Carnival season doesn’t just mean parades. It also means King Cake season and Ball season. This was my 3rd year attending the Pussyfooters’ Blush Ball benefitting the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children (METRO). The balls thrown by the parade krewes are usually formal (though women tend to wear comfortable Keds or flip flops under their gowns) but the balls thrown by dance krewes tend to be more of a “Do whatcha wanna” situation. At Blush Ball, we Pussyfooters wear our pink and orange corseted parade uniforms and encourage others to wear costumes and pink-it-up!
Seeing what everyone wears is one of my favorite things about Blush Ball. There were people in cool casual fare, those in glamourous tuxedos and gowns and people dressed like tacos and Stormtroopers. There were also members of other dance troupes in their uniforms like the white-wigged Oui Dats and the white-winged Bearded Oysters.
The Soul Rebels played in one grand room of Generations Hall while DJ Ronnie Roux filled the dance floor in another. The silent auction featured items from artwork to a photo-safari in Africa and there were over 150 prizes in the raffle. By the end of the night, the Blush Ball raised at least $22,000 for METRO.
The next day was the David Bowie parade commemorating the life of the beloved musician and icon of androgynous cool. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Arcade Fire came together to organize the event. Arcade Fire’s Win Butler gave a speech and noted that with Bowie’s passing “It was like a color ceased to exist.”
I’d heard that the Michael Jackson parade was one of the largest second line parades this city has ever seen. I wouldn’t say the David Bowie parade was as high impact and diverse as that one but it was most certainly packed. Many parade-goers (including us) sported wigs, costumes and lightning bolts across their faces. The beginning of the parade was a crushing crowd that pinned my arms to my chest and moved me along unbidden (though it did give me a great vantage for photos). When we finally made it to the first corner where things loosened up, we decided to run ahead to the river where the parade would make the last leg of its journey.
I was shocked to find the river’s edge was also crazy-populated. That’s why it’s even more amazing that a stranger found me in the crowd and introduced herself. A friend of Jeff “The Dude” Dowd who officiated my wedding, she said he’d told her to look for me. Parades are always a great way to bring a community together but it’s nearly magical that she found me in that crowd of thousands – and disguised in a pink wig, no less. She was here to research a documentary on dealing with death and I’d say we got her off to a good start.
To our delight, we actually ran into many friends including at least 4 different fellow Pussyfooters. Sometimes, I become aware of how odd New Orleanians must seem to others. Talking to Pussyfooter Christine Miller of Two Chicks Walking Tours (dressed in a “China girl” ensemble) about having gone to the ball the night before, I realized we weren’t exactly “normal.” It happened again when we stopped to buy some groceries at the Rouses. A guy dressed as what would best be described as a space oddity with a tentacle-covered tube over his head reaching at least 7 feet into the air paid at the cash register. Outside, a mother wearing a silver pleated gown pushed a stroller of star-covered twins and stopped to talk with a man in a top hat covered in googly eyes. In this costume-happy city, none of it looked odd to me.
In New Orleans costumes, originality and shamelessness are fairly normal. I can’t think of a better place to have celebrated the costumes, originality and shamelessness of David Bowie.
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