After a brief stint working in procurement for the VA hospital, Chief Drew decided to embark on a second career. Accompanied by his wife and son, along with members of The Wild Tremé, Chief Drew showed up for the ceremony with his spear. “He had everybody looking at him,” says Chief Drew, “and I was touched.” Then the old crooner approached the chief—who was dressed casually save for his headband, choke collar and alligator shoes—and said, “They took your country. His prolific output is all the more remarkable considering the ailments that dogged him along the way. That didn’t go over so well with one of the officers in charge of security. Arriving in 1976, Chief Drew, along with a friend, formed a maintenance company focusing on masonry, landscaping and roofing. And for himself, he’s procured some mink pelts, which he plans to use for a pair of pants and matching boots. In his spare time, he’d play congas and make second-line regalia. But it wasn’t until witnessing a murder that he summoned the determination to kick the habit for good. Possessing protective powers, the ju ju doctor—alternatively known as a witch doctor or voodoo doctor—is an iconic figure found in the folk cultures of New Orleans, Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean. Also appearing was Dr. John, a musical ambassador for New Orleans whose songwriting has been influenced by Mardi Gras Indian traditions, and Donald Harrison Jr., one of the premiere jazz saxophonists of his generation. “When our Lord Christ Jesus came into the Jordan River,” explains Chief Drew, “John the Baptist told him: ‘Who am I to baptize thee who’s so pure?’ ”, The Four Horses of the Apocalypse, from the Book of Revelation, emblazon the bottom of the tableau. Turned out that Falls had for years been wanting Mardi Gras Indians to join in the Zulu parade, but the idea had fallen on deaf ears—gangs tended to regard Zulu as part of “mainstream” Carnival, and didn’t want to depart from their time-honored tradition of parading through neighborhood back streets. — Photo by Pat Jolly. All images and likenesses of Big Chief Andrew Justin and The Wild Treme are our sole property of the tribe. In the meantime, Chief Drew is keeping his focus—on designing and sewing, which he calls “good therapy for the brain.” He’s already beaded a patch for the crown of his son’s next suit; it depicts a Baobob tree, which in Africa is a traditional source of food, clothing and shelter. In 1995, a Los Angeles-based organization, Women in Film, arranged for Harrison and his Guardians of the Flame Mardi Gras Indians to perform at an Academy Awards event at the House of Blues. 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. We share in hopes of keeping this celebrated tradition alive. Chief Drew’s family history reflects the ethnic and cultural heritage of the Tremé, which continues to nurture living traditions such as Baby Dolls and jazz funerals. Ivory-colored ruffles made of 100% virgin silk trimmed the shoulders, cuffs and Egyptian-style collar. This is a cultural site dedicated to educating the public and preserving the tradition of The Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans, Louisiana. Harrison, in turn, invited The Wild Tremé—six Mardi Gras Indians, plus Hothai—to share the stage. Now it’s time for them to give you something. “Uncle Andrew,” one of them announced, “you got about four or five feet of shit on your plumes.” A nephew produced a straight razor, and, following the big chief’s instructions, severed the train. Also figuring into Chief Drew’s hereditary mix: Spanish, African-American and Native American bloodlines. They were, recalls Chief Drew, a rough-and-tumble bunch: “Kick a man in his ass.”. In 1962, he arrived in Vietnam. Maurice Justin’s brother Theodore “Teddy” Justin served as the original vice president of the club, under founder Dooky Chase. His grandmother, who’d promised his parents that she’d look out for him, insisted on it. In the days leading up to Fat Tuesday, the guest house in New Orleans where Chief Drew and his family were staying, in the Tremé neighborhood, bustled with activity—and anxiety. I say, ‘Damn. The details, upon closer inspection, suggested their procreative powers. “I got real rebellious,” he says, “because I didn’t know why I was taken away from my mother.”, Before long, Chief Drew was running streets with the Valvadors and, later, the Egyptian Cobras. Once inside, the big chief was practically reduced to tears by a mysterious elderly man. An hour or so later, with Chief Drew now perched atop the back seat of the convertible, The Wild Tremé and the second liners arrived at the Gallier Hall reviewing stand. His wife was a Jehovah’s Witness. Seen up close in the sunlight, he says, “it’ll blind you.”. Chief Drew “masked Indian” as a kid, but never did affiliate himself with any one gang. Second lining grew out of traditional African-American parades—specifically, jazz funerals. “I had a dream of how I would be as a ju ju doctor, spreadin’ my wings out to cover my people that’s in harm’s way, to protect them,” says Chief Drew. I done created a monster.”. A sisterhood of promiscuous maskers who cavorted on Fat Tuesday in the first half of the 20th century, Baby Dolls wore titillating outfits—short skirts, bloomers, satin blouses and bonnets tied under their chins with ribbons. Helping to distinguish the look of the Wild Tremé from other Mardi Gras Indians, Chief Drew procures pelts and accoutrements direct from the Navajo. He was determined to roll with Zulu, pass the torch to his son and experience one last time the high that goes with leading a gang on Carnival Day. I feel like I lost my best friend.”. They called themselves the New Orleans Shake ‘Em Down Second Liners. His boots were made from badgers—sewn into the eye sockets were 30-milimeter stones—while his daffodil-yellow crown, trimmed with purple plumes, included a 15-foot train. 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. “I enjoyed it,” he relates, “because I felt as though the gang was my family.”, All the while, Chief Drew attended church. The suit he has in mind, incorporating a multitude of “top-of-the-line” stones, would also include a mini apron and a vest with sleeves. If you gonna be Indian, be the best. But a certain mixture of pride and adrenaline kept the pretty chief out of the car, at least on the section of the route along Jackson Ave. Never tried to hit on her sexually or nothin’, because I wanted to find a real spiritual woman.”. Wedding bells chimed in 1992. Eyeballs were a-poppin’ as the “mystery chief” from out West brought home the love on Mardi Gras 2000. While his knee surgery prevented him from accepting an invitation to appear, along with The Wild Tremé, in the 2001 Tournament of Roses Parade, there’s always next year. After consulting with his wife, a counseling psychologist at the University of California Riverside, Chief Drew proceeded to order $12,000 worth of glass crystals and stones from a dealer in New York City.