When the Krewe of Tucks rolls for the 50th time on Saturday, it will mark a milestone in Carnival history. Never has a parading krewe transformed more completely than this group that began in the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity at Loyola University.
A popular Uptown bar on South Claiborne Avenue known as Friar Tucks was the scene of most of the fraternity’s social events. During the Carnival season, members would stage impromptu second-line parades using makeshift flambeaux constructed of straws and paper napkins.
Sometimes the “parade” would extend into the parking lot and even to Claiborne Avenue. Some members decided they might like to be real flambeaux carriers in real parades. However, at that time tradition dictated that the carriers had to be black, which they weren’t.
Two PKT members — Bobby Reichert and Lloyd Frischhertz — decided they would organize their own Carnival krewe instead. Since Friar Tucks was the unofficial fraternity headquarters, the name Krewe of Tucks seemed logical.
The first parade, on Feb. 15, 1969, consisted of boats on trailers, pickup trucks and a gaggle of stragglers disguised as marchers. Also highlighted were white flambeaux carriers — the reason behind the birth of Tucks. The first “float” to appear was a spoof they called “Eat Your Heart Out, Blaine Kern.” The Tucks king rode this float for several years.
The University section of Uptown New Orleans adopted Tucks as its own. Phi Kappa Theta chapters from all over the state, and a few out-of-state fraternities, joined the parade.
For the second parade, in 1970, riders threw wooden nickels with the now-famous Tucks slogan of “Booze, Beer, Bourbon and Broads.” Fraternities at neighboring Tulane University came on board the third year.
For the early parades, the krewe’s grand marshal would lead the parade along a predetermined route. In 1972, however, grand marshal Kenneth Skidmore, a 6th District New Orleans policeman, led the parade the wrong way on its route! No one noticed the error until after the parade was over.
Once Tucks was listed on most official Carnival parade calendars, it became more difficult to fly under the radar. Reichert and Frischhertz were called to City Hall and told that their parade must have floats.
With mostly young members just starting their careers, Tucks had been successful by keeping expenses to a minimum. The young captains paid a visit to Kenner float builder Mac Cantrell Sr., who helped solve the problem by renting floats to Tucks at a reasonable rate.
By the 1983 season, the city wanted Tucks to become a day parade. But shortly after its first afternoon parade, the krewe got a 27-page certified letter from the city detailing a list of parade violations.
Reichert and Frischhertz realized they could no longer have individual groups over which they had no control participating in Tucks. They promised the city that from then on, all participants would be members of Tucks.
Today no krewe throws more individual signature items than Tucks. Its toilet paper, plungers, air horns, toilet brushes and squirting toilets are among the most distinctive items in Carnival. The Tucks toilet paper is the most visible throw since, depending on the weather, remnants may be seen draping Uptown oaks for days after the parade.
Tucks has featured some celebrity grand marshals such as John Candy, Rita Coolidge and Larry "Bud" Melman. Through the years it has introduced several signature floats, including “Naughtyham,” “Funky Tucks” and “Tucksedeaux Chalice.” In 2015 the krewe purchased its own den.
There will be two new floats (one animated) in Saturday's Fifty Shades of Gold anniversary parade, which includes 1,500 members and 44 floats.
Co-captains Reichert and Frischhertz ran Tucks together until Reichert died shortly before the 2017 parade, which was dedicated to him, and whose likeness adorned the 2017 Tucks Carnival bulletin. Since then, Frischhertz has carried on as sole captain with the help of more than 30 float captains.
Frischhertz summed up the krewe’s philosophy when he said, “We may have to grow old, but we never have to grow up.”
Email Arthur Hardy at email@example.com.