The Goddess of Chance was mighty busy on Tuesday evening — the 12th day after Christmas and the official start of the Carnival season — at her annual epiphanous activity at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Each year, she has the task of selecting a queen for the Twelfth Night Revelers ball, which she did with grace and ease, but she also had to find court maids. And she did, 20 all total! A beautiful bevy received the silver beans from the Twelfth-Cake and were thus TNR maids, while the unknowing future majesty discovered the golden one.
“I was very, very surprised,” said Miss Isabel Nott Jackson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Harris Jackson, when she beheld the glittering bean. “I was so excited to realize that I would be queen.”
Maids to her majesty Isabel were Misses Catherine Crawford Adams, Sarah Kent Agnew, Patricia McCarthy Beron, Grace Catherine Mallette Cary, Claire Marie Clay, Eleanor Brennan Davis, Jordan Elizabeth Devlin, Margaret Coco Ellis, Christina Ann Ewin, Elizabeth Ashland Hines, Sage Lyons Laborde, Caroline Bernard McGraw, Regan Starnes Nelson, Karoline Havens Mallette Patrick, Kelly Wright Swanson, Katherine Larson Thompson, Nicole Elizabeth Weinmann, Maia Margaret Weston, Leah Katherine Whann and Catherine Turner Worley. Several of them have royal forebears in the organization.
The printed program — which featured a depiction of a pie by Patricia Hardin, recalling the nursery rhyme of “Little Jack Horner” — listed court members of 2014, starting with the queen, Miss Virginia Legier Alpaugh, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Roussel Alpaugh. Maids of the 2014 court counted Misses Lindsey Taylor Baker, Claire Catherine Brown, Carroll Irene Gelderman, Hayley Louise Hoefer, Katherine Blair Johnson, Kaelin Louise Ochsner, Claire Elizabeth Plauche, Shelley Elizabeth Tompkins and Laura Eason Weinmann. Several wore Carnival crowns during the 2014 season, including Miss Gelderman, who became queen of Carnival and consort to Rex.
Boys — the Junior Cooks of 2015 (and dressed, but without masks, like the adult cooks or Bakers) — included Masters Pierce Eduardo Bewley, Lynton Guy Cook IV (who had fun that night with his surname!), Whitfield Christopher Scott Conner, Myles Makofsky Douglas, Charles Ferrier McCall, Walker McCall Montgomery and Walter Watson Scriber. Among the proud family members were Lise (Mrs. Richard Bullard III) Montgomery, grandmother of Walker, and his mother, Courtney.
Just prior to the bal masque in the ballroom of the hotel, guests assembled for a reception across the elegant hallway. Placed on several easels were newspaper pages of yore with pictures of their TNR courts, including the one of 1965, with Miss Ellenor Roger Clay as queen.
At 8:20 p.m., Miss Alpaugh, in full majesterial regalia, was hailed by a former Lord of Misrule, as the TNR king is called. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “I would like to propose a toast” and turned in the direction of Virginia Alpaugh. She acknowledged his gracious words, adding her appreciation, “We had so much fun this past year.” Nearby were her radiant look-alike mother, Barbara Alpaugh, and her grandmother, Barbara Ramirez.
From there, everyone advanced to the ballroom, where the Junior Cooks distributed the printed programs. Then the white-sequined captain commenced the formalities, guiding out to the floor the 2015 Lord of Misrule, and then retiring queen Virginia, who was accompanied by ball Chairman Michael D. Charbonnet.
The robust sounds of the Marine Corps Band in New Orleans announced their presence and “The Star-Spangled Banner” brought the audience to their feet. A few additional, lively numbers were played before the band launched into anthems of the armed forces. On the stage area and golden throne, which at that point was occupied by Virginia and the 2015 Lord of Misrule, were the decorations of a turquoise-colored backdrop with painted swags, a brace of large candelabra, two glittering chandeliers and four golden-cloth swags flanked by hanging drapery.
Then the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra struck up “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked A Cake” as a cue for the arrival of the adult Bakers, two in number, who brandished glittery swords to “cut” the huge cake. It was from that oversize confection — and during the first dance for unmarried ladies — that little boxes containing the prized beans were presented to the 21 debutantes who formed the 2015 court. So selected, they withdrew from the ballroom to return as the radiant cortege of 2015. At that time, Virginia Alpaugh relinquished her queenly mantle to successor Isabel.
Dancing then ensued with “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” as a lively number and a special one reserved for the Junior Cooks and their mothers. Donna Summers’ “The Last Dance” was the appropriate finale.
At that point, guests departed the ballroom, many of the ladies sporting the krewe favor of a gold pin with two purple cherries, in keeping with the “Little Jack Horner” theme that was also created on the TRN 2015 silver doubloons. Some of the chatter, as wives joined their krewe-member husbands (who had changed out of their masks and costumes), was about the earlier krewe dinner at Antoine’s and the miniparade in the French Quarter. Said one member about the dinner and later ball, “It was thoroughly enjoyable. And I emphasize enjoyable.”
Former TNR queens assembled for lunch in the Twelfth Night Room at Antoine’s at midday before the ball. Quite a few of them attended the ball, including Courtney-Anne Sarpy, Judy Walshe Whann, Tatine Maginnis Frater, Nancy Nolan Parsley (the 40-year queen), Eileen Eshleman Stewart, Eleanor Bernard Carney, Celeste Flower Eustis and, of course, Virginia Alpaugh.
After the ball, the Garden District home of Tony and Katherine Waters Gelderman, parents of the above Carroll Gelderman, was the location for the Queen’s Supper. Present were krewe members and their guests, as well as TNR queen of 1980 Julia Waters Burlingame, the sister of hostess Katherine. Also, the new queen’s mother, Kitty Jackson, who received a host of compliments about daughter Isabel’s honor.
Isabel, flush with the excitement of her new royalty, expressed her gratitude at being selected and her appreciation of her king, who had known for a while of his monarchal role and had trained for it. “He was so helpful guiding me in what to do.”
Such regal pairs will fill many a court through Feb. 17 and, during that time, mirth and tradition will blend in the city’s glorious celebration of Carnival. All hail!