Arnaud’s Celebrates Mardi Gras Year Round
For Mardi Gras, each ball masque requires a splendid gown or costume to carry out the theme of the tableau. For the Krewe of Sparta in 1954 the theme was “Royal Repast.” Germaine ruled as “Vintage Champagne,” with attendants dressed as “Creole Gumbo,” “Sizzling Steaks” and other dishes. Many of the gowns were made in Europe and the amount of intricate detail was quite astonishing.
The Casbarians paid tribute to Germaine Wells by creating a Mardi Gras museum in her honor on the second floor of Arnaud’s Restaurant. Named the “Queen’s Collection,” the display features thirteen of Germaine’s costumes along with gowns worn by her mother and daughter, four King’s costumes worn by the Count, and six children’s costumes.
Germaine’s love of theatre also found expression in the celebration of Mardi Gras. She ruled over 22 Carnival balls, more than any other person in New Orleans, starting in 1937 with the Krewe of Iris. Germaine said that her favorite ball was in 1938 when she reigned as queen of Prometheus and her father was king.
It is considered bad luck to wear a Queen’s gown twice, so Germaine had a duplicate of her gold creation made to be worn for other occasions. Germaine was regal in the shimmering replica gold lame gown she wore as Queen of Naiads for the official opening of the museum and a gala Carnival Ball on September 15, 1983. On Casbarian’s arm, she was escorted among her subjects, acknowledging them with a nod of her crowned head and a wave of her scepter as they slowly circled the Count’s Ballroom. Later that evening, in the Gold Room, the Casbarians hosted a Queen’s Supper in her honor.
The museum houses sparkling faux jewels, Carnival invitations, masks, favors and vintage photos. Providing a glimpse of the private celebration of Mardi Gras that is rarely seen by anyone outside of New Orleans.
Just three months after the gala museum opening, on December 15, 1983, Germaine Cazenave Wells died in her father’s mansion on Esplanade Avenue. At her request, she was buried in the golden gown, and the funeral cortege taking her to her final resting place at Metairie Cemetery passed by the restaurant one last time.