by Wally Sherwood
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
A CARNIVAL TRADITION BORN in New Orleans continues alive and well in Houston. And the proof in the pudding, or rather King Cake, was very visible at the Golden Lantern on Lundi Gras when the Krewe of Olympus had an open video viewing of their spectacular 11th annual ball. The location for the Carnival bash was appropriate, as Lucille was one of the founding members of the krewe which now boasts a membership of 70.
Among the four original remaining members, and at the party in person, were Ben Jones and Bill Walters, former managers of the Bourbon Pub in the Big Easy. And included in former royalty will be a familiar name to locals, Warren Cave, who moved to San Francisco and became a mainstay of the acclaimed Phoenix Uniform Club. He again assumed a regal role when he was tapped as the Crown Prince, consort to the King of Leather, at the coronation of the Celestial Krewe de Cuir, the Lords of Leather's brother club on the West Coast.
Rulers of this year's tableau, "Olympus Geographic," with costumes based on subjects pictured in that magazine, were King and Queen Olympus XXXII, Dennis Peterson and Jim Humble. If the Roman numerals are confusing, captain John Weinland quickly explains that in honor of continuing the royal lineage, Houston picked up directly where New Orleans left off.
Weinland is justly proud of his krewe, which was obviously enjoying each other's company at the Lantern. He noted, "Unlike New Orleans, someone cannot buy their way into the ball but must be invited." Nonetheless, this year's free show raised $16,000 for charity from the appreciative audience. And, judging from the highly-entertaining video, Olympus could teach some of the old-timers here a thing or two about putting on a successful tableau.
BEARS BLESSED FROM ABOVE: The Krewe du VieuX gave the Bear and Bear Trapper Social Club still another reason to party. The group met at the Phoenix before the parade and wound up at Another Corner afterwards. Treasurer Mike Lewis reports in the club's newsletter that, after all these years, this is the first time he ever caught a rosary from a float. Where else but in New Orleans?
Unfortunately, the Knights d'Orleans were not so blessed by the weather gods and the chill held down the attendance at the Night of the Black Mask street party. But the club will continue wearing the green for their St. Patrick's bust on Mar. 8 at 9pm at the Phoenix.
Bill Goldman and his partner, Eddie, were in town from Nashville and enjoyed the Lords of Leather bal masque. A Chicago Hellfire Club member, Bill was heading up the beverage committee at Inferno XXX on that fateful day of Sept. 11. In truth, the CHC run is thought to be the only leather function being held in the entire world when the attacks occurred. And a special presence in town for Mardi Gras was leather icon Frank Puckett, who served as grand marshal of Atlanta's Gay Pride Parade last year. Together with George and Dennis, they hosted a cocktail party at the Landmark Hotel in the Vieux Carre on Fat Tuesday morning.
THE LORD OF EVERYTHING: Pat O'Rourke, the dedicated president and master of ceremonies of Amon Ra, has been bestowed many titles during his time on earth including the Queen of Everything - that is until his krewe rewrote history at its bal masque. A high-spirited Pat made a truly celestial entrance as whom else but God himself? And it did not take long for some quick-witted fool in the audience to quip, "Now that is what you call type-casting!"
But in a stroke of brilliance, captain Brian Burke followed through with the Creation of Adam and Steve until the coronation of Pat as Queen Amon Ra XXXVII, complete as Eve with a glowing halo-like head-dress. There were some other clever flourishes during "The History of the World According to Amon Ra" tableau, including the Mother Nature mini-float and the wild Walk Like an Egyptian number. Appropriately, the ball paid tribute to deceased members Roeling Mace and Victor Scalise.
The morning after, the revelry continued as a crowd from near and far jammed the Country Club for the Royal Brunch. Blake Miller, who took his two four-legged pals to see the Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade, was pressed into service with Art and Robert to help serve all the loyal subjects. The krewe, which will next be seen in the Gay Easter Parade, will show their ball video during a rush party on Feb. 24 at 2pm at the same Bywater location.
A KNIGHT BECOMES A KING: And another masterful bit of type-casting dominated the Petronius ball when Jerry Meis was revealed as the new King. Presented as a magnificent Phoenix during the tableau, Jerry is vice president of the Knights d'Orleans, a leather club that has the Phoenix as their home bar. Krewe captain Mickey Gil, who served as flight captain for the "Fly With Us" journey, paid special tribute in both the program and from the podium, to his partner of 28 years, George Patterson, news editor/theatre critic of Ambush Magazine.
The return of the King, as the Maharajah of India, on a huge white elephant was stunning, but only set the stage for more delights until Queen Petronius XLI emerged as a Gay Monarch Butterfly. A blazing UFO highlighted the many special effects - but the cleverest presentation has to be Goldfinger, or "The Bird," a large hand well equipped to give the audience "The Royal Bird."
A very nice addition to the ball was a large screen with close-ups of all the Broadway-styled entertainment. And to top it all off: Under the headline, "Super Ball XLI," staff writer Maria Montoya justly featured the krewe in a two-page spread in the Times-Picayune with four-color pictures by Kathy Anderson.
A ROYAL LEATHER DADDY: Don Thompson, leather columnist for Spectrum newspaper in San Francisco and reporter for The Leather Journal in Los Angeles, was in town for Carnival along with his new buddy, Henry. Don was wearing his official Celestial Krewe de Cuir medallion recognizing him as the Crown Prince of Leather. An accomplished musician with several albums to his credit, he was organist at the memorial service of our late partner of 15 years, Eddie Cunningham, an active member of the Lords and Leather in New Orleans who became krewe captain in San Francisco. Thompson was also Leather Daddy VIII, and we discussed the possibility of bringing that time-honored competition to N'Awlins.
Don and Henry were among the supporters at the Phoenix for the benefit for Butch Arnold, the two-time Mr. Louisiana Leather Olympus title-holder. Another Californian, program director Kent Arnold of the Orange County Leather Assembly, got the red-carpet treatment from bar manager Chuck Lance when he showed up for the Carnival bust of the New Orleans Bears. Members of the Panthers L/L of Atlanta and the Conductors of Nashville were in town and enjoyed Steak Night at Cowpokes the Friday before Fat Tuesday.
It is great that The Lord of the Rings leads the Academy Awards with 13 nominations. But I wonder how many people know that The Return of the King from the trilogy almost became the theme for the first LOL ball? Regardless, do not forget that the krewe has a double event coming up on Mar. 10 at Cowpokes, with an auction at 2pm followed by a rush party at 5.
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