Lakeside is no place for laughing, comrade!

For Frank Evans, designer of Lakeside Shopping Center’s holiday display, getting into the spirit of the season this year meant building a Christmas village that riffed on the post-Katrina landscape.

He created a winter wonderland replete not only with churchgoers and trains, but also abandoned refrigerators, houses covered in blue tarpaulins and a storm victim suspended from a helicopter.

Shoppers paused to enjoy the tongue-in-cheek cheer. Some of them did, anyway.

Evans, a landscape architect who has crafted the display for 13 years, removed some of the 2005 features Tuesday on orders from mall management, which said some patrons failed to see the joke. Tricia Thriffiley, Lakeside’s marketing director, issued a statement saying that the mall did not “conceive or install” the decorations and did not intend to “hurt anyone’s feelings.”

Yes, New Orleanians have been through a lot in the past few months: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Despite that, we’d be well advised to rediscover our collective sense of humor–and fast–unless we wanna spend our remaining years downing wee fistfuls of Prozac, Paxil, and Wellbutrin.

Luckily, a friend of the Minx managed to snap a few pics at Lakeside before the priggish powers-that-be took down the aforementioned display:





24 Comments so far

  1. Craig (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 8:40 am

    It’s indeed sad this display was altered. For a lot of folks these days, humor is all that’s standing between reality and madness.

    My releases have been laughter, food, drink and writing in this blog. And seeing the pics of this display gave me one of the biggest laughs I’ve had in months.

  2. Richard (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 8:51 am

    This doesn’t bode well for Mardi Gras.

  3. richard (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 10:20 am

    Well, I don’t know that this has much to do with Carnival. Carnival is a social occasion–it’s about going to balls and parties and hanging out on the neutral ground with the same folks year after year, catching a few beads.

    The thing at Lakeside, on the other hand, is not a social event. In its own, folksy way, it’s an art installation, designed to elicit some kind of critical response–happiness or anger or whatever.

    Hopefully, the fact that the display elicited displeasure from the management of Lakeside won’t have any effect on anyone’s willingness to down a couple of six-packs on Fat Tuesday, waiting for Rex to pass by….

  4. nathalie (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 10:53 am

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think children need to rehash images of desperate stranded people being airlifted at Christmas.

    And while I think the pumping station bit is sort of funny, it’s I still think it is inappropriate in a place where children go to take thier picture with Santa.

    I noticed that the houses even included the spray paint used to note that the house had been inspected and seached for bodies. What I want to know is, what was the total body count was for this winter wonderland display?

    I’m all for poking fun at our tragedy, and I respect the art of comedy, but we can do better than this.

  5. Tyler (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 11:59 am

    I have to say, what I find brilliant about the display is that it combines two traditions: the mall Christmas display (however old that is) and ‘Day of the Dead’ type iconography. That’s wonderful–and it feels *very* New Orleans.

  6. Chad (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 12:38 pm

    we need not be reminded of the devastating pictures that are forever ingrained in the minds of everyone.

  7. Aaron (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

    I completely disagree – we need to be able to laugh at it – to deal with it. We will not be able to deal with a tragedy of this level by suppressing it. I enjoy being able to talk about what is on my mind the majority of every day. Censor yourselves if you want to, but don’t censor everyone else.

  8. jonno (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 1:40 pm

    While the sight of stranded people dangling from helicopters may indeed be “forever ingrained in the minds of everyone”, things like blue tarps and discarded refrigerators and visible water lines and spraypainted notices on the sides of houses are still very much a part of the everyday New Orleans landscape three months after the storm – so the argument that we don’t need to be reminded of any of these things is rather specious, don’t you think?

    (And good call on the Day of the Dead iconography, Tyler – see also this piece by NO artist Scully Elly.)

  9. Z (unregistered) on December 1st, 2005 @ 7:25 am

    Most of the people I’ve talked to thought the display was funny and in a way showed that even in a disaster Christmas survives.

    The only consistant complaint was that the helicopter rescuing someone from a rooftop was not a great idea. But if you’d removed that one piece, it would not have made a great impact on the entire display.

  10. JJ (unregistered) on December 1st, 2005 @ 11:54 am

    When I originally read this story yesterday, I saw a picture of the infamous refrigerator with “You loot, we shoot” painted on it. But I can’t find it today. If anyone saved it, would you email it to me? My dad is big into model railroads and would love to see it.

  11. MJ (unregistered) on December 1st, 2005 @ 5:37 pm

    Here’s the story on CNN: Homeless for the holidays Katrina display draws ire. JJ, I think that’s the fridge image you are talking about except it’s kinda small and hard to read. Brilliant!

  12. bj (unregistered) on December 1st, 2005 @ 8:30 pm

    When I saw this on the internet I thought it was a true showing of Louisiana humor. Yes, it was a tragedy, I am also from New Orleans, but we need to laugh. Brillant idea!
    You ought to make these and sell them individually.
    Could do without the helicoper,but the trash, and houses are a hoot!

  13. dillyberto (unregistered) on December 1st, 2005 @ 10:15 pm

    The mall is an escape for many. An escape to the ‘normal’ world of shopping. While I belly-laugh at this looking through the window of the Internet, I go to the mall with my wife, mother, and grandmother. This brings back some ugly realities to mind. We should appreciate the point that Lakeside is our mall. Let’s have some respect for ourselves and our region. As a teen we all thought some really stupid thoughts and tried some really inappropriate things. It is time to bring out the best in one another. We need it from each other for each other.

  14. BR (unregistered) on December 1st, 2005 @ 11:47 pm

    Having been an area manager at D. H. Holmes @ Lakeside in the 80’s, I encountered a brutal crowd of shoppers – killers – of which I am sure the desenters descended from. Of all the Katrina coverage I have read in the last three months, aside from the refrigerators, this was the funniest, most natural expression of New Orleans humor I had seen. I was afraid this typical dark humor was forever lost. I have laughed all day, searching for more photos of the display.

    How sad, the killers that didn’t get the joke. Attention, New Orleans, you better do a lot more of this or your case for existence will be voted away by Congress. The wagons are circling in America to ignore New Orleans out of being.

    Frank Evans is an internet star today. This story is going around the world. Do the killers have a better story to keep the plight of Katrina in the news? I doubt it.

  15. tom (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2005 @ 11:12 am

    “c’est levee” is the kdv theme
    some things are so serious that it helps to laugh.

  16. Nathalie (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2005 @ 5:51 pm

    Talking to a manager at a retail location in Lakeside this afternoon, I was told that the display is going to be restored. I guess all of the media attention has people coming to see what all the hoopla is about.

    Reminds me of the Andrew McCarthy/Kim Catrell 80’s flick “Mannequin.” Defending the department store’s shocking window display that drew gawking crowds, the store owner (Estelle Getty) said “if the come to looks, maybe they’ll stay to buy.”

  17. BR (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2005 @ 11:27 pm

    As if Lakeside has a reputation to maintain. I remember whe I was a kid, there were no public bathrooms. One had a take a leak at D. H. Holmes. On the second floor. God forbid if Holmes was taking inventory. You had to got between cars and pee. Remember the video games at every post? Ladeside is one of the strangest malls in America and also one with incredible sales per square foot.

    The folly of malls is that they are not town centers, they are commercial establishments praying to the altar of higher and higher sales.

    Rather than live up to a better potential, it succumbs to the bitter few.

    God is ironic, destroying New Orleans and leaving Jefferson Parish intact. And the West Bank!

    If Lakeside wanted to do the right and smart thing, it would make this display bigger and draw more attention to the plight of SE Louisiana. Better than than the increasing silence of America to the “situation” in the NO metro area.

    Jefferson Parish really cannot exist without a solution to the whole problem of all of the levees. But it is being written off by the country as a bad investment. As I heard recently in a restaurant in Atlanta, “Why would anyone spend the money to rebuild a city below sealevel?” I wanted to pop him, but I was with others and what would I have accomplished? The Ingorant Overclass is everwhere in America. and, unfortunately, they vote. And these are the peole who voted for Georgy-boy and friends. The “conservative” opinion is that funds will never be appropriated for the repairing of the levees. The forces for this action are brewing in Washington right now. The United States is now a nortern province of Latin America. And we thought politics in Louisiana were bad. The US political landscape is worse!

    Beware, they are quietly writing you off. Three more years! Speak loudly and clearly!

    The spirit of New Orleans is what is represented in this little Christmas display. It is what I most miss about New Orleans and what I know is at the heart of any reunion of spirit. Please don’t let the spoilers squash it. Your future depends on it. You will have to fight for every inch of height on those levees. There are spoilers everwhere. Without a concerted effort to get your due, there is a FEMA office that is trying to close you down. The ball is really and only in your court. Demand attention based on the largest engineering disaster in American history. Yes, bigger than the Johnstown, Ohio flood, but equally as sinister. And equally as negligent. Be yourselves or you will be devoured by these locusts. And insist on the right to exist in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes. If not you are doomed. Your “replublican” friends are writing you off as we slumber. Wake up and respond!

  18. drury (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2005 @ 3:48 am

    Hey Richard,

    Thanks for posting the Lakeside Shopping Center photos. I’m sure that will be one of the few Christmas displays that people remember for years to come.


    PS And have a GREAT opening (your site server sent my email back).

  19. jonno (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2005 @ 1:21 pm

    from today’s T-P:

    – – –

    Mall’s Katrina spoof back by demand
    Flood of e-mails, petitions get results

    – – –


  20. Laurie (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2005 @ 6:46 pm

    What I wanna’ know is did he remember the coffins popping out of the ground or floating.

    An occassional skeleton?


  21. joe (unregistered) on December 9th, 2005 @ 10:22 pm

    should of had little dead bodies floating around in the snow. That would’ve been cool.

  22. LeAnne (unregistered) on December 12th, 2005 @ 3:22 pm

    I saw a refrigerator on esplanade yesterday that was painted like an x mas tree and says “Ho HO HO” on the side of it! My neighbor accross the street put some lights around his front yard fridge. It is the reality of christmas in nola this year. People are decorating in between cleaning and working! Children are living in houses with blue roofs.

    Mardi Gras will be wonderful and people will really have a nice local fat tuesday celebration. Halloween was pretty funny. I saw two women dressed in red sequin dresses and hurrican symbols painted on their faces (Katrina and Rita); a woman dressed like a BEE was actually a “Refubee”; Mold costumes, FEMA guy costumes, People dressed as fridges and other appliances, people who made hats to look like Blue Roofs; etc. New Orleans is still here, and New Orleaneans are still using the spirit and culture, and music, and satire, and even sarcasm to work through the day to day experience. So if your still out there, come on back. I have a friend who bought a dry wall machine, he’ll help ya! Another who bought a Bobcat, etc. People are here cleaning, rebuilding, working together..but we need more to finish this job. Don’t get caught up in the beurocracy and think you have to wait to get money from FEMA to get started…come back so we can have some good old fashioned neiborhood barn raisings! No one is going to push us out of existence!

  23. Sally (unregistered) on January 3rd, 2006 @ 6:04 pm

    Humor is the most important quality you need now. Don’t be sad, believe in destiny and everything will be alright. I hope.

  24. Alexa (unregistered) on February 14th, 2006 @ 8:56 pm

    I visited the display on New Year’s Eve, where the designer and builder of the Blue Roof Christmas village, Mr. Frank Evans, commissioned me to make photographs for him. We chatted for some time and I was impressed with his sense of humor regarding the turn of events surrounding the little memorial. Many more people praised the display than condemned it, a true testament to our area’s residents’ courage, optimism, and fortitude.

    Upon seeing the developed photographs, I was astounded to see all the tiny details that I overlooked when I visited the mall. An incredible amount of intricate craftsmanship and love went into every facet. Did everyone notice Quasimodo hanging onto the church’s bell tower? What about the people standing in line to use the Port-O-Lets in the amusement park area? Or, the very well-crafted Roman Candy wagon? Nearly every minute detail was included. Mr. Evans is a true artist.

    I just hope he remembers to give me photographer credit when he uses my pictures in his book (my speculation)!

    Thanks to all who are helping rebuild this great city and the entire Gulf Coast.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.