American Press: Your Best News And Advertising Source - Scene Features American Press: The Only Local Daily Newspaper In Southwest Louisiana. en-US Copyright (c) January, 2017 American Press. All rights reserved <![CDATA[Melania Trump wears sky-blue cashmere Ralph Lauren ensemble]]> By The Associated Press

First lady Melania Trump wore a sky-blue cashmere jacket and mock turtleneck dress by Ralph Lauren, the brand that designed so many Hillary Clinton pantsuits, on Inauguration Day.

"It was important to us to uphold and celebrate the tradition of creating iconic American style for this moment," the Lauren corporation said in a statement.

With her hair in a soft updo and wearing long, sky-blue suede gloves and matching stilettos, Mrs. Trump was greeted at the White House by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, the latter in a red short-sleeved dress with a matching coat.

First daughter Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, chose white Oscar de la Renta and wore a tiny American flag pin, and Hillary Clinton showed up in a white Ralph Lauren pantsuit that harkened back to one she wore to accept the Democratic nomination for president in July. Her overcoat matched the ensemble. Tiffany Trump also opted for white and wore a double-breasted coat.

Who else made a large fashion statement for Trump's big day? His senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, in a Gucci military-style wool coat of red, white and blue, with two rows of cat-head buttons and a red cloche hat. She described her look as "Trump revolutionary wear." Others likened it to uniforms worn in "The Nutcracker" ballet.

Mrs. Trump's look prompted comparisons to a fashion icon of the past, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She wore a powder-blue outfit with a matching pillbox hat to John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:50:59 CST 13586302 at
<![CDATA[Imperial Calcasieu Museum exhibits Joan of Arc photographs]]> Special to American Press

The Imperial Calcasieu Museum’s latest exhibit, “Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc,” contains large-format photographs with inscribed quotations taken by photographer Alex Labry during his journey through France.

The project was inspired by several creative works — specifically, Leonard Cohen’s song “Joan of Arc”; George Bernard Shaw’s play “Saint Joan”; and Mark Twain’s novel “Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc.”

He said he planned to deconstruct the myth surrounding her, discover who she was, and explore and question the human characteristics that seemed to be missing.

But he said he discovered that the myth was too powerful a challenge.

“Personal Reflections” is about the questions and the statements revealed to the artist along his journey.

The pieces in the exhibit are designed to raise awareness of “The Maid” who saved France from British rule.

The title of the exhibit is a tribute to Mark Twain, who wrote and published “Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc” in 1896.

“I like Joan of Arc best of all my books, and it is the best; I know it perfectly well,” Twain said.

“And besides it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.”

The exhibit will be on display through March 4.

The museum offers free school tours for Calcasieu Parish students at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; curriculum guides will be available for teachers prior to their scheduled tour.

To schedule a tour, contact the museum at 439-3797 or

Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $2 for children, and free for students and museum members.


Fri, 20 Jan 2017 08:27:43 CST 13585668 at
<![CDATA[Solange Knowles headlines progressive 'Peace Ball']]> By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The main attraction, Solange Knowles, didn't hit the stage until close to midnight, but the 3,000 or so enthusiastic guests packed into the National Museum of African American History and Culture weren't going anywhere.

It was an energetic crowd at Thursday's "Peace Ball," an evening organized by progressive activist Andy Shallal, and part of the so-called "alternative" programming surrounding the inauguration. The evening, which also featured jazz singer Esperanza Spalding and a dance party, was quite different from the official pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, which was heavy on country music.

Guests at the Peace Ball included actors Danny Glover and Fran Drescher. Glover addressed the fact that although the event was described as a nonpartisan celebration of successes in recent years in areas such as health care, climate change and marriage equality, the room was filled with people unhappy with the results of the election.

"We can't just sit and lick our wounds," Glover said. "Our work is cut out for us. We have to make some hard choices."

One guest, Lucinda Ziesing of Camden, Maine, expressed her own alarm over the state of the nation in a particularly colorful way: She wore a gown made of red plastic strips, all emblazoned with the word "DANGER." On her head was a laurel wreath of black plastic.

Ziesing said she wasn't at the ball to protest President-elect Donald Trump so much as to advocate for attention to issues of deep concern to her: the environment, women's health, and civil rights, to name a few.

Organizer Shallal joined many guests in expressing the hope that President Trump would be responsive to all, not just those who voted for him. "I hope he will listen to all Americans — not just one side of America," he said.

Trump himself, speaking at the conclusion of the Lincoln Memorial concert earlier, pledged to unify the country, saying he aimed to "make America great for all our people, for everybody."

But he also made sure to repeat the story of his unlikely victory, saying: "I can only tell you this, the polls started going up, up, up, but they didn't want to give us credit because they forgot about a lot of us. Well, you're not forgotten anymore."

Performers at that concert included Sam Moore, who sang "America the Beautiful;" country singers Lee Greenwood and Toby Keith; and the bands 3 Doors Down and The Piano Guys. Broadway singer Jennifer Holliday was not there; she had backed out after an outcry from Trump critics, which she says included death threats. Several other artists were reported to have declined.

Curiously, Trump said that a Lincoln Memorial concert hadn't been done before. In fact, several presidents have staged concerts there, including Barack Obama for his first inauguration, when the lineup featured Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, U2, James Taylor, Jon Bon Jovi and many more — plus readings by actors like Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 07:46:12 CST 13585610 at
<![CDATA[The Velvet Pig: On a mission to nourish Southwest Louisiana with fresh, local food]]> By Lindsay Huth / American Press

One of the central tables at the Cash and Carry Farmers’ Market is named for a dog.

Nicole Butler always joked that if she ever started a restaurant, it would bear the nickname of her chunky, silky canine, the Velvet Pig.

And when she set up her Thai-Cajun-French eatery in Austin over two years ago, the title stuck.

Originally from southwest Louisiana, Butler first relocated to Austin to pursue French culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu.

She started the Pig using recipes and skills from the organic Thai restaurant in South Austin where she served as sous chef.

Her additional courses in Cajun cooking lent her food a Louisiana flair—and called her home.

She now sets up shop at the Cash and Carry Farmers’ Market, which runs each Tuesday from 4-6 p.m.

The location there allows for one-on-one interaction with customers and places her amongst the local, ethically sourced ingredients her food spotlights.

“I’m in love with the farmers’ market,” Butler said. “And as a chef focused on local food, I wanted to walk what I talk.”

Her passion for the natural and organic stems from a culinary school instructor who taught about agriculture’s industrialization and its consequences for food, health and society. And the philosophy aligned with her Louisiana upbringing—her father hunted and fished, and her mother gardened.

Her team of four caters its food toward dietary restrictions, too, as 90% of the ever-rotating dishes are gluten-free, and many others are vegetarian or vegan.

I lined up on Tuesday at 4 p.m. sharp to sample several.

The menu that day featured three hot entrees, plus egg rolls, ready-to-freeze veggie burgers and two flavors of vegan, gluten-free muffins. Entree prices are $7-10 for a healthy portion.

As soon as I cracked open my to-go containers, the aromas of the Thai style chicken rice—and its the lime soy chili sauce—wafted up. The chicken, flavored with ginger, cilantro and garlic, lay atop a bed of jasmine rice, which was cooked in the chicken’s stock. The accompanying sauce provided freshness, tang and spice all at once, and I had to clear my plate.

I next tried the Moroccan roasted vegetables, which spotlight golden beets and daikon—a Japanese root vegetable—from Inglewood Farms, a local operation with a neighboring farmers’ market stand. Organic cauliflower and red and sweet potatoes rounded out the dish. All were coated in a perfectly balanced red bell pepper chili sauce—a slightly sweet concoction with a definite bite.

I rounded out the meal with Butler’s take on traditional Massaman curry, a mild Thai-Indian crossover made with coconut milk. The Velvet Pig’s included hunks of organic sweet potatoes and cauliflower and long onion strips. The result was aromatic and gingery and utterly delightful.

Fans of the food can make it themselves, too: Butler teaches monthly cooking classes at the Majestic Hall at Walnut Grove. Participants cook—and then eat—one of seven different menus, each featuring three dishes.

The next class, on Feb. 11, features spring rolls, crab cakes and beef bourguignon—plus a surprise dessert.

The Velvet Pig also caters for local events, and Butler is currently solidifying plans to sell pre-made meals at gyms and fitness centers.

And just yesterday, Butler headed to Arizona to pick up a food trailer, which she’ll park outside the Crying Eagle Brewery on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings to serve up favorite dishes. Once the trailer launches, customers can order through food delivery app Waitr, too.

These varied exploits are all in service of one goal: nourishing Southwest Louisiana with fresh, local food—and educating people about its importance.

And in that mission, Butler should consider me a success story.

Learn more or sign up for class, visit The Velvet Pig on Facebook.

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:03:53 CST 13583071 at
<![CDATA[Beethoven, Bingo and Bubbly: LC Symphony fundraiser is Saturday]]> By Lisa Addison / American Press

There’s still time to grab tickets to the Lake Charles Symphony’s 5th annual champagne bingo fundraiser, “Beethoven, Bingo and Bubbly,” which gets under way 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday at the Lake Charles Country Club.

Shelly Appleby, executive director of the Symphony, said, “I think our guests will be happy that we’ve made a change and will be serving a sit-down lunch which means they no longer have to wait in line at the buffet. We’ll also have even more fabulous bingo prizes and in addition to our usual prizes we’ll also have a gift card tree.”

Music will be provided by the Barbe High School Buccaneer String Orchestra.

The lunch menu includes cucumber and tomato salad, cheese and fruit, chicken with artichokes and mushrooms, rice pilaf, green beans, bread and mini bistro desserts.

After lunch, there will be eight games of bingo called by Joseph Frazier and prizes donated by local businesses will be awarded to winners including a special prize for the “blackout game.” Door prizes will be given out between games.

“We’ve always had great prizes and some of them from past years have included things like great jewelry pieces, beautiful ceramic serving platters, and hotel stays at Golden Nugget and L’Auberge du Lac Casino & Resort,” said Appleby. One of this year’s prizes is a painting by Eddie Mormon that was commissioned for the event.

Proceeds from the event will be used for the Symphony’s educational and outreach programs, in which free Symphony concert tickets are provided to students K-12, concentrating on at-risk schools.

Tickets are $50; reserved half-tables of four are $200; and a full table of eight may be reserved for $400. Sponsorships are available for $500 per game and corporate sponsorships are available for $1,000.

Appleby said a limited number of tickets will be available at the door.

For tickets or information, call (337) 433-1611 or visit

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:03:51 CST 13583070 at
<![CDATA[Harlem Globetrotters bring show to Civic Center]]> By Lindsay Huth / American Press

The Harlem Globetrotters will showcase their signature dunks, tricks and laughs at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan, 25, at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

The 90-minute, family-friendly show will feature the team’s comedic brand of basketball — shooting from the stands, dunking backwards and spinning the ball on fans’ fingers.

In December, the team introduced a 4-point line marked 30 feet from the basket — six feet, three inches past the top of the NBA’s 3-point line.

The 91-year-old troupe helped popularize the original 3-point line, along with the slam dunk and alley-oop, in the professional sport.

“We’ve always had such a different brand of basketball,” Globetrotters guard Herbert “Flight Time” Lang said.

Lang starred on his college team at Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport, where he currently resides. Before joining the Globetrotters, he won the 1998 College Slam Dunk Championship, and his dunking prowess earned him the moniker “Flight Time.”

The Globetrotters draft players from colleges and through mini-camps and slam dunk contests. Players refine their skills each year at a two-week training camp in Atlanta.

“People would be surprised how much basketball we do play,” Lang said. “You have to be able to hit those shots.”

Lang’s signature trick involves throwing the ball up and catching it on the back of his neck before catapulting it into the net.

And last month, his teammates set nine Guinness World Records, including the longest hook shot and the most 3-pointers in one minute.

Lang, a native of Brinkley, Ark., — population 3,005 — has traveled to 90 countries and every state during his 18 years with the Globetrotters. He also competed three times on CBS’s “The Amazing Race” alongside his teammate “Big Easy” Lofton, and he spun the ball on the finger of Pope Francis, now an honorary Globetrotter.

Lang said he values those interactions with fans, and each Globetrotters show concludes with a 20-30 minute meet-and-greet session with audience members.

The Globetrotter jobs involve community work, too: just last week, Lang visited an elementary school and children’s hospital in Shreveport.

“We recruit more than basketball players,” Lang said. “They have to be good people, too.”

The Globetrotters reaches more than 2 million fans each year and will have played more than 25 games in 2017 before showcasing their skills in Lake Charles.

Tickets start at $21 and can be purchased from Ticketmaster or the Civic Center box office.

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:02:49 CST 13583069 at
<![CDATA[Reception honoring 'Joan of Arc' photographer is tonight]]> By Pamela Sleezer / American Press

A new exhibit will open today in the Imperial Calcasieu Museum that will feature photographs inspired by the legendary story of Joan of Arc.

“Alex Labry: Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc” is an exhibit featuring large-format photographs taken by the New Orleans native. A free special reception in Labry’s honor is set for 7:30-9 p.m. tonight in the Gibson-Barham Gallery, 204 W. Sallier St.

The reception will provide visitors with a first glimpse of the exhibit that gallery executive director Susan Reed believes will intrigue all viewers, regardless of age.

“I think that adults who know the story of Joan of Arc will enjoy viewing the pieces, but also school-aged children who are just learning about history will be able to take something from this as well, I think,” Reed said.

Ticket prices to view the exhibit after tonight’s reception will be $5 for adults and $3 for children and senior citizens.

Reed said the exhibit allows Labry the opportunity to return to his home state after building up an impressive career in Texas.

For the past 35 years, Labry has lived in Austin, after graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Arts in photo journalism in 1984. The recipient of numerous honors, Labry completed graduate school in 1991 with a Master of Fine Arts degree in photography.

He went on to serve as director of photography for the Texas House of Representatives from 1996 to 2003, and from 2001 to 2006 he taught digital photography at St. Edward’s University.

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:00:40 CST 13583066 at
<![CDATA[Foreigner's Tom Gimbel: Still hot-blooded]]> By Emily Fontenot / American Press

The iconic 1970s band that brought us “Hot Blooded,” “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Feels Like the First Time” will perform at Golden Nugget Casino’s grand event center Friday, Jan. 27, at 8:30 p.m.

A member of Foreigner for over 20 years, guitarist Tom Gimbel said he never tires of playing the band’s signature songs.

“There’s something about each one of them that really holds my interest after all these years,” Gimbel said. He described the band’s style as “raunch rock with a touch of sophistication.”

“It’s not all guitar and rock and muscly grooves,” Gimbel said. “There’s some real finesse songs, too, like ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You.’”

He said Foreigner blends hard rock with rhythm and blues in the tradition of bands like The Beatles and Pink Floyd, providing the audience with a dynamic live-show experience.

He said the audience can expect to hear all the hits and a variety of songs from the newer albums. He’ll be playing guitar, keyboard and singing at the Friday show. He said the band will be well-rested from the holiday break and “ready to rock” on Friday.

Joining the band on stage for “I Want To Know What Love Is” will be the Sulphur High School choir, and Foreigner will donate $500 to the choir in return. The choir will sell Foreigner CDs at the concert to raise funds for Foreigner’s charity partner, The Grammy Foundation, which supports keeping music education in the public school system.

Gimbel said the cause is close to his heart.

“I love the music school system,” Gimbel said. “That’s where I learned so much.”

The band’s latest CD package, a three-disc set titled “Feels Like the First Time,” will also be on sale at the event.

Tickets can be purchased at

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:59:38 CST 13583065 at
<![CDATA[NBC renews hit drama 'This Is Us' for 2 more seasons]]> By The Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. -- NBC's hit freshman drama "This Is Us" will be sticking around for at least a couple more years.

The network said Wednesday's that the show's success has earned it a two-season pickup, with at least 18 episodes per season.

The family drama is proving a success with the advertiser-favored young adult demographic and has drawn critical praise.

"This is Us," about the intersecting lives of a variety of characters, includes Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia and Sterling K. Brown in its ensemble cast.

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:49:49 CST 13581676 at
<![CDATA['Birds of Opulence' author wins Gaines literary award]]> By The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- When author Crystal Wilkinson of Kentucky learned she won the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, she said she reverted to her 12-year-old self, shrieking and squealing with glee.

"I am over the moon," Wilkinson told The Associated Press about winning the nationally acclaimed prize for "Birds of Opulence," her novel exploring generations of troubled women in the fictional Southern black township of Opulence.

The Gaines Award and its $10,000 prize were created by a philanthropic group, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, to recognize outstanding work by rising African-American fiction writers. The 54-year-old winner is Appalachian writer in residence at Berea College in Kentucky and will be presented the award Thursday in Baton Rouge.

Her first novel-length work, "Birds of Opulence" follows several generations of women of the Goode-Brown family who are plagued by mental illness, illegitimacy and the embarrassment that ensues. As younger generations watch their mothers and grandmothers die, they fear going mad and fight to survive.

"This gives me a huge boost at this point in my career," Wilkinson said. "It gives me huge confidence to know that I can do the next one and the next one and the next one."

Originally from the small community of Indian Creek, Kentucky, Wilkinson earned a journalism degree from Eastern Kentucky University in 1985 before embarking on her literary career. Many of her works have garnered critical acclaim.

"Blackberries, Blackberries," a collection of short stories, won the 2002 Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature. "Water Street," another short-story collection, was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award and the U.K.'s Orange Prize for Fiction.

"There are lots of awards out there, but not one better fitted to me," Wilkinson said. "I've loved Ernest Gaines' work so much and for years have thought of him as one of my mentors."

The award honors Gaines' extraordinary contributions to the literary world.

A Louisiana native, Gaines wrote the critically acclaimed novel "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," one of four of his works that were adapted for films. His 1993 novel "A Lesson Before Dying" won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

Now 84, Gaines said he was glad that writers such as Wilkinson have emerged to keep themes about rural life in the forefront.

"You know, that's the world I write about and have always written about," Gaines said. "Now, people who come around years from now will be able to reference those different lifestyles in our works. Not everyone lives in the big city."

Gaines downplayed the recognition of having a literary award named after him.

"I think those kinds of things should be named after you when you're dead," he said, laughing. "My job is just to write. If the award gets more people to read more books, that's great too."

Wilkinson said her future absolutely involves more writing.

"My sort of romantic view is that I would live in a farm house somewhere and just write. I'm sure I will continue to teach, but I also want to get the other works I'm working on out into the world," she said.

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 15:05:54 CST 13581167 at