Vivian Cahn has her hand in civic and artistic affairs across the city, but I think at heart she’s a Mardi Gras girl. Over birthday champagne one afternoon, Viv talked about the 30 years that Krewe du Vieux has been rolling. She’s been a captain of the Krewe of Mama Roux, a sub-krewe in that Carnival parade, for 29 of those years.
In honor of KDV’s anniversary, the 2016 theme is XXX. Krewe du Vieux, of course, is the parade that says “IT’S BACK!” (referencing Carnival) and, with it, parade season goes into overdrive. The krewe takes to the streets at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23 at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Royal Street, winds through the French Quarter, and ends up in the CBD.
I recently visited Mama Roux’s stellar costume makers and the KDV den, where the wacky and wonderfully smutty floats are created. One thing you can be sure of, it will be bawdy, so if you bring the kids be prepared to answer some sensitive questions.
Krewe du Vieux is not the Mardi Gras of Uptown hierarchies. It is unique in carrying on the old Carnival traditions of decorated, mule-drawn floats with satirical themes, each one accompanied by a New Orleans brass band. It’s somewhat green to boot. The slogan is, “It’s not the throw, it’s the show,” so candy, refrigerator magnets and wooden nickel keepsakes are handed out instead of plastic beads*.
This group is an eclectic mix; any given krewe member could be a retired schoolteacher, rocket scientist, lawyer, doctor, best-selling novelist or TV producer.
“We’re all crazy, but highly functional and productive,” says Vivian.
The Krewe of Mama Roux (named after a Dr. John song) will have a theme this go-round of “One Night Stands.” Each marcher will be wearing a table topped with a bouncing lampshade — which is fitting, as the queen this year is Big Freedia, the woman whose butt made Bounce famous.
The “costumers exxxtraordinaires” this year are Tracy Thomson and Kim Marshall. You might know Tracy from Kabuki Hats; she’s a regular exhibitor at Jazz Fest Contemporary Crafts and the Palmer Park Art Market. This year she’s gathered 60 lampshades, snugged them onto baseball caps, and strung them with LED lights.
Kim Marshall’s house/studio is filled with eclectic art, like her Beaded Bunny Barbie and plethora of costumes.
Come Saturday evening, they plan to let the naughty times roll!
*Bummer alert: You’ll never look at Mardi Gras beads the same after watching the 2005 documentary Mardi Gras: Made in China.
On the upside, Arc of Greater New Orleans recycles and resells the beads — so donate and sleep easy. Efforts in 2015 resulted in the collection of 175,000 pounds of beads! Arc is a great organization that helps kids and families affected by mental retardation and related developmental disabilities. They NEED BEADS AND VOLUNTEERS!