It’s always a big celebration in New Orleans when the Krewe of Endymion announces the grand marshals for the group’s annual Mardi Gras parade — there’s a black tie gala, known as the Coronation Ball, where a queen and king are selected and the alcohol flows freely.
But this past Saturday’s affair took a weird turn when Mel Gibson was revealed as one of the grand marshals for the raucous parade, which will take place February 18.
“Several members voiced the opinion that it is a terrible idea,” one longtime Endymion member told The Post. “They were irate, saying they want their membership dues back [approximately $3,000 per year] and that Gibson is an awful choice.”
Still, the leaders of the krewe — one of more than 50 nonprofit social organizations that organize the parades over 25 days of Mardi Gras celebrations — didn’t seem at first to realize just how awful.
“The Coronation is a drunken affair, and I think, in the moment, their responses were chalked up to that,” the longtime member said. “I don’t think members of the executive committee understood the ramifications of having Gibson as the grand marshal.”
But the next morning, reality hit hard as members woke up to a flurry of disturbed text messages.
Plenty of people still remembered anti-Semitic comments made by Gibson: “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” he allegedly told a policeman, during a confrontation in 2006. “Are you a Jew?”
“People were saying how insane it was and asking what we can do to correct the mistake,” the longtime member said of making Gibson the grand marshal. “I’m Jewish. I was shocked and disappointed. It was a huge oversight.”
Gibson was out less than 24 hours after he was announced.
“The Krewe of Endymion has received significant feedback about our Grand Marshal announcement. Some of this commentary included threats that cause us great concern. In the best interest of the safety of our riders, special guests and everyone that welcomes us on the streets, Mel Gibson will not ride as a co-Grand Marshal for our 2023 parade,” Endymion president Dan Kelly said in a statement on Sunday, January 8.
How Gibson, who has no clear attachment to New Orleans, was tapped for the honor remains a bit of a mystery. Gibson and Kelly did not return calls for comment.
“I guess somebody on the [Endymion] board of directors had a contact and [Gibson] wanted to do it,” said Arthur Hardy, publisher of the annual “Mardi Gras Guide.”
“He would be one of the biggest stars in recent years,” Hardy added.
Last year’s Endymion grand marshal was Raymond Arroyo, news director of Eternal World Television Network, a Fox News contributor and resident of New Orleans. For the past decade, there was a long stretch of musicians in the role — including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Flo-Rida, Rod Stewart and KISS. With Gibson gone, his co-marshal, beloved Tulane University football coach Willie Fritz, remains. As of now, according to Hardy, “No replacement is planned.”
Belonging to a krewe comes with the opportunity to ride on a float and throw beads to the crowds. As the Endymion member told The Post: “That is the heart and soul of being a New Orleans resident.”
Every year, krewes in and around New Orleans put together colorful parades complete with live music, elaborate floats and hard partying.
The Endymion Krewe ranks among the largest in the city, boasting 3,000 members who ride on 80 floats — one of which is 300 feet long.
Mel Gibson, front and center on the lead float would have generated controversy for the Crescent City as well as for the krewe.
“It became a question of how we could resolve this,” said the longtime member of the immediate triage efforts after the announcement.
According to the longtime member, a well-connected Endymion adherent reached out to a city councilman, as the council is involved in giving out permits for krewe parades.
“Councilmen were prepared to pull the permit [if Gibson remained on as grand marshal],” the member said. “I was having conversations with the Anti-Defamation League.”
Indeed, spokespeople from Jewish Federation of New Orleans and Anti-Defamation League were working on a statement to condemn Gibson being named grand marshal, but he was pulled before they could release it.
The take-back provided cold comfort for the organizations, though. The ADL, Jewish Federation of New Orleans and Greater New Orleans Rabbinic Council on Sunday afternoon released a joint statement, noting that they were “appalled that Endymion chose Mel Gibson … to begin with.”
The statement pointed out Gibson’s history of “making anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic slurs … We find his choice as Grand Marshal of Endymion was completely insulting and shortsighted.”
Still stinging, according to Lindsay Friedmann, director of Anti-Defamation League South Central, is uncertainty as to whether or not Gibson will be part of the Endymion festivities outside of grand marshal duties.
“I think they made the right decision to remove him,” she told The Post. “What is still not clear is if they only removed him from the parade itself and if he will show up in some other context. They promised to do better in the future. What does that mean? Questions remain. Who knows if he will be there.”
It’s been reported that “The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection” — a sequel to his hit 2004 drama, which the ADL has criticized — could be “months from shooting.” There are also rumors of a fifth installment of “Lethal Weapon.”
Relieved by Gibson’s dismissal, the longtime member of Endymion and others are hoping to focus on letting the good times roll. “Mardi Gras is a fun event and not at all political,” the member said. “It is the largest free party in the world and it should be celebrated in that spirit.”