[StBernard] Celebrities in New Orleans for Carnival

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sun Feb 3 01:10:09 EST 2008

Celebrities in New Orleans for Carnival
By STACEY PLAISANCE Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 02/01/2008 05:08:20 AM PST

NEW ORLEANS-Sandy "Pepa" Denton got a lesson this week on how to toss beads
and an up-close look at the elaborate float she'll be riding on in Monday's
Krewe of Orpheus parade with friend and rap partner Cheryl "Salt" James.
The women, stars of the 1980s rap group Salt-N-Pepa, brought their VH1
reality TV show to New Orleans this week to document their work helping a
family rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, as well as their ride in the parade.

"It's so pretty," Denton said of the float, which has two winged horses and
hundreds of decorative flowers. It will be among dozens rolling down St.
Charles Avenue the night before Mardi Gras.

James, however, hasn't seen the float yet and has never been to Carnival.
She's a bit nervous. "This is all new to me," she said.

For parade goers, celebrity watching will be as fun as grabbing the throws
tossed from the floats as Carnival goes into high gear this weekend with Fat
Tuesday just days away.

Likely absent, though, will be superstar Britney Spears. The native of
Kentwood, northwest of New Orleans, was hospitalized Thursday in Los Angeles
after a series of continuing crises.

But the headliners should not disappoint.

They include actor/director Kevin Costner as grand marshal of the Krewe of
Endymion, one of the largest and glitziest parades. He'll be joined by the
Doobie Brothers and Belinda Carlisle, former lead singer of the Go-Gos.

On Sunday, wrestler and reality TV star Hulk Hogan will reign as king of the
Krewe of Bacchus. NBC's "Today" morning talk show correspondent Hoda Kotb
and weatherman Al Roker will be grand marshals of the Krewe of Argus on Fat
Tuesday in suburban Metairie. Also on Mardi Gras (which means Fat Tuesday),
clarinetist Pete Fountain will lead a cadre of locals and celebrities for
the annual trek of the Half-Fast Marching Club.

Orpheus, the glittery parade founded in 1993 by singer Harry Connick Jr.,
has one of the longest list of celebs. Besides Salt-N-Pepa, Lance Bass and
Kevin Meaney-stars of the Broadway musical "Hairspray"-daytime television
star Christian LeBlanc and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio
Castroneves will ride.

Castroneves, who with dancing partner Julianne Hough won last year's
"Dancing with the Stars" competition on ABC, will be one of a batch of
reality TV stars at Carnival.

Among them Monday night will be Bridget Marquardt, Holly Madison and Kendra
Wilkinson, stars of E! cable network's Playboy-based reality show "The Girls
Next Door." They'll be throwing a fundraiser on Lundi Gras, or Mardi Gras
eve, for actor Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation at the House of Blues in
the French Quarter. Pitt's charity is rebuilding homes in the Lower 9th Ward
destroyed by Katrina in 2005.

South Louisiana's Carnival celebration dates back to 1699, when French
explorers sloshing through the wetlands paused to mark the day before Lent.

But celebrities didn't become a regular highlight until the first Bacchus
parade in 1969, when dancer/actor Danny Kaye reigned.

Since then, dozens have gotten into the spirit. "Sopranos" star James
Gandolfini, for example, was last year's king of Bacchus and followed in the
footsteps of such big names as Bob Hope and Ron Howard. John Goodman, Chuck
Norris, Jason Alexander, Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd have served as past
grand marshals for Endymion, and Glenn Close, Sandra Bullock, Forest
Whitaker and Whoopi Goldberg are among those who've ridden in Orpheus.

Ardley Hanemann, an Orpheus spokesman, said a variety of factors made
coordinating celebrities' schedules difficult this year. Among them: the
Hollywood writers' strike and an earlier-than-usual Mardi Gras that competes
with Super Bowl festivities.

Still, parade organizers say they are happy with their catch, and the riders
are excited as well.

Endymion captain Ed Muniz said Costner has called him a number of times, not
only excited about riding in the parade, but about also about dining at
Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico restaurant and gulping sugar-coated beignets at
Cafe du Monde.

"He's got an affection for New Orleans," Muniz said. "He's filmed movies
here. He loves it here, and he's really excited about being a part of Mardi

Muniz said celebrity participation in Carnival has had a positive ripple

"It gets the (krewe) members excited, it gets parade-goers excited. It's
good for the organization, it's good for Mardi Gras, and it's good for the
city and tourism," he said.

Salt-N-Pepa said they chose to come to New Orleans not only to take part in
Mardi Gras but to keep the plight of the recovering city and its people
fresh in the minds of Americans.

The first season of "The Salt-N-Pepa Show" ended in December. A second
series of shows is scheduled to begin airing Feb. 11.

The New Orleans video won't be shown until late March and early April. It
will include Salt-N-Pepa's work with St. Bernard Project, an organization
that has helped more than 70 families move to St. Bernard Parish since the
storm by raising money for building materials and recruiting volunteers.

"The main point for coming is to bring attention through the show to the
fact that there's still a lot of devastation," James said.

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