Mardi Gras 2016 was fantastic, it was exciting, it was downright thrilling at times. Of course, I’m a Mardi Gras freak. It was a very short season, ending on February 9. Next year, Fat Tuesday is more than 2 1/2 weeks later.
I want to thank my sweet girlfriend Sue and my good friend Billy, both Mardi Gras freaks without whom the entire season wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. Billy lives a block from St. Charles Avenue so his house was parade central and I went to virtually all my parades with Sue.
The season began for me with my own Krewe du Vieux, which rolled January 23. It was a terrific parade and the ball was fantastic, with none other than Texas guitar legend and ZZ Top front man Billy Gibbons on guitar and vocals along with Walter Wolfman Washington and George Porter, Jr. The ball was held in the Civic and it’s a pretty nice party forum compared to some of the more sorry auditoriums KdV has used in their recent past.
I caught a couple of newish throws, the Thoth Fedora and the NYX Earbuds.
When Fat Tuesday was only a couple of hours past sunrise, I was on Jackson Avenue below Dryades for Zulu. I was wearing my purple, green and gold silk scarf, my purple reversible satin cape from amazingcapes.com, my gold half mask, and my newly acquired Mardi Gras furry leggings. I bought the leggings Fat Tuesday morning on the Zulu parade route from a shopping cart vendor.
Bands play a big role in parades, the best bands generally are from local high school and surrounding colleges. Out of town bands perform in many parades toward the end of each season, as local high schools are limited to seven parades per season. Bands have been part of Mardi Gras processions and parades since the very beginning. Bands cost the krewes a lot more money post Katrina. Before the storm, parade band fees ran $1,000-$1,500 per parade. After Katrina, the bands ask for and get $3,500 or more. Bands are in demand for more than one reason. They add the beat and the funk, essential elements of parades. The New Orleans City Council has mandated that all Orleans parish parades have 7 bands. My own Krewe du Vieux has around 20 brass bands participate in the parade.
Year after year, the best high school band is the St. Augustine Marching 100, and the best college band is the Southern University Jaguar Band. Other notable bands in 2016 include the Landry Walker High School Band and the Texas Southern Ocean of Soul.
Some of the best looking floats all year were in the Proteus parade. Royal Artists create this parade, and it’s the best work they do by far.
I ended up in the French Quarter at Molly’s at the Market on Decatur around noon Fat Tuesday, to meet the Perv Patrol, my girlfriend’s Sue’s themed costume group. It was the first time in decades I missed REX which was my choice after deciding to see all of ZULU for the first time in as long. ZULU had a long break near the beginning that was over 30 minutes long and set the parade back big time. We ran into the Krewe of Cosmic Debris which had come down Decatur Street just as I arrived. Molly’s is one of their stops so I had a really hard time getting a drink when the krewe invaded the bar. I went down the street to an adjacent bar and bought a double and returned to Molly’s.
I have always loved Carnival, from the first parade I ever saw to the last one last night. Really looking forward to my new costume wrinkles for 2016 and the fact that I’ll be heading to the French Quarter for the first time in a decade. I’ll be meeting up with my girlfriend Sue at Molly’s at the Market.
When I first came to New Orleans, the only real throws were short beads that had little plastic connectors. The photo below, Muses Rice Beads, shows the type of beads that were all in vogue at the time minus the Muses metal ‘M’. Medallions were timid little things, not the garish giants of today. There were also a number of Czechoslovakian glass beads.
Now, throws are very diversified. Blankets, light up beads of all description, koozies of all description, mini soccer balls and footballs galore, small stuffed animals of all ilk and variety, are just a sampling of the endless variety. Most come in it’s own plastic bag.
So all this junk made of oil is now wrapped in a bag made from oil? Mardi Gras is getting grosser on an environmental level on an exponential level, and that’s a depressing and negative trend. How this came to pass is easy to explain. As throws got more expensive and complex, they warranted individual wrapping for ease of throwing.
In Orleans Parish, there are parade regulations passed by the City Council. Here’s the section on ladders-
Sec. 34-33. – Ladders and portable toilets.
All ladders used by parade spectators shall be structurally sound. No ladder, chairs, ice chests, chaise lounges, barbecue grills, and other similar personal effects shall be placed in intersections or between curbs of public streets during the pendency of a parade. Ladders, tents, grills, and other personal effects shall be placed six feet back from the street curb. Additionally, the practice of fastening two or more ladders together shall be prohibited. It shall be prohibited to use ropes or other similar items to create a barricade or otherwise obstruct passage along public property, unless otherwise specifically authorized.
When I used to see parades on Napoleon Avenue around Prytania Street, where they often line up, the police used to make sure all ladders were 6 feet back from the curb. Around town on Canal Street for Endymion and on St. Charles Avenue, it doesn’t appear the police enforce these rule anymore.
Most floats were full, but some, earlier in the season, were not. Paying for a float and not having any riders on it isn’t the best use of a krewe’s money. I am sure float riders are required to keep their masks on, and the vast majority do. Some parade captains feature less lax enforcement.
The 2016 edition of Krewe du Vieux (KdV) rolled in the French Quarter, Marigny and Central Business District last Saturday night at 6 pm before a large and adoring crowd. Many of the parade viewers wore a costume piece or two, showing their Mardi Gras enthusiasm on a cold, somewhat blustery night. New Orleans’ own Queen of Bounce, Big Freedia, ruled as Krewe du Vieux Queen. Freedia is a hip-hop artist, reality TV star, and transgender rights advocate.
This year’s parade was dedicated to two fallen titans of New Orleans culture, chef Paul Prudhomme and singer Frankie Ford. The seventeen sub-krewes each presented their own versions of the XXX theme. The subkrewes- the Krewe of C.R.U.D.E, Krewe of Space Age Love, Krewe of Underwear, Seeds of Decline, Krewe of Mama Roux, Krewe of L.E.W.D., Krewe of Drips and Discharges, Krewe of K.A.O.S., Knights of Mondu, T.O.K.I.N., Krewe rue Bourbon, Krewe du C.R.A.P.S., Mystic Krewe of Spermes, Mystik Krewe of Comotose, Mystic Krewe of Inane, Krewe du Mishigas, and Krewe of SPANK.
Marching along with the Krewe of Underwear through the historic French Quarter and Marigny, with Egg Yolk Jubilee playing Mardi Gras tunes and other party classics like the Commodore’s Brick House, life couldn’t be finer. As I’ve written before, participating in a Mardi Gras parade as a rider/walker is a New Orleans experience not to be missed. Krewe du Vieux is unusual with all their mules and brass bands, no other krewe utilizes the roughly 20 mules and brass bands KdV does. Some floats (K.A.O.S) utilize a tricycle to move their float forward. What those krewes have against mules I don’t know. Maybe they love mules so much they don’t want to put them through the KdV experience. That’s a question for another entry.
No studio is hired to produce the 20 odd KdV floats; volunteers from each sub-krewe are responsible for building their own. Each sub-krewe is allowed to interpret the main theme as they see fit. Over time, amateur float builders gain serious float building experience, so the floats get better and better over time.
For most Mardi Gras krewes, the pre-parade party, the parade, and the ball are glorified drinking opportunities. Many but not all krewe members drink throughout the entire 8-10 hour process. It’s a daunting process but one of the most fun days of the year for most.
As an escort for Underwear, I’m not supposed to drink during the pre-parade party or the parade, and I don’t. I find as I’ve gotten older, I do better with 3 hours of drinking than 10. Even though a double gin and tonic at the Civic during the ball was $14 plus tip, I ended up having a couple and supplementing that with some vodka I purchased at a little store outside the Civic before going in.
George Porter Jr and his Runnin’ Pardners with special guests Walter Wolfman Washington and Billy Gibbons, guitarist and lead vocalist of ZZ Top, were somewhat generic in their song selection but still over the top fantastic.
The Civic had no food and a no outside food rule. That means one needed to find food somewhere off premises which wasn’t that easy in my estimation. While I’m on the topic of food, the food at the Underwear pre-parade party, except for the homemade dessert I made, was entirely store bought fried chicken fingers, finger sandwiches, some powdered doughnuts and some Zapp’s potato chips.
I personally took the time to make a beloved homemade dessert because I think the world of my krewe and want them to eat well and I was a bit disappointed at all the store bought food.
KdV 2016 Float 1
Who are the Kazoozie Floozies? A group of New Orleans women who play the kazoo and create and sing risque lyrics to well known pop tunes. Formed in 1984 by the now deceased, legendary Ellen Abrams, the Floozies march in parades (Krewe du Vieux, Molly’s at the Market- Jim Monaghan’s- French Quarter Halloween Parade, and Molly’s at the Market Irish Parade), perform for store openings, and other notable events. Liz Scott Monaghan, Jim’s last wife, called the Floozies a rowdy song group, a fitting description.
Favorite Floozie ditties include- Getting It Up Is Hard To Do, Hey Quick Spender, Down On Decatur Street, Bye Bye Paycheck, Grand Old Fag, Hey Dock Booker, and Gen-U-Wine Floozie.
It a city full of so much over the top musical talent, you have to love a group that features the kazoo! Everyone can hum, therefore everyone can play the kazoo beautifully. The Floozies elevate the kazoo to great musical heights.
Among the epoch events the Floozies have participated in include legendary New Orleans philanthropist and party giver Mickey Easterling’s Birthday Party for none other than the amazing Robert Goulet and the Opening of the now closed Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. They annually celebrate a woman’s right to drink on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, aka Bomb Your Mom Day. The Floozies made an appearance or two, courtesy of Jim Monaghan, at the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians annual Mardi Gras ball in Washington D.C.
Almost original Floozie Sue Rapasky recounts that sterling night at Easterling’s Party for Robert Goulet. Says Rapasky, Easterling made us use the service entrance and refused to feed us dinner, but Robert Goulet treated the Floozies like royalty. He was really sweet! Easterling’s house was memorable- the guest registry was in the bathroom!
Memorable Floozie themes include the Perve Patrol, the Douchettes, and the Spanking Team- a dollar for a spanking!
The following four photos are from another wordpress blogger, latonola. Thanks for the great photos!
A kazoo is a type of instrument known as a mirliton (not militon, or vegetable pear, or chayote), which uses a resonating membrane to amplify sound. It belongs in the percussion family of instruments and can be made in a number of ways. Derived from the ancient African mirliton, the kazoo was first manufactured during the 1800s. Today, it is primarily a plastic, toy instrument, which is fun and relatively easy to play.
The modern day kazoo was invented by Alabama Vest during the 1840s. He drew up the plans for the instrument and had it made by a clockmaker named Thaddeus Von Clegg. In 1852, they demonstrated their kazoo at the Georgia State Fair, and it became a popular instrument in that region. In the early 1900s, a method for large-scale kazoo manufacture was developed by Emil Sorg and Michael McIntyre. McIntyre later started selling kazoos in 1914 and received a patent on the process in 1923. He went on to found the Original American Kazoo Company which is still in operation today. Later, the plastic kazoo was developed and it is now the standard material from which most kazoos are made.