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Where it all began

Customer freebies: Where it all began

It was almost 40 years ago that freebies entered the world of New Orleans commerce.

For the first time, you could get a small appliance for opening an account at the newly-minted International City Bank (ICB), housed in the former United Fruit Building at St. Charles and Union streets, with its pair of carved-stone cornucopias spilling an abundance of fruit over the entrance. The bank was smart and spiffy, and it literally spilled over into the Moroccan splendor of the ground floor of the adjacent Masonic Temple building. It winked at the conservative Whitney National Bank, at the time the standard-bearer for Uptown New Orleans, catty-corner just a block away.

It was an awkward Meeting of the Courts, with a Comus heading ICB and a Rex chairing Whitney. There was no toasting, just the free toaster oven that the ICB chieftain's diminutive French wife touted as a nouveau monde of browning bread in your home.

With the newspaper wars heating up in New Orleans as The Advocate snares new writers and The Times-Picayune launches a tabloid, digital news is beginning to feel a bit old-fashioned. Soon the city will be awash in newspaper boxes at every corner -- perhaps with some that swivel 90 degrees so you can read the headlines in the upcoming TPStreet tabloid without cocking your head to one side or the other.

ICB is long gone, and Whitney is now part of Hancock Holding. But we'd best get ready for a slew of special offers as the competing news sources face off. Here's my own tongue-in-cheek guidelines to possible customer incentives from each journal.

  • With a six-month subscription:
    The Advocate: A free appetizer at Galatoire's
    Times-Picayune: Lunch with Nell Nolan in the Rex Room at Antoine's
  • Annual subscription:
    Times-Picayune: A front-page obituary by John Pope for yourself or a family member
    The Advocate: Choice of office space in their building in the former Jimmy Swaggart complex in Baton Rouge or a weekend escape at the Travel Inn on Airline Drive.
  • Two-year subscription:
    The Advocate: A week of activities for your children at the Coleman family's Jimmy Club Day Camp in St. Rose
    Times-Picayune: The chance to play Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol as you clean the plate-glass windows in NOLA Media Group's spiffy new aerie atop Canal Place
  • Five-year subscription:
    Times-Picayune: Dinner with Steve Newhouse at The Four Seasons in New York's iconic Seagram Building
    The Advocate: Dinner with John Georges at Morton's steakhouse on the ground floor of Canal Place, 31 stories below the competition's new offices
  • Ten-year subscription:
    The Advocate: View the next Super Bowl in New Orleans with the Georges family
    The Times-Picayune: Opening night at the Metropolitan Opera with the Newhouses

With many fearing that journalism in New Orleans is going to the dogs (sorry, Clio and Pandora), it may be the city's dog owners who determine the outcome of this internecine battle.

Our stash of vintage TP doggie bags

Our stash of vintage TP doggie bags

When The Times-Picayune resumed full print publication after Hurricane Katrina, I advised a company executive that the new marketing slogan should be, "Your favorite poop bag once again comes with a newspaper in it."

It remains to be seen who will use the highest-quality plastic bags for home delivery. In recent years the T-P's bags have gotten thinner, more prone to break when you -- you  know -- lean down to pick up something.

I recently came across several bags from the glory years of plastic delivery sheaths, with the newspaper's name emblazoned around the bottom in that distinctive neo-Gothic typeface.

I want a publication that gets its hands dirty as it probes the realities of life in New Orleans -- but one that also keeps my hands clean.

How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.

 

How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.