Outside, it was Denver and the Democratic National Convention, but inside the Fillmore Auditorium on Sunday night, just a few miles from the Pepsi Center, it was pure N’awlins — the music, the food, the drinks and even some of the accents. James Carville’s, for instance. The "Ragin’ Cajun" Dem operative, who never backs down from a political fight with anyone, had in a rare moment nothing political to say.
"This is about having a good time, eating good food and listening to good music for a good cause," Carville said.
That cause was his hometown of New Orleans, which, three years after Hurrican Katrina roared through, has not yet fully recovered from the devastation.
The music — dubbed an "All-star Jam-Balaya" — featured some of the Crescent City’s best talent, including Allen Toussaint, Cyril Neville, Tab Benoit, Marva Wright, Waylon Thibodeaux, the Meters and the Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indians, among many others.
Proceeds went to two organizations that are leading the efforts to rebuild the city — Friends of New Orleans and Heroes of the Storm.
Officially, the party had nothing to do with the big Democratic Party confab, except that Gloria Dittus, one of the planners, figured that having the bash during the convention would help elevate the cause to national attention. A similar event is planned for Minneaplois-St. Paul next week, when the Republicans throw their convention.
"I wanted to make sure that people did not forget about New Orleans," said Dittus, chief exec of her PR firm FD Dittus Communications as well as a board member of FONO. Dittus and others agreed that staging benefits in conjunction with the two conventions would be smart.
From the looks of the turnout, it was. Hundreds, possibly thousands of convention-goers crowded the Fillmore, an almost 100-year-old venue in a funky stretch of Denver (many tattoo/piercing parlors and the occasional adult bookstore amid other nightclubs in the area).
CNN’s Anderson Cooper dropped in. "I try never to miss an opportunity to visit with folks of New Orleans," he said. "And the music is just incredible."
Also in the VIP section: Christy Hefner, daughter of Playboy mag founder Hugh and the CEO of Playboy, Inc. "Gloria and I are longtime friends," Hefner said, "and New Orleans is really Amerca’s city. This is a chance for me to be supportive and to recognize that the job there is not finished."