Smiley: The circus reporter

The death of the gifted political writer John Maginnis brought back many memories, starting with his days on Gris Gris, the lively alternative weekly that covered the youth culture in the ’70s, and rock music especially, better than any other publication in Baton Rouge, including this one.

John even encouraged me to try my hand at gonzo journalism in the pages of Gris Gris.

But there was a lot of solid reporting in the weekly, and even then John showed his interest in the Third World politics of Louisiana.

Prolonged exposure to bodies like the Louisiana Legislature might cause cynicism and despair in some observers, but John had the even temperament and sense of humor that enabled him to thrive in that environment and present clear-eyed reports that kept his readers informed and sometimes even entertained.

You could tell from his writing that he cherished his ringside seat at the circus.

In this day of shrill partisanship, John’s even-handed reporting was both welcome and valuable.

It seems every journalist and politician in the state has penned a tribute to John Maginnis, so I won’t add more — except to say that I thought of him as a nice guy who loved his job and did it well.

And I can’t think of better epitaph than that.

A well-bread sandwich

“As my dear and loving wife can attest, I am a grumpy old man,” says Tom Ashby.

With that introduction, he goes on to comment on an item in the Tuesday column about local names for sandwiches:

“I’ve got to take exception with anyone equating a po-boy (or poor boy) to a hoagie or a sub. As you well know, a po-boy is made with delicious French bread — not those overgrown hot dog buns they use in those other concoctions.”

And Tom’s not through yet:

“While I’m venting my spleen, I’m also tired of people referring to internal combustion engines as ‘motors.’ Motors are electric.

“And lastly, children are ‘reared’ and crops are ‘raised.’”

Land of Louis

After a reader told of being taught in school that Louisiana was named for Louis XIV and his wife, Anna, and I questioned that version of history, we heard from William Perret, of Metairie:

“Thank you for correctly noting that Louisiana was named ‘La Louisiane’ for King Louis XIV.

“His mother was Anne of Austria. Neither of his two wives was named Anna.

“That myth about ‘Queen Anna’ has been around too long. Let’s get rid of it for good.”

And John LaCarne corrected me after I said Anne of Austria was the wife of Louis XIV:

“Queen Anne was his mother. His wife was Maria Theresa of Spain — and, some historians say, later, secretly, the Marquisa de Mainton. (One of his many mistresses was named Anne, though.)”

Bogalusa history

Betty Albritton says the dairy a Slidell reader asked about in the Friday column was C.A. Stewart’s Dairy in her hometown of Bogalusa:

“I still remember milk in glass bottles being delivered to our door.”

And Mike Haley says, “Another fixture in Bogalusa was Red Bird Ice Cream Co., owned by J. H. ‘Jesse’ Cutrer, one of the journalism students who was dismissed from LSU by Huey Long for writing a critical article/editorial.

“It, too, is no longer here.”

Inquiring Minds Dept.

Kenneth Hugh says, “I have two American flags that are no longer presentable, and have been unable to find an organization to give them a proper retirement. If any of your readers can help, they can contact me at hugh.kenneth@yahoo.com.”

Thought for the Day

From Roy Pitchford, of Monroe: “I wonder why any business would expect me to buy a product or service they advertise in an ad that pops up while I’m trying to read a news story on the computer.”

Mystery words

Ernie Gremillion dedicates this little story to “the late Brother Donnan, my high school English teacher in the early ’50s at Catholic High:”

A high school English class is meeting for the first time.

The teacher is explaining protocol for the class, and announces that there are two words that will not be permitted to be used in class.

The teacher says, “These words are ‘cool’ and ‘awesome.’ ”

After a short pause, one of the students asks, “Well, are you going to tell us what the words are?”

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.