Parades such as ’tit Rex, Chewbacchus, krewe delusion and Krewe du Vieux contribute so much to the Carnival season in New Orleans, providing far more cost-effective membership opportunities than traditional krewes, while offering the paradegoing public truly unique viewing experiences.
Off-the-wall “alternative parades” are nothing new. Historically, the original Phunny Phorty Phellows, begun in 1878, and the Independent Order of the Moon, founded in 1881, were the city’s first alternative parades. Both rolled after Rex with satirical themes that featured full-size floats.
Some even consider the early Zulu parades to have been spoofs of Rex, although the current Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club says satire was never what those parades were about.
The oldest, biggest and most popular alternative parade is presented by the Krewe du Vieux, founded in 1987. Krewe du Vieux was actually sired by the Crew of Clones, which began in 1978 and was based at the Contemporary Arts Center.
In keeping with a city ordinance, Krewe du Vieux is not considered a Mardi Gras parade because it does not roll within the 12 days before Fat Tuesday. That is why it is allowed to march through the French Quarter, feature adult themes and throw items that would be banned in traditional Carnival parades.
The club prides itself on being an equal-opportunity offender, skewering politicians, religions, institutions and public figures alike. Despite sexual themes and scatological humor a bit too raw for some sensibilities, the parade has never been more popular.
Its own mission statement says it best: “The Krewe du Vieux is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the historical and traditional concept of a Mardi Gras parade as an avenue for individual creative expression and satirical commentary.”
Technically, the parade is an amalgam of smaller krewes. According to Le Monde de Merde, the club’s annual newspaper, “the Krewe du Vieux’s 17 subkrewes include the Krewe of C.R.U.D.E., Krewe of Space Age Love, Krewe of Underwear, Seeds of Decline, Krewe of Mama Roux, Krewe of L.E.W.D., Krewe of Drips and Discharges, Krewe of K.A.O.S., Knights of Mondu, T.O.K.I.N., Krewe Rue Bourbon, Krewe de C.R.A.P.S., Mystic Krewe of Spermes, Mystic Krewe of Comatose, Mystic Krewe of Inane and Krewe du Mishigas.”
Through the years, Krewe du Vieux royalty has included a virtual who’s who of local characters and celebrities, such as Angus Lind, Ronnie Virgets, Dr. John, Frankie Ford, Chris Rose, Walt Handelsman, Irma Thomas, Buddy Diliberto, Danny Barker, Becky Allen, Al Scramuzza and Paul Prudhomme.