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For the Sake of the Party

Mysteries & Fantasy Mardi Gras Party
Party people: Mysteries & Fantasy Mardi Gras Party include (first row, l–r) founders, Thomas Lewand and John Bednorz. Second row: officers Scott Miller, Dennis Armstrong, and Richard Watson. Back row: member representatives, Donna Armstrong, Ed Bradshaw, and Clifford Dotson. (Photo by Jennifer Renfro)

Mysteries & Fantasy Mardi Gras Party turns 15.

Plus Krewe of Olympus’ Ball LX returns to George R. Brown Convention Center.

by Nancy Ford

It’s one of Houston’s most coveted Mardi Gras invitations.

Now in its 15th year, the Mysteries & Fantasy Mardi Gras Party is scheduled for January 30 at Rich’s.

The ball began in 1994 as a small gathering with one host and 25 guests, and has grown each year in host membership and guest attendance. In 2008, a record-setting 1,160 invited guests traveled from 53 Texas cities, 15 states, and five countries to celebrate the “Mysteries of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp”–themed party.

“People refer to us as the best party of the year,” says Dennis Armstrong, president of the MFMGP. “You go, you have a good time, everybody’s friendly, it’s a nice-looking crowd. You can meet somebody that’s a total stranger, but you can have a nice conversation with them because everybody is so friendly.”

Attendees are required to be attired in formal wear, i.e. tuxes and ball gowns, or in costume that reflects the ball’s theme. This year, the group pays tribute to the military with the theme, “We Want You.” Expect to see Rosie the Riveters, Andrew Sisters, and a Marilyn Monroe impersonation or two.

“No matter what the theme, there’s always a Marilyn!” Armstrong jokes. “But if you come in improper attire, we’ll turn you away. We’re pretty strict on the dress code.”

Guests go out of their way to make their costumes, Armstrong says. “The imagination these people have! One year, Studio 54 was the theme, and this gentleman came as a mirror ball. It was pretty amazing.

“We also had a gentleman come with a peg leg one year when we had the pirates’ theme. He tied his leg behind him and then put the peg on his knee. I think he kind of leaned against the wall most of the evening. He beat out a mermaid and Davey Jones in the costume contest!”

DJ Jon Sims, formerly of The Mining Company fame, spins a selection of trash disco music peppered with Mardi Gras music for the party. “When there’s a change of music, so people think, ‘Oh, there’s Mardi Gras music. They’re going to be throwing beads.’ It’s a cue to let people know what’s getting ready to happen.”

At Sims’ cue, hosts are preparing to throw approximately 7,700 beads to 1,250 invited guests—the key word being “invited.” Over the past decade and a half, the organizing group has grown to 63 hosts who distribute private invitations to friends, family, and co-workers, Armstrong says. “This methodology is probably the reason the party always has one of the friendliest crowds.”

Unlike the Krewe of Olympus’ Mardi Gras party and most major fetes produced by members of Houston’s gay community, there are no beneficiaries or charities involved with the MFMGP. The MFMGP is a “party for the sake of a party,” Armstrong says.

“They [Krewe of Olympus] are a 501(c)(3), and we’re a free party for our guests,” Armstrong says, adding that many of the faces behind the MFMGP’s masks are familiar in Houston’s fundraising community. A number of Krewe members traditionally participate in the MFMGP, Armstrong says, giving them a chance to expand their Mardi party.

“The good thing about this group of people is that it’s really not about the ? hosts, it’s about the party,” Armstrong concludes. “It’s about making the party the best it can be. It’s not ego-driven; it’s a selfless thing, which I really appreciate. You have 60 gay men, two straight women, and one lesbian, but there’s no drama.

“It’s a pretty incredible group we have.”


Krewe of Olympus
White knights: Ben Jones and Bill Waters moved the Krewe of Olympus from New Orleans to Houston in 1970. (Photo by Dalton DeHart )

More Mardi Gras
Krewe of Olympus’ Ball LX returns to George R. Brown Convention Center

Perhaps a little less mysterious, yet just as fantasy-filled as the MFMGP, the Krewe of Olympus also celebrates all things glitzy and Gras, this year with its 40th anniversary celebration.

Originally founded in New Orleans, the Krewe’s annual February event is also heavy on the beads and opulent costumes. Additionally, it has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charitable organizations in yearly increments of approximately $20,000, members estimate. Krewe of Olympus’ Ball XL, titled “Ports of Call,” benefits AssistHers, Colt 45’s AIDS Trouble Fund, and the PFLAG/HATCH Scholarship Fund supporting LGBT students. Feb. 6 at George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas • mardigrastexas.com.


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