Much like it will be this time around, in 1979, New Orleans residents had the city all to themselves for their holiday. Because of a police strike, parades were (attempted to be) cancelled and tourists were even turned away. Even so, many still consider it The Best Mardi Gras Ever.
Updated Date: Jan 27, 2022
Publish Date: Feb 11, 2021
already gras celebrations that first weekend of parades that everyone was so looking forward. Thio He still at that point had hopes, though, that the next week of celebrations would continue. But they had a lot of things to work out. Yeah, and the piano was still slow to negotiate, even though it was the group that originally wanted toe speed this whole process up. So, um, Mayor Memorial had to call in the National Guard about 1100 troops and some of the state police to to supplement the non striking police force because obviously you can't even have a canceled Mardi Gras with no police. They're still gonna be people in New Orleans milling about. You still need police around, and I think that they canceled time off. They made him work 12 hour shifts. So it was a lot to take on for those who weren't part of the strike. As they were negotiating, Morial had to start announcing parade cancelations one day at a time, which was sort of torturers for the city. In fact, in a New Orleans magazine story writer list, Scott refers to it. I think, in a really interesting way she says to the parade loving citizenry. It was like Chinese water torture Just day one at a time. One falls and thanks God, dramatic too, I guess, because the police side was trying to escalate the situation. Thio hopefully resolve it before Mardi Gras. But Valenti and Bruno started going on TV and showing up in the front pages of the newspapers and they did some stuff that really took things too far. Um, the union bowed Thio, stay off work quote until doomsday if necessary. They made it clear that they didn't give a hoot about Mardi Gras. Um, they were looking to resolve these issues and they passed out 100,000 leaflets to tourists that some of the big points of entry to the city, uh, saying that New Orleans was unsafe. You know, turn back. Don't bother going to Mardi Gras because we're not there to protect you. So now not only were there negotiations just incidentally, preventing Mardi Gras from taking place, they were actively going out, discouraging tourists, discouraging dollars from coming into the city and actively going out there and preventing Mardi Gras from happening. Yeah, and Bruno then took it to the next level for real. In the heat of the moment, he told reporter that if the police didn't get their way, they would quote, wreck the city. So nobody likes to hear that from the guy representing the police group, and he apologized later. But it was It was really too late. And by this point, public sentiment did a complete 1 80. They were no longer on the side of the police and trying to support their requests. They turned against the police because everyone was affected by what was going on either Financially, you know, you have people running hotels and restaurants, and they're expecting all those tourists to come in or personally because Mardi Gras is fun. And people who live in New Orleans often work long and hard to get ready for these parades, planning their costumes and working on it. So for all of those people who are planning on attending and for celebs to celebrities were involved, don't forget about that. Oh, yeah, Ron Howard. Ron Howard. Yes, he was apparently inconvenienced by the strike. Ron Howard, Frankie Avalon, the rock group Kiss. All these people were supposed to be raining over various parades that year and they had a luck. Didn't get to come. So yeah, people are understandably not very happy about what the police was doing at this point. And so Mardi Gras organizer's do something that's really interesting. They decide that they we're going to take this lying down anymore. No, it was actually in a really famous gesture. The Carnival captains. They literally all got up and stood behind the mayor as he announced on Tuesday, February 20th, that all remaining Mardi Gras parades would be canceled. The entire thing. The entire celebration, one of the crew captain said, We're not going to let Mardi Gras be held hostage by the Teamsters. It is wrong to use Mardi Gras as blackmail in this dispute. The same procedure can be used every year, and we're not gonna let our organizations be puppets in such a plan. So with that, the police were out of their bargaining chip. Mardi Gras was not going to be used by anyone, and the mayor and the administration really got the upper hand, and the strike lasted for about 16 days total. But the anti strike sentiment remained really high, and once Mardi Gras was over and the police didn't have that leverage anymore. The whole thing really fizzled out. I mean, the city, the city had the control. Yeah, if there was a winner, the city certainly turned out to be the winner in the situation, which, I don't know. We're kind of talking about it before. It was sort of unfortunate because the police did their what they wanted was valid and legitimate complaint. They really did. But then the way that things turned out once they made Mardi Gras part of their plan for leverage, their bargaining chip is you said it sort of all fell apart. Definitely. And as for Mardi Gras itself, I mean officially canceled. That means it's ruined, right? I mean, some people estimate that the city lost $6 million because of the cancelation. And again, this is 1979. So there's a lot but the Mardi Gras spirit and celebrations somehow managed to live on, which was really interesting. The the old line crews on one hand Comus, Rex Momus, Proteus. They didn't parade. They said if they couldn't pray in the city, they didn't want to parade it all. But there were a few others like and Damien, that moved their parades to the suburbs, but also on Fat Tuesday. While there weren't any official praise in the city, it was just this gorgeous, warm day. And it turned out that a lot of locals really did just throw on costumes and head down to the French Quarter. And they partied anyway. Extra hard, apparently extra hard dancing, second lining in the streets. And it was almost sort of like some people describe it as an act of defiance toward the strikers. Yeah, and probably just letting loose, cutting some of those tensions that had been so high in the city for the past few weeks. And, um, incidentally, there were a few other acts of defiance. Um, there's a rumor that in a voodoo shop on bourbon Joe Valenti hex dollies were for sale already stuck full of hatpin so you could get your revenge, I guess on the Teamster. Yeah, we giggled a little bit, but I don't know if that's really funny. Actually, it's kind of frightening. Yeah, maybe not so funny after all. So because of all the fun that they had partying in the streets and hex ing people. Um and of course, the lack of tourists in there. That was another aspect of it. Some did call it the best Mardi Gras ever in the Scott article. She actually describes it. And again, I really love the way she says this. One of those she describes it is one of those charming little weddings with just immediate family and close friends. So, yeah, I mean, it sounds like a good time, and I can see how it would be a drag. Thio lose all your money if you were maybe in the hotel business. But it also does still sound like a really great party. It does. And as for whether it was the best part of Dr or not, I think maybe, ah, lot of people now would call the 2006 Mardi Gras the best one of the best ones ever, because that was the one that happened just a few months after Katrina. And it was sort of, you know, proof that the city was alive and kicking. Yeah, resurgence and restoration. And both of these situations, though, seemed to kind of really reflect the enduring spirit. You know, not to sound hokey but the enduring spirit of natives of New Orleans. Definitely. Okay, well, that's the end of this Mardi Gras story. But if you have your own Mardi Gras story G rated of course that you would like to share with us. Please feel free, Thio.