Fifty and Fabulous
Captain Ed Muniz looks back on five decades of Endymion.
When it comes to Carnival in New Orleans, it doesn’t get any bigger than Endymion. Held on the Saturday night before Mardi Gras, Endymion bears the title of the largest of the city’s more than 80 parades and is followed by the largest party of the season, the Endymion Extravaganza. Held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it draws approximately 20,000 people.
Fifty years ago, however, the krewe’s founder and Captain, Ed Muniz, says he was just a 24-year-old with a crazy idea.
Biz: How did Endymion come about?
Ed Muniz: Growing up, my mother was a huge fan of Carnival. We went to all the parades every year. She used to make costumes for me — I was a cowboy one year, a pyramid the next. My grandfather worked at Gallier Hall, so he used to get us tickets to sit in the stands.
Then, when I was in my early 20s, the parade that had always run the Saturday before Mardi Gras, Adonis, folded. I remember talking to my wife — my girlfriend at the time — about how sad it was that the best night for a parade, the night that everyone wants to go out and have a good time, wasn’t going to
have a parade.
So I decided to do something about it. I was 24-years-old, not socially connected at all, with no big background in Carnival. Most people thought I was crazy, and (laughs) maybe I was.
Biz: How did you get started?
EM: I met with the Krewe of Carrollton, who had been renting floats to Adonis. I told them about my idea and how I wanted the parade to start in Gentilly. Everything started Uptown. I wanted to change that. Luckily, they loved the idea and of course he probably didn’t want to lose the rental income, so he rented me 16 floats that first year — 1967. Of course then I had to find riders. We had a total of 145 members that first year. Back then the average float held about eight riders. We barely made it. Nobody had reason to think we’d survive.
Biz: But you did, and you started to grow.
EM: Yes. But we were not like Bacchus, who started a year after us. They started big. In the first five years we grew to about 27 or 28 floats and about 250 to 275 riders. That’s when I was approached by Blaine Kern. He said, “I will build you 12 floats and you can use one of my King’s floats. I have the feeling y’all are gonna make it.” Of course to make it happen we had to get our membership up to 400 to cover the additional expenses. We did that, and became the second krewe to be called a superkrewe.
Biz: What about the party? How did that get started?
EM: We always had a party after the parade. The first year it was in a small ballroom at the old Jung Hotel. We had about 125 people. Seven years in, we rented the Rivergate Convention Center — where Harrah’s is now. Our first celebrity grand marshal was Doc Severinsen. That was great because he ended up talking about us on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.”
Biz: As a young 20-something, how did you manage to get this big star?
EM: It was funny, actually. He was in town doing a performance at the Loyola Field House and me and Joe Giamelli went to the show. We basically just badgered him until he gave us his manager’s card. He actually ended up performing for us five or six years in a row.
Biz: Doc Severinsen was just the first in a long line of Endymion’s celebrity grand marshals, and it’s a pretty broad range of personalities — Bobby Vinton, Alice Cooper, Dolly Parton, Chuck Norris, Jerry Springer, Britney Spears, Kevin Costner, Carrie Underwood…
EM: Yes, we try to offer something to appeal to everyone. For instance this year, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and Pitbull are both going to perform at the Extravaganza. Of course Aerosmith goes way back and Pitbull is someone my granddaughters are especially excited about.
Biz: This is a special year, with the 50th anniversary. What else do you have in store for everyone?
EM: We’ll be introducing a new float: Club Endymion. It’s a replica of the Superdome and is in honor of our longstanding relationship with them. (The Superdome has hosted the Endymion Extravaganza since 1981). We’re excited to have Doug Thornton, executive vice president of SMG, which manages the Dome, serving as our Grand Marshal. We were actually just honored by the Superdome as being one of the “40 most important things that have happened” inside the Dome. When we moved our party there it was just great. I mean, we have fireworks inside. Where else could you do something like that?
Of course, I’m also excited because on this, our golden anniversary, the last of my granddaughters is going to serve as queen. My wife, Peggy, and I have three daughters and four grandchildren.
Biz: Have you passed down your love of Mardi Gras?
EM: Oh yes. It’s still a family affair. From the Wednesday before to that Tuesday, Peggy and I stay downtown so we can see it all. Even after Saturday night, the grandkids will wake me up the next morning and we’ll all be out there watching the parades.
Biz: Let’s talk about the business side of running Endymion.
EM: Yes it’s definitely a business. We have 3,100 riders now — which is just incredible to say — and each pays dues of about $1,000. So that’s over $3 million right there. Our other two sources of income are, of course, the party and selling throws. All of our members get two tickets, and then the rest of the 20,000 people purchase them and prices can range up to $280 for the better seats. Last year we were working with about $6.5 or 7 million.
Biz: Endymion is known for its generosity with throws. How much do members typically spend?
EM: I’m not really sure because not all of them buy their throws through us. I’ll say some can spend up to $3,000 to $4,000 with us. Last year my three sons-in-law and myself together spent about $6,000 or $7,000.
Biz: How does the management of the organization work?
EM: I’m the Captain, then we have a President, three Vice Presidents, a Secretary and Treasurer. Everyone is a volunteer. We only have one employee and that’s BJ Ory. He is basically our Ticketmaster. He’s incredible. He keeps track of every party ticket, every payment, everything.
We’re all working year-round. Right after the season ends we’re out meeting with the IRS to make sure everything’s in order. About a month after the parade, I’ll start working on next year’s theme with Kern studios, and we’ll be getting the members to rejoin and making sure the dues get paid. It all starts all over again. You have to really love it to do what we do, and we do love it.
Biz: Endymion currently has the largest float in the world, is that right?
EM: Pontchartrain Beach, yes. It is actually nine connected floats and each depicts a different part of the old Pontchartrain Beach amusement park. We debuted that in 2014, but before we were allowed to use it the police made us run the parade route at 2 a.m. to make sure the float could make the turns.
Then last year we had a giant float that we called E-TV, or Endymion TV. It was kind of like those giant screens you see in Times Square, only rolling. It was made of LED panels and video screens and allowed the crowd to see themselves as they were yelling, “Throw me something mister!”
Biz: Why do you think Endymion has been so successful?
EM: Well, of course we have this great time slot. I think it’s the best night in Carnival. There’s nothing like a Saturday night. I also think that it’s because we’ve never had any pretense. Our goal was always just to have a hell of a good time.
Biz: Was your goal ever to be the biggest parade?
EM: (Laughs) Oh no. My goal was always just for the parade to survive. And now, at age 75, that’s my goal. When my time comes, I just hope that someone who loves it all as much as I do will keep it going.
The Many Sides of Muniz
In addition to serving as the founder and captain of Endymion for 50 years, Edmond Muniz worked in the broadcasting industry for decades, beginning in 1959. He eventually owned a company called Phase II Broadcasting that included six stations in the South. Muniz was inducted into the New Orleans Broadcasters Hall of Fame in ’96.
Also active in politics, Muniz served for seven years on the Kenner City Council, 17 years on the Jefferson Parish Council, and was the Mayor of Kenner from 2006 to 2010.
Did you know?
Endymion rolled in Gentilly near the New Orleans Fair Grounds from its founding in 1967 to 1975, when it was shifted to its current Mid-City route. It is the only parade that does not use the Uptown route.