A grounded duo of travel bloggers cook up a hilarious shelter-in-place video series covering local history. Fortunately, "local" for them is the French Quarter.
- by Reda Wigle
Local bloggers and guide writing duo, theTraveler Broads, AKA Jessica Fender and Kerry Maloney, have spent the last several years casting themselves across continents in search of good times, cold drinks and enviable photo opportunities. Now homebound in the French Quarter, the Broads are focused on celebrating the storied, and sordid history of their favorite city through their weekly video series, Quarantine History.
“We’re so lucky we have to be in lockdown in one of the most interesting places in the entire world. There isn’t much to see right now but we can go back in time,” said Maloney.
The idea for Quarantine History was, as many grand schemes before it, born from boozing, “I had been thinking for years that historical reenactments of New Orleans would be great. I was like, ‘how can we do this, we would need a budget and we don’t really know how to do anything.’”
“Then I got really drunk and I texted Fender late at night with all of my ideas and I said something like I really need this,” Maloney remembered with a laugh.
“I said we’ll talk about this tomorrow,” Fender countered.
Tomorrow came and the idea stuck.
Inspired in part by New Zealand comedian Te Radar's Chequered Past video series, Quarantine History marries hard facts and high camp. To honor the former, the pair has partnered with guide Christine Miller, owner of Two Chicks Walking Tours. Miller provides research and foundational materials and verifies the historical accuracy of each script.
The goal for all parties is to showcase obscure stories from the city’s past. “We tend to tell ourselves the same stories over and over again here, so it has been really fun to shed light on some of the lesser known pieces of New Orleans history,” explained Fender.
Recent Quarantine History subjects include Bricktop, a flame-haired, double knife wielding sex worker and Bulletproof Baroness Pontalba, the death defying teen bride credited with the construction of Jackson Square.
“New Orleans is a character-driven town which is perfect for storytelling,” said Fender, whose on camera turn as the Baroness was not without peril. “We were trying to figure out what to use in the bloodletting scene and I got shot in the face with hot sauce before we switched to ketchup. Anything for my art, man,” she said.
Said ketchup is the only item the Broads, both avid costumers and DIY enthusiasts, have had to purchase for the shoots.
“We have so much stuff. I never throw things away that could be costumes,” said Maloney.
The two have gotten considerable mileage out of a vintage dress and a certain leisurewear staple of Maloney’s. “We have one pair of blue sweatpants that we’ve been trading back and forth. She had to be a soldier, she had to be a drummer, I had to be the general and we both had to share pants,” explained Fender.
The pair also share production responsibilities. While both Fender and Maloney have backgrounds in journalism, the two admit filming and editing the series is a bit of a learning curve.
“There’s been a lot of trial and a lot of error,” said Maloney who shoots the series entirely on her Google Phone. “We’ve been putting bloopers in at the end of every clip that we haven’t had to manufacture.”
What they lack in technical know-how the Broads make up for in source material. Upcoming episodes will focus on the spit soaked legacy of General “Spoons” Butler and the city’s starstruck response to a certain 19th Century Swedish opera singer.
Will Quarantine History continue after the lockdown is lifted? “I worry we’re going to be expected to have better props then,” joked Maloney.
“I think we can stick to our ragtag production values,” said Fender who maintains that when it comes to stories, there’s no place like home.
“New Orleans not only has so much fodder for stories but really celebrates a good story. If you’re interested in the quirky and the weird, it’s the town to be in.”
If you’re interested in the Traveling Broads brand of quirky and weird follow them on their Youtube channel. New episodes of Quarantine History drop every Sunday. How long will the series continue?
"Until we're bored," said Maloney.
Support this project.
Like what you're reading?
Give a one-time amount or subscribe below to help support our writers and our publication.