Crude Awakening: Krewe du Vieux parades Jan. 19

Krewe du Vieux tears into Times-Picayune, NFL

Photo by Frank Stansbury -- The Krewe du Vieux parade last year had an end of the world, Mayan theme.
Photo by Frank Stansbury -- The Krewe du Vieux parade last year had an end of the world, Mayan theme.

For a Carnival krewe that revels in satire, this year’s theme, “Krewe du Vieux Comes Early!” may not be as cleverly worded as those of previous years. But according to Lee Milliken, Krewe du Vieux’s captain, there will still be plenty of caustic humor in Saturday’s parade.

The 2013 Krewe du Vieux theme refers -- partly -- to the parade’s date being pushed into an earlier time slot because of the Super Bowl, Feb. 3. The NFL is among the subjects being skewered this year he said.

The ownership of The Times-Picayune, the city’s former daily newspaper, also comes in for ridicule for cutting back its production schedule to three days a week and firing many longtime employees.

One float announces, “Tricky Mathews fails to deliver,” a reference to the paper’s new publisher, Ricky Mathews.

“A couple of the others (sub-krewe themes) are just totally silly; just little sexual, nonsensical things. We let every krewe do what they want,” Milliken said. “We just give them an overall theme and say ‘Go for it.’”

Parody of current issues and events is intrinsically linked to the roots of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, dating back more than a century and a half.

When the Mystic Krewe of Comus hit the streets with the first Mardi Gras parade in 1857 it poked fun at some of the burning issues of the day. Satire continued to be theme of the earliest parades. But in the 20th century, that tradition gave way to generic, less controversial themes like mythology, motion pictures and famous places.

Finally, in 1978, satire roared back in the form of the Krewe of Clones, which paraded until 1986 when internal discord caused its demise. A very popular parade whose passing was mourned by its many fans, its spirit was quickly resurrected by the Krewe du Vieux.

Founded in 1987, K du V was, ironically, the result of some cloning itself.

Four sub-krewes of the former Krewe of Clones got together and formed the Krewe du Vieux Carre (later shortened to Krewe du Vieux). It started out small, on the sidewalks of the Faubourg Marigny and the Vieux Carre (French Quarter), and two years later it had a permit to parade on the streets.

Today, more than 1,000 members strong, K du V has stayed consistent with its satirical themes and its other Carnival traditions for more than a quarter of a century.

Past themes have included “Krewe du Vieux Celebrates Crimes Against Nature” (2012), “Magical Misery Tour” (2008), “C’est Levee” (2006), “2001: A Space Fallacy” (2001), “Unnaturally New Orleans” (1995) and others in a similar vein.

It even lampooned itself on its 25th anniversary with the theme “25 Years Wasted” (2011).

The Krewe du Vieux and its 17 sub-krewes, with names ranging from parodies (i.e., Comatose, a play on the name Comus) to the lewd and crude (L.E.W.D. and C.R.U.D.E.), will trot out their satirical messages when they make their way through the Marigny and the Quarter.

In traditional fashion, the krewe members will be on mule-drawn floats and on foot.

Over the years the krewe has been noteworthy for selecting well-known New Orleanians as royalty. They include musicians Dr. John (2010), Frankie Ford (2009) and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson (2005); author and commentator Andrei Codrescu (2002); singers Ernie K-Doe (2001) and Irma Thomas (1998); and Chef Paul Prudhomme (1988)

This year’s Queen is Bethany Bultman, executive director of the New Orleans Musician’s Clinic, and a “special surprise consort” who hasn’t been announced yet. “But it’s going to be hilarious,” Milliken said. The only clue he would offer is that, “It’s a musician who is assumed to be dead but one who repeatedly rises from the ashes.”

Bultman and her consort will be throwing glow-in-the-dark go cups with the parade’s theme on it. Also pictured on the cup will be a caricature of Bultman in bed with the “Goofy Guy,” the krewe’s joker-lookalike mascot.

The krewe does not throw beads or other plastic items, but the members will be handing out other novelty items like newspaper hats and skirts made from the pages of The Times-Picayune.

The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. at Royal and Press streets and proceeds down Royal into the French Quarter, where it turns on Toulouse Street and returns along Decatur to Frenchmen Street.

Below the balcony of Snug Harbor, in the 600 block of Frenchmen, Milliken and Bultman will be toasting former Times-Picayune employees and Bultman’s friends from the Musician’s Clinic.

From there the parade returns to its starting point, where its ball will be held in a nearby warehouse, around 9 p.m.

The ball will start with a Brass Band Jam, featuring the 17 bands that marched with each sub-krewe, plus the royalty and title bands. Following them to the stage will be the Blue Brass Project, described by Milliken as “a synthesis of bluegrass and traditional brass music.” Then comes the featured entertainment, A4D (AssFourDaze), a psychedelic funk band. The ball is expected to last until about 2 or 3 a.m.

As for the possibility of facing cold weather with the parade coming this early, Milliken said he’s not worried about it.

“Years ago we had it on the 15th, and it was our ‘Doctor Zhivago’ parade,” he said. “We still laugh about it. The weather is no big deal, and we can handle it.”

For more information about the Krewe du Vieux parade, including a handy route map, visit their website at www.kreweduvieux.org

Because of adult subject matter, this parade is not recommended for children.