A nod it was to Hellenism when a brace of Carnival balls paid tribute, one on a Friday evening and the second on Saturday, to Athena, the goddess of the arts and wisdom. The Achaeans held forth with seasonal majesty at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, titling their masked ball “Athena and Odysseus.” The following evening, the Krewe of Athenians called upon Athena from high on Olympus for “A History Lesson.” The organization created its own sense of history, holding the 107th ball in the beautifully renovated Orpheum Theater.
In each case, a debutante queen enjoyed the spotlight.
For the Achaeans, Athena was summoned to guard Odysseus home to Ithaca and a reunion with spouse Penelope, whom he had not seen for years, and who was beseiged by suitors. As the program stated, “Retrieve his wife, his home, and his friends” after his long odyssey.
With such a spirit of return and welcome, it was most fitting that her majesty would be surnamed Bienvenu. Reigning as the queen was Miss Genevieve Marie Bienvenu, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Albert Bienvenu IV. Last year the crown was worn by Miss Courtney Cooke Geary, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Clayton Cook Geary.
Maids to queen Gigi were Misses Agnes Robeson Bell, Shawn Elizabeth Conner, Elizabeth Brooks Ellinghausen, Aby Dixon Hamrick, Leslie Anne Richmond McConnell and Sarah Marie Favrot McLellan. Several claim royal lines to Achaeans through family members over the years, with Aggie Bell’s sister, Miss Leighton Freret Bell, the 2013 monarch, being the most recent one. Said Aggie about the evening, “I felt honored to be a part of beautiful queen Gigi’s court. What a memorable, fun and special evening.” Friday night, Aggie Bell reigned at the ball of the High Priests of Mithras, and Miss Hamrick, Dorians.
Her majesty Gigi related shortly before appearing in her majestic glory in the Sheraton’s Grand Ballroom that she was “excited about the whole experience” of being queen. She learned about her honor in April of 2015, when her parents took her to Antoine’s Restaurant for dinner. On the baked Alaska dessert was inscribed in icing “Queen of Achaeans.”
More than five decades ago, Miss Beverly Anne Reese found out that she would continue the line of queens that was started in 1949 with Blanche Murphy. Now, as Mrs. John M. Church Jr., former queen Bev reappeared at the ball as the 50th anniversary royal. She was gowned in a stunning dress that paired the colors of rich magenta and black.
Her majesty Gigi wore a bead-embellished silk satin gown by Suzanne St. Paul. Rows of Swarovski crystals created radiance throughout. Her royal accessories were the organization’s traditional Medici collar and ermine-trimmed mantle, as well as the glittering crown and scepter.
Her mother, Carol Bienvenu, chose a Teri Jon blue gown with subtle ruching and an off-the-shoulder design. Noted along with Mmes. Bienvenu and Church were other ladies in prominent box seats: Mmes. Blair F. Scanlon, David Gunn Bailey, Thomas E. Beron, Robert H. Saer, L. Noel Johnson Jr., Peter A. Feringa III, Geary, William C. Ellis III, John A. Batt Jr., Bryan W. Fitzpatrick and Gustave Fitzpatrick.
Also, Mmes. Joseph Mann Jr., J. Baldwin Montgomery, Regan R. Leopold, L. Guy Cook III, William H. Langenstein III, Ralph O. Brennan, D. Digges Morgan III, William Treadway III, Cyril P. Geary III, and Martin R. de Laureal. Mr. Treadway was the ball’s general chairman and Mr. Langenstein, the vice chairman.
They applauded the “Odyssey”-inspired tableau that related the return home of the eponymous hero, under the watchful eye of Athena, and danced to the music of the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra.
Before the ball, the queen and her parents entertained the court and their parents at the Bienvenu family home. Post pomp and pageantry, a traditional Queen’s Supper regaled guests in the hotel’s Armstrong Ballroom, where the San Diego band, Liquid Blue, entertained. Flowers by Meade Wenzel adorned the tables of the royalty and blinky necklaces were sported by the guests of his majesty.
As she anticipated, her reign was wonderful. Said queen Gigi afterward, “I had an experience of a lifetime — a truly magical evening.”
Paying tribute to Athena, the goddess of many things, is the Carnival krewe that bears her name, The Athenians. For their most recent masked ball, the staging was at The Orpheum and the queen, Miss Meredith Anita Tufton, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Peter M. Tufton. That same honor befell Miss Ellen Claverie Curry, whose parents are Mr. and Mrs. Guy Christopher Curry, in 2015.
Queen Meredith dazzled in a gown by Royal Design House of silver- silk lame with a Chantilly lace overlay and rich embellishment. From her shoulders fell the traditional Athenians mantle and framing her radiant face, the sparkling Medici collar.
The maids to her majesty were Misses Alexandra Elizabeth Cimini, Mary Olivia Fuchs Gaudin, Sarah Ehret Martin, Alison Marie Mikes, Emily Louise Eble Nelson, Ashley Elizabeth Pou, Mary Callaghan Rome (the Caliphs queen), Marjorie Ann Ryan, Isabelle LaPlace Shall, Katherine Woodworth Slatten (the Nereus monarch), Ellen Catherine Tamplain, Kathryn Grace Turner and Anne Elizabeth Whitsell.
In addition to the four pages, Masters Andrew Warren Breaux, Degan Joseph Dansereau Jr., Nelson Catesby Gagnet, and Collin Mathew Pelitere, were the 10 princesses: Misses Elizabeth Marie Daly, Isabella Marie Dennis, Elizabeth Mary Gerarve, Lyla Dayton Gordon, Abigail Alexis Gotzkowsky, Eleanore Scott Habetz, Adelaide Grace Laurent, Lucille Crane Mason, Riley Helyn Ralston, and Sydney Kate Strayhan.
Mr. Donald O. Collins was the general chairman of the ball, and Messrs. Hilton S. Bell, Henry Schonberg and James T. Inscoe, respective chairmen of the court, reception and floor committees.
Particularly radiant was the queen mother, Linda Tufton, who wore a navy-gold metallic brocade dress designed by Theia. Both she and Dr. Tufton, the royal parents, received a plethora of compliments on regal Meredith, their last debutante daughter. Seated near her were daughters Dr. Anne, Margaret (a former Squires queen) and Ashley (the Prophets of Persia 2012 monarch) and daughter-in-law Mrs. Michael H. Tufton. Also, Mmes. Michael Q. Walshe, John D’Aquin Jr., Gustavo Coutin, Alfred Colfry, Peter H. Dupuy, and William Hoffman. Applauding all the thrills, and chatting about the new venue, were former Athenians maid Claire Zeringue and Mmes. Wayne G. Zeringue Sr. and Jr., Henry A. Barham III, L. James Mahoney, Bartow G. Stulb, Jerome D. Steiner, Steven M. Bossier, Clayton C. Geary, Richard Q. Flick, Craig W. Smith, Collins, Schonberg, Kenneth L. Verlander, Robert C. Hassinger, Justin B. Schmidt, Edwin A. Ellinghausen III, Mark D. Latham, T.J. Semmes Hughes, W. Geary Mason, and Stephen H. Schonberg. And, Ms. Yvette Monju and Miss Jennifer Manges.
Former royals were in attendance, including the above Miss Curry, her four immediate predecessors, and Joyce Mary Delery (of 1982), who organized the annual Past Queens’ Luncheon at Commander’s Palace on the eve of the ball, at which the 50-year monarch, Mrs. Walter C. Flower III, the former Ella Smith Montgomery, was recognized.
During the course of the bal masque, many guests went to the balcony to overlook all of the splendor. It was also in the balcony that the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra was positioned to play. After the elegant excitement at The Orpheum, the Athenians kin and kith headed to the New Orleans Country Club for the delights of the Queen’s Supper and the beat of the Boogiemen, who kept the crowd going on the dance floor until 2 a.m.
Even under the auspices of the namesake deity, all good things must conclude. Upon royal reflection, queen Meredith hoped that the night would never end, a night she shared in all its Carnival glory with family, friends and choice classmates. Athena, too!