Two masked balls, those of the krewes of Proteus (founded in 1882, and the fifth-oldest krewe) and Mystery (1912), have both presented tableau formats, queens and courts for well over a century. On the eve of Mardi Gras, Proteus combined the excitement of a luncheon for members (and friends) at Antoine’s, a parade along the traditional Uptown route, and a bal masque in the Marriott Hotel. Days before, and on Mystery’s traditional Wednesday, the venue for the revels was The Orpheum Theatre. Before each Carnival ball, a reception honored the queen; afterward, gallivanting with gusto occurred at each supper.
Miss Hailey Simmons Becker, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Francis Becker Jr., was the radiant queen of Proteus. Her immediate royal predecessor was Miss Elizabeth Ashland Hines, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Hugh Hines.
Maids to her majesty Hailey, all debutantes, were Misses Agnes Robeson Bell, the Mithras queen, and earlier, as a sub-deb, that of Apollo; Elizabeth Brooks Ellinghausen; Sara Layne Gambel, the Oberon queen, and earlier, Squires; Adelaide Dabezies Goodyear, queen of Carnival, Rex; Sarah Lillian Nicolson Martin; Shelby Heath Sharp Meckstroth, the Osiris queen; and Lily Reiss Saer, the Comus queen and earlier, Les Pierrettes.
Serving as pages, and riding with Proteus CXXXV in the parade of 20 floats, the oldest nighttime one in the city, were pages Masters Lynton Guy Cook IV and George Shelby Friedrichs IV. As a sentimental salute, the parade honored the late Beau L. Bassich by having a riderless horse with white boots affixed backward leading the 2016 parade. Bal masque guests who were unable to see the parade enjoyed seeing a small depiction of each float in the ball’s printed program.
After the 8 p.m. royal reception, which preceded the 9 p.m. ball, guests assembled in the ballroom. Always a thrilling sight, the first appearance of Proteus, the king, garnered much applause. Quite a few knew the identity of his majesty, who was admired by family and friends. He stood in front of a backdrop of a giant pink seashell surrounded by fishnet, treasure chests, giant sea horses and fish of many kinds.
The white-garbed captain, the 11th one in the history of the krewe, then escorted her majesty, the queen, around the ballroom floor before presenting her to Proteus. Shortly after, the royal pair led the Grand March with the entire court. A hearty ovation accompanied them.
Mr. James J. Reiss Jr. was the general chairman of the ball with assistance from Vice Chairmen Messrs. Alfred W. Brown III, Michael K. Fitzpatrick, Vaughan O. Fitzpatrick, Richard M. Freeman Jr., William H. Hines, Blair F. Scanlon Jr., Robert J. Stumm Jr., Patrick A. Talley Jr. and Robert J. Whann IV. As did the late Mr. Bassich, several of them have had daughters reign at Proteus.
Hailey, as the 2016 monarch, caught every eye in a trumpet-shaped gown by Suzanne St. Paul that had “waves” of Swarovski crystals, beads and sequins as encrustation. Wave-patterned netting over the diamond white, double silk satin created a dimensional base for the glorious gown. Completing the royal attire were the mantle, and glittering Medici collar, crown and scepter.
Her mother, Laurie Becker, and sister Lindsey L. Becker were in lovely gowns, too. They were seated in prominent areas, as were Mmes. L. Noel Johnson Jr., C. James McCarthy III, Thomas D. Westfeldt II, Michael J. Bell, E. James Kock III, Thomas E. Beron, William C. Nelson, Mason H. McCarthy, Shawn M. McCarthy, John F. Taylor, Jerry L.E. Elmore, Edward G. Reynolds Jr., Robert H. Saer, Charles W. Goodyear IV, Christian T. Brown, Rufus M. Brown, Blair F. Scanlon Jr., Devereux P. Moring, and Jefferson G. Parker. Wives of the ball’s vice chairmen included Mmes. Hines, Brown, Whann and Talley. Quite a few of them were escorted to the dance floor for the music of the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra. Proteus introduced the ritual of call-outs in 1893.
“Her Majesty the Queen of Proteus requests your presence at Supper” headed the invitation for more gallivanting immediately after the ball in the Marriott. There, assorted props and decorations, such as seahorses, fishes, coral and shells, paid decorative homage to the krewe’s namesake. Gumbo, shrimp and grits, scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, and, of course king cake, were the taste treats and those of the Voltage Brothers, for late night boogieing.
Another invitation, and one bordered in red, the organization’s color, was for 3 p.m.“at home.” The Beckers most graciously entertained, allowing special guests to see queen Hailey up close. And to chat with her. Expressing her excitement, as did just about every monarch this past season, she added how honored she was to be chosen and the imminent thrill that awaited of stepping out onto the floor as the queen and joining Proteus in their reign. All was accomplished with great regality!
“I went to Antoine’s with my parents thinking it was to celebrate their anniversary,” said Miss Evelyn Frances Brooks about her mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Schoen Brooks Jr. “There were red roses and they said they were for me,” she continued. And that is how Miss Brooks found out that she was going to be queen of the Krewe of Mystery, the Ball of Roses. Reigning last year was Miss Catherine Turner Worley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bruce Worley Jr.
The revelation of the queenship was chatted about, among many other related subjects, at the home of her Brooks grandparents, prior to the ball. Then it was on to a new venue, The Orpheum. There, and with the theme “Mystery Goes to the Opera,” Queen Francie graced a court that included as maids Misses Aby Dixon Hamrich (the Dorians queen), Sarah Ehret Martin (the Prophets of Persia queen), Isabelle LaPlace Shall, Meredith Anita Tufton (the Athenians queen, and in the same theater where she had just reigned), and Frances Elizabeth Varner.
Misses Carson Louise Browne, Meghan Lynn Keen, Samantha Jordan Knister and Christina Mattingly Rareshide were the trainbearers, and Masters Charles Thompson Pipes and Williams Courtade Carrere Jr., the pages. In the tableau, the Phantom tried to hijack the ball and steal the queen, but was saved by the (faux) captain and a “swinging” chandelier.
Fifty years ago, Miss Frances Elizabeth Monroe (now Mrs. Leo F. Richardson II) wore the Mystery crown. As special past monarchs of 1966 and 2015, she and Miss Worley were presented with bouquets.
Messrs. William Manley Hines and Dwight LeBlanc Acomb (fathers of past queens), served as respective general and court committee chairmen with assistance from Messrs. Oliver S. Delery Jr., Charles T. Walsten, Donald O. Collins, Henry C. Shonberg, Alan G. Brackett, Justin B. Schmidt, Patrick A. Talley Jr., and Michael Q. Walshe Jr.
Suzanne St. Paul designed the lovely dress of queen Francie, an artfully beaded, diamond white gown of double silk satin. The rose motif of the organization was prominent in the heavily embellishment. In addition to such royal accessories as her collar, jewel-encrusted crown and scepter, she wore the ermine-trimmed Dior red mantle.
Her mother, Laura, also chose Mrs. St. Paul for her couturiere in an emerald green ball gown with a lace appliqued bodice. She was seated with Mmes. Bernard Joseph Heggeman, Philip Brooks Sr., Clayton Taylor, Van Gallinghouse, Ben Tom Roberts, Ruffin Graham Jr., Robert Weaver, Scott Heggeman, Bernard Heggeman III, Leonard Nalty, Richard Grant, Daniel Tarantin, William Bauer, Evans Schmidt, P. Albert Bienvenu IV, James Grady, Britton Cooper, and Walter Becker Jr., as well as Alyce Head and Diane Killeen.
Gail (Mrs. Edward Hart) Bergin (outfitted in a Mary Katrantzou ensemble) and Grace Hagen, grandmothers of page Courtade Carrere, were seated near Reid Bergin and Cherry Phillips (the 1973 queen), and Mmes. Jacques Hazard Carrere, William Hugh Hines, Kerry S. Milano, Cynthia Perrilliat, R. Foster Duncan, Herbert W. Van Horn, Wilmer T. Freiberg, William E. Davis, J. Philip Ordoyne, David Olson and Shaun B. Rafferty (artist Katie, who did the invitation and program).
Noted, too, were Blair Davis and Charlotte Drennan, and Mmes. H. Mark Adams, William M. Hines, Worley, Robert F. Spencer, Acomb, Mahlon D. Sanford, Michael T. Charbonnet, John C. Calhoun, David C.L. Gibbons Jr., William C. Carrere Sr., and H. Minor Pipes. Many wore the Adler’s-designed krewe favor of a long-stemmed red rose.
Robert Maxwell conducted the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra, playing “Happy Birthday” in honor of the queen after the Grand March.
Regal jubilation followed at the New Orleans Country Club for the Queen’s Supper, where sliders and French fries were part of the food fare along with breakfast; Meade Wenzel did the flowers for the mantels and tables; and Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters played for three hours, at one point drawing the 2015 and ‘16 queens on stage for a duet.
“A night I will never forget,” said queen Francie later in royal reflection as she marveled at the queenly thrills of joining the Mystery king on the throne to dancing with family and friends to Rockin’ Dopsie.