This column originally appeared in The Jambalaya News on February 9, 2012.
As a couple of Yankees living in Louisiana, we knew we’d finally arrived when we were asked to be on the Royal Court of our Mardi Gras krewe. It still seems like yesterday when I attended my first Mardi Gras parade. It stunned me how the people on the floats were throwing beads and other sorts of novelties to the frenzied crowd. Up in Yankee Land, I was used to objects being hurled in the opposite direction. They don’t do beads up there, however. Beer bottles are a more common projectile.
The story of our ascendance to royal status began one morning last summer. My wife got up from her computer and darted into the breakfast room, where I was enjoying the new day’s quiet over the daily crossword puzzle. She always seems to pick such times to drop a bombshell.
“You won’t believe it!” she exclaimed.
“What, did our nephew finally post something semi-intelligible on Facebook?” I asked, still scribbling at the newspaper.
“No, I was checking e-mail. We’ve been invited to be on the court!”
“What kind, kangaroo or basketball?”
“No, silly,” she answered. “It’s from Tom, the president of the Krewe. He wants us to be Duke and Duchess this year!”
“So what’s that involve? While you’e in here, can you think of a four-letter word for ‘Wagnerian earth goddess’? Begins with ‘e’.”
And so we were on our way. First, we had to attend an organizational meeting, which was convened at a board member’s place of business. “Park in the back,” my wife said as we pulled up. “Nobody’s supposed to know we’re here.”
I realize that the makeup of the court is supposed to be a secret until the night of the ball, which was several months away. But her anxiety seemed a bit absurd. “Come on,” I told her. “Nobody else knows knows about this meeting except the court members and the board. What, do you think, some member hacked into Tom’s e-mail or something? This isn’t exactly a Presidential campaign.”
“You can never be too careful,” she replied.
She did have a point. This was actually our second time on a Mardi Gras court, and I understood how tricky it could be keeping our identity a secret. It was all I could do that time. it would have been easier to get away with spying for the Chinese. The membership of a Mardi Gras krewe would make fertile recruiting ground for the CIA.
At the meeting, we learned that the theme for the coming year’s ball would be “Goosebumps,” a reference to old horror movies. Each court member—King and Queen, Captain, Dukes and Duchesses—would play a character related to the theme. I was selected to assume the part of the Frankenstein monster. “I get it. Ugly and stupid,” I observed.
“We couldn’t think of a better person for the part,” Tom answered. “The board was unanimous.”
So that’s how a Yankee gets to be on a Mardi Gras court. You just have to wait for the right part to come along. The last time I was on court, the theme was “Legends Of Mount Olympus”, and I was the God of Wind. I’ll leave that one to your imagination.
John, the costume designer, was there, and he produced some sketches of what he had in mind for us. “I’m going to make you green!” he lilted as he showed me his concept for the Frankenstein character.
“Perhaps so,” I answered him, “and for what these costumes are costing me, it looks like I’m going to reciprocate.”
I have to admit that, all in all, it was an electrifying experience. When I clomped onto the ballroom floor that night in my five-inch boot heels—be-feathered, green-faced, and scarred—in that moment, I was Frankenstein. And I don’t think it was a great stretch for my wife to imagine herself as his bride.
As far as I know, the secret remained safe up to that night. Even our weekend house guests from Dallas didn’t have us made, despite our lame excuse for sneaking away the night prior to attend rehearsal. I guess that goes to show you how easy it is to fool people from Dallas. Jerry Jones does this all the time.
Here’s one sign that you’ve had more than enough alcohol for one evening. That’s when you walk onto the stage and convince the band to let you sing “Monster Mash” with them. It’s amazing what a costume will do to people. “Yes, sir!” they cowered, “We don’t know the song, but we’re going to go out into the parking lot and learn it right now!”
Hopefully the video hasn’t made it onto YouTube.