Carnival 2000 happened from March 4 (Saturday) through 7 (Tuesday). Banda de Ipanema opened street Carnival 2000 festivities on February 19, celebrating its 36th anniversary. It was the first time the band marched without its founder, the late Albino Pinheiro. On the following weekend, also in Ipanema, the duet of Banda Simpatia é Quase Amor on Saturday (February 26), and Banda da Carmen Miranda on Sunday (February 27) left everybody with a taste for more.
Rio's Samba Parade 2000 was a celebration of Brazil's 500th anniversary. All Samba Schools had themes based on different period of the country's history. The winner was Imperatriz Leopoldinense, for the second time in a row. The school was compact and really very beautiful. Rosa Magalhães is the carnavalesca (parade designer) in charge of the school. The succession of pastels, silver, gold, and impeccable floats with some Oriental touches were a feast to the eyes.
Some were more impressed with the performance of Beija Flor, though, which was placed second (also for the second year in a row). One of their floats got a standing ovation. If featured a slave ship where a beautiful slave was raped by three white men while you heard screams of horror from other slaves down the galleys. Acting has become as important as dancing if you want to make it as a floatee these days, it seems.
Valeria Valenssa (photo above), the famous mulata Globeleza, said her farewell to the runway. For the uninitiated, this beauty became a Brazilian icon by dancing completely naked on TV. A little body paint here, a spray of glitter there, a thin strip of surgical tape... and there she was, doing the samba in 10-15 second spots on Rede Globo during all Carnival season. Apparently now she is going into the workout video business - not a bad idea considering her perfect shape! We wonder who will they find to fill her shoes - unless she changes her mind about this whole retirement idea, that is.
Among the international celebs that came for Carnival were Calvin Klein, who kept a low profile, and the Rio veteran Jean Paul Gaultier who, among other things, was seen doing the conga onstage with cult singer Gretchen at a ball that happened at Le Boy. Feiticeira, a blond TV presenter that wears on her show a costume that looks like a spicier version of Barbara Eden's I Dream of Jeannie, was the muse of Carnival 2000. Even with all the hype, though, she did not surpass the popularity of brunette Tiazinha - the muse of Carnival 99 in her Zorro-style mask.
There's a new kid on the block when it comes to VIP mezzanine boxes. IG, a free Internet access provider, had one of the largest boxes in Carnival 2000, though not big enough to compete with Brahma Brewery. The famous Brahma box, among other frills, counted with an air-conditioned pool filled with blue plastic balls. Guests were encouraged to take a dip and freshen up without getting wet, and there were even hunky lifeguards to rescue the needed. One of them had to spend hours in the pool looking for a cellular phone that some absent-minded socialite lost while taking a dip.
The luxury costume ball at Copacabana Palace was themed "A night with Cleopatra", and it attracted the usual load of VIP's and socialites dully clad in tuxedos, or rhinestones and feathers. Tickets (starting at about US$400) were sold out before the day of the ball, and those who left the arrangements for the last minute were disappointed. Rogeria, who had been replaced by TV personality Elke Maravilha in 99, was once again the official interviewer at the door of Scala's Gala Gay Ball. This ball is broadcast by Rede Bandeirantes to the whole country. The cult transvestite-actor-singer had a chance again to pinch butts, and squeeze silicone breasts. One of the most hilarious stunts was when she took of the mask of some guy that was escorting a voluptuous transvestite, and teased that is was about time he came out of the closet.
Those who came to Rio expecting to leave with a Carioca tan were not disappointed. The sun shone every single day, starting a week before Carnival. It only got partly cloudy on Ash Wednesday, but after so much partying most everybody could use a long morning in bed to recover, anyway.