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PARISH CHIC: On the Treme Set

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David Simon probably thought I was stalking him, but I was just doing a favor. This January, I ran an errand for my sister, Rahsaana Ison, who worked in the same building as Simon. I waited outside, near the locked doors, looking a bit lost and out of place. Simon, co-creator of HBO shows The Wire and Treme, walked up and was very helpful. I completed the favor, drove around the city, and returned two hours later. Now Simon was exiting the building. “I hope he doesn’t think I’ve been here the whole time,” I thought. I decided I didn’t care, approached him, and delivered my thirty-second pitch. Parish Chic hadn’t yet debuted, but I asked to photograph the cast members. Simon gave me HBO’s number from memory and the name of a person to contact.

The first time I ran into Simon was in March 2009; I was an out-of-work journalist with two degrees, repairing houses with my best friend, Shawn Colin. We climbed roofs, took naps, painted, knocked down walls, ate lunch, and cracked jokes—it was one of the best jobs. For several days in Central City, we worked on a house about two doors down from the Treme crew, who was filming a scene for the first episode. (It was the opening scene of the show, when Rebirth Brass Band takes a second-line break in Gigi’s Bar.) Members of the crew asked us to stop hammering, but never offered work-stoppage money. We finally relented. I roamed on set and stood next to Simon and even made suggestions—I wanted to be a part of the show.  

This April, I was an intern in the Treme writers’ department. Film offices are very casual, and for my interview I wore blue and white seersucker pants, a white shirt, a navy blazer, and a bow tie. Afterwards, Lolis Eric Elie, a story editor on the show and OA contributing writer, sent me an e-mail: “Your sartorial splendor has been noted. As a FYI, nobody dresses up around here. Or I should say, seldom does any one dress up around here.”

Filming lasts at least twelve hours a day; being fashion forward is not a priority. Working in the office and visiting the set inspired me to tell the stories of people involved with the show, beyond just the actors: style stories of crewmembers and other supporters who would not appear in magazine spreads, but had plenty of fashion sense to do so.

 


 

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Wendell Pierce is a grocer, a tireless advocate for New Orleans and its culture, and an accomplished actor. Of the many characters he’s played, Pierce likes the style of one in particular the most. “I got to give it up to Bunk,” Pierce said, referring to Bunk Moreland, a detective he played on HBO’s The Wire.

Personally, Pierce likes French cuff shirts, so he can accessorize. His suits are tailored with the classic one and a half inch cuff. And he has a penchant for pinstripes. “For a big brother like me, it helps with slimming.” He wears Bruno Magli shoes for comfort, and said he sort of lacks appreciation for style—he is not collector of things. “But my bohemia is a part of my style, the fact that it is free flowing,” Pierce said. “It’s inventive, it’s improvisational, it doesn’t always work, but the fact is my style comes from my love and appreciation for the moment.”

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Trevor Tufano, “B” Cam Second Assistant Camera, and Colin Scherr, electrician, shooting inside the kitchen of Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn). Tufano said the long hours don't bother him. “I feel like my style has originated from my past: places I've lived and people I associate myself with,” he said. Tufano started out shooting skate videos as a teenager, and it has been a major influence in his interest in film production: “Skateboarding is a big part of my life. I consider it an art form.” As for his work fashion, Scherr says: “I guess my style on set is designed around function. Because of the long hours, you want to be comfortable. But you can look good doing that.”

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The Red Stick Ramblers, Annie T’s band. From left to right: Blake Miller, Chas Justus, Glenn Fields, Eric Frey, Linzay Young, and Daniel Coolik. The band got the gig backing Annie from an appearance on No Reservations on the Travel Channel, on an episode called “Cajun Country.” The band played and cooked for David Simon and Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations and a writer on Treme. Months later, Treme called. 

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Beau Harrison, on-set prop master. “It’s not so much that I care about my appearance as much as I just like to wear stuff that I like. I couldn’t name a single inspiration, but I can say I’ve always liked a simpler look with just a hint of style.

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From left to right: Kevin Gazdik, electric department; Morgan Davis, Hilton Garrett III, and Kendell Joseph are all grips. “We started this a while back, wearing ties on the last day, which on most shoots would be a Friday,” said Joseph. “We call it Tie Day Friday.”

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Morgan Davis (left). Tommy Lohmann (right), “A” Cam Op/Stedicam: “My style is based on comfort and function, and off-set I am more casual, unless going out for an evening, where I prefer James Perse.”

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Samantha Beaulieu has appeared as a supporting actress on the show. Beyond Treme, she hosts a radio show, The Weekend Jump Off, on WBOK, and next month she is appearing in a stage play, Lilly’s Revenge, for Southern Repertory Theater.

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Lucia Micarelli, who portrays Annie, concedes that “maybe a little” of her characters style has rubbed off on her. “Im definitely more open to girly dresses than I used to be,” Micarelli said. “And Annie is a boho-layering queen—very practical for running around town all day.” Micarelli describes her personal style as very classic. Her wardrobe is not huge, and she tends to wear a uniform, especially when traveling a lot for work. Micarelli’s uniform includes “jeans, super-soft drapey tees, cashmere sweaters, and a leather jacket if it’s cold.”

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Micarelli studied violin at The Juilliard School of Music for seven years, released two albums, and toured as a featured soloist with Chris Botti and Josh Groban. A native of Queens, New York, she said she didn’t realize how incredibly varied and broad the music scene was in New Orleans until she was immersed in it. “Every style and genre imaginable is available somewhere in the city—all squished up right next to another style or genre,” she said. “Kind of perfect, really.”

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Wendell Brunious (Suit: Jones New York; Shoes: Florsheim Shoes; Shirt: Donald Trump; Hat: Steve Harvey)

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Delfeayo Marsalis (Suit: Alfani; Tie: Dion; Shoes: Cole Haan; Shirt: Thomas Pink; Socks: Bloomingdale’s) Delfeayo Marsalis appears on Treme with his big band, the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, who play every Wednesday at Snug Harbor. Being clean (well-dressed) always puts me in a good mood, said Marsalis, who was named a Jazz Masters with his family by the National Endowment for the Arts. Style is a form of individual expression, much like improvising a solo. Some folks play it safe, some go out on a limb, but either way, it's nice to be seen, clean. (His second look: Suit: Kenneth Cole; Shirt: Thomas Pink; Socks; Bloomingdales; Shoes: Cole Haan; Tie: Countess Mara.)

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Lance Nichols portrays Larry Williams, the husband of LaDonna Batiste-Williams (Khandi Alexander). 

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Chris Hannah, bartender at Arnaud’s French 75. He played a bartender on the show this season and contributed three recipes to the Treme cookbook. Hannah was named New Orleans Bartender of the Year for 2012. The bar has been named one of the Top 25 in America by GQ magazine. The bar was also a quarterfinalist for the prestigious James Beard Award.

With the exception of his Aidan Gill bow ties, he gets everything from yard sales and thrift shops. He usually shops at Miss Claudias, The Garage, lower Decatur, and finds good shoes at the Bridge House. “I like old clothing styles like I like old cocktails,” Hannah said. “It’s natural to make these drinks and dress like I do.” 

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Lolis Eric Elie is the story editor and a writer on the show. He’s also the author of the forth-coming cookbook Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans. (Shirt: Ted Baker; Suit: Zegna; Tie: from Daffy’s in New York; Hat: from a shop on Royal Street.) “I like classic cuts with unexpected twists—a bold pattern here, a bright color there. Or perhaps unlikely juxtaposition of the new and the vintage. I don't have a particular syle inspiration. Still, you can't help but look at old pictures from the 1950s and feel nostalgic for a time when dress was a point of pride.”

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Nadiyah “Skyy” Taylor worked as the Department of Transportation compliance PA. Of her fashion choices she said, “If I see someone else wearing it, I don’t want it.” 


 

A photo assistant is like a caddy in golf, providing a second pair of eyes and hands, and, most importantly, a calming influence.

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Shawn Colin, who I wrote about in Seersuckered in Three Acts, assisted me on one of the shoots. He also took this photo of me and Wendell (below) from 2006 at Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke.

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I've known Clifton Faust for years, and he's one of the smartest and most easy-going people I know. He assisted with the Wendell Pierce shoot.  

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