Five Questions With News Anchor Fred Cunningham

urlFred Cunningham is the morning and noon news anchor at WSPA-TV in Spartanburg/Greenville, South Carolina. Before moving to the news desk in 2002, Fred spent 15 years as the station’s weekend sports anchor. He was born in Indianapolis and is married with a 12-year-old daughter.

Fred is an award-winner (two-time winner of the Associated Press Best Sportscast award in South Carolina), a pageant man (he has hosted the Miss South Carolina Pageant) and he still dabbles in sports, serving as play-by-play voice of Clemson University football TV replays.

Like any good 21st century news anchor, Fred keeps busy with social media on the set and off. Between tweets, I was able to ask him…

5 qs

SW:  What is the most challenging part of your job?

FC: Multi-tasking on the desk can be an adventure. When you have breaking news you’re trying to get on the air – while you also want to get the word out on Twitter and Facebook – it gets crazy. We often do this while our co-anchor is reading a story. It’s kind of humorous when you stop vital social networking because you have to read a story on camera.

SW: How important is social media to what you do on a daily basis?

FC: Social media is VITAL. Viewers are the eyes and ears out there for us. They can tell us what they’re seeing and also let us know there’s more to a story we’re reporting. They’re much faster to respond on Twitter or Facebook then sending you an email. The interaction is terrific.

SW: What is your most memorable or embarrassing moment? (Maybe it’s the same one)

FC: Old school live TV news from the 1980s. I walked through a camera shot of a weather map – the old-style magnets on the board – so the middle of my body showed up being our weather guy. He called me out on set to “scold” me. It made for some entertaining TV, but you be the judge:

SW: What are the best and worst things a viewer has ever said to you?

FC: Best: I often hear how funny I am on TV or how I make them laugh in the morning. That’s a nice way to start their mornings. Worst: A cashier at my grocery store – who has been there for years – decided to tell me how much he hates local news. He even asked the kid bagging the groceries if he hated TV news too. The “nicest” thing he said was, “that’ll be $103.67.”

SW: What is one thing people would be stunned to learn about you?

FC: I shot a scene with Will Ferrell for “Talladega Nights.” I’m in the trailer, but got cut out of the movie. And I can name all the U.S. Presidents in order.

Follow Fred on Twitter and Facebook.

Five Questions with Southern Miss Head Football Coach Todd Monken

It’s no secret I graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi (Class of ’97) and it’s no secret that I tout the school and its programs every chance I get. After last season’s 0-12 debacle on the football field, it was a little tough to brag about a program that had recorded 18 consecutive winning seasons and 10 straight bowl appearances before Ellis Johnson’s arsenal of destruction rolled into Hattiesburg.

Now, Southern Miss has returned to the formula that made its football program successful — hiring an Oklahoma State offensive coordinator. Jeff Bower and Larry Fedora turned out pretty well for the Golden Eagles. New Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken, 47, was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State the past two seasons. In 2012, OSU ranked among the nation’s top 10 nationally in scoring offense (4th/44.7 ppg), total offense (5th/548.9 ypg) and passing offense (7th/333.4 ypg).

These stats are a sight for sore eyes in Hattiesburg, too. In the past two seasons, OSU has scored more than 50 points 10 times, 60+ points five times, 70+ points twice and 80 points once. The Golden Eagles finished 114th in offense last season.

At his introductory news conference, Monken laid out his plans for a bright future at Southern Miss.

“You want high expectations,” Monken said. “You want to be at a place where winning is expected. And this is one of those places. This is a new era of Southern Miss football. You’ve had that history and tradition — hit what I call a one-year speed bump — but I’m looking with great confidence to the future and not looking back.”

Before spring ball, Monken took time to answer…

5 qs

SW: What has been the biggest adjustment going from longtime assistant coach to head coach?

TM: The biggest adjustment is that I decide everything. I have never been anywhere (before) in which I have decided everything from when you practice, to camps, to hiring. That has probably been the biggest adjustment, is that everything falls in your lap. Previously, there were things that fell in your lap but not everything.

SW: How daunting of a challenge is fixing 0-12, the worst season in school history?

TM: I don’t really see it as that. I see it, obviously as a challenge, but like I said when I took the job I would rather be in a place that has had 18-straight winning seasons and one speed bump than 18-straight losing seasons and one winning season. We have a number of players that were here before that were part of a 12-2 team. I think they are excited about rectifying what happened last year, so it has not been near the challenge that I thought it would be.

SW: You were a quarterback in college, have a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in education leadership. How does all that work together, coupled with your coaching experience, to make you the right man to lead a wounded program?

TM: I don’t know. It is probably all of that, plus your background – your upbringing. At the end of the day, there is a lot of people that have had an impact in your coaching background and what you believe in. So, I don’t know which one (is better). Obviously some of the things that you do educationally teaches you how to work hard. I don’t know how much I really use in economics, but you refer back to what it took to get that degree. At the end of the day, you take what you have seen from where you have been previously – what’s worked and what you like and disliked – and you kind of come up with your own philosophy and you have to hire the guys that will carry that out. I don’t know what it is specifically, but I have always believed in myself as a coach and gotten guys to play well and that is what we are going to do here.

SW: If you weren’t a football coach you’d be a….

TM: Oh, I don’t know. I do my hobby. Being around sports and coaching is really a hobby and I am blessed to be able to get paid to coach, so I don’t know what else I would do. I have thought about that. If you pinned me down, it would have to be something involved in athletics, just because it is most of what I watch on TV and is what occupies most of my time. I don’t know what else I would do.

SW: Have you ever been to New Orleans (not including recruiting)? If so, what’s your favorite thing to do here? If not, why not?!

TM: I have been to New Orleans many times. Usually every few years there is a national convention there. When I was at LSU, we played at the Sugar Bowl and, heck, I was at Baton Rouge. I always enjoyed going down there and, most of the time, it was to go there to eat the great food there. Obviously, it is a festive place and people enjoying going there and having fun, but for me the fun is to go down there and enjoy the different restaurants they have there.


Five Questions With Former Saints WR Joe Horn

Joe Horn, a Saints Hall-of-Famer and Pro Bowl wide receiver, played for the Black and Gold from 2000-2006 and set the Saints’ career mark for receiving touchdowns with 50, a record since eclipsed by wide receiver Marques Colston (58).

Horn was a colorful character with the Saints, often dazzling the media with his postgame comments or in-game antics. Horn’s touchdown celebrations were a memorable part of his repertoire, but the one that topped them all came during an ESPN Sunday Night Football game against the New York Giants in 2003 (Was it that long ago?!). Horn scored his second touchdown of the game (he had four that night), pulled out a cell phone from under the goal post padding and pretended to call someone. The team was penalized 15 yards and Horn was fined $30,000.

In 2010, Horn re-signed with the Saints so he could retire with the team. Horn parlayed his success on the football field to success in the business world. He now sells his own barbeque sauce called “Bayou 87.”

Between appearances at area Rouses Supermarkets, Horn answered…

5 qs

SW: What was your best moment as a Saint?

JH: Going back to the dome when the naysayers said we would never be back there. It was my most memorable, exciting time as a Saint!

SW: Were you often misunderstood? (Not sure what this answer means but hey, it’s Joe.)

JH: Why training camp was so long when it didn’t matter as much as talked about!

SW: What is your analysis of the Saints 7-9 season last year and the upcoming season with the return of Sean Payton?

JH: The team playing with revenge in CAPS . It’s like your father leaving home and you missing his guidance leadership. Then one day he rides up, returning home (and) all the bullies that took advantage of u gotta pay!!!!

SW: The best thing about Saints fans is…

JH: Their ride or die to the dirt when the chips fall. If we lose the city can be upset but if someone else talk smack Louisiana Saints fans going to War!!!

SW: True story: My 7 year old son is the pickiest eater around. He would not eat meat AT ALL until my wife decided to drench some sausage and cocktail weiners in your BBQ sauce. Now he can’t get enough of it. How do you explain this?

JH: Your Son is a BAYOU87 junkie and Joe Horn loves it. Every day all day BAYOU87 BABY BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Five Questions With Blue Dog Artist George Rodrigue

Artist George Rodrigue, most famous for his Blue Dog paintings, is a Cajun through and through.

Born in New Iberia in 1944, he attended an all-boys high school, went to college, studied art in L.A. and trained in New York — all so he could come back home to Louisiana.

Before the Blue Dog paintings made Rodrigue famous worldwide, he painted hundreds of pieces in the 1970s featuring oak trees before expanding his subjects to include the Cajun people and their traditions.

In between paintings, Rodrigue answered…

5 qs

SW: Why a Blue Dog? Why not yellow, red or green?

GR: The Blue Dog first appeared as a bluish/gray/green loup-garou, Cajun werewolf image. Its color came from the blue moon at night. Over the years I’ve painted it many colors, including the ones you mention, but no matter what the color, people still call it the Blue Dog. Here’s a link to the story behind the color.

SW: People spend a lot of money on your Blue Dog paintings. Did you ever imagine that painting a dog in so many different settings would pay off so handsomely?

GR: I painted Cajuns for 25 years and was very successful financially. I’ve been lucky because everything I’ve ever painted has been popular. I just paint what I want, and I don’t worry about the rest.

SW: What’s the most unique painting request you’ve received?

GR: I do not take requests.

SW: You’ve painted presidents, their families, Jazz Fest posters and more. What stands out as the most memorable and why?

GR: My presentation of the Reagan painting to President Reagan was a highlight, as was the Clinton presentation in the White House. It’s a real honor to paint the Presidents and have them appreciate my work.

SW: After six semesters at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, you ventured out to California. You were a Cajun studying art in Los Angeles. How’d that go?

GR: I studied art in Los Angeles, because I wanted to be taught by professional artists that would sit down with me and show me (not just tell me) about the process and their way of thinking about art. I wanted to learn the fundamentals from the best, and I found that at Art Center in California. More on this history here.

Five Questions With Miami Morning Anchor Josh Benson

josh-benson

Josh Benson always wanted to be in TV News. As a kid he used desks, sheets and lamps to produce newscasts on home video. Twelve years after college and many productions later, Josh is equipped with much better technology at the CBS affiliate in Miami where has been the morning anchor since August 2012. Outside of TV, he stays busy with a web company, a non-profit, a startup and hosts online programs. He also tries to squeeze in occasional rounds of golf.

“There’s never enough time in the day,” Josh says.

But he did find some time for…

5 qs

SW: Now that you’ve had some time to settle down in Miami since becoming a morning anchor there last August, looking back, what has been your biggest challenge?

JB: Can I have two answers? The schedule and surviving the roads. The schedule is a bear. I wake up at 2:50am and go to bed anywhere in between 8:00-9:00pm. There’s never enough sleep, but I’m working on it. And Miami drivers are from outer space. Speeding is the norm and red lights are just warnings. It’s a long way from my home state of Minnesota. The casual wave has been replaced with the one-finger salute on any given commute.

SW: Why are missing persons cases are so important to you, specifically Jodi Huisentruit, the Iowa news anchor who disappeared in 1995?

JB: The Jodi case was my first opportunity at an in-depth news story. I really worked hard on learning the case and trying to find answers. Back then, the work was for a 13-part Sweeps series. It’s been 11 years since then and I’m still working on it. We’ve created a non-profit and built a talented team around it at FindJodi.com . Some things are hard to let go. And to think about losing a family member without any answers as to why, that’s enough to keep me going. I’d like to see Jodi’s family find closure.

SW: It is important for aspiring broadcast journalists to have a strong presence today on Twitter, Facebook, a website and more. Why is the “online brand” so critical?

JB: A person’s online brand is huge. I look at it as more of a personal brand. Companies have a brand. People should too. Social media and the internet as a whole allows you to reach so many people and reach them quickly. It allows a you to display your talents, background and interests. Employers, interviewees, and strangers will decide if the characteristics of your brand can help or interest them. And they’ll decide quickly. So it’s important to keep your content fresh, current and clean for the biggest impact.

SW: What is the first media credential you saved and the most recent?

JB: The highly-coveted ‘all-access pass’ to the Spam Museum festival in Austin, Minnesota. The most recent was the 99.9 KISS Country Chili Cookoff in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I just realized how much of a gas my career has been. Whoa.

SW: You’re from Minnesota and are a life-long Vikings fan. I’m a life-long Saints fan. The Vikings and Saints have had some heated run-ins over the years, including the epic NFC Championship game in 2009. What is your most vivid memory from that game that kept your beloved team out of Super Bowl XLIV?

JB: In all honesty, it wasn’t the excessive brutality displayed with cheap hits by your players that would eventually unravel ‘BountyGate’ in which your players earned bonuses for inflicting injuries on opposing players… No, that wasn’t it. Hahahah. Bitter? No, the moment I really vividly remember is when Brett Favre threw his last interception. All he had to do was run a few yards, fall down and set up a field goal for the win. Later I realized Favre isn’t a runner. He was bred to throw. So I can’t blame him. Sigh, some day.

Follow Josh online:
Website: JoshBenson.com
Twitter: @JPBenson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joshbensontv

Know someone who should be featured in Five Questions? Email me.

Five Questions With Chef John Besh

John Besh is a native of southern Louisiana and has raised the bar for fine dining in New Orleans. With nine restaurants (eight in New Orleans), Besh is celebrated both locally and nationwide.

His online bio says it all:

From the outset of his career, Besh’s talent and drive have earned him continuous kudos: Food & Wine named him one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America” and his flagship restaurant August has featured on the late great Gourmet magazine’s “Guide to America’s Best Restaurants,” and “America’s Top 50 Restaurants.” Local publications keeping close tabs on the dining scene, like The Times-Picayune and New Orleans City Business, have applauded all his other restaurants as they’ve appeared and won the hearts and palates of discriminating diners. He won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006, and was awarded Food Arts’ Silver Spoon Award in 2009 for revitalizing the culinary legacy of New Orleans.

Besh’s restaurants include August, Besh Steak, Lüke, Lüke San Antonio, La Provence, American Sector, Soda Shop, Domenica and Borgne. The former U.S. Marine has also found time to write two cookbooks — My New Orleans in October 2009 and My Family Table in November 2011.

On a flight to somewhere, Besh took the time to answer…

5 qs

SW: What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen?

JB: I love to eat and I love to cook, but if I’m not careful I tend to overanalyze and make things too complicated.

SW: What is your favorite ingredient to cook with and why?

JB: Changes with the season, although right now it’s wild crawfish. I live for each season – nothing says Louisiana spring better than crawfish.

SW: What do you enjoy doing outside of the kitchen?

JB: Hunting, fishing, daddy, husband, boating. Basically anything with an -ing.

SW: Outside of your own, what is your favorite restaurant/dish in New Orleans?

JB: The ban cuon from Ba Mien, the jellyfish salad at Kim Son, the chicharron and cheese pupusa at Divino Corazon and the crawfish bisque at the Bon Ton. All tied for first place.

SW: You have nine restaurants now. How many more until you take over the world?

JB: Don’t know. I thought after the first one I’d never open another restaurant. But I love the creative process and I love making people happy. Now it’s especially fun watching all of my protégés now achieving their own notoriety.

Five Questions With Biographer and New Orleans Native Walter Isaacson

Walter-IssacsonWalter Isaacson has written biographies of Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. The book about Jobs, culminating in a release weeks after Jobs’ death, was one of 2011’s most highly anticipated books.

Isaacson, a Harvard grad and Rhodes Scholar, started his career at The Times-Picayune/States Item in New Orleans, went on to work as editor of TIME magazine, then was named president/CEO of CNN. He is currently the president/CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC.

In 2005, then-Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco appointed Isaacson to vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, a board that oversaw spending after Hurricane Katrina.

Isaacson tries to get back to New Orleans often and serves on the board of Tulane University.

He found time in his busy schedule to answer…

5 qs

SW: Your biography of Steve Jobs broke all records for sales of a biography. He was famously reclusive and didn’t let a lot of people into his world. What was it like to immerse yourself in such a complicated life for two years?

WI: I was very privileged to get closer access to Steve Jobs than any biographer I know of has done with a subject, except for maybe Boswell’s access to Dr. Johnson. We spent days and days together. He insisted that I should be honest. So I showed all facets of his personality, brilliant and rough. I felt that they tied together, reflecting his passion for perfection and impatience with shoddy work. It was very emotional to get to know him.

SW: Who is the better genius — Einstein or Jobs?

WI: Einstein. Einstein was not only imaginative, he was also a genius when it came to analytical thought. The two greatest theories of 20th century physics — relativity and quantum — sprang from his head when he was a young man working as a patent clerk. 

SW: You were recently named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Could knowing something like that in advance have helped you out in the dating scene at Newman?

WI: When I was at Newman, Stephanie Bruno and I and some others organized a “computer dance,” where we told people they would be matched up by a computer if they filled out personal questionnaires. We didn’t actually have access to a computer, but we fixed ourselves up with the dates we wanted.

SW: You’ve talking about writing a love letter to New Orleans. What makes the city so special to you?

WI: New Orleans is a cauldron of creativity. Music, food, businesses, architecture, neighborhoods. Noting is boring in New Orleans.

SW: What was your favorite thing to do as a kid in New Orleans?

WI: Go to Preservation Hall and listen to Willie and Percy Humphries, who fronted the regular band back then.

Walter Isaacson online:
> Twitter: @WalterIsaacson
> The Aspen Institute

Five Questions With ‘Fleurty Girl’ Owner Lauren Thom

laurenLauren Thom loves New Orleans. That’s evident in her many Facebook and Twitter posts on any given day.

“My favorite part is working the shop and just listening to the stories,” Thom told GO NOLA in 2010. “Everyone knows someone who said ‘Zink’ or ‘Mynez’ and the shirts remind them of a piece of something they remember and they love to share it.”

The New Orleans native bleeds cocktails and king cake. Thom, a single mother of three, had a dream and chased after it with gusto, using $2,000 from her 2009 tax return to get her t-shirt business off the ground. Four shops and a little matter with the NFL later, Fleurty Girl is synonymous with New Orleans… and is a lot more than just t-shirts.

Lauren is always running from store to store, but she slowed down for a moment to answer…

5 qs

SW: When you decided to sell t-shirts, people said you were crazy. How’d that turn out?

LT: It turned out pretty well! Just opened our new headquarters on St. Charles Avenue with a mini-storefront, so that makes five retail shops in four years. Not bad for crazy. :)

SW: In your wildest dreams, did you ever imagine yourself presiding over a t-shirt empire?

LT: Never. I still sometimes wonder if the alarm clock is going to go off and I’m going to wake up.

SW: The NFL is…

LT: A big conglomerate with REALLY good attorneys.

SW: What is your favorite thing to do in New Orleans?

LT: Stroll the Quarter. With a to-go cocktail in hand. And no agenda. There’s beauty all over the place here and friends to be made around every corner and it’s all best enjoyed when you’re not in a hurry.

SW: You’re stranded on a deserted island and the only food available is king cake. Whose king cake could you eat for the rest of your life and would it be traditional or filled?

LT: Traditional. Manny Randazzo’s. No contest. Am I by myself on this island? Then I get the baby. Even better :)

Follow Fleurty Girl on Twitter and Facebook.

Five Questions With Norfolk Anchor and New Orleans Native Blaine Stewart

blaine-stewartBlaine Stewart grew up on the Westbank of New Orleans and graduated from L.W. Higgins High School in Marrero. He kicked off his radio and TV career in New Orleans at 17 years old at WDSU-TV (good choice!), WWL-TV and the old “Mix 104.1″ radio.

He has worked at WTKR-TV (CBS) in Norfolk for the past six years as the morning and midday anchor. Blaine admits to an unhealthy obsession with pandas and fruit pies (separately, of course).

During one of his early-morning coffee IV drips, Blaine answered…

5 qs

SW: Anchoring mornings are tough. I did it for a nearly a decade and it certainly wears on you physically and mentally. I drank A LOT of coffee and ate bananas. What gets you through the grind?

BS: Bananas and coffee must be a morning anchor thing. I go through a pot of coffee and eat two bananas most mornings. I tweet (@BlaineStewart) a lot during our four hours of morning news. That helps break the monotony and keeps me on my toes. Doing morning TV was always my dream, so I’m a very happy guy.

SW: What is your most embarrassing on-air moment and is it on YouTube for the world to see?
BS: It involves a candle, my co-anchor’s hair weave and my foot in my mouth. After 100,000 Youtube views and a feature on CNN.com — lesson learned. Here’s the proof:

SW: What do you miss most about your hair?

BS: Absolutely nothing. Bald is beautiful! Though, I’ve had to increase my sunscreen budget.

SW: What is your most memorable interview?

BS: Not sure there’s one particular person that stands out. It’s more of a series of stories. In 2003, I was the military reporter for a station near Fort Benning in Georgia. I covered the deployment and return of the 3rd Brigade during Desert Storm. Through two weeks of daily homecomings, I cried every time. The look on a military spouse’s face when their service member returns is priceless. That will stay with me forever.

SW: McKenzie’s or Tastee Donuts?

BS: Depends on what we’re eating. Glazed donuts or king cake? Nothing beats Tastee. But, I have fond memories of eating McKenzie’s blackout cake with my grandmother. It was her favorite. Great, now I’m hungry and homesick.

Follow Blaine online: 
> Twitter: @BlaineStewart
> Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blainestewarttv
> YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/BlaineStewartWTKR

Five Questions With Former Chicago News Director Carol Fowler

carolCarol Fowler is one of the few people who can say she has held top management positions at three stations in Chicago, the nation’s third largest market. Over the past 12 years, she held news director positions at WGN (Tribune), WBBM (CBS) and WFLD (FOX) before leaving the TV news business in 2012.

For the past year, Fowler has been working as VP of content strategy for a leading consumer reviews site based in Chicago, Viewpoints.com.

During her years in news management, Fowler led coverage of every major news story in Chicago, from the political corruption trial of former Governor Rod Blagojevich to the sidewalk beating death of teenager Derrion Albert, for which the Fox news team won a Peabody Award in 2010.

She says investigative reporting gave her greatest professional satisfaction.

“I was fortunate to work with some of the best investigative reporters in the business, including Pam Zekman, Dave Savini, Dane Placko and Larry Yellen,” Fowler said. “I always enjoyed helping them shed light onto unethical people and wasteful practices.”

I had the opportunity to interview for a position in Fowler’s CBS newsroom in 2007 and came away very impressed. We’ve kept in touch since, which may explain why she decided to grace this little website with answers to my…

5 qs

SW: You were part of the daily grind of the TV news business for a long time. Now you’re not. How does your previous work life compare to your current one?

CF: I now have time to breathe! When you’re in the news business, you are ‘always on’ — meaning even when you’re not at work, you are. It was a constant challenge to react quickly enough. My work life now is more strategic and project focused. Still very aware of the competition, but more time to research best practices, think about best next steps and how digital content should be evolving. I also get more of my news now in ways other than watching television.

SW: How did your years in management prepare you for what you’re doing now?

CF: The longer I’ve worked in a team environment, the more I appreciate and try to practice good communication. Everyone knows you should communicate with your boss, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook keeping the people you work with informed. I call it ‘managing across.’

SW: How would you finish this thought? “Back in my news days, I can’t believe we got away with…”

CF: Being so irreverent at times in editorial meetings. It is the part about being in a traditional newsroom I miss the most. Talking, debating and sharing laughs as we decided what stories and angles to cover was a raucous democracy. From time to time, people suggested putting a webcam in the editorial meetings and I was always like, “Hmmm, no …”

SW: Saints or Bears? (Don’t forget, you have Southern roots!)

CF: Growing up in Mississippi, the Saints were it! They never had winning seasons back then, so it’s been great to see more success in recent years. Now that I call Chicago home, the Bears are a favorite naturally. Am I allowed to like both?

SW: Where do we find the best pizza in Chicago?

CF: Pizzeria Uno right off Michigan Avenue can’t be beat for deep dish pies and a casual atmosphere, but just prepare to wait for a table – The last time I went it was more than two hours! (Pizzeria Due serves the same pizza in a location about a block away.) I recently discovered a place on Grand Ave. called La Madia. More upscale and pizza is served in flatbread style and quite good.

Follow Carol Fowler on Twitter.

Five Questions With Jazz Trumpeter Jeremy Davenport

jeremy_davenportJeremy Davenport is a Jazz trumpeter and singer. He’s really good, but that doesn’t tell half the story.

In the past decade, he’s become a vital part of the New Orleans music scene. Jeremy’s not from here, but it seems like he is. Born in St. Louis in 1970 to musically inclined parents, his fate was kind of predestined. Jeremy moved to New Orleans in 1989 and his plan was to stay for six months. That was 24 years ago.

He holds court every Thursday-Saturday night at the jam-packed Davenport Lounge inside the Ritz-Carlton on Canal Street. He lives in the hotel, which I’ve always thought would be cool.

In between spa treatments, Jeremy got around to answering…

SW: What was your “Plan B” if the whole trumpet playing thing wouldn’t have worked out?

JD: I never had a plan B. With music, art, sports, etc….I’m fairly certain if you have a plan B, plan B becomes plan A.

SW: When did you start playing and who inspired you?

JD: My parents are both musicians. I was surrounded by music my entire life. My dad bought me trumpet when I was 5.

SW: You live at the Ritz in a super luxurious suite. Women throw themselves at you. The lounge in which you play has your name on it. What else is left?

 JD: Very funny! I want to continue to improve and grow as an artist and make more recordings!

SW: What is your routine on the nights you perform?

JD: I try to catch a quick nap on gig nights. Though 90% of the time I can’t fall asleep.

SW: What is the key to making your hair stand up in the front so perfectly?

JD: I have a special apparatus in my suite. It hangs me upside down and then one of my support staff sprays my hair with a special formula designed in Sweden. It usually holds for about 1 hour. I have to repeat the process several times throughout the evening.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @JeremyDavenport

Five Questions With Saints Punter Thomas Morstead

thomas-morsteadThomas Morstead’s parents have never missed one of his games. Ever. Home or away, preseason, regular season or playoffs, they’ve seen them all. And they give him brownies before every game.

The Saints punter/kickoff specialist was drafted by the team in the 5th round of the 2009 draft. His career net punting average is 40.4 yards (career gross average is 47.1 yards). Morstead was born in Pearland, Texas, attended Pearland High School and played college ball at Southern Methodist University.

On Saturday, he’ll cut his hair at Finn McCool’s Irish Pub to support the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

Before he goes under the shears, he answered…

5 qs

SW: You executed the Super Bowl “Ambush” onside kick to perfection. What was your first thought when Sean Payton made that call?

TM: My initial reaction was not good, a little panic/fear. Thank goodness for the 35 minute halftime. It gave me a chance to calm down and realize that it worked in practice every time. That gave me confidence once we took the field.

SW: In 2011, you were named the number one tweeter in football. What’s a bigger honor — that or your first Pro Bowl appearance after last season?

TM: Pro Bowl for sure, huge honor to be voted in by coaches, my peers, and WhoDat Nation. I think our fans pushed me into first.

SW: You’ve punted the football 235 times in your career. Does one punt stand out above all the rest?

TM: NFC Championship Game against the Vikings. Last punt of the game, 2-ish minutes left in the 4th quarter and the score was tied. I hit a 58 yard punt and the coverage unit tackled the returner very quickly and we netted 53 yards. Vikings almost got into field goal range and could have kicked a potential game winner with no time left. But they needed a few more yards and decided to throw it. Then Tracy Porter happened….

SW: What’s in your locker?

TM: All my football gear, and a few family photos.

SW: I know you and your right leg have a very special relationship. If it could talk, what would it reveal about you?

TM: That my left leg is the real weapon. That where the power comes from.

Follow Thomas on Twitter: @ThomasMorstead

From Rome: Five Questions With NBC Correspondent Jay Gray

jay grayJay Gray is a correspondent for NBC News and has been with the network for 10 years.

He grew up on the sidelines of LSU football games, started his career as a newspaper reporter, landed his first TV job in Lafayette and worked at the NBC affiliate in Dallas before getting his current job.

If a major story breaks, Jay is one of the first people to hop on a plane and head to the middle of it. Whether it’s the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary, a raging snowstorm in the midwest, a disabled cruise ship or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Jay is a go-to guy for NBC.

Did I mention he’s there for all the big stories? Right now Jay is in Rome covering the selection of a new Pope.

In between votes for the new pope, Jay found time for…

5 qs

SW: You’re on the road a lot for NBC. How often do you travel during the year and what’s your best travel tip?

JG: The travel really varies, and of course is rarely planned. I probably average about 230 days a year on the road, and there was one particularly busy year when I was home only 6 full weeks – Monday through Sunday.

SW: A lot of people think being a network correspondent is all glitz and glamour. What is your most “glamorous” moment?

JG: Since I am writing this looking out over the Vatican it may be tough to have any sympathy for our “normal” conditions. I have learned quickly which rental cars make the best bedrooms. It’s not unusual to sleep in the car, especially during a storm. But I think the most “glamorous” accommodations had to be in Haiti – after staying up for 2+ days trying to get into the country after the earthquake, I had the chance for a couple of hours of “sleep” in a baggage cart, the kind they use to bring luggage to planes – it was next to a running C-130 cargo plane. The tent I got a day or two later was a real step up.. even though roosters would wander inside for an early wake-up call.

SW: Who is the smartest person you’ve ever met? (I’m not eligible since I’m conducting the interview)

JG: I think there are two kinds of smart – street and book. Street smarts had to be Jonathon my “fixer” in Norway after the mass shooting there. He could make anything happen and get us anywhere with a phone call or handshake. He was amazing. Book smart has to be the scientists and astronauts I had the privilege of working with so many years during the shuttle launches and landings – real life rocket scientists.

SW: You only get one question for your dream interview. What do you ask and to whom?

JG: Really unfair to limit me to just one question. Jesus would be my first choice, but if it has to be someone who is a part of the current news cycle I think I would select Pope Benedict and the question would be Why? (Fidel Castro would also be very high on the list – ok you asked for one, I gave you three!)

SW: What’s your favorite thing to do in New Orleans?

JG: Other than watch Scott Walker on WDSU?? It’s always great to get the chance to hang out with family and friends when I get back. And it’s outside the city, but I’m a water guy so I really like climbing into a boat to go fishing or skiing.

Follow Jay on Twitter: @jaygraymatters

Five Questions With Actor and New Orleans Native Wendell Pierce

Wendell PierceMy goal will be to do one of these “Five Questions” interviews every week. If you know someone interesting who you think should be featured, email me. We kick things off with a great first guest: New Orleans native Wendell Pierce.

Wendell Pierce, a graduate of Ben Franklin High School and the Juilliard School, is an accomplished actor with a great love for the city he calls home. He grew up in Pontchartrain Park and will soon open a new chain of fresh food grocery stores in the New Orleans area. Pierce’s recent TV credits include roles in HBO’s The Wire and Treme. In 2011, he played a police detective in Horrible Bosses.

While battling the flu, Pierce was able to answer…

SW: What is it about New Orleans that makes its natives so passionate and ready to defend the city against anyone who dares to challenge it?

WP: There’s no place like home. At times we go too far and can’t hear constructive criticism, but it is a love of the place that made you who you are. It’s where your loved ones are. The people that connect you to your past, and will most likely be there for your future. That’s precious and we are protective of that.

SW: With Treme’ coming to an end, what’s next on your radar?

WP: I have a movie out now called PARKER with Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez. In France I’m in a movie called MOBIUS. This fall I’ll be on NBC in a new show with Michael J Fox. More importantly, I open STERLING FARMS on March 26 at Lapalco & Ames, new fresh food grocery store chain.

SW: If you could have 10 minutes with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you talk about?

WP: That changes all the time: Michelangelo (prolific), Ida B. Wells (courageous), Anton Checkov (creative), Martin Luther King Jr. ( spiritual genius) but ultimately Jesus Christ. He had the greatest impact on the world, whether you believe or not.

SW: When you have to get out of town, where is your “go-to” place?

WP: If I told you that then it wouldn’t be my “go-to” place. Ok, it’s a small island in the Bahamas. 10 bungalows on a 3 mile beach. Perfect getaway.

SW: What’s your favorite snoball place/flavor?

WP: Grape flavored “Huck-a-buck” in a Dixie cup from my own freezer.

“Five Questions” Debuts Sunday Night

5 qs stackThe first installment of a new feature called “Five Questions” will debut tonight here on SWTV.

I plan to post the interviews weekly (or more often) and talk to interesting people in news and entertainment using — you guessed it — just five questions. I have several top-notch interviews lined up and will kick things off tonight with a great guest — Treme star and New Orleans native Wendell Pierce.

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