Big Easy in Denver

August 2008

Upon entering the Friends of New Orleans fundraiser last night at the Fillmore, I receive beads from a greeter. Didn't even have to flash for them, though I was fully prepared to oblige.

First celeb sighting: Mary Matalin, long and reedy, looking more New Yawk than Nawlins as she chirps into her cell phone. No sign yet of her husband James Carville; he still must be off somewhere cooking up ways to foment dissension among Hillary Clinton's supporters.

Naturally, any New Orleans party is going to have some killer grub, and this one doesn't disappoint. Among the highlights are crab cakes, etouffee, gumbo, bananas foster, all washed down with hurricanes--an ironic drink for the Big Easy to party with, perhaps, but these folks take their celebrating seriously.

Onstage are a succession of bands sounding like the Meters and the Neville Brothers, and the cast of "Brother Ray," a musical about the life of Ray Charles, performs a chunk of the show. The audience is captive but distracted; not the best environment for showcasing theater.

There's Donna Brazile, (unsuccessfully) trying to holler after a hurricane-carrying waitress. At a party hosted by a part of the world that's home to innumerable familiar faces, I've only recognized a couple policy wonks. I'm watching far too much political television.

Wait. I've spotted a tall, good-looking young gentleman.

Thought number one: Is that John Mayer?

Thought number two: Doesn't John Mayer have some connection to New Orleans?

Thought number three: I don't actually know what John Mayer looks like.

At the back of the theater, I stand next to a garbage can as a tall, fiftysomething woman approaches. She has a look about her that suggests an attachment to power, through her own efforts, her husband's, or her father's, probably all of the above. She fixes me with an intent gaze…and plops her bright red hurricane into the trashcan as she breezes by. Good thing I'm wearing dark colors.