Stephanie Grace: The Mardi Gras trifecta of mockery

There are all sorts of ways to calibrate the trajectory of a public figure’s image. You can follow the polls or scour news reports. In New Orleans we’ve got yet another metric: the portrayals of pols and other bigwigs come Carnival time, particularly by the krewes that trade in topical satire.

Consider Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman. Gusman, facing a runoff for re-election against predecessor Charlie Foti next week, has spent the campaign season changing the subject from decrepit conditions at Orleans Parish Prison, now under a federal consent decree, to his ongoing construction of a new facility.

Yet bedlam at the old OPP — and in particular the infamous videos that surfaced over the past year, one of prisoners using drugs, chugging beer, chatting on cellphones and showing off a loaded gun inside, another of an inmate who checked himself out and headed over to Bourbon Street — was one of this Carnival’s ripest targets.

Gusman and OPP landed the trifecta of the three big Uptown satirical parades. Thursday, the Knights of Chaos, whose parade theme was “Chaos Goes to Hell,” showed Gusman snoring on the side of a float titled “Helter Skelter.” The Krewe of Muses followed that night with “Project Runaway,” in keeping with its fashion-oriented “Ready-to-Wear You Out” theme. (I’m a longstanding member of Muses). On Friday, the prison became “Club Gusman” on the “Happy Hour” float in Krewe d’Etat’s “Under the Influence” parade.

Actually, make that a supefecta, if you include the raunchy early season downtown Krewe du Vieux parade, which featured a “Last Dance at OPP” float in its “Where the Vile Things Are” procession — complete with disco ball. Foti couldn’t have asked for anything more.

The city’s newspaper war was another hot topic; former mayoral and gubernatorial candidate and new Advocate owner John Georges scored another three-fer, with floats focusing on his penchant for buying up businesses and his allegedly still smoldering political ambitions. (Georges said last week that he’s not planning a run for governor but added that he’d “never say never.”) Muses’ “Emperor’s New Clothes” showed Georges in a suit made entirely of newsprint; on the side, he declares to nobody in particular, “You can kiss my Picayune!” In Chaos, Georges wore horns on the “Devil’s Advocate” float, and in d’Etat, the float theme was “Know When to Say When.”

Other popular themes were the Affordable Care Act, gridlock in Washington and Miley Cyrus’ misadventures. Krewe d’Etat got timely with floats depicting Vladimir Putin (“White Russian”) and Toronto Mayor and all-around embarrassment Rob Ford (“Canadian Club”). Muses lampooned controversial celebrity chef Paula Deen (“Separates”) and featured a giant po-boy float labeled “New Orleans’ best dressed.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu got relatively light treatment, although Chaos dubbed him “Pope Mitch,” and Krewe du Vieux’s Krewe of Spank built a “Disneylandrieu” float and threw maps to “Mitchey Mayor’s Gentrified Kingdom.” “Coming next: Louisiandrieu?” the back of the float asked.

So did recently convicted former Mayor Ray Nagin, which probably had more to do with trial’s timing than with the satirical possibilities. Only Chaos gave Nagin his own float, titled “Beezleboob.” But although he’ll soon be a federal inmate, Nagin did put in an appearance in several of the OPP floats. For the second year in a row, d’Etat pictured the former mayor in an orange jumpsuit reprising a line from his famous post-Katrina rant: “You gotta be kidding me.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ambitions were front and center, too. Muses featured the governor on its pinstriped “Insincere Sucker” float. Krewe du Vieux had him twerking — another popular image this year — and riding a wrecking ball aimed at the State Capitol. It’s no surprise that the edgy krewe put Jindal in the crosshairs; after all, it chose as its king author John Barry, whom Jindal dumped from the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East because he spearheaded the agency’s lawsuit against Big Oil and Gas.

Barry’s costume? John of Arc.

Stephanie Grace can be contacted at sgrace@theadvocate.com. Read her blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/gracenotes.