Archive for January, 2013
Little Known Mardi Gras Facts!!0
1. Floats mounted on St. Charles Avenue streetcars? The 1900 Nereus parade tried the idea, but the experience was deemed a failure and the club gave up parading soon after. They still hold a yearly ball, however. The Phunny Phorty Phellows decorate a streetcar for their Twelfth Night ride each year, but they don’t decorate the car exterior much, and they don’t mount a float onto a streetcar.
2. Many krewes rent their floats, signing three to five year contacts with the float builder.
3. Not all doubloons are made from aluminum. Many krewes mint fancier ones out of more expensive metals -silver, gold, copper, brass, etc.- that are sometimes designed and painted in Europe. These doubloons are kept by the krewe members or given as krewe favors or gifts.
4. Early New Orleans parades (1860s) were built partially in Paris and finished in New Orleans. The first parade constructed entirely in New Orleans was Comus 1873, entitled Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of the Species, built by George Soulé. The Missing Links parade was an important event in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras history, becoming one of the first major parades to use satire and political commentary. Many of the images depict figures related to the Civil War and Reconstruction, such as Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Butler, and Louisiana Governor Henry Warmoth. Also depicted are notable figures such as Charles Darwin, and Algernon Badger (head of the despised Metropolitan Police).
5. The first recorded throw was in 1871; a Twelfth Night Reveler, masked as Santa Claus, tossed small gifts to the parade crowd.
6. How much of a king is Rex, King of Carnival? In 1950, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor attended the Rex ball and found themselves face to face to face with the pretend only royalty, the King and Queen of Rex. Guess which couple did the bowing? The gracious Windsors!
7. How is the date for Mardi Gras determined? This year, the date is February 12, but any Tuesday from February 3 to March 9 could be the one. The rule is: Mardi Gras is always 46 days before Easter, which is always the first Sunday after the full moon following the Spring Equinox. When is the Spring Equinox? It’s the day when the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator, making day and night all over the earth the same length. Since this date shifts, Easter changes, which is why the date of Mardi Gras is moveable.
8. 1899 was the year of the Big Snow. There were big chunks of ice in the Mississippi River during the final weekend before Fat Tuesday.
Amazing Capes Comes to the Mardi Gras!!1
I generally dress in the colors of purple, green and gold for Fat Tuesday. I’ve always identified with Mardi Gras, and dressing in those colors seemed like the right thing to do. Below is a picture of me on Fat Tuesday in my purple, green and gold costume. You can tell by the squinting of my eyes that I’m smiling broadly.
I was hanging out on kickstarter.com, as I was mulling over ideas to try out there. I notice an Amazing Capes project, and I took a look (to try your own project on kickstarter, it helps to donate to a few projects first).
So for $35 I became a kickstarter backer of the Amazing Capes project, and for that money I was promised an Amazing Capes for my backing. I asked for a purple, green and gold cape, but was told that the initial production line only included a set number of designs, and the purple cape edged in gold (named Noble Rainbow) with a multicolor striped reverse was the closest one. Since one side was a correct color of Carnival, I felt the cape would work well with the rest of my costume, and I was told as late as yesterday that cape would be shipped on February 4. As Fat Tuesday is February12, I am sitting pretty with my new cape arriving in time for the big day.
Kickstarter is an amazing online beast with a crowdfunding model that works for many and fails for many more. If you ask for $1,000 and you raise $999 in the prescribed period, you don’t get the money and you have to return it all to the backers.
Indy musician Amanda Palmer asked for $100,000 for new concept album, and raised $1.2 million.
I helped a local roots rocker, Lynn Drury, fund her West Coast/Canada tour via kickstarter. My $25 got me an autographed copy of her latest CD. She asked for $3,500 and received $3,615. Half her money came in during the last 48 hours. She made her goal and made her tour. The tour was booked, she needed food, hotel and gas money for the trip.
Though lots of folks mask during the Carnival season, more don’t. One thing about masking; the minute the mask comes on and you go outside, your identity is hidden. As people who know you approach you, they won’t know you with the mask on.
During Carnival, to mask, is an exhilarating experience, and it’s liberating also. It’s liberating because you are not recognized for yourself, and it’s exhilarating because it frees you up to act differently while the mask hides your identity.
I remember when I was in my twenty’s, I hated for Carnival to come to an end. I never told anyone of this feeling, since I didn’t want to appear crazy! Fortunately, as I got older, this feeling lessened, and now it’s gone completely.
My advice to all those who attend any Carnival event around the globe, in New Orleans, Galveston, Cannes, Viareggio, Mobile, etc., is to MASK!!!
18 Day Sprint to Mardi Gras Day!!0
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is under three weeks away! In the middle of all that, we are hosting the Super Bowl, featuring the Baltimore Ravens vs. the San Francisco 49ers. Mardi Gras will be taking a nine day vacation while we host Super Bowl XLVII in the venerable Super Dome!!
We are having an incredible month, with President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, MLK Day, plus the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras! Whew!! That’s a lot of huge events for any month in New Orleans. Of course, the President’s inauguration and MLK Day occur all over the USA, From New York to California and all points in between.
The 2013 Carnival season kicks off in high gear this weekend with lots of parades on the St. Charles Avenue route. Oshun, Cleopatra, Pontchartrain, Choctaw, Sparta, Pygmalion, Carrollton, and King Arthur all roll down the traditional route.
Can you guess how many parades from the list immediately above are older than 20 years old originated on St. Charles Avenue?
Uno Un One. Which one?
Sparta, which began in 1951. There are plenty of old neighborhood parades in that list. Can you guess them?
Cleopatra paraded for 39 years across the Mississippi River before changing to St. Charles for 2013.The New Orleans City Council voted on yesterday (January 24) allowing the ladies krewe from the west bank to move their parade to the traditional New Orleans uptown route. The Krewe of Cleopatra will kick off the Carnival Season on January 25, 2013, the first Friday of Mardi Gras.
Captain Dolores Kepner says,This is the perfect year for us to move our parade to the New Orleans uptown route. It opens up tremendous possibilities for the first weekend of Mardi Gras. We are honored to be a part of that.
Choctaw is parading down St. Charles for the first time in 2013, and has plans to return to their traditional parading grounds, the West Bank, in 2014. King Arthur (1977) also started on the West Bank. Pontchartrain began in the Lakeview area, marching on Hayne Boulevard by the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Carrollton first paraded in their namesake neighborhood. Oshun and Pygmalion started on St. Charles, but they are newer parades.
That leaves only the Knights of Sparta as an historic procession originating on St. Charles. The Knights of Sparta are often mis-named the Krewe of Sparta!
There are two non-conformist parades out in the Faubourg Marigny over this weekend- ‘tit Rәx, and Chewbacchus, and both roll Saturday in the Marigny. ‘Tit Rәx used to be named ‘tit Rex, until the King of Carnival, the Monarch of Merriment, sued tiny little ‘tit Rex for stealing their name! As can be seen from the photo below, ‘tit Rәx is a miniature hand made float procession, not a full sized parade like Rex. I don’t think Rex made the proper decision, but tit ‘Rәx’s solution to turn the ‘e’ in Rex into a ‘schwa’ which is what a ‘ә‘ is.
Chewbacchus is a science fiction kind of krewe which features costumes and hand pulled floats in the Star Wars tradition.
Phunny Phorty Phellows Ride Tonight!!2
It’s Twelfth Night (Jan.6), the formal start of the 2013 Carnival Season! I hope that excites you, because it excites me! It is a short season this year, as Fat Tuesday is Feb.12. As of today, there are 37 days to Fat Tuesday!! Plus, the Super Bowl will be played in New Orleans on Feb.3. As I’ve written before, this means the parades will be split into two sections, with the nine day Super Bowl break occurring in the middle.
Twelfth Night is the start of the King Cake season, though the grocery stores put them out around New Years Day.
YUM!! There are a million varieties of King Cakes today, we live in the true renaissance era of King Cakes. Here’s a fancy King Cake recipe from star chef Emeril Lagasse. When I first moved to New Orleans in the mid 1970s, the only type of King Cake was plain ones. Then McKenzie’s Bakeries, a local chain, produced the first filled King Cakes. Now, you can find almost any flavor possible. McKenzie’s is long gone, but their unique innovation lives on and on!
As for the PPP, or Phunny Phorty Phellows, their ride down St. Charles Avenue on a St.Charles Avenue Street Car occurs tonight.
From the PPP website: The modern organization was revived in 1981 by a small group of friends and Mardi Gras enthusiasts. It has continued without interruption to the present day. The PPP paraded with the Krewe of Clones from 1981 until 1986. In 1982 we also began a tradition of riding the streetcar line (in a streetcar) and proclaiming the arrival of the Carnival season on Twelfth Night. That is the night when the new Boss and Queen are chosen by the traditional King Cake method as well as the occasion of the sumptuous Coronation Ball. A “Carnival Countdown” take place right before the Phellows board the streetcar.
The Storyville Stompers is the official band for the Streetcar Ride and Benny Grunch and the Bunch play at the Coronation Ball.
Other innovations and features: Beautiful invitations and dance cards like 1800s by a series of royal artists: Beth Kesmodel, Hal Pluche, Jeanne Woods, Arthur Nead, and Kevin Barre.
My own Krewe of Underwear, part of the historic Krewe du Vieux, roll January 19, which is very exciting and probably a very cold evening. I’ll have to bundle up big time before rolling. I love the brass bands, the donkeys, the heavy ribald satire, and the route- we roll through the French Quarter and the Faubourg Marigny. There is no better place to be January 19 than at our parade or in it. Happy Mardi Gras to the World!!! Here’s our route-