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Is 'Treme' Better Than 'The Wire'? David Simon Answers

A series about everyday life in post-Katrina New Orleans could be a hard sell. But The Wire maestro David Simon knows how to build characters full of quirks, flaws and texture. The producer explains why his new HBO drama Tremé (pronounced Truh-MAY) will be the pride of New Orleans


You’re from Baltimore. It’s 2010. You’re depicting New Orleans, starting in December 2005. Why there and why now?

[Show co-creator] Eric Overmyer and I actually started talking about doing a show rooted in New Orleans culture back in the mid-’90s when we were working on Homicide together. But we never planned a proper pitch meeting because we couldn’t imagine selling it to people in L.A. Then, during season four of The Wire, Katrina hit. Suddenly, this show Eric and I had been discussing had instant gravitas. We pitched it right after the storm, finished up other gigs and started shooting last year. 

It seems tricky to capture the feel of a city that, in many ways, has been radically altered.

We’re just being very accurate with the history of the city. Three months after the storm, some musical acts were back, some were not. Some bars were open, some Mardi Gras Indian tribes had returned, some second line parades went off, but others didn’t. And of course some people died before they could get back. But it was amazing how resilient people were and are. It’s hard to express, but the allegiance that people feel toward that city is incredible.

Failed systems were a major theme of The Wire. Will Tremé cover similar ground?

I’m really interested in big-city values. How we live together, coming from different cultural reference points, is the question for the 21st Century. But is Tremé going to have the same sprawl as The Wire? Is it going to have drug dealers and lawyers and the mayor? God, I hope not because that would mean that I was telling the same story twice. And that would be a fool’s errand. Even if that would be a recipe for success, and I don’t necessarily think it would, I wouldn’t want to do it. The Wire was nine years of my life, from planning to execution. I have no intention of spending more than nine years. There are other stories to tell, generation kill was a different story. Whatever comes after Treme will not be about the life and death of a city as told through its culture. Different story, different purporse.

What role does New York play in this? I ask because there are all of these references to the city.

Well to new Orleans musicians, New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, for the entire history of jazz, these places have represented the fulfillment of the highest career opportunities. The ability to take your music to the world. You know Louis Armstrong and Louie Prima and Wynton Marsalis and others had to leave in order to have their music seen in the brightest possible light by the nation as a whole. New Orleans throughout its lifetime has bred some of the best musicians nationally and yet it is not a place that is particularly welcoming to musicians. It’s not a place that holds them in particularly high regard institutionally as a city.

Are you worried about satisfying viewers who want more Stringer Bell and Snoop-type action?

I’m not trying to second-guess what I’m making based on what people want. This is a good story. Eric and I have researched it and want to tell it. We hope you come back—if nobody comes back we’re shit out of luck. But we don’t need all of you; just some of you. [Laughs]

Critics rallied around The Wire. They wanted the Emmy committee to validate that show so bad.

We probably got more ink out of that than if we’d won some awards. So on some level I was just glad they were talking about the show because we want more people to watch it. And we did have a lot of people watching it. At the end on dvd, you know listen, the dvd sales are actually increasing. So it’s sort of—it’s almost ridiculous the long tail that the show has demonstrated when, you’re right, in the beginning nobody was watching. [Just] a small cadre of people were watching it but word of mouth sold that thing.

Outside of telling a good story, what else do you want Tremé to accomplish?

Maybe, on a practical level, if we execute the show well and really capture some of the dance, music and cuisine, a few more people will take their kids down to New Orleans for spring break or make a restaurant reservation. I’m serious—it’s a tourism economy. But on a larger level, I want a few more people to think about America’s urban policies. I want people to think [twice] when [politicians] who are on the wrong side of history talk about the “real Americans” living in rural towns when 80 percent of us live in cities. —Akiba Solomon


 

This Q&A appears in the April/May 2010 issue of VIBE, on stands now.

 

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Dr. King's Childhood Home Sold For $1.9 Million To The National Park Service

The two-story Atlanta home that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr spent his formidable years has been sold. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the yellow and brown house on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta was sold for $1.9 million to the National Park Service.

Will Shafroth, CEO of the National Park Foundation said it was hard to place a dollar amount on the location where a lot of Dr. King's character was molded.

"It is difficult to value something this significant in our nation’s history. It is a priceless asset. It is one of the most important places to tell the story of America,” Shafroth said.

Bernice King, daughter of late the civil rights leader, said the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change had been considering selling the home since the passing of their mother Coretta Scott, in 2006. King said the center will focus on nonviolent educational and training programs.

“We are working on creating more robust, nonviolence training,” King said. “Our society is desperately in need of Dr. King’s nonviolent teachings right now in order to create a just, humane and peaceful world. That is what we are trying to put our energy in.”

The home was reportedly built by a white firefighter in 1895 and then purchased by Dr. King's maternal grandfather, Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, who was pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church for $3,500. When King's mother and father wed in 1927, they moved. All of King's siblings including himself were born in the home.

Elizabeth Paradis Stern, spokeswoman for the National Park Service said the preservation of the home will not falter now that it's out of the family's possession.

“The most important thing about this is that this property will be protected and preserved permanently as one of our most important properties,” Stern said. “It is part of the American fabric.”

READ MORE: New Book Details Dr. King's Teenage Years And His Alleged White Girlfriend

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Donnie McClurkin Sent To Hospital Following Car Accident

Gospel legend Donnie McClurkin couldn't be more grateful after surviving a car accident this past Wednesday (Dec. 12).

The "We Fall Down" singer was driving on the road in the earlier part of the day when he passed out and began weaving into traffic. He reportedly struck the middle concrete island.

Following the incident, he posted a selfie of him on the hospital bed in scrubs on Facebook. Along with the photo, he explained that he woke up from the accident with stitches on his left thumb, on top of having a sprained wrist, and hurt knee. His car was also completely totaled.

"I AM ALIVE!!!! Somewhat mangled, stitches on left thumb, sprained wrist, hurt knee, but I’m still here! God and two angels saved my life!," the Grammy-winning artist wrote.

He also mentioned that two "angels" pulled him out the car to safety and medical attention. "I owe them...I am still here by the grace of God! Thank you, Lord...thank you!" he added.

On Friday (Dec. 14), McClurkin posted to his Facebook page again, sharing several photos of his destroyed car. "This is the totaled car that two angels rescued me from ....after passing out while driving I don’t remember most of what happened a day and a half ago...but God," he wrote. "I overrode doctors and sisters advice and flew to KENYA today for ministry Saturday @ TWO RIVERS. and home on this Sunday to celebrate life."

In happier news, McClurkin also took time to plug in his new Christmas single titled "My Favorite Things." Check out McClurkin's posts on social media and stream his new song below.

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Nicki Minaj's Boyfriend Kenneth Petty Received 18 Violations During Prison Stint

Nicki Minaj's new boyfriend, Kenneth Petty has a very troubled past.

On Friday (Dec. 14), TMZ revealed court documents disclosing Petty's history of disciplinary actions while he was an inmate in New York for manslaughter from 2006 to 2013.

When he entered the correctional facility, he was reportedly written up for creating a disturbance. Later during his stint, he was hit with a slew of disciplinary actions following a series of violent actions that included fighting, making terroristic threats, and "disobeying a direct order."

In 2009, prison faculty placed him in solitary confinement for four months as part of being reprimanded for nine different violations. Petty lost privileges that included the usage of the inmate telephone service, recreational activity, and the prison canteen.

In addition to his prison violations, Petty is a convicted sex offender. At the age of 16, he was tried as an adult served a four-year sentence for attempted rape of a minor.

Petty, who hails from the same borough as Nicki, Queens, knew the platinum-selling rap star since she was a teenager. They dated for a short period years prior to reuniting.

Minaj posted various photos of her and Petty going on a vacation getaway earlier this month. Sources close to Minaj told the celebrity gossip website that the 36-year-old hip-hop artist is  "happier than she's been in years" with Petty.

 

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READ MORE: Nicki Minaj Plans To Sue 'Daily Mail' TV Host Jesse Palmer

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