Scenes from the Mystic Stripers’ 2012 Ball

Regulars at Stripers

A friend’s family is big in the Mystic Stripers Society, one of Mobile’s venerable mystic societies. Thursday night, for the 5th time since 2007, I attended the Stripers’ Ball. For those who have never been to a ball, the best description that I have ever heard is “prom for adults.” My leggy wife gets credit for that description.

Of course, a lot of work gets done before the actual ball. My parents agreed to come down & keep the kids. Also, I went ahead and bought my tails this year, which I found to be much easier than renting. The Mojowoman and I got dressed late Thursday afternoon and – I must say – she looked ravishing in the green dress that she bought for $7.99 at the Waterfront Rescue Mission in Foley, Alabama. (Believe it or not, one of the women in our group actually found her dress cheaper; she paid $2 + change at a Mobile thrift store).

Unwisely, I tried to get to the ball by driving down Government and we barely made it to the Royal Street garage before the police closed the streets. (It’s $10 to park at the garage). After parking, we met our friends and watched the parade from Royal. This year, we had a great group and everyone seemed to have fun. I can attest from bad past experience that nothing can ruin Mardi Gras faster than a sourpuss in your party.

The Stripers’ theme was Magical Mystery Tour. Of course, the floats had Beatles themes and there were a number of good bands. The Vigor High band “broke it down” right in front of us. We got a few throws: some peanuts, Snackwell & lemon creme cookies, Moon Pies, a stuffed seal, and beads. One guy in our party had never been to Mardi Gras before, and we gave him his first Moon Pie (banana); he became an instant fan.

After the parade, we made it over to the Civic Center. The police officers working security were wearing black tape over their badges in honor of their murdered fellow officer, Steven Green. In the midst of the revelry, it definitely made us think.

Interminable Tableau

In the past, we’ve been able to use connections to skip the tableau (call-outs), go to one of the rooms serving food, and eat while those watching the call-outs were bored to tears. (For those who aren’t familiar with Mardi Gras, the tableau is when the members of a society dance and engage in ceremonial activities while the guests are forced to watch). Apparently too many people were skipping tableau, because the Stripers were cracking down this year; we had to watch all of the call outs. Call outs haven’t improved any. Aside from the Stripers’ members, the crowd was sparse. Later, the crowd seemed as large as ever, so maybe guests just don’t go to the ball until the call-outs end.

In spite of running far too long, tableau had some interesting moments. We saw one very animated and angry woman pacing and talking on her phone for at least 30 minutes; she was by herself, so we guessed that she’d been stood up. During tableau, one older dude dirty danced with a very young, very thin woman in a green dress. There’s a story there, but maybe we don’t want to know. Several Stripers made spectacles of themselves during their call outs; my favorite flopped on his back and simulated doing a backstroke. Several of their escorts were obviously embarrassed, but other women got down alongside their dates.

Mercifully, call-outs did end and everyone began milling about the Civic Center. We went to Room #9 and enjoyed meatballs, barbecue, Popeye’s chicken, and red velvet cupcakes. Neither the Mojowoman nor I ever got into high gear on the drinking; I had three beers and she had two glasses of wine for the night. We’re both certified lightweights.

Women – and Men – Behaving Badly

Of course, one of the best things about attending any Mardi Gras ball is viewing all of the bad behaviors and fashion faux-pas. Here are a few choice tidbits -

- For me, Stripers proved that tattoos are still the rage among young women. The tramp stamps have gotten larger over the past few years, with many women choosing to ink their entire backs. Also, many of the slag tags that we saw had already faded.
- The Mojowoman was properly appalled by what she referred to as the “skunk hair” on many women. (Skunk hair is bleached on top, but not on the sides).
- Also, a number of women wore dresses that were far too short to be called evening gowns. The Stripers obviously weren’t enforcing their dress code.
- Finally, as mentioned in the Mobile Press-Register’s Sound Off column, many young women wore flip flops with their gowns.

By no means was bad behavior limited to fashion problems among women -
- On a trip to the men’s room, I encountered a gentlemen who was discoursing on the subject of his ex-wife. Someone asked him if he had to pay her alimony. He replied, “I told her, ‘Here’s your alimony, bitch, 3-5-7’” [i.e., a .357-magnum pistol]. He continued “I tried to get her to go down to South America where the police would take care of her for $500, but she wouldn’t do it.” (Tragically, I never saw the woman lucky enough to be his date).
- After some energetic dancing, the Mojowoman and I headed over to one of the bars and stood in line. Ahead of me was a 50-ish guy. The man was gray-haired and looked very distinguished in his tails. He turned to me and said, “IT’S HOTTER THAN SHIT OUT THERE ON THAT DANCE FLOOR!” After that, his escort drug him away as quickly as possible.

Dance to the Music

The bands were Mobile’s own Tip Tops and a group called The Bag of Doughnuts from New Orleans. I’ve heard such good things about the Tops that I’d always meant to catch them, but never gotten around to it. They were a lot of fun. The Bag of Doughnuts were good, and I particularly liked their version of Modern English’s “I Melt with You.” But there was one bizarre moment when the singer introduced “Sweet Home Alabama” and asked for a “Roll Tide.” Someone in the audience said something about Auburn and the singer went off on him, saying, “F— Auburn.” After the song ended, the singer apparently thought that he’d made a mistake because he started backpedalling, talking about how much fun they’d had playing the War Eagle Supper Club in Auburn.

For a time, the dance floor belonged to a pair of young women. They were hard to miss from the beginning, one had pink hair & the other had shoes that one might call “stiletto platforms.” (“I’ve never seen such” remarked the Mojowoman). If that weren’t enough, the two women got much attention with their moves; one bent @ the waist with the other one behind her bumping & grinding. If they had (male) dates, they weren’t in evidence. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that). One of our party also saw a woman sprawled on her back on the dance floor, gyrating, with her legs spread. Our friend – who has a one-year old – said that the woman’s moves reminded her of someone giving birth. Sadly, I missed this one, though I’m not sure how.

The Party Winds Down

Around midnight, one of our friends wanted dessert so he led the entire group around the Civic Center on his quest. It was surprisingly difficult. First, we went to the Queen’s room, where the desserts looked as though they’d been attacked by a pack of wild dogs. (The Mojowoman was amused to see dressed-to-the-nines young women grabbing food from the trays and scarfing it on the spot, without even moving so that others could serve themselves). Happily, my friend found a Beatles cake in Room #6, but I didn’t make it that far, as I’d been waylaid by a chance meeting with someone I hadn’t seen since the 2007 Stripers Ball. I ran into about five friends & acquaintances at the Ball, which is about par for the course.

After the cake search, the rest of our friends flaked and left around 12:30 a.m. Bravely, we tried to continue and headed back to the dance floor. The Mojowoman noted that we were the oldest people left on the floor. About 1:15 a.m., fatigue won out, so we cashed our chips and went back to Royal Street to get the car. (On Royal, we walked by Veet’s bar and saw that some ball attendees were having a nightcap; when it comes to partying, they play in a different league from the Mojoman).

We drove home on Government. The Mojowoman did a great job of avoiding the drunken man driving the car with North Carolina plates. He was using the entire road. It was 2:30 a.m. when we hit the bed for a few hours of sleep. For us, The Stripers had – once again – more than lived up to their reputation as “the fun one” among Mobile’s Mardi Gras societies.

About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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