Actor Dan Ackroyd with New Orleans jeweler Anne Dale honor responders
NEW ORLEANS — It took three days of awards luncheons for the House of Blues to honor all the first responders who helped during Hurricane Katrina.
Actor Dan Aykroyd and Chief Peter Dale of the Harahan Police Department on Thursday helped applaud the various police, fire and emergency management personnel from multiple Louisiana parishes in The Parish Room.
“I was most impressed by the commitment and the unequivocal duty that you, the first responders and your families, gave to your communities. So this is our way of saying thank you,” said Aykroyd, an investor in House of Blues Entertainment Inc. “There is no place like New Orleans in all of America, so there is a great affection in my heart for it, and I was most concerned, as was the rest of the world, during the whole catastrophe and then afterwards. We’re so glad you are all here.”
“Every one of you here today are the ones who saved the city, who got it back,” said Dale. “I realized during and after Katrina that when the chips are really down in this metropolitan area, there are no parish lines, no city lines, everybody just went where they had to go and did what they needed to do. I’m very proud to have served with all of you, much less command some of you, and there are plenty of people alive today because of the people at these three luncheons.”
Commemorative “I Love New Orleans Badge” pins and pendants designed by Dale’s cousin, Anne Dale of Anne-Dale Jeweller in Mandeville, were given to the first responders and their families. Then Aykroyd launched into a rendition of “I Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans.”
“… The place where I left my heart or something like that,” sang Aykroyd, eliciting one of several big laughs from the audience.
Aykroyd and Dale grew to be closer friends post-Katrina, which the former “Saturday Night Live” star mentioned in his trademark deadpan.
“We’ll be seeing ‘Brokeback Mountain’ together after this,” Aykroyd said to laughs.
Dale also recognized Aykroyd’s efforts to lend a hand to the city.
“After the storm, Dan called us and asked us what we needed, and brought us down a tractor trailer full of boats, motors, generators, lights, sleeping bags, dry clothes and food that he bought himself,” said Dale. “We brought him here to give him an award to thank him for his efforts and he turned around and dug into his own pocket again to put these luncheons on. You ever want to know somebody in the movie industry that really loves and cares for first responders, this is him.”
Aykroyd bought needed supplies and drove the entire lot to New Orleans.
“I wanted to make sure it got delivered and in the spirit of what we were doing I wanted to deliver it,” Aykroyd said, noting his friend Gary Kent was with him. “You should have seen me buying pallets of feminine hygiene supplies at Wal-Mart at the request of the National Guard for the guardswomen,” laughed Aykroyd.
Aykroyd has a longtime reverence for first responders.
“Police, firefighters, soldiers, moms — they’re the real heroes,” said Aykroyd. ‘My grandfather was a Mountie in Canada and I saw what a great common-sense cop he was. He was in from 1919 to 1946, and said he never drew his pistol. He said it was all just common sense policing and dealing with human behavior. I admire these people so much. And we just needed to throw a luncheon, have a drink and just party and kind of get back to the spirit of what this city should be, which is about celebration and fun and good times and the future.”
Aykroyd will serve as co-grand marshal of the Krewe of Endymion parade Saturday with actor Jim Belushi, brother of the late John Belushi, his SNL co-star. The parade will roll along the Uptown route instead of the historic Mid-City route — detoured by Hurricane Katrina. Aykroyd will then join Belushi and his band, The Sacred Hearts, on stage at the Endymion Extravaganza as part of a Blues Brothers review.
“Mardi Gras 2006 is going to be a hit,” said Aykroyd. “It’s essential that people come back and know this. The world needs New Orleans because it’s the soul center of the United States. Nowhere in this country is the confluence of the culinary arts, the architecture, the music, the heart, the spirit. It all comes together here. People who weren’t even born here feel like they were once they know the joy of this city and in fact this state.”
House of Blues Entertainment Inc. plans to play a major role in the economic future of New Orleans, said Laura Tennyson, marketing manager for House of Blues New Orleans, which reopened in December. “We are fortunate to be on Decatur Street in the French Quarter and we realized after the storm we really are an economic anchor here, and that we had to open in order for our block to flourish,” says Tennyson. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised that shows have been selling out, the business lunch crowd is back and the Foundation Room members have come back en masse. We’ll continue to demonstrate our long-term commitment to the city.”