First Logo, Circa 1998
In recognition of its 15 year history, Where Y'at invited several past employees to look back and give an account of their time working for the magazine.
Michael Jastroch, former Editor
Where Y'at magazine was my first job right out of college, and I'll always be grateful to Josh for giving me—a naive NOLA newbie—a shot at the big time. Josh doesn't get enough credit for kicking ass and building something from nothing.
Where Y'at was my first and hardest lesson in the eternal struggle between art and commerce. Art won some battles. Commerce won some others. And somewhere in the DMZ, we produced some pretty decent issues. Some things I'm still proud of: the final photo shoot and interviews with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Earl King. All of the bands and events that we were the first, and only, people to write about (Ponderosa Stomp, among many many others). I'm also pretty proud that many of the writers to whom I gave their first jobs are now successful professionals.
Mostly, I'll remember the good times I had with Michael Dominici, Michael Hurtt, Ira Brooker, Romney, Noah Paise, Seale Paterson and others—shooting the shit, making fun of terrible press packets and even more terrible CDs (remember those?), and eating deadline pizza. I don't get to hang out in rooms full of people with angry opinions about art anymore, and I miss it.
Josh and I argued often, but always out of respect and a desire to do what was best for the magazine. There are two arguments that I lost around 2003 where the passage of time proved me correct. I feel a compulsion to do this, Josh, but it's only because I love you. First, I notice the new logo is very similar to the one I submitted 11 years ago (cough). Second, I notice that the website has been substantially upgraded. Does that mean I was right when I predicted the slow death of print and the necessity of having a strong web presence?
All right, you nuts. Look me up if you're in Austin.
Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone, former Food Editor
Once in a lifetime, and only if you’re very, very lucky, there comes along an opportunity that not only changes the path of your career, but who you are as a person. It enriches you in ways you’d never imagined; awakens a passion you’d never been able to identify before; introduces you to worlds you hadn’t dreamed existed.
That was what being a part of Where Y’at was for me.
The phrase “an honor and a privilege” is such a cliché, but it truly does describe the amazing experience of manning the post of food editor for this magazine. Despite the accomplishments and awards I’ve gone on to achieve after leaving my beloved Big Easy, it is still that title that I’m most proud of.
My stint with WYAT began with a copy-editing gig, filled with long nights and short weekends of reading other people’s writing. It culminated in face-to-face interviews with culinary legends; tasting sprees at the finest institutions this delicious city had to offer; invitations to the most awe-inspiring events of the time; personally signed cookbooks from celebrity chefs I was fortunate enough to meet; and a robust portfolio chock-full of cover articles, Food News columns, and feature pieces I’ve clipped and kept through the years and the many miles to New York.
This experience has helped me grow both personally and professionally. As food editor, I tried new things, met new people, and began to see my own personal history in a new light. I grew up in a restaurant kitchen, and it was something to be ashamed of. But when I entered WYAT’s world, it became a point of pride—an insider’s perspective in a magical world, where joy in degustation is pure and unfettered, and all things are possible. Here, I finally became a writer, finally embracing who I was at my core…all because this magazine believes in giving chances, rewarding gumption, and chasing dreams in a city built on them.
The chance to write regularly for WYAT was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It defined who I became, revealed my career path, and gave me some of the most memorable moments of my life to date. I will always be eternally grateful for the wonderful memories and proud to have been on the masthead of one of New Orleans’ most fun, informative publications. So thank you, WYAT, for changing my life. Congratulations on 15 great years, and may there be many, many more.
Michael Dominici, former Music Editor
I had a great experience writing for Where Y’at Magazine. I came on board when the original editor, Jamie Bernstein, invited me to write about music. Luckily, this was just before the end of the millennium, and I was able to feature a large spread about my favorite recordings of the century! Writing about Yma Sumac, The Fall, Leonard Cohen, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, the Minutemen, James Brown, the Meters, and the Wild Tchoupitoulas in one article was something that I remain proud of to this day. That spirit continued with our crackerjack crew, which included editor Michael Jastroch, Ira Brooker, and Michael Hurtt; especially during Jazz Fest season, when we'd be wired for endless days and nights putting together our jam-packed issues illuminating eclectic picks from Olu Dara to Liz McComb, Sam Butera, Blind Boys of Alabama, and Christian Scott...who we first wrote about when he was still a tween. Also quite proud of our in-depth coverage of the Ponderosa Stomp. WYAT was the only local magazine that featured in-depth coverage of the amazing event at the time. Another thing I was quite proud of was our amazing cover photographs of musicians. We had a great shoot with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown where he was perched upon his massive, immaculate convertible Cadillac. Another memorable cover featured a dazzling shot of guitarist Jonathan Freilich taken by Jeffrey Pounds that had all these streams of light that created an electric aura. Fantastic. And of course, my all-time favorite cover had Earl King practically jumping out of the frame with his guitar! One last humorous note. I got called out for my “scathing” review of a popular local band's CD by several fans one night. I came home from a long night of work at Clancy's, only to find three screaming messages on my cell phone demanding that I head over to the Maple Leaf Bar to “defend myself!” I called back the main protagonist and asked him if I would get my ass kicked if I showed up. He assured me that I wouldn't, so off I went. Sure enough, I was accosted for a good three hours (!) and ended up hanging out with the producer of said recording until the sun rose. It was Easter Sunday and the streets were populated by well-dressed churchgoers...surreal.
Keith Adler, former Account Executive
Although my time at Where Y'at was short, I enjoyed the opportunity to sell a product that required some (and many times a lot of!) education to be delivered about the magazine and its purpose. In its infancy still, it was often a challenge to sell advertising to those who had never heard of Where Y’at. I often told them that it was an easier-to-read, younger/ hipper version of Offbeat, and less political than the Gambit, with better channels of distribution. People enjoyed knowing that there were new alternatives to the other publications, which often fell short on the overall reading and information delivery experiences. Since then, I have enjoyed seeing the management team continue to grow the brand to its firm position it holds within our city's fabric, and I look forward to many more years of Where Y’at to come.
David Vicari, original and current Film Editor
I joined Where Y'at magazine in 1998 during its second issue. John Carpenter's “Vampires” was the first movie I reviewed, and I gave it favorable notice. However, because the magazine was still in its infancy, the actual printed review didn't turn out too well, for it was riddled with errors. But things improved greatly from there.
Throughout my years of reviewing movies, I would sometimes get letters from readers that, well, had an impassioned difference of opinion concerning my reviews. Back in 2001, I gave a negative review of David Lynch's “Muholland Drive,” feeling that the film fell apart in its final act. I was told in a letter that I didn't get it, that the story was all a dream, and that I should go get a job at Home Depot. Although I am a fan of Lynch (“Blue Velvet,” “The Elephant Man” and “The Straight Story” are brilliant films), I still don't care for “Mulholland Drive”. It was originally a television pilot for ABC but was rejected. A French company gave Lynch funding to expand it into a feature film. To me, it just seems Scotch-taped together, especially because of the “dream,” and also because of several unresolved story threads.
In 2004, I reviewed Mel Gibson's graphically bloody “The Passion of the Christ” and Bernardo Bertolucci's sexually frank “The Dreamers” in the same issue. “Passion” received a positive review, while “The Dreamers” did not. Fan mail accused me of saying that violent movies were fine but sexuality in cinema wasn't. That's not true at all. I just didn't like Bertolucci's film. The performances felt stilted and its politics came off as preachy and simplistic. That same letter referred to me as a “Bush-loving Republican”. By the same token, months later I gave an overwhelmingly positive review of Michael Moore's “Fahrenheit 9/11,” to which an angry letter to me at one point stated, “as Liberal as you must be...”
So, to each his own. I do invite healthy debates, and in fact, our other Where Y'at reviewer, Fritz Esker, and I sometimes partake in “dueling critics” write-ups. I've very much enjoyed sharing my opinions on cinema for all these years. I hope you enjoy reading them.