I spent almost an entire week in New Orleans 11 years ago to cover the Super Bowl. On Saturday afternoon of that week, I took a guided tour of a Louisiana swamp just to get out the city for a few hours. We didn't see a single alligator. I didn't care.
I like New Orleans. Like it a lot, actually. Not so much Bourbon Street. Five minutes there is enough. But the eating and the architecture and the people are all right in my book, and the French Quarter is fun, and the city has a great aquarium. Or at least it did in 2002. I haven't been back since.
Since the Super Bowl has finally returned to New Orleans, I'm taking a personal trip down Memory Lane. Or is it Rue Memoire? Anyway, here's what I wrote in 2002:
NEW ORLEANS - Notes while waiting for a table at Emeril's:
Wednesday night, I spied ESPN's Joe Theismann playing at a $25 minimum craps table at the mammoth Harrah's downtown casino.
Joe broke a cold streak after covering all four hard-ways with $2 each for the dealers. The hard-six came up three times, earning the dealers a total of $54 and brightening everyone's mood. ...
Baltimore Ravens receiver Qadry Ismail was spotted outside the NFL Experience at the Morial Convention Center Friday afternoon, signing autographs for four kids.
"It's Cod-ree, not Quad-ree," Ismail sternly corrected the youths, who mispronounced his name.
"They kill it," he told me, "but it's the kids who will correct the adults." ...
Heavy-metal band Anthrax played at downtown's House of Blues Tuesday night, for reasons no one knows. ...
A woman named Bonnie-Jill Laflin, a model or something, was at the Super Bowl media center Thursday afternoon trying to drum up interest for a party that evening at Bourbon Street night spot Opulence. So I got on her pass list, which, of course, meant nothing to the doormen.
Thus, I hid behind Dennis Rodman, the "guest host" of the event or some such, and sneaked in amid his entourage of groupies, handlers and stooges as they entered. This really happened.
The club was dark, crowded and loud. Rodman and I were both bored, but he was bored in a VIP area and I wasn't.
Dennis left after 15 minutes, and I did likewise shortly after. He ended up rapping that night on the stage of Bourbon Street's Big Bad Wolf club, while I called it a night after seeing New Orleans police subdue and handcuff Bobby.
I don't know what Bobby did to draw the cops' ire, but three of them - one in street clothes and wearing beads - were needed to pin him to the ground on his stomach.
"Bobby, relax!" one officer repeatedly urged the young man to do, but he couldn't seem to do so. Perhaps having three cops on top of him and his head pressed into the sidewalk wasn't soothing. ...
But most of us are glad to see the massive amount of law-enforcement personnel in the city. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that the FBI "moved heaven and earth" to make the Super Bowl secure. Just get me out of town Monday, Don. ...
We'll see many wonderful, fabulous stars perform in the Super Bowl pregame show. And Mariah Carey, too.
Appearing at a Thursday press conference, Mariah said "I have a special relationship to my fans. They are the most loyal and incredible people. I hope they enjoy watching the Super Bowl and I hope they enjoy watching my performance (a lip-synching of the national anthem), and I love them."
Good deal! ...
Earlier in the press shindig, singing star Mary J. Blige was asked what she thought about performing "America The Beautiful" with Marc Anthony.
"It's just a show or something like that," Mary J. said.
I attended the press conference because Paul McCartney was listed among the participants, but the old Mop Top did his bit via satellite from New York, so yours truly caught a bus. ...
One last thing: Fried alligator is better tasting than it sounds.