Remembrances: The Fat Pack

Nettie DeAugustine; Audrey Fusco; Rick Garman; John & Fiona Hoskins; LeeAnn Lambright; Steve Mirkin; Wesly Moore; Diana Schwam; Robin Sherwin; Chuck Taggart; Suzanne Zumbrunnen

Chuck Taggart

From Frommer’s New Orleans
New Orleans should come with a warning label.

No, no, not about hurricanes. Forget that. That’s like solely identifying San Francisco and Los Angeles with earthquakes. No, this is about the city itself. See, there’s this group of residents whom locals call the “never lefts.” They are the people who came to New Orleans as tourists: came for Mardi Gras, came for Jazz Fest, or just came. And the city worked its magic on them. They listened to street musicians around Jackson Square. They danced to brass bands in clubs at night. They gazed at lush tropical courtyards hidden behind unassuming building fronts. They strolled down streets time seemed to have forgotten. They kissed beneath flickering gas lamps. They ate incredible meals and topped them off with beignets at 3am at the Cafe du Monde while watching the passing human parade. They found themselves perusing newspaper ads for houses and apartments, because as their trip’s scheduled end date came and went, they were still in New Orleans. They came for Mardi Gras, came for Jazz Fest, just came — and never left.

New Orleans does that to people.

Nettie DeAugustine:
Mary did that to people, too.

We have just a few minutes to say what can’t aptly be conveyed in hours or days – but in our feeble attempt to prepare some words for today, we all agreed on one simple expression that became manifest:


Nettie DeAugustine:
Our stunningly brilliant, brilliantly stunning Mary is gone. And as we were upon first knowing her, we are inexorably, unconveyably altered.

It was New Orleans that initially brought the core group of us together, but it was Mary who kept us together.

Several of us knew each other peripherally, but the original Fat Pack (so named after a lurid tour of Vegas fine dining and grinding, establishments instigated by – surprise! – Mary) actually coalesced on a Trailways bus.

We sat across the aisles, scattered rows apart. But after three days of touring swamps and prairies of the west Louisiana, the aisles were crossed, a new confederacy was created, and we had formed the rudiments of our treasured family of friends – since expanded – but with Mary at the crux, then as now as always.

Diana Schwam:
We were moths to her flame, mere chips in her cookie, and need we say, pigs at her trough. But oh, what a trough – of intellect and inspiration, gastronomy and guffaws. Deep, soul-rocking guffaws.

To take the food metaphor well beyond where it ought to go yet again, she was – our gluten. Oh yes, she and Steve plied us with copious chocolate, bacon and grace. But that was gravy. She was our passionate, pure-hearted, chewy nougat center.

As Miss Maudie said to Scout, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. Oh Mary, Our Mockingbird, you sang your heart our for us, and we love you beyond comprehension.

You have left this world and become a dream, and there is a gaping, unfillable hole in the fabric of our lives. Know that, like those enduringly seduced by New Orleans’ charms – of whom you wrote so eloquently, we are your own never lefts, and you are, forever, ours.