Mardi Gras' offbeat 'krewes' add spice and a new double-take

In recent years, a number of racy ladies have taken to the streets. The Pussyfooters Social Aid and Pleasure Club, wearing big wigs, big boots, corsets, feathers and "all-things-that-glitter aesthetic" kicked things off in 2001 and, according to the club "pussyfoot to free ourselves, to celebrate our imperfect beauty, and to empower ourselves through exhibition." They go on to say "The Pussyfooters are an all-female group, with an emphasis on marching, so we enjoy the double entendre."

Watch for the 80-plus-member club to debut a new costume, inspired by vintage cabaret performers, at this year's Muses parade.

Following in the steps of the Pussyfooters, came The Camel Toe Lady Steppers, a group of women who decided they wanted to dress up like majorettes for Halloween in 2003.

"We ordered awful gold lame boy shorts and crop tops off the Internet and after we tried the shorts on ... well, let's just say that's when our name was born."

A member choreographed dance routines, a couple of drummer friends marched behind them and before they knew it, a marching group was born that now includes everyone from a NASA rocket scientist to a burlesque dancer.

Watch for them in their hot pink, silver and black costumes celebrating this year's theme Bob Fosse's "Camel Toe Cabaret" with Ms. Antoinette K Doe as queen.

And parents - don't worry. Aside from their initial costume, The Camel Toe Steppers aren't
showing theirs.

Founded by (her words, not mine) "Mother Shucker" Karina Nathan almost five years ago to "create a diverse sisterhood while inducing a hunger for Louisiana oysters," the all female Bearded Oysters Dance Troupe "reflect the unique femininity and humor of our women and our region."

The 200 women dress in ostrich feather-and-sequined headbands trimmed with an oyster, "Mardi Bras" embellished with pearls and oysters' white legwarmers, spandex-and-fringe armbands and merkins - an article of clothing with a long colorful history, but more recently used by striptease dancers to cover "unmentionable" areas.

The ladies also wear beards in homage to the famous carnival show bearded ladies, providing the members, in the club's words, the "unique experience of seducing and repelling."

Watch for the troupe, and their improvisational dance moves, in the Krewe of Muses and Oak parades.

The men are taking their turn too. New Orleans imports Macon Moore and David Center got the idea of forming a group during the 2003 Carnival season and decided they wanted members to have an iconic look and, most importantly, ride tiny scooters. The Krewe of The Rolling Elvi was born.

"Seeing a grown man riding one of these scooters is funny in itself - even before costuming. We wanted the smallest motorized scooters we could get. We callthem weed-eaters with wheels because the engine is about the same as a weed-eater. No one can take themselves seriously when they are riding a weed-eater," says Moore.

The Rolling Elvi now have 80-plus Rolling Elvi, 24 female riders (Priscilli) and a group of waiting list walking members (the Memphis Mafia). Watch for them in Muses, as well as their throws: signature silk scarves, doubloons, koozies, bandanas, pill boxes and more.

They have no official name, but they like to dish it out. Every year, a steering committee meets, decides a theme, costumes and the look of their one pushedalong float - all centered around food. And on Mardi Gras morning, the Menu People walk on St. Charles Avenue to the French Quarter, handing out menus.

Founded after the storm, the group rolled out the "Katrina Deli," which was so memorable, the float is going into the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. This year's theme is "The New Economy Grille" with the menu stating "Recession meals our specialty. Small plates, half servings," and featuring items such as "Oysters Boudreau.

Who can afford Rockefeller?" and "Bush Beer."