Bill La Grange – Life as a carnival
Ziggy!, Ziggy!, Ziggy!” came the yell; “Hoya!, Hoya!, Hoya!” was the response from a couple hundred or so voices in unison. If there was a satisfactory explanation of what that exchange meant, I never heard it. For many years, though, the ritual identified many of the parade watchers seated in the Downtown reviewing stands on the Sunday afternoon before Mardi Gras.
Yelling Ziggy was Bill LaGrange, a native New Orleanian who operated Creative World Rallies and Tours, a travel business specializing in RV tours. For as long as 11 event-filled days through Mardi Gras, a space in City Park would be filled with vehicles belonging to would-be revelers who had signed up for LaGrange’s “Mega Mardi Gras Rally.”
One night, his group would dress up to go to a ball. On the Sunday before Mardi Gras, they had tickets to the reviewing stands, where during the course of a long day, the parade of parades would pass by. Throughout the afternoon, especially during the intervals between krewes, and without warning, there would be the sudden bellowing of the Ziggys and the blast of a response.
One year LaGrange saw a parade from a different perspective: king of the Krewe of Carrollton. In his everyday life, he was an imposing figure with a broad frame and a big smile underscored by a beard. With a crown on his head, he was Arthurian in stature.
Overflowing with personality, LaGrange was bigger than life. Unfortunately, in November, life left him, at age 56, after a van accident not far from the City Park site where his tourists would gather.
By the time of his death his business had become international. The itinerary for his tours reached to far-flung destinations including Hawaii, Australia, the Canadian Rockies and South Africa. Carnival was not lost in his thoughts, though. His royal past was recognized by the company logo, which featured a van with a kingly crown on top.
LaGrange’s reign on the Carrollton throne was probably the last of a kind. The krewe was started in the 1930s largely by Carrollton-area businessmen. Over the decades, shifts in populations and business have changed all that – now the parade doesn’t even march on that avenue. LaGrange’s office, however, was on Toulouse Street, right off North Carrollton, so he may have been the last monarch of that krewe to have a business near the street after which it is named.
LaGrange’s life exuded the spirit of Carnival. He will be missed. For all the business he brought to the city and for all the joy that he brought to those who knew him, let this be said: Hoya! Hoya! Hoya! •