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Silver Threads: Keeping au courant with Halloween culture

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

Since I occasionally attempt to be timely in choosing subjects for this column, I’d intended to present today some humorous thoughts on Halloween. Then, failing memory served well enough to remind that last year I pretty much gave you a personal history of involvement in that celebration.

That left VooDoo fest in City Park, for which “tens of thousands” are expected this weekend and where I won’t be present, not because the temps are still too high but because of those same attendance projections. But mostly because the music to be featured consists of sounds to which I’d rather not subject myself. The ear-splitting soundtrack played for the benefit of those at the service counter at my cell phone store provides enough of that music: I don’t know what it is, but it’s not Mozart or Sinatra or even Elvis Presley, a performer much denigrated by my own elders 60 years ago.

Being a septuagenarian smart enough to avoid VooDoo fest should have meant that I’d be equally astute in not wasting almost $100 for a ticket to “The Book of Mormon,” but, no, I’m a curious soul and wanted to see what all the fuss — Tony awards and copious newspaper coverage — was about. After all, I did read the best-selling novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The play left me with another idea for a Halloween column: “Ten scariest things in New Orleans,” beginning with number 10, a coarsening culture that relishes entertainment like “The Book of Mormon,” and progressing — a la David Letterman — to number one, which is the sight of my face, sans makeup, each morning in the magnifying mirror in my bathroom.

But this third — and possibly best — idea for a Halloween column blew up when our daughter, almost fresh from her seat at the Saenger the night before, told me, “Mom, the play was great! You’re just out of the loop. You don‘t watch ‘South Park‘.”

With the pronouncement that “The Book of Mormon” is great stage entertainment on all fronts, I still beg to differ, but her remarks got me to thinking about the fact that while popular culture moves along we elders sometimes don’t, remembering fondly instead the sights and sounds of our youth.

About 25 years ago, a middle-aged assistant editor working on a page for the Sunday television tab laid out three photos of characters in a show and began the cutlines with “Bewitched …,” “Bothered …,” and “Bewildered …,” a clever parody perfectly intelligible to me. But not to his senior editor, who was younger and perhaps — along with many of the readers — had never heard of Cole Porter. She ruined his setup by taking one of the photos out of the layout, and he visited our department to complain to friends of “such stupidity.” But the culture had moved on, and he had not.

I began to sense that popular culture was leaving me behind, too, when I queried a line in a story by one of my reporters. He explained, with a slight but observable rolling of eyes, that it was a reference to a piece of pop music with which EVERYBODY was familiar. EVERYBODY sitting nearby in the office laughed; things were moving on, and I was not.

I’m not going to tell you that I plan to participate in this transition in any really big way, since it includes current movies and television and personal habits of language and dress and custom, except perhaps to try to hold my tongue. And that’s what I should have done when a young man cut me off recklessly on the main drag as we both drove into our neighborhood. I followed him two blocks to his home, rolled down the car window and called him an asshole.

Not a remark my mother or grandmother would have made.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at



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