Come Mardi Gras, colorful costumes will be the order of the day: clowns, flowers, elves, centurions, and certainly less-clothed but no less-colorful revelers, will dance and sway through the streets of New Orleans. But the events of the past year have provided New Orleans’ satirical set with plenty of fodder for costume ideas. From the Saints’ Bountygate scandal to the controversial end of seven-day delivery for The Times-Picayune newspaper: Expect to see strong opinions come artistically alive.
Ali and Adam Solino, of St. Rose, weren't satisfied with just one target for their Fat Tuesday costumes. Ali Solino, 23, hopes to take shots at probably 10 local “pains” with her Voodoo doll and Voodoo priest costumes.
“Normally, Voodoo dolls are poked in certain areas where you want to afflict pain,” said Solino, who is stitching a dress with patches that will be skewered by large pins. On Monday, a hot-pink patchwork heart bearing the name Goodell -- as in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, he of the New Orleans Saints bounty sanctions -- had already been attached to her burlap sack dress.
As the face of the punishments in the Saints bounty scandal, Goodell has a special place on the dress. Solino said she’ll add patches for The Times-Picayune, Gov. Bobby Jindal and BP. “I’m going to put the (Atlanta) Falcons or Roddy White on my ass,” she said.
If Goodell has so far taken the lion’s share of ribbing this Mardi Gras season, the local newspaper hasn’t been far behind. Many New Orleanians were up in arms last year when word spread about the plan to cut production of The Times-Picayune to three days a week.
Former New Orleanian Chris Johnston, 46, will have the T-P squarely in his sights when he costumes on Tuesday as the death of The Times-Picayune. His 16-month-old son, Brooks, will be dressed as a newspaper delivery boy, while he will wear a skeleton costume and carry a newspaper bag that reads, “Times-Picayune RIP.”
“I always try to base my costume on a topic that is important to New Orleanians,” said Johnston, who now lives in Oregon. “Something that we should be talking about. Something that we shouldn’t forget until the issue is solved.”
Not every costumer is aiming for satire with local bite. Some have turned their attention to issues consuming the national conscience. For example, Frannie Marmillion is taking on gun control, with a little help from pop culture.
Marmillion, 24, of Austin, Texas, plans to lampoon the National Rifle Association with her costume, which she has titled, “The NRA presents The Hunger Games 2013.” The title will be festooned across a large headpiece that Marmillion will wear while channeling Effie Trinket, an outrageously dressed, overly made-up character from "The Hunger Games” novels. Marmillion got the idea from the NRA’s recent proposal to arm teachers in the classroom.
“That’s definitely where the Hunger Game theme steps in, having all of these guns around children,” she said. While usually shy about sharing her opinion, Marmillion, a Mid-City native, said Mardi Gras provides an atmosphere for expression. “It’s a place where people that normally wouldn’t be as forthcoming with their opinion are sort of allowed to be crazy and outlandish and outspoken without fear of being criticized.”
The Krewe of Levee-té definitely plans to make an outlandish splash; members' costumes will target Chick-fil-A’s support of anti-gay organizations. Twins Jane and Jean Johnson, 53, say a group of about 10 plan to dress as cows, bulls and a Chick-fil-A fast food worker. The group will sport banners, including “Chik on Chik fil-A,” “Tastes Like Hate” and a few other satirical takeoffs on the fast-food company's slogans.
In previous years, the group went after local politicians. “We hadn’t really targeted a major corporation before,” Jane Johnson said. “We thought about Goodell, but we figured there would be a lot of Goodells.”
Lakeview resident Bonnie Caplan’s costume proves that nothing is sacred at Mardi Gras, not even a beloved children’s cartoon character. Caplan, 58, and her sister plan to have a bit of bawdy fun costuming this year as Hello Titty, their boobified take on Hello Kitty.
The sisters will don white shirts, cut and decorated to resemble the popular Japanese kitten character. But the women will up-size their assets – which double as Hello Kitty’s eyes – using pillows. Caplan has carried out bosomed-themed parodies in the past few Carnival seasons, including Sponge Boob Square Tits and Hu-big Mama Pies. She explained: “Boobies, real or fake, big or small, are always a big hit with the crowd.”
Roseanne Guerra, captain of the Krewe de Loup Garou, said her group of 10 to 12 family members and friends almost sat out this Mardi Gras. The group has paraded the streets as nutria under the banner of Jefferson Parish Sheriff “Harry Lee’s Most Wanted.” After Hurricane Katrina, the krewe members costumed as moldering, maggot-infested refrigerators, a common sight in New Orleans after the storm.
But Guerra said the group found new inspiration in this year’s Super Bowl blackout at the Superdome. Guerra kept mum on just how the krewe plans to execute its vision, preferring to save the surprise for Fat Tuesday. “I suspect 2013 will be a banner year for satire at Mardi Gras,” she said.