Mardi Gras with the Krewe du Jieux

Gold bagels, Jewish grandmothers, cool Klezmer--and no pork in sight

 

Your intrepid reporter is here to give you the latest on the fourth-annual New Orleans Jewish Mardi Gras Parade, which went off last Saturday night-almost without a hitch.

The Krewe du Jieux, the Jewish marching club of New Orleans, is the brainchild of L.J. Goldstein, a local entertainment lawyer, who serves as permanent Captain of the Krewe. K.D.J. is part of a larger dis-organization known as the Krewe du Vieux. In general, this special parade is known for its biting satire, outrageous costumes, and enlarged rubber body parts.

On Friday night, we gathered at L.J.'s to light Shabbos candles and pass the royal robes to this year's new "King of the Jieux," jazz musician Walter Payton, and his Jewish American Princess, Katherine Alpha.

King Walter, a veteran bass player who can be heard at the Meridian Hotel, belongs to Temple Sinai, as does Princess Katherine, a music student and aspiring cantor. We needed musical royalty for this year's theme:

"The Epic Shlep-a Journey to Jieuxland." The theme was picked in "honor" of Jazzland, a new amusement park opening here.

However, taking a Mardi Gras theme too seriously misses the point, which is to party, have fun, dance, and "act like a kid," as David Mervis, a veteran krewe member, puts it.

Saturday evening, the kids assembled at the Den of Muses in the Bywater, all decked out in our their Thrift City or Salvation Army blue or white suits, gleaming with glitter, spangles, ruffles, and outrageous slogans. Our float was parked with the others. Most of the work on this year's float was done by Donna Mussarra Mervis, a graphic designer who created, by mysterious means, a giant gold bagel Ferris wheel--the Bagelcoaster, symbol of Jieuxland. As the krewe huddled over lox and bagels--and beer--I spoke to her and learned she is also our Mistress of Vices.

What are they? I asked her. "Everything: Idleness. Sloth. Envy. Greed. Pork."

I didn't see any pork on the table. "No, there's no pork. I did see greed when you took the last bit of salmon on the plate."

Just then, King Walter arrived to rescue me, announcing to one and all, "We're going to Jewsy Jazzland." King Walter, with his white beard and long white caftan, had an Aaron-the-High-Priest look going. Princess Katherine wore a massive blue-and-white-feather wig and a silver lame gown.

After an hour or so of noshing and hanging out, the mules arrived. King Walter and Princess Katherine mounted their thrones. King Walter wore his royal crown and carried his Crown Royal while his princess poured champagne. Then The Big Macher--Yiddish for "big shot"--clambered up the float, all decked out in a white suit, white derby with a golden band, a massive golden bagel around his neck, and golden gloves. During the parade, The Big Macher passed his special "throws" to the adoring crowd--cans of Dr. Brown's Diet Cherry Soda.

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