Helen Koenig, Mardi Gras' glitter goddess, dies at 94

Helen Amber Koenig
Helen Amber Koenig

Helen Amber Koenig, who provided beads, feathers, glitter, spangles and other Carnival costume supplies to generations of Mardi Gras Indians, krewe members and revelers who wanted to look especially spiffy, died Monday (Feb. 8) at her New Orleans home. She was 94.

Ms. Koenig died on the morning of the parade of the Krewe  of Orpheus, which her son, Roland H. "Sonny" Borey III, founded with Harry Connick Jr. At the post-parade Orpheuscapade Monday night, Connick performed "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and dedicated it to her.

Ms. Koenig, known to all as "Miss Helen," was a lifelong New Orleanian who graduated from McDonogh High School and Moler Beauty College.

Because of an infatuation with Mardi Gras that began in childhood, it was natural that Ms. Koenig would go into a business that provided material for all sorts of costumes, her son said.

Although Ms. Koenig spent her career with fabrics and other costume components, "my mother did not know how to sew," Sonny Borey said, "but she knew if it was right or wrong."

She started at Greenberg's on North Rampart Street in the 1950s, Sonny Borey said. When Jules Greenberg retired and that store closed, she opened Broadway Bound Costumes in 1987 - and wound up sharing the building at 2737 Canal St. with Orpheus' headquarters.

For years, Broadway Bound was one of just two stores that sold mass quantities of glitter, plumes, feathers and other essential components of Indian suits, according to a Times-Picayune article that described Ms. Koenig as "Carnival's unofficial glitter goddess."

That chapter of her life ended on Aug. 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina wiped out her store and her Gentilly home. Despite Ms. Koenig's staggering losses, she said she returned to her store two weeks before Mardi Gras "to try to help anyone and everyone" who needed help in assembling a costume, according to the article.

Ms. Koenig managed to reconnect with customers she had known for years, people who not only trusted her knowledge about costuming but also appreciated her friendship.

"She knew her business, and she knew how to treat people well," her son said. "She was always very respectful."

In addition to her son, Ms. Koenig's survivors include nephews and a niece.

Her marriage to Roland H. Borey Jr. ended in divorce, and he has died.

A funeral will be held Saturday (Feb. 13) at 12:15 p.m. at Jacob Schoen & Son Funeral Home, 3827 Canal St. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m.

Burial will be in St. Roch Cemetery No. 2, 1725 St. Roch St.