While there is often debate as to what constitutes a “superkrewe,” Endymion appears on everyone’s list.
Several things separate Endymion from the two other krewes that are universally accepted as “super” — the older Bacchus, which it admittedly copied, and its younger cousin, Orpheus.
Like Bacchus, Endymion is an all-male organization, but unlike Bacchus and Orpheus, it features a local queen and maids and selects a king by lottery from its membership. Endymion also has assigned itself the unenviable task of selecting grand marshals who not only attract crowds to the parade but also fill the seats when they perform at the post-parade Extravaganza at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Arguably the most intriguing difference between Endymion and its fellow superkrewes is that Endymion started small.
As the club celebrates its 50th anniversary with more than 3,000 members and a sold-out Extravaganza, credit must be given to 76-year-old founder Ed Muniz, a former radio station owner, Jefferson Parish councilman and past mayor of Kenner. Muniz, the only member from the first parade who still rides, is also the longest-serving captain in the history of Mardi Gras.
After participating as a rider in Babylon and Thoth, Muniz saw his chance to start his own krewe when the Adonis parade went belly-up after its 1964 procession. Muniz coveted Adonis’ spot on the parade calendar on the Saturday night before Fat Tuesday, but it took a couple of years before the City Council assigned the slot to his new club, whose corporate name was (and still is) the Gentilly Carnival Club.
The Krewe of Carrollton agreed to rent floats to Endymion for $5,000, and 12 bands signed on to march in the inaugural procession.
Muniz used his skills as a radio ad salesman to publicize Endymion’s first parade. Because it featured a sports theme, he invited the sports directors of local newspapers and radio and TV stations to ride in convertibles, guaranteeing coverage by their media outlets. Muniz personally plastered announcements about the first parade on telephone poles in the neighborhood — a gimmick borrowed from his days promoting high school dances.
Preparade newspaper coverage was limited to brief mentions in columns by Tommy Griffin, Maud O’Bryan and Pie Dufour.
On Feb. 4, 1967, with 155 men aboard 16 rented floats, the krewe presented its first parade, with the theme “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Major sports teams such as the Boston Patriots and the Houston Astros were highlighted. The final float saluted the New Orleans Saints, a team that had yet to play its first game.
The procession featured 68 units, including the famed Olympia Brass Band, which preceded the captain’s car. The dukes and officers rode in convertibles, and a special car carried gifts for the Milne Girls’ Home for Retarded Orphans. To help establish an identity, the krewe hired high-stepping cheerleaders to carry signs that spelled out “E-N-D-Y-M-I-O-N 1-9-6-7.”
Riding as guests were popular Tulane University football coach Jim Pittman and Houston Astros star, New Orleans’ own Rusty Staub. Local TV and newspaper personalities Wayne Mack, Buddy Diliberto and Art Burke were featured as well.
A mere seven years later, as Endymion morphed into a superkrewe, Muniz and his krewe could look back fondly on the little upstart club embarking from the shadows of the Fair Grounds race track in Gentilly.