Editor’s Note: In honor and memory of Sharon Litwin, The Queen here at NolaVie, we will be publishing a piece from her every day for the next month. Sharon was an advocate and spokeswoman for arts, culture, people, and policies here in New Orleans. Her voice and sharp wit will be greatly missed.
Michael Murphy grew up in Ohio but spent most of his adult years in New York City. His life got upended when the publishing house he worked for there was bought out for a princely sum in the millions and he was out of a job.
“They got $777 million,” he says of his ex-employers. “I got $13,000.”
But it was enough to get him to New Orleans and start a new life as an ardent Who Dat.
It is said there are none so zealous as those reformed and certainly that describes Michael whose first visit to the Crescent City years before was under duress; something he was not looking forward to. His was not a lifestyle of wet T-shirts, boozing and what he perceived as general debauchery. So it was a great surprise to him that, like so many others with preconceived ideas, that he was so quickly seduced by this unique place.
Instead of a high level of expected disdain, he fell in love with New Orleans. Now he says he’s never leaving.
When he fist moved here, one of his former editors contacted him and asked him to write a restaurant guide book.
“I convinced them that made no sense,” Michael says. “We have all these already: Yelp, Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon. But here we got stories, sidebars, like Mr. Okra or the founding of Barq’s Root Beer.”
When Eat Dat came out in 2014 says Michael, with a grin, “It rose to the top of Amazon; number one for a full hour; top 10 for three months. The Huffington Post, love them, called it the ‘number one essential book before coming to New Orleans’.”
Its success encouraged Michael to pitch some other book ideas based on the things that bring more than 9 million visitors a year to New Orleans. Next up was Fear Dat; ghosts, goblins, voodoo and such, followed by Hear Dat featuring stories about out musical heritage which came out at the end of April 2016. Now he’s working on his final book called All Dat, a 200,000-word “doorstop” of a compendium planned for the Tricentennial in 2018.
“These books have been a joy for me to write,” Michael says. “I don’t care if they sell 3,000 or 30,000. I prefer the royalties from 30,000, sure, but the mere writing of them introduced me to things I would never have known about.”
But is he really done? “For the Dat books, that’s it. Absolutely,” he says.
It was all, he explains, put into perspective during last year’s Carnival season with one particular float in the Muses parade.
“They had this one with a blowup of my book cover on it, along with all the other ubiquitous Dats: Scoop Dat, Repeat Dat, Don’t Trash Dat on a float that was called Enough of Dat,” Michael recalls. And my thought was True Dat.”
So there we are; it’s over. Best look out for All Dat in a year or so because Dat’s Dat.