“I was completely and utterly surprised,” said a radiant Corinne Adele Guillot, who goes by Coco, at the supper in the New Orleans Tennis Club given by her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Jacques Louis Guillot, after the Twelfth Night Revelers Ball in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. As she received a host of congratulations on being selected the 2016 queen of the venerable Carnival krewe, which started in 1870 (making it the second oldest in the annals after the Mystic Krewe of Comus), she continued, saying, “I closed the box and then reopened it.” At that moment, she knew she would wear the sparkling crown.
When the Twelfth Night Revelers began, they wanted a queenly monarch, and thus became the first krewe to do so. She was chosen by the Goddess of Chance by drawing a golden bean. In Coco’s case, she received hers in the above-mentioned little box that was contained in the huge king cake with candles that was rolled out onto the dance floor at the beginning of the ball. Court maids received silver beans, and other single ladies, who were eligible for the first dance, a tiny slice of cake (quite delicious!), in a similar box.
As with so many Carnival organizations, tradition plays a role: In 1985, queen Coco’s mother, as Miss Jacqueline L. Provosty, also received the gold bean. She wore it on a delicate chain around her neck for the most recent gallivanting.
Many others in the audience also sported silver beans and a few of them gold. Most notably, the recipients of the latter were the 50th-anniversary queen, Mrs. M. Ellis Frater Jr. (the former Kathleen “Tatine” Maginnis), who was presented to their 2016 majesties, and the 2015 monarch, Miss Isabel Nott Jackson, who reappeared in all her majestical glory. She then graciously ceded her reign to Miss Guillot.
The 11 recipients of 2016 silver beans, all debutantes of the season, along with queen Coco, were Misses Hailey Simmons Becker, Agnes Robeson Bell (niece of a former TNR queen, Mrs. William T. Nolan II, the former Lynn Agnes Favrot (who shortly after reigned as queen of Carnival), Shawn Elizabeth Conner, Sophie Monrose Curtis, twins Gladys Grace Gille and Lucile Rose Gille, Adelaide Dabezies Goodyear, and Katherine Elise Johnsen. (Katie Johnsen is the niece of Karen Johnsen — Mrs. James M. Jr. — Baldwin and the granddaughter of former Rex Eric F. Johnsen.)
Additional 2016 maids were Misses Ruth Marie Nairne Landry, Shelby Heath Sharp Meckstroth, and Lily Reiss Saer. All three have many Carnival connections.
After toasts to Miss Jackson, the 2015 queen, during the reception across the capacious hallway from the ballroom, guests moved to the ballroom. The Junior Cooks quickly distributed the programs to the white-gloved audience. In it were their names — Masters John Roache Cook V, David Cartan Loker Gibbons III, William Alexander Groome, Michael Joseph Landry, James Robert Nieset III, Charles Thompson Pipes, John Blakemore Schwing Jr. and St. Denis Julien Villere IV – as well as the names of the 2015 court and the story of the Twelfth Night Revelers. As was the pretty invitation, both designed by former debutante mother Patricia Hardin, the program cover theme was that of “Beauty and the Beast.” By complete coincidence — with perhaps a prescient touch by the Goddess of Chance — Beauty, as drawn by Mrs. Hardin, bore a distinct resemblance to queen Coco Guillot. She wore a white gown and had long flowing locks of black hair.
Further features of the evening were five impressive numbers played by a Marine Corps band, including “The Star-Spangled Banner”; the arrival of the 2016 king, the Lord of Misrule as he is called, to a hearty ovation; the appearance of the 2015 queen Miss Jackson, who graced the throne alongside his majesty of 2016 for a short while; and the gleeful entrance of the krewe, which included white-outfitted Bakers, and others in colorful attire. All wore gloves. Then came two Bakers, brandishing long beribboned knives, to “cut” the oversize cake that contained the little boxes. The JMO, Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra (led by his son, Robert), played “If I Knew You Were Comin’ (I’d’ve Baked a Cake).”
The first dance, to “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” drew single ladies and the prospective maids and queen to the floor, where they received the wee boxes. Once known of their courtly roles, the debutantes were guided off the floor, only to return in glory for the grand march.
A round of dancing ensued, concurrent with guests queuing up to pay homage to the 2016 Lord of Misrule and queen Coco. In polite fashion, the white-garbed captain later danced with his former monarch, Isabel Jackson, to “September.”
At the ball’s conclusion, and after JMO’s “The Last Dance,” the formal exits were in effect, guided by the captain. The first to leave was queen Coco, then the Lord of Misrule, who turned to his subjects to say goodbye with two regal sweeps of his scepter. Remaining were the captain and his lieutenants, while “When the Saints Come Marching in” played. The captain, who has rated raves in that role, turned to one of his lieutenants and placed the whistle of command around the latter’s neck.
And so it was with a change of command and a successor.
At the later supper at the Tennis Club, all three men, outgoing and incoming captain and the Lord of Misrule, whose names are kept secret (but who were known to the membership), received compliments.
Not quite “A Tale as Old as Time,” from the “Beauty and the Beast” musical, Carnival in the Crescent City is now in its third century. The 2016 TNR queen and court will enjoy the remainder of the short season, which culminates on Mardi Gras, Feb. 9, and receive the excitement of additional court and queenly honors. During that busy time, it will be Beauty and the beat.