Director Spike Lee reportedly plans to return to town to develop a television series set in post-Katrina New Orleans. I have a suggested pilot for him: an updated version of the 1960s hit, Gilligan's Island, starring former City Hall techno-geek Greg Meffert as Gilligan and Mayor Ray Nagin as The Skipper. After reading about Meffert and Nagin's adventures on a 53-foot yacht docked at South Shore Harbor, this one can't miss.
Thanks to some excellent reporting by Gordon Russell of The Times-Picayune, we know that Meffert, long portrayed as the whiz-kid of Nagin's first term, claims to have bought the Silicon Bayou with proceeds from a River Road plantation home that he sold shortly before the boat changed hands in May 2005. The only problem is, Meffert has been unable to produce any evidence that he actually owns the vessel.
Instead, U.S. Coast Guard records show that the boat was purchased by several former business associates of Meffert. Most of those same former colleagues, who once worked for Meffert, are now the principals in a technology firm that has earned millions in consulting fees from City Hall -- on Meffert's recommendation. Moreover, one of the four registered purchasers of the yacht, Mark Kurt, succeeded Meffert as Nagin's technology guru. Kurt told the Picayune he sold his interest in the vessel in July 2005.
Meanwhile, Meffert has been bragging to one and all that he owns the yacht -- and taking his pals out for cruises on it. According to the T-P story, Meffert threw himself a 41st birthday bash on board the Silicon Bayou last month, treating several dozen of his closest friends to what must have been a storied three-hour tour.
Nagin got in on the act as well, although he may well have believed Meffert's claim of ownership. Hizzoner hosted a July 8 "sunset 'thank you' cruise" for his pals and political supporters on the heels of his May 20 re-election. Interestingly, the yacht's berth at South Shore Harbor is supposed to be off limits in the wake of Katrina. The Orleans Levee Board no longer has liability insurance coverage for the marina, so it's not quite kosher for anyone -- least of all the mayor and his former first mate -- to be out there with a group of revelers.
But hey, this is Hollywood South, and anything goes for a good story line.
So where does the story go from here?
Well, it's clear that "Gilligan" Meffert and "Skipper" Nagin are castaways on the Isle of Denial, in more ways than one. And, as the song goes, they're here for a long, long time -- in a tropic island mess.
If you want to do some interesting reading online, check out theamericanzombie.blogspot.com -- but be aware that it's a blog and not, as one of its contributors notes, The New York Times.
Going forward, if Meffert wants to continue claiming that he owns the boat, he owes the public and his former boss some proof. Unless he's a pirate or there's something else afoot, there has to be an official-looking piece of paper somewhere with his name on it as the vessel's registered owner. Otherwise, his claims of ownership are preposterous -- and embarrassing. Who knows, maybe some intrepid local, state or federal investigator will pick up the scent and get to the bottom of this. On Gilligan's Isle of Denial, anything's possible.
No doubt Spike Lee can come up with an interesting set of co-stars for this new show, but if he wants to stay close to the original Gilligan story, I might suggest Nagin pal David White as the millionaire Thurston Howell and erstwhile advisers Rob Couhig and Virginia Boulet as the Professor and Mary Ann. From there, this tale could go just about anywhere.
So, cue the theme song: Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale ...
- Photoshop illustration by Dora Sison/ Photo of Meffert courtesy WVUE/Fox8