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Carnival Starts Only When 12-Foot John Travolta Arrives

It was near the start of one of Brazil’s most famous Carnival celebrations, in the northern seaside city of Olinda, and the town plaza was jammed with thousands of revelers. They were all awaiting their idol.

Just before 9 p.m., the doors to a dance hall swung open, a brass band pushed into the crowd and the star everyone had been waiting for stepped out: a 12-foot puppet of John Travolta.

Confetti sprayed, the band began playing a catchy tune and the crowd sang along: “John Travolta is really cool. Throwing a great party. And in Olinda, the best carnival.” (It rhymes in Portuguese.)

The giant John Travolta, perched on the head of a puppeteer, then led a parade through the cobblestone streets.

The “boneco,” as such giant puppets are known in Brazil, wore a bedazzled disco-era turtleneck and suit, with a black pompadour, a la John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.” Celebrating its 45th birthday this year, the boneco is about as old as that film.

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