by Kevin Allman
This morning, the New Orleans Downtown Development District oversaw the removal of some unsightly graffiti at the former Texaco Center on Canal Street. The twist: the cleanup man was none other than Fred Radtke, better known as "The Gray Ghost" for his unique style of graffiti removal on New Orleans streets -- covering up the offending mess with his own offending mess of gray paint. (Gambit profiled the man and his technique in a cover story by Katy Reckdahl several years ago.)
The group that's spent years cleaning up Canal Street and the CBD working with Radtke? Really?
Valerie Robinson, the DDD's director of marketing and special projects, confirmed the partnership, but noted "It was actual removal, not covering over. We don't condone the gray paint."
The tagging, says Robinson, was 17 stories up on the building and had been there for a while, visible to motorists on Canal Street. Normally the DDD uses its own cleanup service, Block-by-Block, to do such things, but Robinson says that Block-by-Block can only plie its tidy trade on public property. That's where Radtke came in.
Robinson said that Radtke had approached the DDD about the project, but that she wasn't sure if they'd be using his services again. "No money exchanged hands," Robinson said. "He wanted to do this as a demonstration that you could remove and restore graffiti without painting over it."
She wasn't sure if the DDD would be using Radtke's services again -- or if the Gray Ghost would be putting down his primer-gray paintbrush permanently in favor of a more aesthetically pleasing approach to eradicating graffiti.