- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The margarita Diane Spieler sips during her nocturnal masquerade on Bourbon Street perfectly matches the glow-in-the-dark green of her hideous face, airbrushed in dreadful detail with reptilian scales and skeletal hollows.

Is she a radioactive ghoul? An alien sea serpent?

“If somebody asks me, I just tell ‘em I’m Katrina,” the New Orleans accountant says, glaring through ghostly pale contact lenses beneath hair molded into spikes. “Doesn’t it look mean and freaky?”

Two months after the monster hurricane’s horrifying rampage, Halloween has brought back the French Quarter’s thirst for theatric horror and debauchery, its Mardi Goth mojo in the heart of a city long known for its reverence for voodoo and Anne Rice’s glamorously gothic vampire novels.

“Halloween is the best-kept local secret. It’s shoulder to shoulder, just like Mardi Gras, but everybody’s in costume,” Miss Spieler, 57, said late Saturday, the spooky celebration in full swing two days early. “It’s the first big, fun drinking night since the hurricane.”

Much of New Orleans remains a ghost town, but the French Quarter teems with wicked witches and pimps in purple velvet. Elvis struts the sidewalk flanked by Supergirl and Marilyn Monroe. An Amazonian blonde’s skimpy cop outfit flirts with indecent exposure. Others share the Katrina theme, dressing as discarded refrigerators and the blue tarps that cover broken city roofs.

“Enough cleanup — time for a drink,” said Bobby Hughes, 23, a Loyola University graduate student sporting a blonde pigtailed wig, a plaid skirt that is too short on his 6-foot-6 frame, and a blouse knotted above his waist.

“Helga’s my name tonight,” said Mr. Hughes, joined by girlfriend Kat McKibben, a “love bug” with floppy antenna, feather boa, butterfly wings and fuzzy slippers.

Spared the brunt of Katrina’s wrath and the flooding that followed when levees ruptured, the French Quarter has steadily revived since reopening a month ago. Its bars, restaurants and T-shirt shops have been kept afloat by a transient stream of construction workers, relief volunteers and journalists. Trash cans overflow with discarded beer cups. Shoes stick to sidewalks lacquered in spilled liquor.

Meanwhile, in New York, a 10-year-old jazz trumpeter will lead that city’s annual Halloween parade through Greenwich Village.

Glenn Hall III, whose house and horn were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, got a new trumpet that he will play today as grand marshal of what is billed as the country’s biggest public Halloween event.

Glenn flew to New York last week with his family. They had been living in Memphis after the hurricane destroyed their home. He was given the new trumpet last week at the Manhattan-based Jazz Foundation.

“I love it. It’s got more sound, smoother pistons, a softer mouthpiece than my old one,” said Glenn, fingering the trumpet donated by a California woman through the Jazz Foundation. He’ll be joined by the Hot 8 jazz band, a group of New Orleans street musicians whose instruments also were donated through the Jazz Foundation.

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