Last month, as some were recouping from Mardi Gras, a town crier began yelling, “The French are coming! The French are coming!” Rather than taking up arms, the city opened its arms to them, put more champagne on ice and kept celebrating.
But let’s back up to bubbly times in February before we spring forward to what happened in March.

Along the AvenueIt’s Angela Hill at Galatoire’s during Carnival season.

On any given Sunday, Galatoire’s serves lots of champagne, not to mention milk punch. On Feb. 11, while decorating a table with Carnival trinkets, I backed right into Tony Fuselier who was decorating a long table with birthday treasures for wife, Ann Fuselier. The entire family from Anne’s mama, Mary Ann Valentino, to pals like Carey Bond and Henry Lambert—who flew in from Aspen—were there to celebrate.

Then it was kiss, kiss, wave, wave to the Favrots, Reilys, Fr. Desmond Crotty and Eleanor Farnsworth, who sold Brangelina’s new digs in the Quarter. Days later, the restaurant had “gone to the dogs,” but it was still kiss, kiss, wave, wave as the King and Queen of Barkus wagged tails even before the lamb chops arrived. For those not in the know or new to these parts, the Barkus parade is a “march” of costumed dogs through the French Quarter—and sometimes the costumes for this parade rival those on Mardi Gras day!

Once all the various krewe and queen’s lunches began, the kiss, kiss, wave, wave action cranked up at places as diverse as the Commander’s Palace, the Rib Room, Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s and Antoine’s … especially Antoine’s. Without revealing too many secrets, let’s just say mirth and merriment reigned at such a dizzying clip that by Lundi Gras, St. Charles Avenue’s bubbly executive editor Bev Church was seen second lining into and around Antoine’s wearing “Nat’ly” (as in Vic and Nat’ly) sunglasses and swinging a purple, green and gold umbrella!

Mardi Gras day found people bead-catching, drinking Ojen before noon, dancing on the balconies of elegant private clubs before siesta and donning elegant garb for Comus and Rex. Was that David Rubenstein wearing a sombrero? Who was that sedate Uptowner in the cat suit and big Marie Antoinette pink wig? And who let the Gods and Muses run amuck near Lee Circle? You know who you are—I saw you scrambling for Mardi Gras “go cups.”

Cups! More than a few were in their cups at the home of the Louis Friersons. No, it’s not how it sounds! Yes, there was a good champagne and cup hoisting … all for Ruthie Frierson, the hard-working activist with the dazzling smile, who is this year’s recipient of the Times-Picayune “Loving Cup.” The sizable trophy probably holds a magnum or two. Lots of folks helped celebrate, especially proud husband Lou who lifted his cup many times, saluting his bride and all those who helped her through the years.

Chuck and Cathy Thomason pulled out the best bubbly recently at a party to celebrate son John Reily Thomason’s marriage to Renee Guilloud of Houston. He’s a VP at D.R.Horton, she’s a lawyer, and they just moved to the Montrose section of Houston. That makes the commute to Chuck and Cathy’s new Lee Ledbetter-designed house on Avery Island a breeze.

I’m sure someone lifted a cup of something to John Dane, named U.S. Sailing’s “Sailor of the Month.” This guy is holding up Southern Yacht Club’s name and fame for the Star Class. As well, both SYC and the Pontchartrain Yacht Club participated in Leukemia Cup Regattas, which were on both the shores of the lake.

March Madness

Along the AvenueBuddy, Jean and King Bolton at Antoine’s during a krewe lunch.

There were Irish jigs somewhere in this town on St. Paddy’s Day, but this year the wearing of the green came during a five-star celebration of French culture. The New Orleans Museum of Art opened “Femme, femme, femme: Paintings of Women in French Society from Daumier to Picasso from the Museums of France” with 83 works—Renoir, Degas, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec and others—on loan from the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and other museums throughout France. Please continue to pop corks and say, “Merci et salut” to France’s Minister of Culture and Communication Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, the President of the Louvre Henri Loyrette, and the delegation of French diplomats and art curators who visited the city and their “cher ami,” NOMA’s John Bullard, two months after Katrina to help dream up this exhibit. They promised France’s solidarity and commitment to our beleaguered city.

Another display of our two countries fraternal links is at the Historic New Orleans Collection, which is exhibiting “Four Hundred Years of French Presence in Louisiana: Treasures from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.” You won’t see many of these works all in one place again, so you don’t want to miss either exhibit.

Along the AvenueThe French are coming! At the New Orleans Museum of Art: His Excellency Jean-David Levitte, Ambassador of France to the United States; Cheryl Landrieu; His Excellency Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, Minister of Culture and Communication of France; Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu and Pierre Lebovics, French Consul to New Orleans

So keep a few bottles of bubbly on ice, as spring is here, Easter—and the end of Lent—is fast approaching. And, by the time you read this I’ll be back from South Africa where safaris, sailing, fly fishing and wine tastings are the theme of days spent with my brother George, who knows his way around the Western Cape having owned a lodge there for five years.

Heard something interesting for  “Along the Avenue”?
If so, please send it to:

St. Charles Avenue,
110 Veterans Blvd., Ste. 123
Metairie, La. 70005,
Attn: Diane Sustendal. Or email
Diane at:diane@sustendal.net

And once I get back, I’m going to have to get my dancing shoes on, as the French Quarter Festival and the Jazz Fest will keep me on my toes this month.