When we graduated from Tulane University in 1985, we beelined for Manhattan – Bryan to become an actor and Katy to live the life of a creative. Having grown up in a place so steeped in tradition and history, New Orleans was going to be hard to top. New York City seemed like the logical next step and the world was our oyster.
KATY: I convinced my parents that this was my "graduate" school. Maybe I wasn't going to leave with a lot of money, but I was planning on earning my PhD in all things stylish and creative. I landed on Seventh Avenue at the height of the 80s, learned the fashion industry, and freelanced as an interior design gal-Friday every chance I could get. Oh...and I saw my friend Bryan in play after play.
BRYAN: Performing on Broadway was my dream, which meant leaving the security of New Orleans and family connections – I was green but determined. Of course, the Beach, which my grandfather founded, was never far from my mind. Once, while I was rehearsing a workshop of a new show with Elaine Stritch, the choreographer's assistant ran up to me with a crazed look in his eyes and started reciting every possible fact about the Zephyr roller coaster and Pontchartrain Beach. At the end of his dissertation, he asked me why it closed. I joked, "it may be my fault; I wanted to be an actor."
Fast forward to the millennium. With aging parents and the inevitable tug home, we longed for a chance to spend more time in New Orleans – this time as adults. Short visits turned into longer visits until there was no denying – this was our place.
BRYAN: Once I was back, I was stunned by how many people wanted to talk about Pontchartrain Beach. Strangers would come up to me to tell me their stories and memories. When my first book about my mother came out, I was deluged with "why don't you write a book about Pontchartrain Beach?" The plan was hatched.
KATY: There's something about having a certain amount of accomplishments behind you or maybe it's turning fifty or maybe the process of losing your parents, but we started to look at our parents and grandparents with a very different eye. We were really thinking about where we're from – genetically and spiritually – and how we wanted to give back. With the Tricentennial in sight, we took the plunge. We knew that if we didn't tell these stories, they would be lost forever.
In a collection of personal stories, rare photographs, and memorabilia, we present this portrait of a bygone place and time. It's definitely a New Orleans story like no other.
This article appeared in our Fall 2018 issue.