Walter Williams created his first "Mr. Bill" short on Super 8 film in 1974 while working as a DJ in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It led to national fame on Saturday Night Live. Recently, Williams, 56, has used Mr. Bill in his documentaries and public service announcements concerning environmental issues. Williams spoke to us from his home in New Orleans on May 19.
What's on your nightstand?
Taking Back Eden: Eight Environmental Cases That Changed the World by Oliver Houck. It shows through legal cases the destruction of the wetlands and how the oil industry should put up their fair share.
How did your environmental work start?
I'm a native of New Orleans who moved away for his career. In 2000, I decided to come home to do documentaries on music and culture, but when I saw how much the physical land had vanished, my course changed. The cutting of oil and gas canals up along the coast has destroyed wetlands. Katrina wouldn't have had such an effect if the city had the wetlands surrounding it that were here historically. We seem to be at the mercy of private enterprise.
What's it like in New Orleans after the spill?
You can't go outside without being hit by a horrible smell, part oil, part detergent. I've got a newborn baby. The chemicals in the air have made us decide to move away for a while. The wetlands here are where 90 percent of the gulf's marine life is born. If you get the wetlands saturated (with oil) you are killing the marine life; essentially we're talking about all future species in the gulf.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer