When the lovable Mrs. Muffin asked me a question on live television in 1952, I froze.
When I was supposed to present something before not just the lower school but also the middle school, and I knew my cousin Arthur would be in the crowd and forever torment me, I literally got a high fever the night before and couldn’t perform the next day.
I always got the tiniest part in camp plays because I didn’t want to be on stage.
When I got married, we had a cocktail party on the top floor of a defunct brewery in a bad part of San Francisco, and while everyone was getting lit, my husband and I snuck over to a corner and got hitched without fanfare.
Tears rolled down my fat little cheeks in second grade when my teacher, who required us to stand up at our desks to answer, called on me. I don’t know what I feared, so let’s just call it stage fright.
When screenwriter and producer Brian Friedman asked me to fill in at the last moment for a film voiceover, ordinarily I’d say, “You must be kidding.” But when I returned home two years ago, I’d painted a big sign for my apartment, “Just Say Yes,” and so far it had led to a bunch of new places. Certainly I couldn’t do this myself, so I literally called on my angels, prayed angels were real, prayed praying was real, and stepped aside.
I was “Linda” and my dog “Delilah” had been swept away from my rooftop during Hurricane Katrina. So I went from second grade crybaby to performing in a movie, The King of New Orleans (a cross between Good Will Hunting and Taxicab Confessions, set to release in August). I asked Brian if I could change the name of the dog to Nicky, the name of my childhood dog, my perfect and hilarious Pug who I loved so much I named my son Nick after him. As I read my lines and imagined having to watch as I lost my grip on either of my Nicks … well, it wasn’t hard to get emotional.
I’d stood before a large group at the home of Bethany and Johann Bultman a year ago at my ex-husband’s memorial. My strategy was no prepared speech, because I knew I’d falter. Just one- and two-word notes to remind me of what I wanted to cover, and then tell the stories like I’m telling you now. It’s a great strategy for speech-giving, I think — you have no script and subsequently no choice but to speak naturally, conversationally. I also read my writer ex’s cryptic and funny postcards from his world travels. Exhibits are helpful; they break up the space like photos and artwork do in magazine articles.
I returned to Bethany’s exquisite and eccentric house last week for the filming of Moveable Feasts, a cooking series and joint effort of Boston’s PBS station, WGBH, and Fine Cooking Magazine. The hosts travel the globe, dive into locally sourced food specialties, then join with top local chefs to create amazing feasts. Bethany is one of the best cooks I know. (I still use her recipe for Redfish Courtbouillon from the October 11, 1978 issue of Figaro.) And then there’s her absolutely brilliant idea of freezing your (homemade!) Bloody Mary mix, including the vodka, in an ice-cube tray so that when you serve the mixture it doesn’t get watered down by ice cubes.
Bethany is fierce and fiercely devoted to doing good and doing right. She ruffles lots of feathers around town because she’s anything but the good girl socialite she could be. She created the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, so hangs with lots of musicians who struggle to survive financially and thus healthwise. She travels in circles that usually don’t intersect — the high, the low, but never the conventional. I’m quite sure she never shrank from answering a question in second grade or anytime since.
Dave Walker from the Times-Picayune and Misty Miloto from New Orleans Living Magazine were both at the Moveable Feasts filming, so the writing was covered; I would take pictures. See for yourself as Chef John Folse makes Death by Gumbo. After that, Borgne Executive Chef Brian Landry prepared fish in individual paper bags. Farm-fresh organic veggies, of course. And, finally, Chef Folse’s café au lait creme brulée. Don’t get any mo’ betta than that.
I don’t know what this article is about … maybe it’s about NOLA being such an accessible place that you can say you’re a writer and you become a writer, go behind the scenes at a television shoot, or become a voice-over actress if you want to. The thing I know for sure is that my second-grade teacher would be amazed.
Brian Friedman and Johnny Rock
DJ Johnny Rock
Birthday girl, Big Queen Cherice Harrison-Nelson of the Guardians of the Flame Maroon Society
Cara Harrison Daniels making Big Chief Donald’s Fire Water with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka
Bethany with Moveable Feast Producer, Mimi Adams