Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Southern Trinity….what the heck is this!

This last week in New Orleans was AMAZING, inasmuch as I had the opportunity (thanks to Tales of the Cocktail, Fee Brothers, THE Hotel Monteleone, and to Antoine’s Restaurant to experience the completion of the third leg of the THIRD trinity of my life, i.e., the Southern Trinity (a trinity that has really affected, moved, and humbled me). In that magnificent city of New Orleans, the true “heart and soul” of our country, the third leg of the Southern Trinity, the third trinity of my life was most importantly completed. Growing up a good (well kinda) Catholic boy, raised under the outstretched arms of Touchdown Jesus (tough schedule this year but we’re getting better), I was moved early on, by my first of the three fundamental trinities of my life, the Holy Trinity ( the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit), and it has had a fundamental spiritual effect on me throughout my life. I have strayed numerous times, but they have always been there to drag me back from any spiritual abyss. Truly a humbling, yet most valuable, Trinity. The second “Trinity” of incredible effect on me personally was my culinary “trinity.” I realized a little later in my life that cooking was something that really soothed me, gave me great joy, and was the great equalizer…. All of my good looking, single friends at the time may have had the looks, but I could cook, baby, and THAT was a real equalizer! And, while I was really coming into my own culinarily, I was in Louisiana, and thanks to a number of cooks and chefs there, I was introduced to the culinary “trinity” of Louisiana…onions, celery, and green pepper in equal parts. In that regard, I would acknowledge that there are slight variations, but I realized early on that THESE three ingredients were almost always a critical part of most of my culinary adventures. Now, for those who do not have a passion for cooking, you may think… “REALLY? You consider THAT trinity profound?” That’s okay, it’s MY “trinity,” and I am stickin to it! If you have a passion for cooking, I am sure you will understand. Throughout my career, both politically and in radio, I have had the opportunity to meet an unbelievable number of truly GREAT people: President Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II, Daniel Boulud, and so many others… Each of these luminaries were certainly great in their own way, but, may I introduce you to the THIRD trinity of my life, my Southern Trinity: Silky Sullivan, Jim “JB” Brenner, and Yvonne Alciatore Blount Davis, three VERY different people, but in some important ways so very similar. Most importantly, having met the third member of the “trinity” this past weekend in her (and her family’s) longstanding and wonderful establishment (Antoine’s Restaurant), I knew that this was a special group, a true “trinity” if you will, that I am proud to have recognized, and honored to have been welcomed into. The roots of my Southern Trinity began innocently enough thanks to a mutual friend of ours (TV/Movie producer/director Ed Richardson, of Atlanta), who happened to be in attendance at our Mardi Gras show at THE Hotel Monteleone this year. Ed was kind enough to introduce us to “Memphis in May,” and most importantly, Silky Sullivan, and from there the Southern Trinity was beginning to form. Honestly, I thought this was just going to be another fun show weekend… I had no idea then that this would be the start of a three month period that would conclude with the formation of the third trinity of my life…that of the Southern Trinity. My first contact was with THE KING OF MEMPHIS, King Silky Sullivan, a man who took a humiliating situation in his life to start a career of restaurant/night club building in the charming Southern city of Memphis. Then, through hard work, GREAT PROMOTIONS, and great passion, King Silky (with his ability to surround himself with great people like his manager Dennis and so many others) turned his humble club into an iconic destination place, “Silky O’Sullivan’s” ( Such greatness brings many challenges to the “Crown,” and such challenges have cropped up in great abundance over the years, but ALL have paled (and many have failed) over the last forty years. Such an ongoing record of success has been due in large part to Silky’s overwhelming charisma, charm, drive, pride, and most importantly a marketing and promotional mind (even as the King would readily admit the debt he owes to the laser like business acumen and discipline of his indispensable wife, Joellyn). King Silky is unlike ANY person I have ever met. TRULY the other KING of Memphis!!! (May I add that Silky’s kingships are likely more numerous, and greater, than perhaps any human being ever, and I am sure that Guinness should know of him!) In that context, I would suggest that just being in his presence reminds me that a GREAT promotion can truly bring GREAT results: i.e., the kind of results that would make even the great P. T. Barnum a student of King Silky! During that same Memphis in May weekend, I shared the King’s “round table” with a true Southern gentleman, possessing an extremely bright and keen mind (as evidenced by his lifetime membership in Mensa); while also being an excellent writer; an historian of the Civil War, extraordinaire; and a Kentucky Colonel. [Commissions for Kentucky Colonels are bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to their community, state, or the nation.]“JB” shares many thoughts, challenges your mind, and allows you to defend or present your thoughts in a truly Southern gentlemanly way. At the same time, he can regale you with his historical and current thoughts, and as a true Irishman, he does so with GREAT stories that drive a point home in a fun and informative way, always providing you a “point to ponder” moment.… His opinions are never presented in an offensive way, and are ALWAYS presented in a fun, educational, and informative way that makes you feel better and stronger just sitting in his presence. “JB,” James Brenner, is a true gentleman, and a Scholar of both the South and of Ireland, the likes of which I have never met. Finally my “Southern Trinity” was completed this last weekend in the meeting of a true Grande Dame, both of New Orleans’ cultural and culinary scenes, and even more importantly, the Grande Dame of the Puck Fair Goat Festival in Killorglin, Ireland (one of the oldest and most prestigious festivals in all of Ireland!) This amazing soul, Yvonne Alciatore Blount Davis, also happens to be the owner (and the Grande Dame) of one of New Orleans’ most prestigious, well-known, and iconic dining establishments, i.e. Antione’s Restaurant. I had the pleasure to dine as a guest of Yvonne’s at her private table, and then was honored to have a historical/restaurant tour on which she joined us, while adding wonderful stories relating to the historical pictures and memorabilia showed to us by our server and tour guide extraordinaire, “Bradley.” When in the presence of this extraordinary Grande Dame, one realizes what true CLASS really means. With her stylish apparel, her classic “Duke/Duck” [walking stick] by her side, combined with her lilting Southern drawl, Yvonne regaled us with amazing stories of her family’s rich culinary history during the last three centuries. Likewise, she spoke with pride of her father’s, her son’s, and her immediate family’s involvement in maintaining and growing this iconic place to even higher heights, despite the extensive damage inflicted by Katrina. Her delightful narration was presented in a way that, much like their oysters Rockefeller (prepared with NO SPINACH, and actually invented at Antoine’s by Yvonne’s father), or the amazing baked Alaska, you simply begged for more. In providing this informative narration, Yvonne’s intelligence, her charm and wit, her drive and passion (and, yes, a little of her impishness) are clearly present at all times. This amazing package is wrapped in gentility that few have ever witnessed a charm that will lilt you, and an infectious, wondrous, laugh that just engulfs you in happiness…. Upon reflection, it suddenly hit me: this truly represented my Southern Trinity completed…. Silky Sullivan, James “JB” Brenner, and Yvonne Alciatore Blount Davis: i.e., the closest of friends, soul mates, children of the South, and of Ireland; but most importantly, part of a unique “trinity” that took me YEARS to find…my Southern Trinity. This magic moment, the culmination of three meetings of three extraordinary people, HUMBLED me…. I have been able to sit at their ROUND tables and be treated as an equal, never an outsider. I now await the day when the Southern Trinity again forms as one around one table of great food, great drink, and (most importantly) GREAT stories of past glories, and glories yet to come! When that day comes, this humble co-host hopefully will be given a seat and I will report as best as I can…but quite possibly not EVERYTHING that will undoubtedly be carried on during such an enjoyable event. The reasons I write this blog are many: to let these special people know how special they really are, both singly and collectively to me; a reminder to me how fortunate I am to be able to call them friends; and a chance for me to introduce all y’all that reads this to a special Southern Trinity that LIVES and exists…no myth! Like these great people above have done for me, now I challenge YOU to take a moment out of your life, to think of YOUR “trinities,” and think of those three unique things that came together at a time (probably when you least expected it) to affect your life in some similar way. I think this would be what JB might consider a “teachable challenge, suh!” i.e., a challenge that will afford you the opportunity to think, remember, and remind you of very special moments, people, or heck, just ingredients that have had a profound effect on YOUR life! My wish for each and every one of you is that YOU find YOUR Trinity, and that you realize it, embrace it as completely as I have, and that you have the same rich, warm, humbling experience as I have enjoyed (and am enjoying still!) And, if you do, your life will likely be profoundly changed, touched, moved and humbled…. THANK YOU my Southern Trinity….thank you from this humble media person’s heart [“Forever your servant Suhs, and Ma’am”]. One final note: Please do not consider this exposition of “my three trinities” to be in any way a disparagement, or a lack of appreciation of other GREAT moments, or relationships, that I have enjoyed so much in my life… My Sycamore High familia, my NOLA friends, and my Atlanta and Ireland friends most certainly all continue to hold special places in my heart. Nonetheless, trinities are so VERY few, and VERY moving, that they are indeed deserving of the unique status in which I hold them…in my own very humble opinion. My thanks to you for reading my tale, and in every good way, may the Trinity be with you!