Nell Nolan: Quarter Connections

Fiesta and Festival underscored two Vieux Carre-based activities that had people swanning and swarming. The loveliness of the Spring Fiesta queen and her court, as well as the homes that were open for visits, harked back to a gentility of yore in a present light. The multi-faceted gentility (and its darker shades) of lore was made manifest during the 28th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, which ran for four official days.

n Spring Royalty

After the delights of a long debutante season and Carnival excitement, (such as appearing as a maid in one of the first official old-line courts, The Caliphs of Cairo), Miss Clerc Higgins Cooper wore a crown. She reigned as queen of the New Orleans Spring Fiesta Association. Clerc, pronounced Claire, is the daughter and stepdaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Harrison Cooper and the stepdaughter and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy Lemann.

All eyes turned to her during her various peregrinations in her monarchal gown: An Enzoni design, it had two layers of overlaying floral lace, a lace bodice, and a bolero of the same material.

Among the many applauding her — several in from afar — were the family of her mother, who also answers to Dr. Leslie Higgins. They were Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin Guider and children Bill, Olivia and Ben; Mrs. John J. Evans and children Elizabeth and John; Darrell Higgins; and Anne Foley. Others smiling with pride were stepmom Helen and dad Henry Cooper; Cynnie James with cousin Mally James and her children Walker, Patrick and Mary; Kate Prechter; and Karen and Erston Reisch.

The maids to queen Clerc were Misses Jennifer Anne Christiansen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Leon Christiansen; Megan Daniel Exnicios, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Joseph Exnicios; Alaina Mille Gagnard, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Glenn M. Gagnard; and Caroline Elizabeth Ponseti, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Matthew H. Ponseti. They were escorted by their fathers, except for Miss Christiansen, for whom Dr. Willard Kenneth Mann Jr. took the lead.

Little Miss Keegan Clare Marchese, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Marchese, was the court demoiselle, and, as jewel bearers, little Misses Ella Grace Frischhertz, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roy E. Frischhertz III; Callie Anne Langhetee and Allison Lesley Langhetee, daughters of Dr. Henry P. Langhetee and Ms. Wanda L.Theriot; and Anna Grace Stenstrom, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jason M. Stenstrom.

After a French Quarter walking tour in the morning and an early-afternoon presentation of the queen and court in Jackson Square, a parade titled “A Night in Old New Orleans” took place in the French Quarter en route to the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street for the gala. Decorated parade carriages, 15 total, and six antique cars lined up on North Rampart and St. Ann streets to accommodate the “Old South’’-attired riders, who handed out fresh or silk flowers to appreciative onlookers. All the while, “unbelievably gorgeous weather” as described by a Spring Fiesta principal, accompanied the entourage.

At the Sheraton, spring flowers bedecked the tables, where guests sat for the formalities. The Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra played, and as royal-redux lagniappe, Kara Mann, the 2010 SF queen, performed vocals with the band. A jazz singer, she belted out such tunes as Irma Thomas’ “I Can’t Break Away.’’

Sighted, too, were SF board members C.J. Blanda, Rhonda Laizer, Laurel Reid, Barbara Richmond, Lynette Stilwell, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Childress, and former presidents Kelly Thibeaux and Tyra Treadway. They are already looking forward to “A Night in Old New Orleans” gala on Mar. 21, 2015.

Meanwhile, queen Clerc will relish her monarchal moments.

“I had a splendid day reigning…, enjoying the gorgeous weather and fine company of my court, family and friends,” she added about the thrilling honor of wearing the crown.

n A Tennessee Tribute

And it was to playwright Thomas Lanier Williams, (later Tom and then Tennessee), son of “a shoe company executive and a Southern belle,” Cornelius Coffin Williams and Edwina Williams, that 13 Vieux Carre locations held assemblies to tout and remember him. Tours, talks, drama, master classes, etc. occurred during the 28th festival.

“A Cocktail Buffet Honoring 2014 Festival Speakers and Donors’’ rallied VIPs to The Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street with special thanks to the Collection’s executive director Priscilla Lawrence and manager of administrative services Kathy Slimp. From the host venue came board President Drew Jardine and spouse Julie, senior curator Mark Cave, and director of museum programs John Lawrence, Priscilla’s husband and a TW/NOLF board member.

Milling about THNOC’s luscious Counting House courtyard and partaking of punch on the patio (with thanks to Hendrick’s Gin) and the Chez Nous Catering buffet in the elegant gallery (where the fest’s eight master classes took place) were TW/NOLF Janet Daley Duval, board president and the shouting contest’s Stella, and husband Judge Stanwood Duval, executive director Paul Willis, festival founders/former board presidents Errol and Peggy Scott Laborde, Bev and Butch Marshall, Patricia Brady and Michael Ledet, Mimi and John Koch, Peggy Wilson and Gordon “Tad,” Pat and Lee Mason, author Zachary Lazar, Maureen and Bill Detweiler, and acting director of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Miranda Restovic and husband Ronald Markham.

And, siblings Dickie Brennan and Lauren Brower of Tableau restaurant, who hosted a reception; screen star/director/author Diane Ladd and husband Robert Hunter; Foster Hirsch, who interviewed Ladd; Judith Chapman, the Vivien Leigh incarnation in “Vivien”; actor Jeremy Lawrence, whose one-man portraits of Tennessee Williams always astound; and musician/author Thomas Sancton and Sylvaine.

Literary luminaries included Lauren Lippman, Valerie Martin, Robert Bray and Elizabeth, and scores more.Nearby, and at Le Petit Theatre days later, Ellen Johnson, and Patrick and Sharon Talley were in a full matinee audience for the NOLA Project’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” At the Art Klub on Elysian Fields, folks, such as the above Peggy and Tad Wilson and Christine and Price LeBlanc took their seats for Southern Rep’s now-extended “The Night of the Iguana” (also by Williams) and, at the curtain’s close, applauded heartily.