PEOPLE WE HAVE WATCHED: THE CLASS OF ’94
Marc Morial, who had just been elected mayor in 1994, referred to himself as “the new sheriff in town.” Though Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti was still hanging onto his job, Morial’s metaphor referred to bringing change to city government. One of the new mayor’s biggest decisions would be the selection of not a sheriff, but a police chief to combat the city’s deadly crime rate. Chief Richard Pennington would eventually make a name for himself, but by the time of this magazine’s annual “People to Watch” issue that year, the attention was on the new mayor. “Morial may be influencing city and state politics well into the next century,” we wrote. And with the next century only seven years away, we were right.
On our cover was Ellen DeGeneres, who at the time was starring in her sitcom “Ellen.” One night in the future she would be a person the entire nation watched as she used an episode to publicly proclaim her sexual preference. At the time of the article our writer had heard rumors but had decided not to” go there,” though DeGeneres might have provided a tongue-in-cheek hint. When talking about a clerical job she once had at a New Orleans law firm and how she abhorred dressing up she said, “Pretty soon I just started wearing what I felt like wearing. And it wasn’t dresses.”
Not that there’s anything significant about wearing dresses, nor anything significant about not wearing them. DeGeneres even revealed that her early jobs included selling dresses at a store called Merry-Go-Round. She also served time as an oyster shucker at a place called Willie G’s and as a waitress at the Ground Pat’i.
A couple in the class are no longer with us, including Tommy Joe Eagles, the hot new basketball coach at UNO whose sudden death caused by a heart attack shocked the local sports community.
Another one of our people has since seen his business documents removed and examined by the U.S. attorney’s office. He is a person that the feds have apparently been watching closely.
Some from the People to Watch class of ’94 have dropped out. Others, including Dennis Assaf, the director of the Jefferson Parish Arts Society, and Jane Casbarian, who along with her husband, Archie, operate Arnaud’s restaurant, are still on the job.
This year’s class, we trust, brings new discoveries and new hopes as the future spins its own course. Oh, and a note to former Mayor Morial, who is now president of the Urban League: Since Foti was elected attorney general last year, defeating Terrell, there will be an election to fill Foti’s former position. Pretty soon there literally will be a new sheriff in town.