Actor’s tweets misrepresent gesture of remembrance and respect by Kabuki Hats

It’s easy to understand how a gesture intended as a display of community love and respect can be misinterpreted. What’s not so easy to fathom is when the fallout can have unwarranted negative impact to a local, internationally-recognized craftswoman to the detriment of her business.

Actor Wendell Pierce tweeted the following regarding Kabuki Hats — created, owned, and operated by Tracy Thomson — on 7/14/12:


 The link referenced is as follows:

ImageMr. Pierce adds the following subsequent comments via Twitter:

ImageWhat’s unfortunate is that, Mr. Pierce (who has 33,000+ followers on Twitter), sadly got the intent of this gesture completely wrong.

Tracy Thomson (who does not have a Twitter account) was alerted to these tweets today and offered the following in response via Facebook:

“Okay, I am horrified to understand that Wendell pierce has tweeted numerous awful things about the memorial watch that I made. I don’t tweet, but want him to understand that in NO WAY did I profit from these watches I GAVE AWAY as a tribute, at my expense, and with the permission of the photographer. The copyright I added says explicitly ‘this image may be distributed without compensation,’ which means I was GIVING it to the family to do what they want with it. There was NO PROFIT MADE from this gesture that was made in love of Uncle Lionel. Can someone help me set the record straight? Try to do something GOOD and have my reputation destroyed by a celebrity, that just ain’t right. Thanks for your help.”

She adds, “Mr Pierce, I want to set the record straight. I created these paper watches as a FREE tribute to our beloved Uncle Lionel, for the family, and for his huge extended worldwide family. It was NEVER my intention to sell or make a profit; in fact, when I was handing out dozens of them at the second line, in the rain, a guy offered me a dollar. I declined, telling him they were free for all. I have been asked by Markieth, Lionel’s nephew, to make memorial watches for the pallbearers at Lionel’s funeral. I have made beautiful tributes at many New Orleans funerals, from banners to flags to fans, and have never asked to be compensated. As you might notice, I do not even have my website printed on the watch. People wore them in the second line, proudly, on their left hand, as Lionel did. I hope your followers DO click on the link that you posted above, there is a full explanation of my intentions, and they can print one out for themselves, as a tribute, not a trinket. Have a great day in Paris.”

Mr. Pierce, I do believe that you owe Ms. Thomson a sincere apology. While your concern regarding the representation of Uncle Lionel’s image is laudable, I would hope that, in the future, you’ll exercise more care and consideration before causing genuine and unwarranted harm to the reputation of another local icon’s livelihood.

As one reader replied, “It’s a little like the pot calling the kettle black, since he [Pierce] actually does monetarily profit from the destruction of our city… ahem.” Another added, “Has anyone pointed out to him that [the television show] ‘Treme’ is a commercial exploitation of the deaths of all the victims of crime and disaster? And that he makes a paycheck from it?”

17 thoughts on “Actor’s tweets misrepresent gesture of remembrance and respect by Kabuki Hats

  1. And the little dig on the city – yeah, I won’t be supporting any projects Mr. Pierce works on. I guess it is ok to trash this city, yet announce in the same breathe being named to the board of directors of a grassroots city organization…

  2. Yes! This is a ridiculous erroneous charge by a part-time New Orleanian who doesn’t know what is what down here anymore. If he ever did….

  3. Reblogged this on New Orleans block by block-French Quarter and commented:
    Kabuki Hats is the type of business and artist that we need. Tracy admired and respected Uncle Lionel and her free gesture was an act of love. Shocking that this actor misunderstood the situation so completely. Maybe he should chat with locals before he tweets from far off about things he doesnt have the right information for.

  4. who cares what anyone tweets…….just the word itself displays the shallow thought involved when someone tweets…….who cares…..why bother??

  5. Tracy is one of the nicest people I know and very giving, this should have never happened. Wendell was/is wrong, very wrong, spreading a lie when he did not have all the info.

  6. Via Ms. Thomson: “Lionel’s daughter just messaged me; she wants me to bring watches for the whole family” [to the services on Friday, 7/20/12].

  7. I care, Roy Maggio, because an actor trashed a friend’s reputation to 33,000 of his followers. Such inaccurate accusations as Mr Pierce spoke cannot go unanswered. I found his response to someone trying to explain that Tracy’s watches were a loving tribute particularly telling. He said: “You want to pay tribute buy his records”. Sad that he believes that tribute to Uncle Lionel can only come in the form of money.

  8. I am the photographer who made the photo used by Tracy Thomson to make these memorial watches.

    I am very proud that of the thousands of images Tracy could have selected, she chose mine, due to his joyous expression, which I was lucky enough to have captured that evening by pure happenstance.

    I was truly touched by her love and respect for Uncle Lionel Batiste, and the personal investment of her time and creativity to design this memorial and post the template (5-up!) along with instructions on how to print and wear them at the Second Line and Funeral, as a FREE download. I have to admit that it would never have occurred to me to do so, and I feel that it is a tribute to Tracy’s innate artistic creativity and her personal generosity that she did so.

    Neither Tracy Thomson nor I have sought, received, or will EVER accept any financial compensation for these “watches.” The fact that so many people have made the effort to download, print and tape them to their hands as gesture of love and respect for Uncle Lionel is WAAAAAAY more compensation than either of us could ever want.

    I do respect and admire Mr. Wendell Pierce, as well as the writers, directors, staff and other actors involved in the production of “Tremé,” which features and promotes so many New Orleans Musicians and actors in a positive way. I feel that the HBO series has portrayed our Post Katrina Struggle in a unique, relevant, and mostly authentic way, trying to pay particular attention to the details of our unique culture.

    I will give Mr Pierce the full benefit of the doubt that he wrote his unfortunate TWEET with only the very best of intentions, as a spontaneous reaction to his misinterpretation of the actual facts, born of his own love and respect for Uncle Lionel.

    But I would also hope that Mr Pierce will very soon understand that he was the victim of a genuine but misguided emotional circumstance in sending this unfortunate TWEET, and that upon discovering the TRUTH, will write an equally emotional correction to his 33,000 Twitter followers, to make at least a partial repair of Tracy Thomson’s reputation as the sort of truly loving, giving New Orleans Artist we all wish to encourage and support.

    Perhaps HBO might be able to include a few people wearing her Kabuki Hats and other creations in the background of future productions as well.

    In truth, Tracy and I have only met once in person, but due to our emails and following her Facebook postings, it is my considered opinion that New Orleans could only benefit by encouraging more artists even approaching her hard work and talent.

    I think I can hear Uncle Lionel playing his bass drum from far away now, with that drumstick held in his left hand, with his watch across the back of it, rings on every finger, sunglasses on, and that joyous smile radiating from his handsome face…

    Many thanks,

    ~José G.

    José L. García, II

  9. I saw his tweets on Twitter and was not sure of the entire story. I see he neglected to post that. He indeed is like the pot calling the kettle black..

  10. after several exchanges on twitter, he finally did the right thing:

    “I apologize to Tracey. Her attempt to honor UncleLionel came from a place of love & respect.I apologize to the Batiste family as they grieve”

  11. What Ms. Thomson did was a very noble thing and I’m sure Uncle Lionels family appreciated the gesture. Wendell Pierrce is just a low budget actor who likes to involve himself in New Orleans affairs since Hollywood dropped him back in the 90s…..and I’ll gladly tweet that :)

  12. FWIW, I wore a Kabuki hat as an extra in the Dooky Chase episode of Treme last season. We all know there are cultural carpetbaggers who swarm through New Orleans, picking up disjointed elements of our culture and profiting from them while giving nothing back, but Tracy Thomson has never been one of these. She has lived in the city for close to 30 years (I’m guessing) and has always been a large contributor to its cultural fabric. Wendell Pierce should have tempered his knee jerk reaction with some due diligence (plenty of his friends could have set him straight about Tracy) — but I’m glad he apologized. Like the class act she is, Tracy says “Please, let’s move on. Peace and love.”

  13. Ccyntia Scott said it well:

    …but I’m glad he apologized. Like the class act she is, Tracy says “Please, let’s move on. Peace and love.”

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