New Orleans, NOLA, Stacey Head, Uptown
What is it about Uptown that causes some people to be so congenitally unpleasant? (I’m struggling to compose this in my head without reference to any offensive body part or function; we’ll see). You know the ones, the kids who grew up hanging out at the Valencia or by the Southern Yacht Club pool, the kids from certain high schools who ran in circles as exclusive as (and preparatory to) Rex or Comus. Yeah, them.
Perhaps it’s living in such grand houses in a city otherwise tightly squeezed onto the small slivers of high land hereabouts, the narrow streets and crowded rows of houses that confront Them when They venture out the door and off Their own block. Maybe it is the tangles of traffic in parts of town with no wide boulevards, streets crowded with people who don’t know who They are, hourlies and layabouts passing their day without the sort of important appointments They keep. Perhaps it was the pre-gentrification habit of keeping one’s servants close by in those claustrophobic little houses, and the uncomfortable situation as the master-servant relationship changed over the decades in ways visually expressed by the replacement of lawn jockeys and faux carriage posts with discrete private police patrol warning signs.
They are (at least in part) the people of Women of the Storm, our self-appointed ambassadors to the outside world–people who still know when to wear hat and gloves, people who own their own evening clothes and periodically cast them off so that slobs like us can have cheap tuxes as needed in their fine Uptown thrift shops. They travel to Washington and New York to let the Right Sort of People know that They have things down here under control, that its safe to invest in our recovery. I am glad these people do what they do whatever their motives I am not ready to condemn an honest evangelist for New Orleans until they transgress simple decency and fairness.
Then there are people like Stacey Head: evangelists only for their own advancement, for the opportunity to profit by the flood and to flush out what they might deem “undesirables” from their idealized city, who would love to carry us back to old Virginny bayou style. They aren’t terribly fond of anyone coming home who can’t afford a proper and tasteful house in spite of the tremendous escalation of prices after the storm and the collapse of the private insurance market. They are people who resent all those low-rent types and their dependents; you know, the ones who mix Their drinks, bus Their tables and make Their beds. Stacy is noted recently for blowing kisses (presumably in farewell) to the noisy public housing demonstrators, symbolically dismissing the people who make the local t-shirt-and-tits, beads-and-beer economy work. And then there was her clever remark about people so déclassé that they would rent poisonous FEMA trailers to live in because they have no other homes to come back to.
Stacey represents the Young Turk wing of the people who gave us a generation of economic stagnation and sat idly by as public education imploded after desegregation; the ones who quietly applauded as their hirelings in Washington diverted hurricane protection funds to the Inner Harbor Navigation Lock and who were convinced the MRGO would bring us a future of prosperity; they are the people who had themselves gerrymandered into suburban Congressional districts so they could at least have a Congressman they could call on when needed. They are the people who helped engineer the election and then the re-election of Clarence Ray Nagin. Heck of a job, guys, heck of a job.
They are the people who no doubt applaud the $50 Jazz Fest ticket and sourly wish they were just a bit higher, given some of the people you might encounter at the Fair Grounds. As they used to say when I lived in North Dakota, 40 Below Keeps the Riff-Raff Out: a principle someone like Stacy would no doubt admire. Too bad I can no longer bring her back a t-shirt from the Fargo International Airport like the one I saw on my first trip there. Those now retired “40 Below” shirts featured a shadow caricature of a man with an afro and a pimp hat. Very classy.
In addition to making the world safe for mohitos and driving the trailer trash into the land of Nod, Stacy has found a new job as Goodwill Ambassador for New Orleans.
This comment from Humid Haney’s Rant blog was confirmed as legitimate in an email by the woman who posted it, and her husband has in fact sent a nasty letter to the Times-Picayune. She wondered in her reply email if Ms. Head didn’t in fact have friends at the T-P who might make sure it never sees the light of day. I think there’s a good chance Ashton the Second might keep such a letter under wraps. (Ashton. Wow. Where do they get these names for their children, from lines of clothing they saw at Perlis?)
Here’s the entire post from Humid Haney’s, confirmed by the author via email.
Please let me share a story that my fiance sent to the editor of the local paper. It tells about a recent encounter we had with Stacy Head:
My family and I just returned from a wonderful visit to 2008 New Orleans and Jazz Fest. I have attended every Jazz Fest since 1983. My 11 and 9 year old daughters have attended every Jazz Fest since their respective births. My fiancé has enjoyed the region and its offerings on no less than five separate occasions since we met a year and a half ago. Despite the rainy weather we loved the first weekend, as always, and will be back for weekend 2. While we have not lived the post-Katrina challenges directly, we certainly empathize with the challenges. It has been encouraging to see the improvement during our many post-Katrina visits. We joined the Audubon Zoo last year knowing it was unlikely we would get a chance to visit regularly, but hoping the funds would be put to good use. I have lived and worked in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge for years and someday we hope to be able to return to the area to live. I guess I know enough about the area’s culture to realize that the foregoing “credentials” are helpful to what I am now going to say.
Unfortunately, our Jazz Fest experience was marred by a dispute over seating in the blues tent on Friday. I left to take my daughters to the porta-potties. My fiancé held our three seats. When we returned 15 minutes later, she was in deep discussion with several women. It turns out that they asked if our seats were available. The response, “no, but you can sit in them until the rest of the party returns”. As we returned, the women refused to get up, demanded we move down to use an open seat—not a bad idea, but we were still short a seat–etc. Our group, including young children, had to witness a less than kind interaction which included my fiancé being called a “Yankee bitch”–she from Kentucky with as strong a Southern heritage (and accent) as it comes. When the group of aggressors finally left, one of the women came behind my fiancé and proceeded to verbally dress her down at length. While perturbed by the incident, we attempted to enjoy the rest of the set. Of note, several seats opened up around us within two or three minutes (it was early in the day).
What happened next amazed us. A pleasant middle aged gentleman came up and apologized to us noting that he was embarrassed because the “leader of the pack” was Councilwoman Stacy S. Head. He indicated that he had introduced himself to her a few minutes before the altercation as she represented his district. He “couldn’t believe” how she and her group had acted. Sure enough when we checked the internet that evening it was Ms. Head who led the altercation. While her web-site boasts, stated credentials, church membership, etc. are all very interesting; I would submit that New Orleans deserves to be represented by better. As long as interactions are led with hostility and followed by put-downs such as that chosen by Ms. Head (Yankee bitch) New Orleans will not move forward. I have always been bemused by endless editorials about “outsiders who do not understand, have proper appreciation, etc.” The fact is the region has rich cultural and tourist offerings-perhaps better than any other in the nation. That said attitudes like those displayed by Ms. Head can deter all but the most committed from wanting to visit. We will be back because of our love for the area, but had Ms. Head randomly abused a first time visitor I can imagine a different result. A city that prides itself on tourism and is reliant upon tourist trade needs to rethink its approach beginning with what its elected leaders convey. Something is fundamentally wrong when people who visit have to do so “in spite of…”
N.B. Any hint of class resentment in this post is entirely intended and historically accurate. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to Thomas Agnew and his parents for the boorish behavior of all those nouveau-riches Lakefront types from C.B.S. who came to your lovely home St. Charles Avenue home for that eighth-grade party many years ago, who proceeded to get fabulously drunk on liquor looted from their parents and then introduce your delicate future debutantes to “poppin’ the gator” to The Guess Who’s “American Woman”. Not that I regret it. It was, in that Odd way we relish here on Toulouse Street, as perfect a moment of ritualized class conflict as anyone could imagine. The Agnews may take some comfort that at least one of us turned out better than might have been expected, mounting a creditable recent campaign for Congress in the near suburbs. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t want your trailer folk either, Stacey, so you can forget busing them in from the North Shore.