Mardi Gras: The 1% is Having a Ball!

Everyone in the world is invited to the annual party called Mardi Gras. New Orleans’ Bourbon Street is the world’s fresh-shucked oyster.

You don’t walk down Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras, you ooze with the teeming mass of revelers as toothpaste moves in a tube. Go with the flow. Last night, I squeezed myself out and away from the packed, mass of inhumanity on Bourbon Street. I slipped away into my room at the very comfortable swanky hotel in the French Quarter, where I slipped into something less comfortable. I attended the Krewe of Bacchus’ black-tie ball.

dressed for Mardi Gras Bacchus Ball 2013

My best friend has long ridden in the Bacchus parade, one of the most prestigious. Think of a Krewes’ status like Gucci vs. Gap.  I ain’t hauling my cookies -- and possibly tossing them -- across the country for no Gap.

Imagine Cinderella’s fancy ball with guests seated at elaborately set tables, politely waiting as liveried waiters whip fancy silver domes off lavish entrees. That sounds really lovely, but that’s not a Mardi Gras Ball.

The roughly five thousand guests stream down the long walkway outside the Convention Center. Women arrive dripping in ice. Yes, diamonds -- but also actual ice. You can have the venue provide catering but guests are responsible for drinks. Nothing beats the sight of a formally dressed woman, dragging a huge cooler, cussing a blue streak if she catches it on her gown’s hem.

Think: Honey Boo Boo Goes to the Prom.

guests drag coolers into Bacchus Mardi Gras Ball

As the floats roll into the Convention Center we move closer to their path, away from our tables where we eat red-beans-and-rice from paper bowls. Use caution not to slip on the slick, hard, dropped, broken necklaces. The floor is wet in here too, though it’s not as gross as random street goo, because here we have the cache about slime caused by top shelf booze spillage and tuxedo-clad men holding coiffured, invited hair.

High-stepping marching bands jazz up the crowd.

Bacchasaurus float at Mardi Gras Bacchus Ball 2013

We've screamed on the streets, begging strangers to throw us beads. We want these beads –they're valuable and visible proof that we're both bead-worthy and capable of actually catching them as they fly through the air. Pass a woman whose cleavage is now shamefully and freshly hidden with several ropes of beads, I know what you did for those beads.

So here safely inside the gates of privilege, when my friend’s float rolls by, I scream his name as loudly as I can. The roar of it’s pulling tractor and the other bead-seekers overpowers my yell. My tux jacket is tight from dinners at Commander's Palace and beignets at Cafe du Monde so it’s hard to raise my arms and frantically wave like I'm stuck on a mountainside, trying to flag down a passing helicopter. The eye holes on his mask have gone askew during his ride so his eyes are blocked a bit. He’s been drinking since noon so when he hears me and then sees me, it's like he's woken from a coma. He grabs huge packages of unopened beads and trinkets and unloads them. I struggle to catch them all. I walk away, not embarrassed by my riches.

floats arrive Mardi Gras Bacchus Ball 2013

The riders, some drunker than Cooter’s goat, come down off their floats, remove their masks and join us dancing on the massive dance floor. My friend slings his arm over my shoulder for support. As we walk I ask him concernedly if he’s limping. "Probably," he replies. He's throw beads for hours but always reserves a bit of energy for the climatic ball.

Foreigner takes the stage. We all turn into teenage girls, screaming and sending a collective Instagram flying into netspace, setting a non-Beiber record for exclamation marks. They do sound amazing. Foreigner is one of the few bands whose entire set consists of hits. Their new singer belts them all out and it Feels Like the First Time for these swaying swells, most of who have Double Vision.

Bacchus Mardi Gras Ball 2013

Somethings in life become less important once it's over. In a sensible homage to Cinderella dropping her slipper, the women all swap out their high-heel for flat shoes. Ball goes are now disregarded like stepsisters, the bottom hem drags also he filthy ground.

We load up our caught beads into the same plastic bags they were shipped from China in. We slowly head out into the night. Our coach has turned back into mice, and we shuffle back to our hotel.
Stuff happened tonight -- terrific music played, catered food was served, I got dressed up – it was really special to be included in the private affair.

Blaine Kern Mardi Gras Float decoration

As we neared the French Quarter, the throngs of commoners were sill there, stuffed into the streets like white rice in a bag, wiggling en masse as if a snake were trapped inside. The bearded fairy godmothers were still waving their wand up and down Bourbon Street.

We passed them by, amazed that they were still going strong. Even if I paused to let them have a good, long look at our impressively swanky gang, no one cares that we were obviously somewhere better, or at least requiring a ticket and a tux.

I have a ball at Mardi Gras. I'm lucky to go. As for the other 99% -- turns out, we are all at the same party.


  1. Debauchery! Turpitude! Salaciousness! Decadence!
    My kinda party!
    xo jc

  2. You promised me T&A pictures, where are they?


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