Back in the late 70s and early 80s, I was the Clark Kent of New Orleans — a strikingly handsome, but humble reporter who just happened to be the only guy in town who could get in touch with Superman. Only it wasn’t Superman that I had direct, exclusive contact with, but someone just as exotic: John Smith, the anonymous and mysterious captain-for-life of the Spontaneous Krewe of Platefaces, the world’s cheapest and most creative Carnival krewe. No one knew where Capt. Smith had come from, or cared particularly, but everyone acknowledged that there was something very different about him, and gave him credit for saving Mardi Gras in 1979 by parading as usual when a police strike forced other, more established krewes to abandon their revelry.
As with Superman and Clark, Smith and I bore a striking resemblance, only no one knew because Smith kept his face completely concealed, at all times, behind a paper plate, and I occasionally wore glasses. As a public service, I arranged interviews with Smith for some of the biggest names in New Orleans media: Times-Picayune columnists Angus Lind and Betty Guillaud, Channel Four television reporters Eric Paulsen and Ed Clancy, radio deejays Rick Zurich and Katy Carroway, ETC. But the biggest, most sensational interview of all was the one I conducted with Smith myself for the Baton Rouge weekly Gris Gris. I was determined to scoop my colleagues by getting him to reveal his true identity, but Smith remained elusive as ever. Still, it may have been the highlight of my career, and certainly was of his.