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Endymion Thinks Big

Myths and realities of super krewes

(page 3 of 3)

Lifelong obsession
Muniz believes Carnival is truly in his blood and says his mother is to blame: “She loved Mardi Gras and dragged me to every single parade.”

The only child of his 7th Ward working-class parents, he soaked up New Orleans’ Carnival traditions like a sponge and considered himself lucky years later when he met a girl named Peggy who was equally addicted. Peggy eventually became his wife and through the decades supported not only the founding and growth of Endymion but also her husband’s parallel careers in the radio business and politics.

Muniz began his radio career in the 1960s as an advertising salesman, but quickly learned the nuts and bolts of the business and began buying radio stations, gradually amassing an enviable portfolio. In time, his station ownership would give him the financial freedom to indulge his Endymion obsession. He sold his stations in ’99 at a price said to be near $30 million.

While still in the radio business, Muniz stepped into politics, winning a seat on the Kenner City Council. He later served several stints on the Jefferson Parish Council, and after a short respite was elected mayor of Kenner, serving one term before retiring in 2010.

Muniz figures his diverse experiences enhanced his qualifications as captain of Endymion. Along with growing the krewe’s membership from 140 in its first year of parading to the current 2,700, Muniz says both his radio experience and political instincts have helped him lead the krewe into the big leagues of Carnival entertainment.

Ironically, he credits the Krewe of Bacchus with opening his eyes to the long-range potential of Endymion’s after-parade parties. That happened in 1973, when Blaine “Mr. Mardi Gras” Kern invited him to attend the Sunday night Bacchus ball.

The Krewe of Bacchus was a few years younger than Endymion (which had started as a small Gentilly-based krewe), but it had launched with more members, and in contrast with old-line krewes whose galas mostly centered around the crowning of “royalty,” Bacchus staged annual events that were as much concerts as balls.

On the night that Muniz joined Kern at the Rivergate Auditorium, film and comedy icon Bob Hope reigned as the king of Bacchus, and Muniz recalls the moment when Hope’s float rolled in and the Harry James Orchestra broke into “Thanks for the Memory” as being a stunner.

“Everybody went crazy,” he says. “It was beautiful.”

The experience convinced him that big-deal entertainment at krewe balls was the wave of the future. The following year, “Tonight Show” bandleader Doc Severinsen headlined the Endymion Extravaganza.

In order to make that first big ball financially viable, Endymion needed to increase membership to 400 and sell at least 4,000 ball tickets. “We barely made it,” Muniz says, adding that by the skin of its teeth Endymion had “transitioned into a super krewe.”

Subsequent years brought a long string of big-name headliners to Endymion’s parade and party, including Bobby Vinton, Alice Cooper, Wayne Newton, Neil Sedaka, Lou Rawls, Tom Jones, Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops, Stephen Stills, Britney Spears, and last year, Maroon 5.

During that period Endymion went from renting a handful of floats from another krewe to housing 80 of its own floats in three warehouses. “And we have no trouble getting riders to fill them,” Muniz says.

Even so, he admits that Endymion could be nearing its limits. One concern he has is what would become of the krewe if he and other key members were no longer around. “It’s a lot of work, and who else is going to invest this much time and energy?” he asks.

Muniz says the krewe has attempted to answer that question by drawing younger members into its ranks in the hope that they’ll come to love Endymion enough to help it thrive into the future.

It’s ironic, he says, that many students of mythology see Endymion as a god of youth. “We didn’t choose him for that reason,” Muniz says, “but Endymion has been a great leader for this krewe.”

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