May 11, 1998 12:00 AM

A thousand watched on the sidelines, John Goodman led a parade down New Orleans’ St. Charles Street early Tuesday morning, accompanied by jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain, in celebration of Fat Tuesday, as part of the Big Easy’s Mardi Gras festivities. “There are two things I can get up for this early,” Fountain told the Associated Press, “going fishing and this.” The veteran musician, decked out in a black and gold jester’s ensemble, led his “Half-Fast Marching Club” on its 40th annual Fat Tuesday trek. Goodman, a part-time New Orleans resident, rode on a small float hauled by a truck. Mardi Gras climaxes the raucous, century-old New Orleans’ Carnival season, which annually begins Jan. 6 and officially ends at 12:01 a.m. on Ash Wednesday. By mid-morning Tuesday, say reports, the narrow streets of the city’s historic French Quarter were overflowing with revelers, many of them drinking like there was no tomorrow, some costumed in a way they’d never want their mothers to see, and all of them, it goes without saying, having the times of their lives.

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