Mardi Gras King Argus Elie Khoury: 'Give a good show, lots of throws'

Argus King 2017 Elie Khoury
King of Argus 2017 Elie Khoury in his downtown office on Thursday, February 23, 2017. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune) (Michael DeMocker)

Elie Khoury of New Orleans appears unassuming and solicitous, carrying a visitor's hefty purse without hesitation down a hallway. He walks softly, speaks quietly and generally eschews the formality of neckties. He's also Mardi Gras royalty.

Come Fat Tuesday(Feb. 28), Khoury will reign over Metairie's premiere Mardi Gras day parade as King Argus XXXIII. 

"It's an honor to be the King of Argus," Khoury said. "I'm excited that they picked me."

The Krewe includes more than 450 riders in a parade with about 50 floats, guest celebrities and marching bands. The krewe's nobility is selected from its own membership. This year's Queen Argus is Robin Marie Chailland.

The parade's grand marshals are Nashville-based radio morning talk show hosts Ty,Kelly&Chuck from America's Morning Show.

While Khoury, 55, has long been a spectator of Argus his royal ride will mark only his second time aboard a Mardi Gras float, he said. His first ride was more than 15 years ago aboard the super-krewe Endymion parade in New Orleans, he said.

After parading along the streets of New Orleans the parade entered the Superdome for the krewe's after-party, where riders were greeted by revelers dressed in tuxedos and ball gowns, Khoury said.

"It was just an unbelievable ride," he recalled with a laugh. "You have these people completely decked out in tuxedos and long gowns and they were just as crazy as the people on the street ... they were screaming, asking for beads and standing on tables!"

Being the planner that he is, Khoury sought out the wise counsel of krewe captains and previous kings to get the scoop on what makes for a "good" reign.

When not attending to his majestic duties, Khoury is the president and chief executive officer of  the KFK Group a real estate development firm he founded in 1996. His company has bought and renovated several iconic New Orleans properties, such as the former Kraus Department store on Canal Street which serves as his company's headquarters and his family's home.

Khoury summarized the basics of what he learned about his kingly duties: wave to the crowds on both sides of the street, smile, and throw the good stuff.

"I want to be a popular king, right? So, you don't just want to look good because they don't want to just look at you, they want to get some of those specialty beads," Khoury said. "So, wave your scepter, keep a smile on and throw all the good stuff."

A sizable white medallion that's attached to a string of gold beads is among the throws that come only from the king's float. The medallion is made of wood and is imprinted with a gold-winged sphinx with "King Argus XXXIII" lettered in purple.

Another royal treat, Khoury anticipates, is the Lundi Gras meeting with King Zulu in Kenner's Rivertown. The festivities leading up to that annual meeting of the royal courts is set to begin at 11 a.m.

Khoury said he's watched the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parade from his Basin Street condo for years.

"We're fortunate to have Zulu come to Rivertown and it's going to be a kick," he said. "I've always loved Zulu."

In the development world, Khoury is known to love challenges. His renovation portfolio also includes transforming novelist Anne Rice's former historical home, the 60,000-square-foot St. Elizabeth Orphanage, into luxury condos.

Ironically, the creation of his own custom-made crown and matching scepter gave him fits. It took about three months to complete the intricately designed, Phoenician-theme gold crown that draws on Khoury's Lebanese heritage.

"It turned out to be really nice crown, the guy did a phenomenal job," Khoury said. "Thank God my wife helped me - that's all I have to say."

The crown includes a ship -- a nod to the ship-building skills of the Phoenician people who once lived in Lebanon where Khoury was born -- a phoenix and a Hamsa hand to ward off negative energy and envious looks, Khoury explained.

"That was a project, by the way," Khoury said. "Some of the other stuff, like the costume, stay about the same from year to year. This kind of stuff (crown/scepter) changes, so you actually have to design it from scratch."

With most of the "technical" work is now behind him, Khoury is looking forward to Fat Tuesday where he will be joined by his wife, Daniela and three children - Elliot, 16, Elise, 8 and John, 6. Elise is a princess and John is a page.

 "I'm envisioning a lot of fun with the streets full of families looking to have a good time, hundreds of thousands of people," he said. "Our job is to give them a good show, lots of throws, great marching bands and just make it a memorable experience for them. That's what our goal is. I'm just super excited."