“He did a lot of projects,” Chief Derrick Hulin of the Golden Blades declares of Wildman Ivory Holmes’ eagerness on many creative fronts. “As a wildman, he was tough, tough—he talked plenty of trash. As a person he was probably one of the sweetest guys you ever would want to meet.” Ivory Holmes died on July 14, 2018 at the age of 63.
Since 2010, Holmes held the position of Wildman with the Golden Blade Mardi Gras Indian gang. He started masking Indian with the Creole Wild West decades earlier and then moved on to help Eugene “Pepe” Estaban establish the Golden Eagles. According to Chief Derrick, he also played an essential part in putting together a new tribe, the Golden Comanche that was led by Big Chief Wallace Pardo.
Holmes was highly regarded in the Black Indian Nation as well as in the music community. “He loved music—that was his passion,” Chief Derrick declares.
Holmes, known as a fine singer, was heard on the historic 1998 album Indians of the Nation – United We Stand, Divided We Fall, which brought together some of the most respected Black Indian chiefs and formidable vocalists. According to Chief Derrick, he was a catalyst for Chief Juan Pardo, the younger brother of Chief Wallace Pardo, and the Golden Comanche’s first CD. He also sang lead vocals on Chief Smiley Ricks’ 2001 album Feathercraft and on poet Chuck Perkins’ 2008 release, Voices of the Big Easy: A Love Song for Nola, on which he provided vocals, congas and tambourine.
“I loved his spirit,” says Perkins, who met Holmes at a Freret Street Festival when the Wildman was just singing and playing drums at the side of the street. “He had a friendship and Indian code,” says Perkins of Holmes’ loyalty and dedication.
A New Orleans native and United States Army veteran, Holmes retired as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service. First and foremost however, Holmes was known for his distinctive style of masking.
“Most wildmen sew patches and whatnot,” Chief Hulin explains. “He’d do patches but he laid them on top of a wild game material. He came out with zebra stripes one year, the next year he might do leopard.”
Notably, Wildman Ivory was the creator of what came to be known as his Hoody Hoo suit that was made with animal skins. The wildman named it that, according to Hulin, because he wore it, by request, in a video by Master P. “Wild said, ‘I ain’t breaking this suit down because it’s the Hoody Hoo suit.’”
Wildman Ivory’s spirit never diminished as he continued his carryings-on after losing a leg to diabetes some six years ago.
“One Super Sunday we were parading and I took my wings off to give my arms a break,” Chief Derrick fondly recalls. “I told him, ‘I’m just going to put this on your scooter.’ The next thing I know, I see the scooter take off. He was riding down the street with my wings up!”