The Class of ’98

From the neck up, you can see the resemblance between father and son. That was apparent a decade ago for our 1998 People to Watch issue. On the cover were Jazz Fest promoter Quint Davis and his dad, esteemed architect Arthur Davis. The two men have similar eyes, noses and cheek structures. But from the neck down, they’re two different people in two different worlds. Arthur was wearing a navy blue conservative pullover golf shirt. Quint had on a shirt whose colors didn’t quit and would probably be banned from a golf course for being a distraction. Beginning with white half-sleeves, the shirt’s scheme abruptly broke into splashes of yellow, green and blue. In the center was a red-hued, twice as large-as-life image of John Coltrane playing the sax. For the cover photo, Arthur was smiling with a hand placed gently on his son’s right shoulder. Quint was talking on a phone.

Both men were already high profile in 1998 but they were included in that year’s People to Watch list because they were combining their talents to develop something new – a nightclub in the French Quarter called Storyville District, which was scheduled to open that December.

People to Watch is ultimately about dreamers. Scott Cowen, then the new president of Tulane University, was prepared to lead the university into the 21st century. J. Terence Kelly was the new president of Delgado community college and had hopes of highlighting the school’s early education program. Jim Sefcik, the director of the Louisiana State Museum, was anxiously promoting his idea of using the Presbytere to house a high-tech permanent Mardi Gras exhibit. John Spradlin, an ambitious young businessman, was winning raves for converting the formerly abandoned Eiffel Tower restaurant on St. Charles Avenue into a hip new place called The Red Room.

Local Chef Robert Bruce was taking over the kitchen at the new Smith & Wollensky steakhouse. Then there were Scott Elarton and Russ Johnson, two players for the Zephyrs who shared the same dream that all minor league players have – to make it to the big league.

Into every dream fate often throws curve balls. Hurricane Katrina would change Cowen’s mission from zipping into the future to rebuilding. Kelly took another job after only a short stay. Sefcik would leave, too, and his Mardi Gras exhibit has been scaled down. The Red Room closed abruptly and Spradlin left town. Smith & Wollensky never reopened post-Katrina.

Russ Johnson’s baseball career would be up and down, and included a stint with the Yankees. Scott Elarton is still in the game pitching for the Cleveland Indians. With an annual salary believed to be around $4 million, he’s likely the most financially successful of the class of 1998.

As for Quint and Arthur Davis, Storyville District didn’t last very long but we give them lots of credit for trying. Both had made their mark in the community long before. Besides, for them, as for all of our People to Watch, there’s still opportunity for more dreams.

Categories: LL_From the Editor