If you spot clouds of smoke billowing from a certain Royal Street balcony in the months leading to Twelfth Night, it might be the signal that the Lord of Misrule has chosen the new monarch for the Krewe de la Royale Revelers.
- by Frank Perez
On a cool December night, a group of on-lookers gathers at the corner of Royal and St. Ann streets. They are awaiting the release of white or black smoke from the third-floor balcony across the street. Tourists drifting by and curious diners at the Vampire Café ask what’s going on. A young man in a Swiss Guard costume tells them, “We’re waiting to see if a new Grand Reveler has been selected.” The tourists are puzzled but intrigued.
The two Swiss Guards receive texts from the Lord of Misrule and inform the crowd the smoke is about to be released. The guards then retreat to the upstairs apartment to escort six men in dark robes onto the balcony. One of the mysterious robed men is the Lord of Misrule who selects the new Grand Reveler. The other five men are previous Grand Revelers who have gathered in conclave to deliberate the selection. White smoke is released, and speculation begins: who has been selected as Grand Reveler VII?
The revelation of the Grand Reveler is the highlight of the Krewe de la Rue Royale Revelers Twelfth Night Party, held annually at the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture in the French Quarter.
As the previous Grand Revelers spill onto the street to commence a bar crawl, a homeless fixture in the neighborhood who has just witnessed the whole affair is heard talking to himself, “That was some gen-you-wine French Quarter shit, right there.”
Indeed it was. The story of the Krewe de la Rue Royale Revelers is pure French Quarter. The krewe grew out of a small Twelfth Night party I hosted at my Royal Street apartment in 2014. The party took on a life of its own and now we’re an official Carnival krewe, registered with the city and the Secretary of State.
I’ve always loved Carnival. As a child, I thought Mardi Gras was the most magical day of the year. I still do.
In 2013, I wanted to celebrate the arrival of the upcoming Carnival Season by throwing a party. I invited everyone I knew. About 100 people attended that first party in my apartment. Several people brought food and some came in costume. The spirit was convivial.
I made it a point to invite people from all walks of life, people who would not ordinarily run in the same social circles—politicians, doctors, artists, gallery owners and other professionals, but also bar hounds, eccentric neighborhood characters, street buskers, and homeless people I knew. Also in attendance were a few tourists who had no idea what Twelfth Night and Carnival is all about. The crowd was eclectic and represented an authentic slice of French Quarter life.
Several days after that first party, I received a thank-you card from an elderly gay couple who wrote, “Thank you for a wonderful party. It reminded us of the way the Quarter used to be in ‘70s.”
Encouraged by that and many similar responses, I decided to host the party again the following year. I had no idea it would develop a distinctive Mardi Gras persona and absolutely no intention of starting a new Carnival krewe.
But holding court at Café Lafitte in Exile one afternoon, the bartender, Jeff Palmquist, suggested I choose someone to serve as annual royalty, a “Grand Reveler." Another friend, the late Rip Naquin (founder and publisher of Ambush Magazine), suggested we mock the traditional Meeting of the Courts between Comus and Rex by having the Grand Reveler called upon and toasted by the Krewe of Queenateenas’ King Cake Queen.
Naquin and Jay Loomis had founded the Krewe of Queenateenas in 1987 and had named a King Cake Queen annually since 1994. The King Cake Queen’s coronation party at Naquin’s home in the 800 block of Bourbon Street was one of the most anticipated events among the Quarter’s gay demimonde. The tradition continued even after Naquin died in 2017.
A Meeting of the Courts sounded great but what would our krewe be called? After several cocktails we all decided on the Rue Royale Revelers. Thus, the Mystik Krewe de la Rue Royale Revelers was born. As the de facto Captain, I was dubbed the Lord of Misrule.
At that second party, I named my good friend, Jeffrey Palmquist, the first Grand Reveler.
The party has outgrown my apartment and is now held each year at Carl Mack’s Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture.
The party features an open bar, go-go boys, a buffet, and the sounds of legendary DJ Jimmy Armstrong. The highlight of the evening is the arrival of the Lord of Misrule and the League of Distinguished Revelers. After a Royal Procession of previous Grand Revelers, the new Grand Reveler is presented. The presentation of the Grand Reveler is followed by the Meeting of the Courts of the Rue Royale Revelers and the Krewe of Queenateenas.
Grand Revelers - 2014 through 2022
2014 First Party / no Grand Reveler
2015 Grand Reveler I–Jeffrey Palmquist
2016 Grand Reveler II–Will Antill, the Financial District Reveler
2017 Grand Reveler III–Rip Naquin, the Award-Winning Reveler
2018 Grand Reveler IV–Felicia Philips, the Cheese Reveler
2019 Grand Reveler V–Frank Perez (not the krewe founder), the Faux Reveler
2020 Grand Reveler VI—Duaine Daniels, the Peg-Legged Reveler
2021—No party due to the pandemic
2022—Grand Reveler VII - Misti Gaither, the Lesbian Mafia Reveler
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Frank Perez serves as President of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana and has authored four books on New Orleans history and teaches part-time at Loyola University. He is also a licensed tour-guide. He and his partner live in the French Quarter. You may contact him through his website, www.FrenchQuarterFrank.com.
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