Actress Patricia Clarkson received a brass band reception when she arrived Wednesday in New Orleans, setting the stage for the all-women Krewe of Muses parade to roll Thursday night.
Muses kicks off a string of celebrity-studded parades leading up to Mardi Gras on Tuesday. The parades are held by individual krewes — social clubs that spend all year putting together the elaborate floats and costumes. The pop-rock band Maroon 5 rides with the krewe Endymion on Saturday night, comedian and actor Will Ferrell rides as king of Bacchus on Sunday night and rocker Bret Michaels will join Grammy-winning singer Cyndi Lauper in Orpheus on Monday.
Singer and multi-instrumentalist Theresa Andersson will also be featured in Muses, and as her float rolls through the city streets she will perform songs from her upcoming album "Street Parade," accompanied by a 50-piece marching band. It will be the first time Andersson performs her new songs for the general public. The album's release date is April 24.
Clarkson, the New Orleans-born star of the 2010 thriller "Shutter Island" and the 2003 drama "Pieces of April," will be riding in Muses aboard a red fiber-optic-lit float shaped like a high-heeled shoe. Like other riders in the parade, Clarkson will hand out high-heeled shoes decorated with glitter, beads and feathers.
"I am so honored to be the lady leading all of this," Clarkson said in an interview with The Associated Press at the Windsor Court Hotel, where a brass band welcomed her arrival and Muses krewe members draped her in beads. "This is how I want to wake up every day, to a jazz band and ladies with goodies and trinkets greeting me."
Muses' riders spend months decorating hundreds of pumps, boots, ballet slippers and sneakers, which have become coveted treasures by revelers along the parade route. Many hold "glitter parties" where they decorate shoes while partaking of food, wine and cocktails. Many of the shoes they've collected come from friends, thrift stores or discount shoe stores.
"The shoes are coveted because they are individually designed," Clarkson said. "They are handmade, and a lot of work and love went into them."
Earlier this month, Muses rider Keerthi McIntosh covered a 5-inch stiletto with sparkly red glitter for Clarkson to keep as a memento. The shoe is lined with shiny red sequins and has "Muses 2012" in black and gold lettering.
"I designed it to look like the red shoe she'll be riding in," McIntosh said. "She'll have this to bring home with her, to keep as a souvenir of her experience with Muses."
Clarkson is the Muses club's first celebrity rider. The krewe traditionally selects an honorary rider who exemplifies a single muse from Greek mythology, such as dance, poetry or music. For 2012, the club said it chose Clarkson as its honorary "EveryMuse" because she embodies the spirit of all muses. Clarkson said she is relishing the opportunity to return to her hometown during Mardi Gras.
"Mardi Gras is a special time," Clarkson said. "It is a celebration of people, traditions and love of revelry, which is New Orleans."
Clarkson lives in New York, but returns often to New Orleans, where her mother Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson still lives and serves on the New Orleans City Council. This will be her second time riding in a parade during Carnival. In 2007, she rode with New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton in Orpheus, the krewe founded by singer-actor Harry Connick, Jr., another New Orleans native.
Clarkson's movie credits include 2008's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and the 2009 romantic comedy "Whatever Works," both major films written and directed by Woody Allen. This year she starred in the Lifetime TV movie, "Five," an anthology of five short films exploring the impact of breast cancer on people's lives. The short about Clarkson's character, Mia, was directed by Jennifer Aniston.
Clarkson also played a victim of cancer in "Pieces of April." She appeared in "Shutter Island" with Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo; the 2011 romantic comedy "Friends With Benefits" starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis; and "The Green Mile," the 1999 Tom Hanks drama about life on death row.
Clarkson's latest project is "The East," a drama costarring Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Shiloh Fernandez, Toby Kebbell and Brit Marling. The film is due out later this year.