February 2000 Big Chief Andrew Justin began preparing for Mardi Gras 2000 on February 28, 1998—just after returning to Los Angeles from the place he calls “home”: New Orleans. Four days earlier, he’d taken to the streets on Fat Tuesday, leading a one-two punch in the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parade—The Wild Tremé Mardi Gras Indians and The New Orleans Shake ‘Em Down Second Liners. His own costume, intricately beaded and elaborately plumed in lime green, included a “crown,” or headdress, measuring 15 feet across. His boots were made from snow-white fox pelts imported from Antarctica.
Chief Drew returned to Los Angeles , where he has lived since 1976, knowing that the combo’s next Mardi Gras outing wouldn’t be until the millennium. Most of the members are transplanted New Orleanians living in the Los Angeles area; due to the cost of regalia and travel, they can only afford to make the pilgrimage every other year. So you’d think that Chief Drew, who founded both groups and produces much of their attire, might have wanted to give the needle and thread a rest. No way. “You know, I like doin’ this. I feel like a junkie sometimes,” he confides.