NOLA Life Stories

NOLA Life Stories features first person perspectives of the individuals who have helped shape our community.

Created by The Historic New Orleans Collection with the collaboration of WWNO, the show features excerpts from oral history interviews conducted as part of THNOC’s New Orleans Life Story Project, an ongoing effort to record and archive the voices and experiences of the people that have made New Orleans what it is today.

Thomas Walsh, Producer

Mark Cave, Executive Producer

A headshot from Lisa Suarez, late 1980's.
Lisa Suarez / Lisa Suarez

For nearly 20 years Lisa Suarez worked as a striptease artist on Bourbon Street and is often credited for reviving its burlesque scene in the late 80’s.

Bobby Grier speaks with representatives from the Sugar Bowl in 1956.
The University of Pittsburgh / The University of Pittsburgh

Bobby Grier was the first African-American to play in the Sugar Bowl. As a member of the Pittsburgh Panthers, Grier played against Georgia Tech on January 2, 1956 — only months after Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi and weeks after Rosa Parks was arrested in Alabama.

Perhaps as expected, his participation was met with opposition: the governor of Georgia insisted that Georgia Tech boycott the Sugar Bowl that year. But the game was played, Grier was its leading rusher, and the Civil Rights Movement continued to gain momentum.

Blueberry and Almond pie
Kelly Sue DeConnick / Mindmatrix

Morning, noon, or night, anytime is a good time for pie. But for local businessman Omar Aziz, it is so much more than a delicious treat. He spoke with historian Mark Cave for NOLA Life Stories.

Doc Hawley first started working on riverboats in 1957 and stayed on board until his retirement a few years ago.
Historic New Orleans Collection / Historic New Orleans Collection

Every day in the French Quarter people are drawn – almost magnetically - to the riverboat calliope. There is an undeniable nostalgic sound to it and it may even remind you of childhood. But romance aside, this icon of Americana has its own history, which Captain Doc Hawley shared with the Historic New Orleans Collection and Nola Life Stories.

Rosalind Brown and Vernel Bagneris in One Mo' Time, written and directed by Mr. Bagneris.
Carol Rosegg / Historic New Orleans Collection

Vernel Bagneris was working in New Orleans’ theater scene for years when his musical about black vaudeville performers hit the big time. And while talent and luck play a role in every Cinderella story, Vernal says there was another key element to the success of One Mo’ Time. He spoke with historian Mark Cave.

A postcard from Antoine's Restaurant, circa 1930.
Antoine's Restaurant / Boston Public Library/The Tichnor Brothers Collection

Rebranding a business is one of the most challenging things a company can do. Rick Blount understands very well: his family has owned Antoine’s Restaurant for five generations, which has left a legacy not only in the restaurant’s dining rooms, but in public opinion. 

Antoine's is famous for many things, including Oyster's Rockefeller, which was invented by Jules Alciatore. Blount told the story of its genesis to historian Mark Cave:

Angelo Brocato's neon sign on N. Carrollton Avenue has been a neighborhood fixture since the late 1970's.
b. rox / Infrogmation/Flickr

The next time you’re strolling the French Quarter, look for some ceramic tiling in front of 615 Ursuline Street. That tiling spells out ‘Angelo Brocato’, who New Orleanians know as the namesake of an old-world gelateria that used to be located there.

The business moved out of the neighborhood when it gentrified in the 70’s, but remains iconic to locals. So how’d it survive the transition? We turn to Arthur Brocato for that story and other family secrets. 

Oystermen at work on Lake Borgne in 1973.
John Messina / Environmental Protection Agency

Despite what your parents may have told you about eating oysters in the summer, it’s perfectly fine to do that. That’s from the lips of Alfred Sunseri, whose family has run the P&J Oyster Company since 1876. He knows a thing or two about the business and shares his family's triumphs and their frustrations in this interview with The Historic New Orleans Collection's oral historian, Mark Cave. 

Historic New Orleans Collection

Call them whatever you want: hipsters or hippies, beatniks or punks, New Orleans has always been an attractive place for American bohemianism. But despite its laid back attitude, the people down here often think these subcultures threaten the way things are done. Amzie Adams encountered that kind of opposition when he moved here in the late 60’s, but then quickly found a way to participate in New Orleans’ culture. 

There was a time when most neighborhoods in New Orleans had their own movie house, but they slowly disappeared and were replaced by multiplex theaters. But as everything becomes localized these days, so have options for seeing movies. The latest space to open is the Broad Theater, a four room theater house in an old Spanish colonial building in Mid-City.

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