Patricia Newman contributes to our series on meeting local folks on trips:

"On an annual looong trip home from working in Japan, I had a flight change in Dallas.

"As I wearily read a book to pass the time, a gentleman wearing a bright orange three-piece suit and shiny black patent leather shoes sat down next to me.

"As several people approached to shake his hand, I recognized him as Percy Sledge. An obvious fan said, 'Percy, your songs are probably responsible for spikes in the birth rate.'

"Mr. Sledge grinned and said, 'You mean this one …':

"The concourse crowd stopped as if in a freeze-frame moment to listen to his a cappella rendition of 'When A Man Loves A Woman.' And what a voice!

"Later that night, as Mr. Sledge and I exited the Baton Rouge airport, I thanked him for his spontaneous serenade in Dallas.

"As he climbed into his white Rolls-Royce trimmed with gold running boards and tire rims, he tipped his fedora and said, 'You are most welcome.'

"As his chauffeur drove him away, it took me a moment to breathe again."

Absolutely fabulous 

That describes the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade, the biggest and rowdiest in Baton Rouge. Since it happens pretty much in my front yard, I wind up mentioning it every year.

Saturday's event featured two dancers as royalty: Queen Gabby Brewhaha Loubiere Higgins is a longtime member of the adorable Prancing Babycakes, and King Daniel Hoffman leads the Golden Guys, a hilarious male version of LSU's Golden Girls. So there a whole lotta shakin' goin' on. …

There were also the floats, vying for more or less coveted awards in categories that ranged from odd to strange. Float themes included flamingos, draining the swamp (both literally and figuratively), hometown girl Stormy Daniels and her benefactor, corruption in Washington, "adult" shops and "see no evil" NFL referees.

Here are a few of the Major Awards. The other Major Awards will eventually be posted at the website spanishtownmardigras.com:

Worst Float: This award is actually given to the float the judges liked best but are too perverse to say so. The Krewe of Sherwood Forest won for its tribute to Spanish Town legends who have passed on to that big parade in the sky.

Best Float: Krewe of Cookie, for a float one judge termed "a tribute to aluminum siding" (don't ask).

Best Bribe: Krewe of Krime, for "keeping the tradition alive" — that is, the grand Louisiana tradition of greasing palms to get favors.

Epic Theme Failure: Krewe of Tucumcari, for a failure to use enough pink and enough flamingos to reflect the parade's traditional color and critter.

Smiley Award: The judges asked me to give (and, I assume, pay for) a special award to any group I felt deserved recognition.

So while the Golden Guys danced off with the Best Marching Group Award, the first, and possibly only, Smiley Award goes to The Prancing Babycakes, lovely and energetic young ladies, cuter than a basket of kittens.

The fact that they carried a "Babycakes Love Smiley" banner did not influence my choice in any manner. Trust me. …

Thought for the Day

From Algie Petrere: "People are excited about the new iPhone, but most haven't caught up with the awesome technology of using your blinker when you drive."

Short story

Ben Valentine, of Gonzales, says when he started school at Carpenter School No. 1 in my hometown of Natchez, Mississippi (I attended Carpenter School No. 2), he was 3 feet tall, too short to notice the signs on the restroom doors.

He observed that the restrooms appeared to have different equipment. Then, "one day I looked up. On one door was the word 'Boys' and on the other the word 'Girls.'

"Ever since, I always look twice before going in.

"By the way, there is a state law is Mississippi that you must use the restroom of the sex in which you were born. Guess if I had been caught at age 6 or 7, I would have been sent to jail."


Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.