For some entertainers, headlining the massive Endymion Extravaganza would be enough work for one night. But not for Pitbull.
Hours before his late-night gig at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday, the indefatigable Cuban-American rapper/entrepreneur will also perform 200 miles away at the Golden Nugget casino in Lake Charles.
News that Pitbull planned to play another show in a different city the same night as the Extravaganza initially caught Endymion officials by surprise.
An Endymion krewe member who lives in southwest Louisiana saw an advertisement for Pitbull’s Feb. 6 Lake Charles casino concert. Realizing it was the same night as the Extravaganza, he called Ed Muniz, Endymion’s founder and captain. Alarmed, Muniz immediately contacted Pitbull’s representatives.
As it turned out, Pitbull took advantage of a loophole in his contract with the Krewe of Endymion. The contracted start time of his Endymion performance is 1 a.m., after the parade rolls through the Dome and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler performs. Since Pitbull’s show will be after midnight, it is actually very early on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 7.
Therefore, Endymion did not technically have him under contract for Saturday, Feb. 6. And so he was free to book another gig earlier on Saturday night.
Playing two shows in one night is not unheard of. Garth Brooks did two full two-plus hour concerts back-to-back on July 11, 2015 as part of a four-show stand at the Smoothie King Center.
But playing two shows on the same night 200 miles apart is trickier.
Pitbull’s reps assured Muniz that the star would arrive on time at the Superdome. He’ll have a private plane at the ready in Lake Charles. The Golden Nugget show starts at 8 p.m. If it lasts 90 minutes, Pitbull, his band and dancers can be at the Lake Charles airport close to 10 p.m. The flight to New Orleans is only 50 minutes. A police escort will likely be waiting to rush them to the Superdome.
If there are no hitches, they should arrive at the Dome with at least an hour to spare.
And depending on how quickly, or slowly, the 50th anniversary Endymion parade rolls, Pitbull’s start time may get pushed back even later than 1 a.m.
The starting time “is not an exact science,” Muniz said. “It takes about two hours for the parade to come into the Dome.”
Endymion is paying Pitbull $500,000 for his services. He’ll liklely pick up another six-figure check in Lake Charles, making for a lucrative double payday.
Pitbull is nothing if not hyper-motivated. His diversified business interests extend well beyond music, but his music business is very good. His uptempo party music — “I Know You Want Me,” “Give Me Everything,” “Timber,” etc. — crosses all kinds of demographic lines, and he works hard to engage his audience. His sweaty show at the 2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’s Congo Square stage earned consistently positive reviews.
Muniz is accustomed to dealing with pop star surprises. He was in the radio business for decades; he owned several stations, including Kool 95.7 and Lite 105.
Early in the history of Endymion, he realized the promotional value of enlisting celebrities as grand marshals and post-parade entertainers.
In 1976, only nine years after Endymion’s founding, Muniz and radio station WTIX-FM recruited shock-rock star Alice Cooper as the parade’s grand marshal. In 1976, members of Kiss were scheduled to be grand marshals. But that year, a strike by New Orleans police canceled Mardi Gras in Orleans Parish. Endymion moved to Kenner, but Gene Simmons and his bandmates opted not to ride. (Muniz took Simmons to dinner in Metairie anyway. At one point, Simmons put his girlfriend at the time, Cher, on the phone with Muniz.)
Muniz has booked a succession of marquee names for the Extravaganza over the years. Like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, he believes you have to spend money to make money. Despite the high price tags — Steven Tyler is also making $500,000 this year — the Extravaganza is profitable for the krewe. Tickets cost in the neighborhood of $200. In 2015, Endymion sold approximately 20,000 of them.
Country star Luke Bryan was the 2015 Endymion Extravaganza headliner; he also agreed to ride in the parade.
He and his wife, Caroline, spent nearly seven hours aboard the grand marshal float as it made its way downtown, smiling, waving and throwing beads, cups and doubloons the whole way.
His wife was so worn out by the time they reached the Superdome that she skipped her husband’s show and went to sleep in the tour bus. Bryan grabbed a quick nap backstage, before hitting the stage at midnight for a 90 minute, 17-song hit parade. Afterward, an exhausted Bryan got on his tour bus and headed back to Nashville, where he presumably slept very late that next morning.
Instead of riding in Endymion, Pitbull will be working in Lake Charles. That he doubled down on his Saturday night schedule is in keeping with his lifestyle. Onstage at the Endymion coronation ball in early January, Muniz quoted a relevant Pitbull lyric: “Let’s do it tonight, because we might not have tomorrow.”
On a busy Saturday night, Pitfull will be living those lyrics. Twice.
Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.