http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/gv_columnists/article/0,1406,KNS_301_832701,00.html Southern Louisiana rules: No disrespect to No. 1 party school By John Adams sports editor You can see a "big game" every Saturday during college football season. But you can go years without seeing a game as big as the one Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee vs. LSU is as big as it gets. It's No. 1 vs. No. 2. The Princeton Review says so. Last month, it named the University of Tennessee as the No. 1 party school in the country. LSU was No. 2 in the same survey, which probably required about as much research as this column. Note to editor: Just kidding. Note to Princeton Review: You've got to be kidding. UT can't possibly be more of a party school than my alma mater. Why? Because LSU is in South Louisiana, and UT isn't. That's not to denigrate UT's status as a party school. For all I know (UT students don't invite me to their parties), UT can out-party any school in the country north of South Louisiana. But in South Louisiana, the clouds rain confetti; the boiling water is full of crawfish; and partying is a way of life. Some parties are planned for months. Others occur by accident. Mardi Gras is one reason to party in South Louisiana. The sun coming up is another reason. Chris Russo Love makes her living going to parties. She is the publisher of InRegister, a monthly magazine devoted to parties and partiers. Love and Wanda Horn first published the magazine in the late 1980s when the Louisiana economy wasn't worth a hill of beads. "People thought we were nuts," Love said. But they knew their audience. They also knew that financial crises come and go. Parties are forever in South Louisiana. Last week, InRegister covered 11 parties, including La Soiree Des Animaux, which honored artist Donald Roller Wilson (he paints pictures of monkeys dressed up like people), and "Loupe'd," which honored Coco Loupe, a Louisiana native who formed a successful dance company in New York. Let me know if you plan to visit Baton Rouge anytime soon. I'll make a few calls and find someone who is more than happy to throw a party in your honor (painted primates are optional). The Bengal Belles have a luncheon party every Tuesday in honor of the LSU football program. The group was started by Terri DiNardo, the wife of former LSU coach Gerry DiNardo, with the idea of educating women to the nuances of college football. The group has had as many as 800 members, which proves a couple of things: (1) Women like football; (2) South Louisiana women like anything that could turn into a party. Several LSU players and coaches attend the Tuesday luncheons, but the star of the party is always Machita Eyre, a passionate LSU fan who describes herself as a "little eccentric." Eyre wears a purple antebellum gown over a tiger costume and carries a purple parasol. Think: Scarlett O'Hara meets Mike the Tiger. She grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from LSU, started her own dance school and now parties like a South Louisiana native (with or without her costume). When the Bengal Belles decided they needed a mascot, Eyre gleefully volunteered. Choosing a costume was more methodical. An artist sketched his idea of a potential costume, and the sketch was presented to a costume designer. In the costume, Eyre has discovered the wonderful truth revealed to so many other South Louisiana partygoers: a mask can make a good party great. Don't let the masks fool you. Party season in Louisiana doesn't begin and end with Mardi Gras. "Party season here starts after Labor Day and goes through May," Love said. "It's just one big fun thing after another." Those who leave South Louisiana sometimes take the South Louisiana attitude with them. Mike Carter, a longtime friend, made his career in Dallas, Texas, after growing up in South Louisiana and graduating from LSU. But he never lost the attitude. After the terrorists struck in New York City and Washington, I wondered if Mike might cancel his scheduled trip to Knoxville for the UT-LSU game. When I called him Sept. 15, he answered his cell phone in Las Vegas. "Vegas is dead this weekend," he said. He should have gone home to South Louisiana instead. John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or [email protected].