Southern Breeze Magazine, Summer 2007
|life of bryan
story by DEBORAH BURST
photography by C. ROSS
Bryan-pictured here with Peggy-has
sold out audiences with his new cabaret act at the Metropolitan
Room in New York titled, Bryan Batt: Live at the Met. Broadway
credits include La Cage aux Folles, Beauty and the Beast,
Saturday Night Fever, Sunset Blvd. and Cats to
name a few.
NEW ORLEANS NATIVE BRYAN BATT JETS FROM MANHATTAN
TO MAGAZINE STREET, WITH AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD.
With the looks of a runway model and the humor of Robin Williams, Tulane
grad and Broadway veteran Bryan Batt bounces from the Big Apple to the
Big Easy with a gleaming eye on Tinsel Town. He casts a stage full of
characters from sold out cabarets to a new television series this summer.
Between shows, together with partner Tom Cianfichi, they manage their
Magazine Street fine accessories boutique, Hazelnut.
“I’ve been told that I have a wonderful set of eyeballs,” says
Bryan, referring to his flair for decorating, a redeeming asset for the
boutique opened in October 2003 when Bryan experienced a short lull in
his career. “I have this saying: when a window opens up, jump out!”
A virtual skyscraper of opportunities has
Bryan hopping. Actor, dancer, singer, Bryan has been called “one of the most brilliantly funny
comedians on Broadway.” This big-hearted jetsetter rubs elbows
with Liza Minnelli and Joan Rivers feverishly performing on and off Broadway
and in Katrina fundraisers, and bringing down the Gershwin Theater with
his emotionally charged Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans. “It
was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I do what I can to help,” Bryan
says in quiet reflection, then a stream of one-liners. “Put a hammer
in my hand, and it’s not going to be PRETTY. You don’t want
ME doing construction.”
|Bryan's boutique, Hazelnut, has a little
something for everyone as it captures the essence of the smart
Madison Avenue appeal with a New Orleans flair.
Living a sheltered life in the shadows of
the New Orleans elite, he escaped Camelot in search of … no not the Holy Grail, but the
real world. He discovered acting at the age of 10 on a dusty stage at
a NORD (New Orleans Recreational Department) playground. “I had
the most wonderful summer of my life. I met a very diverse group of people
that opened my mind,” says Bryan, admitting he lied on the qualifying
age of 12.
|Bryan and partner Tom Cianfichi (top
photo) share a home in New York and New Orleans and co-own
Hazelnut, a home accents boutique located in New Orleans (bottom
photo and sidebar below)
Determined to make it big, Bryan traveled
to the east coast on what he calls “cutting his teeth” on a New York acting career.
Odd jobs paid the bills and gave him time for auditions. And not the
usual task of waiting tables, Bryan had pizzazz: Chasing people with
a bottle of perfume as a Bloomingdale’s fragrance model and whipping
Mary Tyler Moor in shape as an aerobics instructor.
Part of the two worst disasters in our country – 9/11 and Hurricane
Katrina – Bryan believes that although the Big Apple and the Big
Easy share a common bond, their cures for healing are worlds apart. “New
York is constantly changing, evolving. Katrina was a big wake up call.
We either evolve or we’re going to perish,” Bryan says with
a curled brow, then a devilish smile. “New York sees the glass
half full and so do we, but it’s usually filled with scotch.”
Hazelnut provides a comfort zone for Bryan,
a place to chat with friends, a place with heart. “I love when everyone comes in and says they
love our taste,” says Bryan, picking up the merchandise, introducing
each piece like an old friend. “What I love is talking with the
people. Tom, and Katy, our manager, tell me, just go up front and talk
Bryan. Just talk.”
BRYAN BELIEVES THAT ALTHOUGH THE BIG APPLE AND THE BIG EASY SHARE
A COMMON BOND, THEIR CURES FOR HEALING ARE WORLDS APART ... "NEW
YORK SEES THE GLASS HALF FULL AND SO DO WE, BUT IT'S USUALLY FILLED
|Catch Bryan this July
in the AMC dramatic series, MAD MEN, written by Matthew Wiener, award winning writer of The
A natural in front of the camera, Bryan moves like a fashion model,
tilting his head, lips pursed staring through an iron banister, all the
while looking like he just walked away from his Broadway dressing room.
How does the man do it? Simple. He plays the part!
“I’m usually a porter with a mop, is what I call myself,” he
says with a Groucho Marx chuckle. “That’s part of acting, being
able to do anything, being able to transform yourself into a character
and do what you’re supposed to do.”
5515 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA
Named after Bryan Batt’s grandmother, Hazel Nuss, Hazelnut
owns a vibrant blend of many personalities. Bryan along with co-owner
and partner, Tom Cianfichi, has joined a gallery of gifted artisans
in a spectacular show of traditional, contemporary, and edgy designs.
“It’s not so exclusive or high end; we have something
in every price range,” Bryan says. “The one thing I
don’t think New Orleans has is our kind of gift shop and
“I love to shop for the store,” says Tom, once a buyer
and manager of a Madison Avenue gift shop in Manhattan. “I
enjoy maintaining a certain point of view while always searching
for something different, and then merchandising (display) to make
it look the best it can.”
While browsing Hazelnut, you’ll
find Jonathan Adler designs that reveal split personalities,
king/queen, happy/sad in his Utopia Collection of pottery and
tableware with a mid-century feel. Laurel Wilder uses a reverse
decoupage in glassware and serving trays with a poetic look at
nature featuring dragonflies, ferns, etc. Earthtones hold company
with pastels as Tom captures the essence of the smart Madison
Avenue appeal with a New Orleans flair.
An exclusive to Hazelnut and featured in national home decorating
magazines, the New Orleans Toile collection features icons such
as the St. Charles Streetcar, the St. Louis Cathedral, and the
Steamboat Natchez. Toile designed bedding, bags, trays, and picture
frames are just a few of the popular items that can be found at
the store and on the Hazelnut Web site. Part of the proceeds go
toward Katrina relief.