Does the woman on the left bear a resemblance to the mayor?
If so, why is she hobnobbing with the impresario of a former burlesque house in Westville?
These mysteries of identity unfolded at the ninth annual masked revels convened by the New Haven Free Public Library Foundation at the main branch Tuesday Night for the library’s Mardi Gras fundraiser.
About 175 revelers, masked and un-, were expected to fill the beautiful Ives Building by the end of the evening, estimated the library’s Director of Development Clare Meade.
The gracious cathedral space, festooned with ribbons and beads, echoed with the music of Pierce Campbell’s ensemble, The Scramble.
Towering over the party-goers was the tuxedo-wearing Amazing Andy: He walks on stilts, he juggles, he does card tricks, and he never gives his real name for fear his bookie will find out, he said.
Unmasked reveler Gordon Geballe, who is currently board chair of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, pronounced Andy imposing. He was hesitant to shake the hand that Andy lowered to him.
“You just don’t know where he’s been. There’s a lot of air pollution up there,” he averred.
Yale University physicist Sidney Cahn was looking particularly weird. Amidst many costumed guests who had purchased their masks in New Orleans or Orange or Norwalk—many bemoaned the absence of proper costume/costume/Halloween shop in our town—Cahn’s mask had a personal touch.
“Of course it’s homemade,” he said with edge. The visor-like construction with shredded paper teeth was meant to convey an aspect of his trade: “Spatial beat,” which is the scientific term for what happens when you’re stuck between two frequencies, he said.
One of the paradoxes of wearing masks is that while they use artifice to conceal, they also reveal because they are ice-breakers, permitting and even encouraging staring, and in the guise of banter, downright impertinent interrogation.
“This is my kimono,” black-masked young adult librarian Angelina Carnevale finally revealed. She said she was wearing it because it’s her fanciest item. Where did she obtain it? Orange? Norwalk?
No way. “Training in martial arts with a ninja master [in Japan]. I’m still good at it, but my husband is better,” she said.
Mmmmmmm ... Gumbo!
With the exception perhaps of the spatial beat Yale physicist, most of the mask-wearers had the good sense to have their concealment end above the mouth.
That permitted intake of the delicious foods that have become part of the library’s Fat Tuesday event. Four years ago, the library leaders moved the event from outside venues into the main building.
Tuesday night, Zinc, Sage American Grill, Mezcal, Soup Girl, Meat & Co., and Soul de Cuba were among the eateries that provided the fuel.
Former director of cultural affairs, Barbara Lamb, (pictured) partook of John Ginnetti’s Meat & Co.‘s signature “Good Morning, Viet-ham” sandwich.
A Wooster Squarite in retirement from city service, Lamb said she’s now running an antiques business in Seymour. “I miss seeing everyone. I love New Haven,” she said.
Lamb also loved another of Ginnetti’s sandwiches, the “haute tuna.”
Nearby Comptroller Kevin Lembo and food historian Frank Mitchell (disguised as themselves) never strayed very far from Donna Curran and her sous chef Alex Blifford’s shrimp and andouille gumbo served with a homemade biscuit.
The other feature of the evening, the silent auction, also appeared to be going great guns. Among the items up for grabs were tickets to a Saturday Night Live taping, an African photo safari, and perhaps the most sought after item among the cognoscenti, a signed Kinky Boots poster.
John Charest (pictured), who describes himself as the chief beer scientist at Stamford’s Half Full Brewery, was also offering an evening to be a guest brewer at his establishment that on such creative evenings produces a peanut butter hefferveisen.
Organizers expected to raise $48,000 to be used for what chief organizer Meade called the library’s “highest priorities.”
Since the departure of Head City Librarian Christopher Korenowsky in January, the organization is being run by its three chief administrators in tandem— Cathy DeNigris, Brad Bullis, and Xia Feng.
“The library is hiring a search committee [to fill the chief position]. We’re hopeful they will move quickly,” said Meade.