Monthly Archives: February 2012

New Orleans Attractions

““““““`Zulu’s Social Aid and Pleasure Club, New Orleans Mardi Gras

 

Nobody who’s ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans forgets seeing the Zulu parade on Mardi Gras morning.  Elaborate floats carry men dressed in tribal attire, like grass skirts, and wearing colorful warrior makeup, who throw prized gilded coconuts and other trinkets to the crowds.  It’s a wild sight on a wild day.  Like all of New Orleans Mardi Gras traditions, it has deep social and historical underpinnings that go back a ways.  As they say, it’s complicated.

 

The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club became an incorporated group on September 20, 1916, but the group began even earlier, as a Benevolent Aid Society that collected small dues from members and helped them out when they became sick, or buried them when they died. It was a New Orleans insurance system for African-Americans that has given rise to numerous marching groups and second-line parades to this day, originating from each “ward” or neighborhood in New Orleans.

 

According to Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s website, www.kreweofzulu.com/ “The Tramps,” a troop of laborers, most of whom were members of the Benevolent Aid Society, attended the Pythian Theater to see a performance by the group Smart Set in early 1909.  Included in the comedy was a skit titled, “There Never was and Never Will Be a King Like Me,” about the Zulu tribe in Africa. After the play, The Tramps went to their meeting place in the back of a bar in the 1100 block of Perdido Street (now near City Hall and the Civil District Courthouse), and came out-Zulus!  Since they couldn’t be members of the all-white, and rather stuffy, Rex, black Zulu members started their own club.

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New Orleans Attractions

Bacchagator, a favorite float in the Bacchus Parade

Bacchus, the Greek mythological god of wine and cheer, is also known as one of New Orleanians’ favorite Mardi Gras parades.  The Krewe of Bacchus was officially formed in 1968 and was a creation of the Brennan family, a name well-known for their local fine dining establishments.  Over the years the group has grown into one of the largest and most popular Carnival parades, noted for its sheer size, impressive animated floats, and celebrity riders such as Bob Hope, Nicolas Cage, Elijah and James Gandolfini.

Some of Bacchus’s signature floats include the Bacchasaurus, King, Queen, and Baby Kong, and Bacchagator. The Bacchagator was the first 2 tandem super float ever built  and extends 105 feet.  Over the years a net was added to reflect all the beads that would end up back in the mouth of the gator.  This is my favorite parade that passes down the traditional parade route down St. Charles Ave. such a treat to be only two blocks away.

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New Orleans Music

It’s Carnival Time in New Orleans

If you go to New Orleans, you ought to go see the Mardi Gras. And it’s Carnival Time, and everybody’s havin’ fun! And you have to do the Mardi Gras Mambo. If you live in New Orleans or visit during Carnival, you cannot escape  hearing the basic soundtrack-these three songs are played on the radio and at parades constantly.  “Go to the Mardi Gras,” by Professor Longhair; “Mardi Gras Mambo,” by the Hawkettes; and “Carnival Time,” by Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. Of these, it’s interesting to know that Al Johnson, the pianist and singer who was born in 1939 and still looks closer to 50 than 72, wrote and recorded that incredibly catchy little tune when he was only 20. He walked into the legendary Cosimo Matassa’s studio (the place where Fats Domino’s hits were made) in December 1959, and producer Joe Ruffino recorded the song.  Its tricky first section still makes musicians who try to play it miserable, but it worked well enough to become a Mardi Gras anthem. It’s tricky because in the first section, right before the chord change, Al added an extra measure, tripping up the uninitiated musician.  Al still complains that often they don’t get it right. Doesn’t matter, it’s still eminently ear-worm material!

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Louisiana Attractions

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

 

Although it’s hard to imagine running out of things to do within the New Orleans city limits, you  may desire a day of relaxation exploring South Louisiana’s famous bayous and rich history . Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, named after the mysterious waterway smuggler himself, includes six sites in the area documenting the ecological, cultural, and political history of the region.  For those interested in experiencing the wetlands firsthand, the 23,000 acre Barataria Preserve outside of Marrero provides walking trails and waterway canoe access.  This is a great opportunity to see local flora and fauna up close and personal, including alligators and nutria, and the mild regional weather allows for year-round access.  Southern Comfort Bed and Breakfast, your New Orleans lodging choice, will happily help plan an outting .

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New Orleans Museum's

U.S.Mint Jazz Museum

New Orleans is home to many performance venues, from funky neighborhood clubs to the recently renovated grand theater, Mahalia Jackson Theater for Performing Arts in Armstrong Park, www.mahaliajacksontheater.com/.  We recently told you about the reopening of the Joy Theater, as well as the slated reopening of the Saenger in downtown New Orleans.

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New Orleans Attractions

In Rich Confusion

Hey, it’s almost February 2012, and we all know what that means here in New Orleans-Carnival Time! The first joyously anticipated parade rolls next Saturday, February 4, starting at 6:30 PM, through the ever-funky French Quarter and Marigny neighborhoods. Yes, that would be Krewe du Vieux.  Makes sense that the first parade would be in the Marigny- Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville, a wealthy plantation proprietor of French heritage, raised money in 1833 to fund an official celebration of Mardi Gras, and of course his plantation later became the Marigny. (He was one of the original developers of New Orleans!) But there’ve been carnival celebrations in New Orleans since at least 1743.  The Krewe du Vieux likes to boast that it’s the only organization that parades around the original satirical ideals of Carnival.  No lofty mythological themes, or glittering stars on huge floats a la Endymion. No, it’s just creative people making fun of their own society. Lots of material in New Orleans!

The theme this year of the always-irreverent (and a bit racy) adult-oriented parade is “Crimes against Nature,” and Deon Haywood as the Queen, the Executive Director of Women with a Vision.  As leader of that organization, she fights for the rights of at-risk and impoverished women, marginalized members of society, and their families.  She’s clearly not shy!  With a theme like that, who knows what might turn up on those mule-drawn floats meandering through the Old Quarter. Recent Kings include Dr. John (2010-“Fired Up!”) and Don Marshall (2011-“25 Years Wasted.”).

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