Friday, April 11, 2008

French Quarter Festival, V-Day kick off; Dr. Kroger kicks the bucket

Wow! It's been 25 years that the New Orleans French Quarter Festival has been in full swing, starting initially as a very small attempt to beef up attendance from locals into the French Quarter, which had acquired the unseemly reputation of a dirty, dingy and dangerous area of the city. When it first started, a few local artists played some traditional jazz selections and several French Quarter restaurants sold a few of their menu items to the anxious crowds. Over the years the caliber of artists has been raised and the number of stages for performances has increased substantially to 17. The number of participating restaurants and the variety of menu offerings has, likewise, leapfrogged. It is possible to even bring kids to the very family-friendly events that occur from today through Sunday. Special events include a "second line" parade this morning, a battle of the bands, and an oyster eating contest. Local luminary and pianist Ronnie Kole's brass statue was unveiled in ceremonies at the Legends Park on Bourbon Street. Add to this the celebration of V-Day down at the Superdome with stars like Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda and "Vagina Monologues" author Eve Ensler and there's lots of stuff happening way down yonder in New Orleans. For those who want to get out of town, this is also the weekend for the Pontchatoula Strawberry Festival. Surprisingly, Pontchatoula's most famous daughter, Irma Thomas, is not appearing at the French Quarter Festival. So who knows? Maybe that's a good spot to hang out this weekend, away from all of the hubbub and traffic of the downtown and Vieux Carre areas.
Sad news for "Monk" fans: Those who know me well know that I am a particular fan of TV's "Monk." I note with sadness the passing of Stanley A. Kamel, the gifted actor who portrayed the obsessive compulsive detective's overtaxed psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Kroger. Kamel, 65, was found dead of an apparent heart at his Beverly Hills home. He was a veteran of TV for decades having played a number of roles on TV soaps like "Days of Our Lives" and prime time fare like "Beverly Hills 90210." As Dr. Kroger, Kamel had a marvelous part, which he played to perfection opposite Tony Shaloub's quriky Adrian Monk. He will be missed by "Monk" fans across the globe.

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