Scott Innes, a local country music disc jockey and professional voice actor ' he has voiced both Shaggy and Scooby Doo in several straight-to-video features ' places a red-and-black yard sign in Kershaw's hands and directs him to a corner of the banquet room. "Wait, wait," Kershaw says, fiddling with the sign. "You got to tilt it a little so it don't shine, right? We know how to do that kind of stuff in the business."
It's Hollywood, baby. Well, not really. It's the Hayride, cher, a completely different beast, but Kershaw insists he is serious and in it to win it. "We need some good leadership and someone to promote the state," he says. "My top priority will be ethics reform. You know, the first thing people want to talk about backstage after my shows is corruption in Louisiana. I want to change that. That's why I'm running."
A native and resident of Vermilion Parish, Kershaw topped country music charts during the 1990s and has been on the public radar ever since. In 2001, he married Lorrie Morgan, a sultry crooner with comparable chops in the twang biz, thus gifting the tabloids with another star-crossed couple to cover. These days, though, Kershaw is running for lieutenant governor as a Republican. He says he is fully aware that his celebrity ' and nothing else ' serves as his entry point to most voters, as compared to a central campaign theme or plank.
When folks on the campaign trail ask for a song, Kershaw obliges (he prefers Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927"). Earlier in his Baton Rouge swing, Kershaw forgot the final word in "God Bless America" during a performance at a candidate forum, but he still rocked it harder than any other pol, which is easy to do when you're the lone rocker. "When I'm on stage for an hour and a half, it's my stage and I talk about what I want to talk about. It's all about promoting the state and I've been promoting this state for 20 years and I'll keep doing it. I'll be talking about positive stuff up there," says Kershaw, who has 17 tour dates remaining for the year, almost exclusively in southern states, according to his Web site.
Theatrics aside, Kershaw has ideas ' big ideas. He communicates them in a forceful way, as strictly business, which could come in handy when dealing with gruff lawmakers. Kershaw wants to revive the old Louisiana Hayride, a national radio and touring show from 1948 to 1960 that boasted the likes of Elvis Presley and Hank Williams. In its heyday, it launched careers and held as much sway as the Grand Ole Opry. Performances could be staged on a 24-hour television network owned by the state that "showcases Louisiana all day long," competing against other channels on satellite or other means. The concept might give lawmakers pause, however, especially with the Football Network still fresh in their minds. In 2005, the state provided millions of dollars in subsidies to the Baton Rouge-based channel, only to watch it flounder months after being launched.
Kershaw also recommends putting more advertising dollars into hunting and fishing promotions, restoring old theaters and spending as much money on other areas of the state as New Orleans traditionally enjoys. He says he knows of "hundreds of places" where retirement communities could be built alongside Louisiana lakes and envisions a Branson-like tourist trap environment that could come up alongside the burgeoning music industry he foretells. "I just found out they are building a huge water park in Rayne," Kershaw says. "There's the anchor for the city. We're talking real money here ' folding money."
And then there's the tabloid gossip, which has been scooped up by the mainstream press recently. Kershaw filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in February for an amount ranging from $100,001 to $1 million ' court documents only specify broad ranges. The debts are primarily business-related, linked to the Sammy Kershaw Fan Club, Samuel P. Kershaw Foundation of Acadiana, SJB Inc. and Hotchickens.com, a restaurant business that went bust. The proceedings revealed the debts are owed to banks, credit card companies, lawyers, the Internal Revenue Service and others.
Morgan, meanwhile, has confirmed to CNN's Larry King that she formerly dated Fred Thompson before marrying Kershaw. Thompson, a former U.S. senator and working actor from Tennessee, is vying to become the Republican candidate for president and has led many all-GOP polls, although at press time he had not yet entered the race. But for now, Kershaw has other names to worry about.
Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, a Crescent City Democrat, is running for re-election with $477,000 in the bank. He has yet to lift a finger to do any heavy fund raising, and his political organization is leaps ahead of Kershaw. State Rep. Gary Beard, a Baton Rouge Republican, has likewise expressed interest in running but has been facing media scrutiny and a lawsuit from a Lafayette company in connection with his company's dealings with state-sponsored movie tax credits. The lingering questions surely put Kershaw in a better place politically as a Republican contender than he was earlier this year.
Kershaw only has about $100,000 in his campaign war chest, but a number of "high-ticket" events are on the books and money should be coming in soon, he says. Commercials have already been cut, he adds, and the volunteer list has swollen to 800 names. Sure, he's following in the footsteps of country singer Jimmie Davis, who ultimately became governor, and Cajun fiddle master Doug Kershaw, his third cousin who also made a bid, unsuccessfully, to become Louisiana's lieutenant governor, but Sammy Kershaw argues that he only wants to serve. If elected, he'll keep touring and playing music, he says, but his focus will shift to Louisiana's needs and not his own. "This is not a publicity stunt," he pleads. "I am not a career politician. I am very serious about this."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)