New Orleans is a city built on tradition that is indestructible. We’ve proven this in our own lifetime. In 2005, New Orleans was as close to being totally destroyed as is possible. After the flood waters receded, there were all kinds of plans for how we could re-imagine and rebuild the city. After we vigorously debated the possibilities of green spaces, canals, and many other options, we decided that the best thing we could do was build the city back exactly how it was.
Two of the pillars of these indestructible New Orleans traditions are our historic architecture, and Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is more than the Tuesday before Lent. Like the tip of the iceberg, there’s a big part of Mardi Gras that most of us don’t get to see – the year-round activities of Mardi Gras Krewes. The center-piece of this activity is each Krewe’s Mardi Gras ball. If you’re a woman, what you wear to the Mardi Gras ball is as important as your wedding dress. And it takes just as much time and planning to design and make it, especially for you. Today, the premiere designer and dressmaker of Mardi Gras ball gowns is Suzanne Peron St Paul.
If you drive, walk, or bike around the Garden District, the French Quarter, or Uptown New Orleans, you can’t help but admire the architectural beauty of the city’s grand homes. Here’s another thing you’ll notice: if there’s a “For Sale” sign outside any of these substantial structures, there’s a fair chance it has the name Eleanor Farnsworth on it.
Your casual observation can be backed up by statistical fact. Eleanor has sold the most expensive house in New Orleans history and she’s the holder of a host of other prestigious real estate records, including a Lifetime Membership of the Million Dollar Club. Eleanor Farnsworth is a living legend.
In every grand institution – even one as magical as Mardi Gras or as majestic as the Garden District – there is a place where creativity meets business. At that juncture, you find a human being – a person who is responsible for making the magic happen. Suzanne Peron St Paul and Eleanor Farnsworth are both great examples of the magician behind the curtain, the person who works in the background to allow beauty and pageantry to take center stage.
This show was recorded live over lunch at Commander’s Palace. Photos by Jill Lafleur. And here’s lunchtime conversation about the strangest Mardi Gras in New Orleans history.