People to Watch is New Orleans Magazine’s oldest tradition, having started in the early ‘80s and continued, after a brief hiatus in the last years of the‘80s, through the present. Of all the people who we have been deemed worthy of watching, no one has a story that deserves a perpetual sidebar as much as Harry Mayronne.
An entertainer, who is a talented pianist as well as a puppeteer (who even makes his own marionettes), Mayronne was selected to be part of our class of 2005. A musical comedy he wrote, “Black and White Blues,” about life among servers at restaurants, was about to open in New York’s prestigious off Broadway district.
Internally, we had to debate about who to put on the cover. As deadline approached, Mayronne, because of his talent and because of having a show so close to Broadway, was selected.
Many stories about life in New Orleans in 2005 would have an abrupt stop, followed by a sentence such as this one: “And Then Came Katrina.”
Our September issue had returned from the printers and was being delivered at the same time that the hurricane was making its calls. When the levees broke, our world changed. Copies of the magazine were delivered to homes where the residents no longer resided. Stores with magazine stands were flooded. The city was empty of everything but water and mold.
Like a million other people, Mayronne evacuated, in his case to relatives of his mother’s in Birmingham. All of us wondered about our future. Post-Katrina days were long and worrisome.
One such day, Mayronne, out of boredom, wandered into a Birmingham bookstore. He went to the back where the magazines were displayed and was shocked at what he saw. It was the September New Orleans Magazine and there he was on the cover, pictured sitting at the keyboard of a grand piano. And the headline bellowed:
“Black and White Blues” is going to the Big Apple.
Harry Mayronne and 29 other People to Watch.
Because we were working close to deadline, we had not had a chance to tell Mayronne he had been selected for the cover. In retrospect, that was fortunate because he had a surprise just when we all needed something good to be surprised about. In the accompanying interview, Mayronne was asked about the uncertainty of bringing shows to the big time. His answer was prophetic: “I think there is always too much to do to be thinking of things going wrong.”
And, as that moment in Birmingham might underscore, the same goes for things going right.