610 Stompers take their moves, moustaches and moxie to the Macy's parade
The shameless, choreographed manhood that is New Orleans' own 610 Stompers grabbed the Big Apple by the shiny nylon scruff Thursday, rendering "Today Show'' hosts Matt Lauer and Al Roker nearly speechless during the group's minute-long feature performance in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Or maybe it was the tube socks.
The group of 60 dancers, donning their regulation pale-blue short-shorts, shiny red jackets and gold sneakers, boogied a two-mile stretch of parade route from the start along Central Park West down Seventh Avenue to Herald Square.
Wedged, somehow fittingly, between a TV promo for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and a pink four-story Energizer Bunny balloon, the Stompers busted out to Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For a Hero" from the 1984 movie "Footloose."
They thrust their hips. They pumped their fists. Some wore shades. All wore white terry headbands.
Amid the pageantry, a bemused audience in front of Macy's Herald Square watched with a mix of smiles and stares. In a city with a sympatico connection to New Orleans, the group's pale-thighed shenanigans caught on.
"We definitely got the reaction we wanted. There was a peak in the middle of the dance where we did this kind of power punch. We knew that was the peak," said Stompers leader Brett Patron, a real estate appraiser who goes by "Slab." "We were trying to tell them ordinary men can become heroes."
On NBC, Lauer and Roker let the moves and the mustaches speak for themselves while chuckling in the background.
"Can you imagine if you just tuned in?" Lauer intoned.
"Yeah. Wow. Well, let's move along, shall we?" said Roker.
The Stompers put their zany stamp on the outsized New York City parade, which featured 27 floats, 15 giant balloons, 11 marching bands and 1,600 cheerleaders in its 85th year.
Gwyn Andersen of Montana, who had camped out early on 71st Street and Central Park West for the parade, said her group of 11 agreed that the Stompers stood out as the favorite in a mostly traditional parade roster.
"We're like, wow. The thing that really catches your eye is they actually were quite polished. And unusual. Just that -- and their haircuts," Andersen said. "We all suddenly realized they actually worked at that. Some of the guys standing around us were saying, 'I could be part of that group.' "
Peggy Bienvenu, whose son-in-law is Stomper John Tiblier, said the group was well received.
"They were cheering,'' said Bienvenu, a Reserve resident. "It was cool. Toward the end of the parade, people were looking for some activity.''
Following an after-party, Patron declared mission accomplished. The largely white, all-male dance crew of doctors, lawyers, laborers and other pent-up performers in a crew has achieved local celebrity through parades and other events since its launch in summer 2009.
"The nerves were flying. We just came out here wanting to show New York what we had. We wanted to show the rest of the country what we had," said Patron as he stood outside the Empire State Building late Thursday.
"If it's contagious, it's contagious. I'm pretty sure the Energizer Bunny was very properly placed behind us. That's what we brought to the parade," he added. "I'm not saying the parade is boring. I'm saying they needed a little boost. They were forward-thinking."
The group got the invitation early this year and created the "Hero" dance for the moment.
Several Stompers appeared Wednesday on the "Today" show, drawing appreciative guffaws and elbow thrusts from host Hoda Kotb, who once worked in New Orleans, and a befuddled look from Kathie Lee Gifford.
But it was all prelude to the parade, where the Stompers showed off their "ordinary guys with extraordinary moves" bona fides in front of an estimated 50 million TV viewers.
"Finally a group that would take us," Lauer said.
"Tell Matt Lauer he still needs to audition," Patron responded.
John Simerman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3330.
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