No issue of New Orleans Magazine ever faced as many
obstacles as the November 2005 edition. For instance:
• There was no house-to-house mail delivery in New Orleans.
• There were few retail outlets open to sell magazines.
• There were hardly any advertisers back in business and those that were were not ready to be advertising.
• And, most of all, there were no people.
We were publishing a magazine to an empty city without a way of distributing the copies.
Nevertheless, we persisted because the preceding month, October 2005, we had not published at all, being too busy trying to find each other. Our September issue, published a week or so before Katrina, had arrived about the same time that the hurricane was approaching and was transformed into wet blobs. So by November we felt a need to make a statement, even if no one would hear it.
Editorially, we also faced a major problem: We had no content. Our writers were scattered, so too were our files.
There was one certainty: What we wanted the cover to be. The copy was already resonating in my mind: AND NOW THE RENAISSANCE.
A photographer got around police lines to shoot what proved to be a beautiful close-up shot of the Joan of Arc statue in the French Quarter. I had admired the look of defiance on her face and the emphasis given by her right arm lunging a flag. It was a strong image.
We did not realize just how much so.
In January 2006, the magazine underwent a sudden ownership change, in effect a buyout by some senior employees and a partner in the former ownership. No one really knew much about the city’s future that month, but people took chances because it was one of those times to lunge the flag. There would be many difficult decisions ahead, but one question took only a few seconds to answer: What to call the company?
Renaissance Publishing, of course. Joan, the Maid d’Orleans, would be the symbol of our personal recovery. Though hardly anyone saw the November issue, at least it had left its legacy.
Everyone has a Katrina story and they’re all good. The problem is there are a million of them. Allow us this one, please. In September of that year a local musician named Harry Mayronne had evacuated to Birmingham with family. One day, feeling particularly bored, he went to a local bookstore. Having worked his way to the back racks he was suddenly stunned by what he saw: that month’s issue of New Orleans Magazine. What was really surprising though was that he was on the cover, and he hadn’t known it. That was our annual People to Watch issue, and Mayronne was one of the honorees. We had not had a chance to tell him about the selection before we evacuated. That copy in Birmingham may have been one of the few non-soggy issues.
Next year, October 2016, New Orleans Magazine will celebrate its 50th anniversary. May it never miss publishing another issue. We feel confident. The levees are stronger; and we have Joan at our side.