Guest Post: Cady McClain on New Orleans (Plus: Travel Tips!)

Like I said- you NEED wigs, eyelashes and glitter here...

When actress, singer, artist and former Open House star Cady McClain sent me photos from a recent New Orleans trip, I asked her if she’d provide a guest post about her visit, and to my delight, she agreed.  I love looking at people’s vacation photos no matter their destination, but I really love how New Orleans unique mix of cultures manifests in the people, architecture and nightlife.  While I’d like to say it was my knowledge of Louisiana history that first captured my interest, I’ll confess that it was more about getting drunk with college buddies and, gulp, my then appreciation for Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.  Yep, I’ve always been an intellectual.  Plus, Ann Rice is canon now, right?  But Cady appreciates New Orleans for many reasons, some of which she’ll go into here.  Here’s . . . Cady!

Cady McClain on New Orleans

“This ain’t a relapse it’s more like a bounce, high up to heaven and back to the ground, keep your arms wide open baby, I’m coming down . . .”
So sings New Orleans resident Anders Osbourne, who clearly loves his adopted hometown.  I must admit, I feel the same way.  I hardly ever feel bad when I visit the home of the blues.  Like Osbourne, I was born elsewhere but feel at home in New Orleans like I do nowhere else, not even in New York City, where I have made my home for over 20 years.  What is it about this place?  I think I can finally tell you.  They play here.  I don’t mean they play music, they PLAY.  It is a time honored way of life.  They play on days when there may be no reason to celebrate, but they will find one.  Playing is not to be confused with “partying”- you don’t have to be drunk to have a good time.  Natives I have spoken to actually get a little huffy at the assumption that it’s an “anything goes” town.  Quite the contrary.  Their play is an art form . . . get it?  And yes, it’s really fun, too.

Continued . . .


I was recently having a conversation about happiness with a fellow world weary New Yorker, and why it seems so difficult to find in this town (unless you are a rabid Yankees baseball fan, that is).  The conclusion I came to was that people don’t PLAY here enough.  Our play has taken on the form of work, of effort that is primarily PRODUCTIVE and focused on making MONEY.  Well that just takes all the fun right out of it, doesn’t it?  If you love to dance or sing or act, and you are good at it, it seems like this town will make you do it until you fall over dead or never want to do it again.  It’s like the red shoes, New York will drive you on and on and on . . .

So when I go down to New Orleans . . . it is like being bathed in honey.  The slower pace, the sweet “hey baby” of the ladies at Mother’s, their gold teeth shining as they smile at the customers, the Marigny rug rats wearing shabby top hats and striped stockings riding around on ancient bikes like some kind of dickensonian mish mashed time warp . . . united by poverty, hurricanes, and a joy for living that will not be brought down by either politics or power, the New Orleans residents somehow seem to make every day a day worth waking up in.

The first thing I do when I settle into town, is walk Royal Street.  I have to stop at Fifi Mahoney’s and inspect the wigs and eyelashes and various ways of applying glitter, because glitter is as essential to feeling good as rum is to a Hurricane.

Then I am sucked down the street by some magical inner tornado to “Fleur de Paris”, a hat shop that has renewed my faith in mankind.  If you don’t get it now, go and try on these hats.  I guarantee you that they will change the way you feel- and for the better.  Besides, there is nothing nicer than walking down the street and hearing awe and admiration in the voices of the hatless as you pass by.

Finally, it is always a must for me to pop into Faulker books on Pirate Alley, just to say hello to the Literati.  I can’t pretend to be an educated reader, although I am not a total ignoramus, but the folks who oversee this lovely little bookshop are always so pleasant and happy to give a recommendation.  I’ve bought countless Tennessee Williams plays here, cookbooks, history books and compilations of essays by modern locals.  In their tiny 15 foot by 5 foot shop, its a wonderland of information and imagination.

Speaking of which, a MUST DO is a stop by the bar dba.  These are friends of mine, I will admit, but I have never seen a bar be so informative about alcohol.  Their chalkboard menu of beverages is renewed daily with dates and locales of the various beers and spirits.  Thank god they have a bar in NYC as well or I would never get by.

Yes, I am part owner of a bar in New O, and I am proud to say that no thanks to any of my efforts (well, I rarely complain about anything, so that amounts to something, I guess) it has been voted “Best Bar in New Orleans”.  How about them apples?  You’re going to have to see it to believe it.

Cady's bar

I have rarely encountered a bad meal in this city, and though I do think I might have made some slammin’ grits recently, I must surely lower my head in praise when it comes to the bread pudding at Napoleon House.  They should have a sign outside that says, “If you don’t want to be happy, don’t order the bread pudding”.  Cheesy website, awesome food.

Think about it- this is an opportunity to enjoy your life while you are still not on a colostomy bag (no hard feelings to those that are, but you are the ones who know even more what I’m talking about).

Dance, drink and bowl at Rock and Bowl, a reopened New Orleans institution.

Eat until you can eat no more at Jacques-imo’s.

Worship the blues at the Maple Leaf.

And if you STILL aren’t happy- go visit the WW2 Museum.  At least you can feel grateful.

soniat house - if you can swing it
Above: Metarie Cemetary
Above: Metarie Cemetary
Above: Holt Cemetary:  If the WW2 Museum STILL doesn’t make you feel grateful… go visit THIS cemetery…
Above: Holt Cemetary
Above: Holt Cemetary
Above: Holt Cemetary
Above: In front of Faulker’s Bookshop.   It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when people are making balloon animals . . . oh and this is one of my now SEVEN, count them SEVEN hats from Fleur de Paris.
Above:  The man in the bunny hat is a math teacher and the guy with the tubes coming out of his head is an AWESOME stand up bass player.

Coco Robicheaux is a friend of mine who was just inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame- seen here with Slide Guitar player Dave Easely.

Cady 2
Halloween is like Mardi Gras . . . only different.
Anybody who doesn’t like hats clearly has no imagination.  They probably don’t like dancing either.
I could not BELIEVE these two didn’t win best costume!

They celebrate a vegetable!
Why I REALLY love this town: they throw a festival for a VEGETABLE!

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15 Responses to “Guest Post: Cady McClain on New Orleans (Plus: Travel Tips!)”

  1. Albert Tanquero 17. Nov, 2009 at 10:49 am

    WOW!!!!! Cady this is one of the best posts I have seen on any blog in quite some time. As I sit here in Chicago, looking out at the grey skies I am reminded of how amazing New Orleans is. I went about 12 years ago and it was magical.
    Your mention of play is exactly what’s missing from big cities.
    I WANT TO GO OUT AND PLAY!!!!!! Loved the post and can’t wait to go back will be bringing your suggestions with me.

  2. Hey Albert, I agree. Let’s make it a road trip!

  3. Love the article, and the hats! LOL I miss the Big Easy, but maybe my memories are hazy because the last time I was there was Mardi Gras. It reminds me of Venice – a lazy, beautiful city on the water that time forgot. Makes me want to go visit again… NOW.

    PS: Cady, you need to do a period film because the opening shot of you in the Marie Antoinette period garb is fab! LOL

  4. Great post. Inspirational on many levels.

  5. Dear Cady, love your article! I think everyone who reads this wants to go on a trip to New Orleans (even the ones in The Netherlands ;-).

  6. I live 3 1/2 hours from New Orleans.I wish I could go every weekend just to chill out in the French Quarter or drink a cup of coffee by the river.It’s soooo relaxing just to go there and “be”.

  7. Great tips for anyone thinking of visiting New Orleans. My mother family are all from there (still living there) so I was lucky enough to understand the wonderful qualities of the city from a young age. It’s a fantastic, fun place.

    You looked beautiful on Halloween too! That’s a great hat!

  8. Realy impressive photos. Looks like you took the “Anne Rice” tour.

  9. Had the time of my life there last visit, and you brought it all back with this great blog.
    Thank you! Need to pack and go.

  10. Some day I hope to make it to New Orleans…thank you Cady for some insight!

  11. Dear Cady: You sure look as though you had a good time and you look cuite in all those pictures. Will check ya later. from patsyourdddy.

  12. Cady, you are the best hat person! We’re going to road trip down to NO this summer- please be playing at Mimi’s. You’re so right about people not “celebrating” and enjoying their lives. Play is both constructive and creative. It’s a must for a balanced life. The Marie Antoinette wig makes me think you’ll be gorgeous when you’re an fun, old lady.

  13. Cady,
    thanks for sending pictures of your trip. New Orleans is one of the trips I definately want to check out. Your hats were really beautiful…

  14. Hi Cady — love the hats! I love hats too and buy them but then lack the courage to wear them au quotidien. something about jutting brims seems to deter me…
    i lived in NO for ten years, a few in Metairie. first time i’m seeing the cemetary though. i also love cemetaries — best ones for me so far were in Gettysburg, PA, Lake Forest, IL and So. Hadley, MA. I’ll send you some of my grave angels…