by Stephanie Standige
Special to Mid-City Messenger
The Gleason DVD premiere was held in Mid-City at The Cannery on Wednesday, November 2. Attendees mingled as they awaited raffle drawings, a speech from Steve Gleason’s father-in-law, Paul Varisco, and the debut of the documentary, Gleason. Guests enjoyed refreshments, elegant scenery, and Pearl Jam (Gleason’s favorite band) background music prior to the viewing of the film.
Steve Gleason is a former NFL Safety who played for the New Orleans Saints from 2000 to 2008. He is well-known for blocking a punt against the Atlanta Falcons on the first night the Superdome reopened after Hurricane Katrina. The block became a symbol of recovery for New Orleans after the storm, and since being diagnosed in 2011, Gleason has become a resilient face of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The film Gleason was recorded over a five-year period and begins with Steve Gleason’s first visits to the hospital before his diagnosis of ALS in 2011. Six weeks after his diagnosis, Steve Gleason and wife Michel learned that they were with child. In the film, Gleason notes that creating the documentary is his way to “share as much of myself as I can, while I still can” with his son, Rivers. The film explores Michel and Steve founding the organization “Team Gleason”, aiming to generate public awareness for ALS, raise funding for and empower ALS patients, give patients the opportunity to live a rewarding life, and ultimately find a cure for ALS.
For the past two years, Gleason Gras has taken place on Bienville, in the parking lot across from Liuzza’s Restaurant & Bar. Steve’s father-in-law, Paul Varisco, noted that Team Gleason has an office in Mid-City, located at Saint Margaret’s Nursing Home.
When asked about the present and future relationship between Mid-City and Team Gleason, Varisco exclaims: “We love what’s happening in Mid-City. So many great things—new restaurants, houses being renovated—so we feel very comfortable with the area and we plan to be here for a while. We’ll continue to have [Gleason Gras] here with the people that have supported us. It’s a good sort of marriage there.”
According to Varisco, the Hughes family, long time friends of Gleason, organized this event. The family believed the DVD release would be a great opportunity to benefit Team Gleason. Varisco notes, “The Gleason DVD came out today, and we’re excited to show it to the people who didn’t get to see it in the theaters.”
The Gleason documentary has had several accolades including: 2016 Official Selection of Sundance Film Festival; Audience Award Winner of 2016 SXSW Film Festival; 2016 Official Selection AFI Documentary; and 2016 Best Documentary at Seattle International Film Festival.
The DVD is available for rent or purchase on: iTunes, VUDU, Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft, PlayStation Video and Fandango Now.
Stephanie Standige is a proud New Orleans native. Her credentials include a B.A. in Communication Studies (with a specialization in Broadcasting), double-minors in Psychology and Communication Management from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up; until then, she enjoys writing, sunshine, making lists, meeting new people, gardening, organizing, being creative, laughing, reading non-fiction, deep conversation, watching movies and a nice cocktail.