In case you didn’t know this, Mardi Gras is not a one-day celebration but more of a season that begins with Twelfth night, the feast that celebrates the journey of the three wise men and their search for the new born Savior. The season ends with Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. A Mardi Gras parade is put on by a Krewe and not only do they have a parade, they also have a ball. A Mardi Gras ball tends to be a pretty lavish affair, black ties, tails and ball gowns and for the initiated, the ball can be the highlight of the year. The Krewe chooses a King and he in turn chooses a Queen and there are Dukes, Duchesses and past royalty honored at these affairs. How it all happens is I’m certain a closely guarded secret but my guess is that an appointment to a royal seat does not come without threats, fisticuffs, political favors, season’s tickets to the Saints and wads of cash trading hands. But then, I could be wrong.
The town I grew up in organized their own Krewe in 1974 and none other than my Dad, Judge Malik was chosen as King. My Dad wasn’t very good with his fists and he rarely had a wad of cash yet I seem to remember our Saint’s tickets going away sometime in the mid ‘70s after they moved into the Superdome. So the Malik family was always first on the list when the invitations to the Krewe du Monde ball went out. Many years later, while I was a junior in college I received another invitation to the Krewe du Monde ball. My college roommate, Tom, had a younger sister, Kay. Tom came to me one day and asked me to sit down because he had something he wanted me to do.
“John, listen to me now because this is very important, my sister wants you to go to the Krewe du Monde ball with her. Will you? Please.”
“Kay! Your sister Kay wants me to be her date?”
“Yes John, please, will you do it for me?”
Of course I was flattered; it wasn’t often that a charming, tall and gorgeous brunette asked me out on a date, especially something as important as a Mardi Gras ball. There was just one small issue; Kay was a senior in high school. She was at least four years younger than me.
“Tom, you can’t be serious, right? Surely she has a boyfriend, someone that she, uh, you know, goes to school with?”
“John, seriously, she really wants to go to the ball with you, it’s would mean a lot to her, for me, John, please? Besides, she thinks you’re a fox.”
Tom, with his Flock of Seagulls haircut, multitude of dangling earrings and his sad, hung-over eyes, was never more sincere.
“OK Tom, turn off the Bambi eyes, I’ll do it.”
So about four weeks later, all decked out in my James Bond tuxedo and with my official invitation in hand, I showed up at Kay’s house. When the door opened Tom was there to greet me, dressed up in an equal amount of splendor.
“Dude, where’s your sister?” He grabbed me by the arm and we climbed into his car.
“She’s going to meet us there, let’s go!”
Ten minutes later we arrived at the hall, the parking lot is jammed, there are spot lights outside and music is spilling out into the parking lot. As the gentleman at the door reads my engraved invitation “Miss Kay Montegut invites you to be her guest…” he responded: “Oh, so you’re the Queen’s boyfriend?”
I turned and gave Tom a puzzled look and he broke into a wide grin.
“Are you telling me that Kay is the Queen?! Are you kidding me?!”
Tom broke into hearty laughter and patted me on the back as he yelled to the crowd: “Make way for the Boyfriend of the Queen!”
My first stop was backstage where it was quickly deemed that the Queen deserved her first Royal Kiss of the evening. Tom had picked up two drinks on the way backstage and everyone joined us in toasting.
“The Queen’s Boyfriend!”
Security quickly invited us to the Duke’s section. Tom then took me by the elbow and we made our way through the crowd. At practically every section he invited the gathered to toast “To the Queen’s Boyfriend!” As the royal festivities began and the multitude of Dukes and Duchesses processed past, Tom offered each of them the same toast “To the Queen’s Boyfriend!” After about an hour of processing (in which I played merely an observer’s role) it was time for the Queen’s dance. Forty five minutes later, after Kay had danced a minuet with the King and his procession of Dukes it was my turn. I’m certain that by this time my normally agile feet were the victim of one too many toasts. Kay looked resplendent in a floor length sequined gown and she was obviously having the time of her life. She smiled then whispered “Thank you John,” as we danced across the floor, all eyes on the Queen. Our evening concluded sometime about six a.m. after visiting all of the required parties, and after-parties then we finished up with the Queen’s official breakfast buffet. I dropped Kay off at her house, and at the front door she received her second kiss as Queen.
Five hours later Tom and I had seats of honor in the Queen’s reviewing stand as Krewe du Monde’s parade rolled through our streets. Naturally every float has to stop at the reviewing stands for what else, a toast! Halfway through the parade Tom and I have toasted until our right arms were cramped and once again Kay looked regal as she waved and offered the citizenry a happy and healthy celebration. Tom and I toasted one and all and laughed ourselves silly when handed a copy of the local newspaper, the story read “even the Queen’s boyfriend was surprised, he had no idea Kay Montegut was the Queen!”
Kay, if you’re reading this, I was honored to be your boyfriend, even just for a little while. You were easily the finest, most regal of all the Queens Du Monde.