It is March
5th, 1878, a rather late Mardi Gras Day.
Though Carnival has been celebrated for
quite a long time, organized parades are
still a novelty. Comus has been active
for twenty years, but Rex is a mere six
years old. Mardi Gras revelry consists
primarily of daytime street masking and
Rex's parade of modern gods in 1878 was
a comic display. Past parades had been
followed, despite his objections, by maskers
on foot. But, this year what's that we
see coming behind Rex? Instead of a ragtag
group of motley, miscellaneous maskers,
it's another parade! For the first time
a new group follows Rex with their agreement.
It is the first parade of the Krewe of
Phunny Phorty Phellows, spelled with "ph"es,
The first appearance of the PPP was a
surprise to the public, and though modest
in comparison with future displays, it
created a sensation. Fantastic themes
depicted by bizarre floats and grotesque
maskers thrilled the public after the
more pretentious parade headed by the
King of Carnival and a live Boeuf Gras
corralled on a rolling platform.
For eight years the Phunny Phorty Phellows
were the "dessert" of carnival,
fostered by leading businessmen of the
city. They created an element of fun which
made the passing of stupendous Rex seem
little more than a necessary evil to be
born with patience until the "Big
40" arrived. Satire and plain fun
for the sake of fun were so well mixed
that the parade was a source of unalloyed
enjoyment for young and old. Their mottoes
"Honi soit qui mal y pense,"
or "Evil to them that think evil"
· "A little nonsense now
and then is relished by the best of
was an owl. Among their innovations was
the use of the term "Boss" rather
The PPP continued to parade following
Rex and held balls from 1880 until 1885
at the Odd Fellows Hall and the St. Charles
Theater. Alas, 1885 was the beginning
of the end for the PPP. That year there
was only a foot parade of maskers, and
during the years 1886-1895 there were
The fanciful Phellows resumed their outlandish
pageants in 1896 following Rex as in previous
years. A tableau ball with a queen and
maids ruled with the Boss at the French
Opera House in 1896. The Friday before
Mardi Gras in 1898 was the last nineteenth-century
appearance of the Phunny Phorty Phellows
at a night parade.
The modern organization was revived in
1981 by a small group of friends and Mardi
Gras enthusiasts. It has continued without
interruption to the present day. The PPP
paraded with the Krewe of Clones from
1981 until 1986. In 1982 we also began
a tradition of riding the streetcar line
(in a streetcar) and proclaiming the arrival
of the Carnival season on Twelfth Night.
That is the night when the new Boss and
Queen are chosen by the traditional King
Cake method as well as the occasion of
the sumptuous Coronation Ball. A “Carnival
Countdown” take place right before
the Phellows board the streetcar.
Stompers is the official band for the
Streetcar Ride and Benny Grunch and the
Bunch play at the Coronation Ball.
and features: Beautiful invitations and
dance cards like 1800s by a series of
royal artists: Beth Kesmodel, Hal Pluche,
Jeanne Woods, Arthur Nead, and Kevin Barre.
Phall Phrolic: A Halloween party with
prizes for best costumes and hors d'oeuvres.
· Christmas Party: with prizes
for the hors d'oeuvres and desserts.
A visit from Santa and caroling.
· Spring Cotillion and Pool Party
Meeting at Frankie and Johnny’s
Restaurant. This includes a visit from
the Crescent City Buzzards.
the PPP last another hundred years! [Huzzah!]
An even briefer history of the Phunny Phorty
Compiled by R. Pustanio
Phunny Phorty Phellows first appeared
on Fat Tuesday, 1878, when they began
the tradition of following the Rex parade.
Since that time, the Phunny Phorty Phellows
have made distinguished themselves as
one of the liveliest additions to Mardi
Gras with their hijinks and well-meaning
mockery of the day’s events (one
1881 float depicted Rex’s traditional
symbol, the Boeuf Gras, as a heifer).
The original Phunny Phorty ceased parading
and ultimately disbanded in 1885.
In 1981, 83 years after their predecessors’
last parade, a new group of Phellows emerged
to revive the irreverent tradition as
members of the Krewe of Clones (the impetus
of today’s wildly ribald Krewe du
In 1982 the Phunny Phorty Phellows became
the official heralds of Mardi Gras with
their Twelfth Night ride in a traditional
New Orleans streetcar announcing that,
at last, the pre-Lenten season of “phun
and phrivolity” had arrived.
Humor and whimsy are still very much a
part of the Phunny Phorty tradition with
some members favoring costumes inspired
by current events and the peculiarities
of local culture. Masked revelers gather
at the streetcar barn in Uptown New Orleans
for the Twelfth Night ride and get into
the spirit of the event by carrying signs
and banners with humorous slogans and
messages. There are champagne toasts and
second line dancing as the sounds of the
famous Storyville Stompers New Orleans
Brass Band fill the air; the Phellows,
after cutting a ribbon and announcing,
“It’s Carnival Time!”
then board a decked-out party streetcar.
While on their merry way, the Phellows
and other revelers sip champagne, eat
King Cake, dance and let fly with the
very first beads of the Mardi Gras season.
There are two King Cakes used for this
phirst night phrolic, one for the female
members and one for the gents. Custom
dictates that whoever takes the slices
containing the plastic Carnival babies
are declared Queen and Boss Phellow for
Mardi Gras 2011 will mark the 30th ride
that the Phellows have kept up this Mardi
Gras tradition. Phellows and revelers
traditionally board at the RTA streetcar
barn, located on Willow street near S. Carrollton, at 6:30 p.m. on Twelfth
Night, Thursday, January 6th, 2011 (ROUTE). The
Phunny ride will begin at 7:00 p.m. sharp.
The streetcar, which, traditionally, is
still bedecked in it’s yuletide
dressings, will leave the station for
a route that will take the partying Phellows
uptown to the Lee Circle turnaround and
then back to the barn. You can’t
miss the streetcar, it’s the one
with the really noisy party inside and
a big sign hanging from it reading: “It’s
All this revelry is in keeping with the
motto printed on a Phunny Phorty Phellows
“A little nonsense now and then
is relished by the best of men!”
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