Could This Be Majesty?
One day a Carnival commoner, the next day a queen! A brace of lively seasonal revels determines queenships on the spot. There’s no need to spend months in preparations. With these two fetes, it’s done with random and regal gusto. While her majesty at both festive balls was yet to be decided, the kings were en route to the venues, each one taking a mode of transportation that was different and unique.
King Neptune LXIII of the Bards of the Bilges departed his Royal Yacht to lead his subjects into the ball in the Southern Yacht Club with the lively accompaniment of the Chris Burke Jazz Band. Uptown at the Winter Palace on St. Charles Avenue, The Arthurians hailed King Arthur of the Round Table and his queen, Guinevere. Prior to her surprise selection, Arthur and his entourage arrived via the streetcar.
Social Media Trumps SYC
Since 1955 and in conjunction with the Mardi Gras Regatta hosted by the Southern Yacht Club, the Bards of the Bilges have continued a seasonal frolic. The emphasis is “placed on fun and hilarity while maintaining enough dignity to satisfy the (court) maids.” For the 2018 jaunt, the invitation showed various symbols of social media flanking a coat of arms that had in its quadrants a sailboat, a pennant with SYC, a propeller and an anchor. Above was the slogan “Quod est Hoc” (“What is this?”) and below, “Bards of the Bilges.” Louisiana Spice was tapped for the music and the Bards Opera Ballet Perloo and Messing Around Society was scheduled for the tableau.
In keeping with the theme, “Social Media Trumps SYC,” there were decorations the lobby of appropriate props. More traditional Mardi Gras-oriented decorations of purple, green and gold adorned the upper levels of the clubhouse, as did balloons, streamers and flowers. The royal stage was created to be a "Majestic Undersea Adventure" as an homage to King Neptune LXIII (63rd).
His majesty was costumed in his traditional attire, including a crown and a trident in lieu of a standard scepter. The ladies of the court — her majesty was yet to be determined — were dressed to resemble various forms of social media, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and YouTube. Just moments before the ball began, they went through the motions to select a queen. Last year, with “Live from SYC, It’s Saturday Night” titling the fun, Monica Mehaffie was chosen by Lady Luck to rule alongside Neptune. The court ladies included Amory Levert, Caroline Meric, Erin Rowan, Gretchen Schmedtje and Ruth L. Thieneman.
As an annual highlight of the ball, often a spoof with good-natured satire, one of the most exciting moments is the selection of the queen. Her majesty is determined by a drawing. As it has been for many a moon, identical elegantly wrapped jewel boxes had contents signaling the titles of either “Maid” or, for one, “Queen.” Bracelets inside the boxes for the former designated that status, while the sterling silver bracelet with the custom, hand-engraved charm with “Queen” meant royalty.
“Maid” marked Margot Provensal; Lauren D. Smith, wife of Jerome G. Smith III; Gretchen L. Fischer, wife of M. Paul Fischer; Alycia H. Swayze, wife of Robert L Swayze Jr.; Stefanie Breland Bennett, wife of Chris Bennett; and Erin Taylor Chandler. That meant that the “Queen” status befell Lucy Kupersmith Loe, wife of John R. Loe. In addition to the above noble jewelry, Neptune presented each member of his beautiful court with a pair of pearl earrings as treasures from the “deep.”
Not only were the queen and court costumed, but so were a slew of revelers, who sported Donald Trump outfits (and the slogan “Make Bards Great Again”), along with Rocket Men, Russian Hackers and “The Wall.” Various satirical nautical costumes were also evidenced.
Among those seated at Neptune’s table were Commodore Guy P. Brierre and spouse Pam, Waldo C. Otis Jr. and Julia, the junior P. Albert Bienvenus, Alexander Thieneman and Kay Pangle, Al Gooch and Karen Reily, and Mrs. and Mrs. Marshall “Potter” Ballard. A number of them figured on the dance floor, hopping up from the table where they relished traditional Queen’s Supper fare of grits and grillades, fresh fruit, eggs, and king cake. Noticed were the above Pam, Angie Provensal, Katherine Blaum, Jeanne Herman, Julie Wilson Dicolo, Grace LaGraize, Karen Benrud, Cindy Fischer, Caroline Meric, Charlotte Meade, Shannon Davies, Susan Legros, Molly Harrell, Sandra Denny, Mary Ann Barkerding, Meredith Provensal, Jacqueline Kepper and JoAnn Gahagan. Setting the moves in motion was the Crescent City Soul band.
A top feature of the annual romp and royalty is the tableau presented by the SYC’s Thespians, The Bards Opera Ballet Perloo and Messing Around Society. The 2018 title was “The Tri-Sin-Tennial of the Perloo,” aligning the Perloo with the city’s 300 years (or something like that). While some were scratching their heads in confusion, all were clamoring for more.
Joshua S. Reyher chaired the 2018 Arthurians Ball at the Winter Palace, where Arthur XXXVIII, his royal entourage, and the krewe members arrived via streetcar at approximately 8:30 p.m. Heralded by bagpipes from the Kilts of Many Colours, the royal entourage included Merlin, the Royal Jester, and two Knights Chamberlain. Upon arrival at the palace, Arthur and his following retired to the second floor. Descending a short while later, and amid eager anticipation, Merlin went about the gathered assembly to select a court. First, he tapped ladies in waiting Mrs. Bruce Benjamin Lowry (Shelly Gallender) and Mrs. William Parker Sanders (Catherine). Both expressed delighted surprise.
Next to be determined was her majesty Guinevere, and Merlin began his quest. After much excited suspense, Mrs. Aaron J Friedman (Devorah) was chosen to reign over the ball with King Arthur. “I was stunned,” she said with a smile. Then the newly dubbed court assembled on the staircase landing in front of the stained glass windows before descending for the Grand Procession to the thrones at the head of the ballroom. Mrs. William C. Elliott (Donna Allen), Guinevere 2017, was then escorted to the throne and presented with a bouquet of red roses. Ladies in waiting in her court last year were Mmes. H. Grady Hardy and Elroy Eckhardt, Letizia and Judy, who were part of the 2018 fete with their husbands.
Following tradition, dancing ensued to the music of the New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra, led by George Schmidt. Lynda Moreau and tenor Casey Candebat delighted the revelers with an impromptu duet with the orchestra, indulging the collective ear.
The eye was treated as well, thanks to a décor of green garland with thousands of tiny white lights that hung from the ceiling. The billiard room was transformed into a dining room with two buffet tables featuring profusions of flowers by Meade Wenzel and food by Martin Wine Cellar. Throughout the party, guests hovered about the tables for smoked salmon, an assortment of meats, and desserts. All good!
Noted were spouses Charles Carr and Susan Taylor, Sandra and Bill Callender, Hugh Blair, Donna and Chris Elliott, Mary and Seth Nehrbass, Cheryl and Michael Dendy, Melissa and Bruce Gordon, Reggie Badeaux, spouses Jack Stewart and Ann Woodruff, Charlene and Tim Peterson, Jimmy and Anne Morse, Keith and Stephen Derbes, Emily and Tom Ryan, Melissa and Clay Andrews, Alan and Joan Sheen, Errol and Peggy Scott Laborde, Phil Mollere, Terry and John Olivier, Tim Pickles, Kathy and Philip Youngberg, spouses Rick Normand and Liz Williams, Elizabeth and John Ryan, Nick and Nancy Matulich and legions more. Some of their chatter concerned the Guinevere luncheon at the New Orleans Country Club six days before that included Mmes. L. Clayton Andrews, Battle Bell III, Russ W. Copping, W. Christopher Elliott III, George S. Ellis Jr., Bruce A. Gordon, Edward O. Gros, Keene R. Kelley, Arthur Landry, Howard M. Schmalz, Richard Seba, Alan F. Sheen, John Stewart and Kenneth Urquhart.
As the party pace quickened, so did the dancing. “The Sheik” brought Louis and Mary Len Costa to the floor, while “Hiawatha’s Lullaby” had Alan and Joan Sheen as one of the dancing duos. The tempo was given a lively jolt with “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” The pipers arrived around 10:20 p.m. for yet another festive fillip. When all was concluded, and in the context of pre-Mardi Gras fun, the anonymous Arthur, Guinevere Devorah and ladies in waiting Shelly and Catherine shone during an evening of glorious scintillation and surprise.