Catwalk on Magazine Street
By Gary Michael Smith
Judge me not, except if I'm a cat. This was the order of the chilly Saturday of January 29 when
the New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewe of Endymeow rolled "or walked as it were" at Magazine
and Camp streets in the parking lot of The Cat Practice veterinary clinic. Endymeow was started in
1999 as a play on the 39-year-old Krewe of Endymion, and to confirm that the Krewe of Barkus
(a play on the 38-year-old "Krewe of Bacchus") isn't the only animal Mardi Gras Krewe. This
cat krewe "acknowledges natural feline vanity and competitiveness with prizes for best costume
and best float" and was judged on this particular misty morning by our own CBS-affiliate
newsman Eric Paulsen. The theme of this year's event was the "Whiskers of Oz -- There's No
Place Like Home," in commemoration of The Cat Practice being fully operational at its original
location after the devastating fire of 2002.
Mardi Gras Cat Float
While the two-legged krewes of Pontchartrain and Shangri-La lined up on Napoleon Avenue a few
blocks away ready to roll Uptown on this first weekend of Mardi Gras, observers at the furry
coronation wondered whether it was the humans or the felines who were competing in this cats-only
celebration. While owners adorned themselves with capes, tiaras, feather wings, and furry
cat purses, their arm candy masqueraded in everything from satin and sequins to feathers and
felt. Hippie Cat with the flower necklace vied for attention against the quaffed Whisker Twister.
But pomp and circumstance took second fiddle as clowns and jesters accompanied wizards,
sultans, and queens. And more than one of obvious royal bloodline claimed the crown of Rex
early -- some with paper headdresses and others with jeweled coronets.
Mardi Gras Cat
There was Mardi Gras Cat and Witch Cat and Cheerleader Cat and Raggedy Ann Cat. There
was even the Flying Monkey Cat and Tin Man Cat from Oz. And since everyone knows how
cats hate shoes, Dorothy was adorned in a red sequined cape instead of slippers. The Wicked
Witch of the West Cat lurked near but kept her distance. And like any New Orleanian reveler,
there were a couple traditional feathered Mardi Gras masks in miniature, and plenty of small-scale
capes as well as gowns with trains.
Being a city with a high contingent of those with a joie de vivre, cat escorts complemented
their costumes with wagons, strollers, and ornate carriers made into elaborate floats comparable
to any human version but on a feline scale. Specially ordained collars and leashes guided the
royalty to the judging table for the official cat pageant competition. While the observers dined on
King Cake -- with one holding her "baby" in a chest-mounted carrier -- pageant registrants
patiently awaited Mr. Paulsen's obviously tough decisions. Those already judged slept in
mothers' arms while others took leisurely, albeit crouched, walks.
While catfights were minimal, most participants maintained the dignity and guarded revelry
commensurate with their breed. (There were no Siamese.) Most were amazingly pensive, others
even slept. A Burmese played while a domestic longhair sniffed. A Maine Coon glared a certain
intimidation while an Abyssinian zoned out on a shoulder. A few were testy toward the end;
indeed, the tension was high.
Tin Man Cat
With the results in, tears were minimal as the winners were announced: Cheerleader and
Mardi Gras Cat were runners up with Tin Man Cat and Mardi Gras Cat Float receiving
honorable mention. Breaths were held and traffic seemed to stop as it was revealed that Dorothy
Cat would claim the title for Best Costume this Mardi Gras 2005.
Gary Michael Smith is a writer and cat lover in New Orleans. He can
be reached at
www.ChatgrisPress.com, a URL that
translates into Cajun French as "gray cat."