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The politics of geek

By Kyle Eller
April 7, 2002 | Budgeteer News

The very name “Geek Prom” was what set the whole thing in motion. If you haven’t heard the buzz by now, Geek Prom is next Saturday’s event catering to the grownups among the Slashdot crowd, Star Trek fans, video game addicts, baseball card collectors and band nerds, along with anyone who possesses awkward social skills and maybe a pocket protector and a computer running Linux.

A press release announcing the event promises a night “filled with awkward romance, video gaming, cheesy music and spastic fits of clumsy dancing.”

But it didn’t start out that way. Geek Prom was the brainchild of Ripsaw columnist Paul Lundgren, who about three years ago came up with an idea simply for an adult prom — a formal thing with a jazz band and everything. He says Ripsaw cartoonist Barrett Chase suggested circus geeks as entertainment, and things evolved from there.

“More than anything, we fell in love with the title ‘Geek Prom,’” Lundgren said during an interview at the Budgeteer offices.

He mentioned it to co-founder Scott Lunt, aka “Starfire,” a member of the local band Father Hennepin and a driving force behind many local events, such as the Homegrown Music Festival. Lunt liked the idea, but neither jumped to take all the responsibility.

Then, as they tell it anyway, came the Mayor’s Economic Summit, with its talk of a “cool factor” in Duluth: a “geek factor” was the response.

And the idea is taking off.

If the geek concept can be a little hard to pin down, that’s OK, said the two party organizers. “Almost everybody’s a geek,” Lunt said. “It’s geek chic, baby!”

“It’s post-cool,” Lundgren added. “He coined that phrase, ‘post-cool.’”

So the label is no self-esteem issue, it’s a badge of honor, applied to anyone who’s ever been outside the circle of cool or anyone with weird, quirky interests.

Plus, geeks have more fun. “If you’re cool, it’s hard to have fun, because you have to be busy being cool,” Lundgren said.

The events surrounding Geek Prom should have geeks everywhere excited. To start the evening off, three area restaurants — Pizza Lucé, Fitger’s Brewhouse and Lake Avenue Café — will be offering geek specials. Limousines will be traveling a loop among them and transporting geeks to the main event, at the NorShor Theatre, starting at 8 p.m.

Two bands will play — local “doofusrock” band Super D & the Double Chucks and Twin Cities weirdos Vinnie and the Stardüsters, The latter group put out a guide for bands to make a name for themselves. Tips include booking tours and publicizing them highly and then not playing them, calling the police on yourself, paying friends to beat you up and generating phony “grassroots” campaigns to ban your concerts.

“They have plans, so we’d better watch out,” Lunt said of the group, which has been known to play naked and has already been calling around Duluth looking for dirt on Duluthians who may be at the show. Reportedly, members have already called Lundgren looking for a Low song to destroy.

As for Super D, Lunt summed up the group, known for its Grand Ol’ Opry gear, this way: “There’s just no beatin’ ’em for sheer geek music quality.”

The NorShor will also feature video games — probably Wolfenstein and other first-person shooters, along with fantasy games — and special drinks. An after-prom party is scheduled for Pizza Lucé when the NorShor closes at 1 a.m.

Oh, and one more thing — at the start of the evening, a grand march with “celebrity geeks” will start off the competition for king and queen geek.

The cool crowd is warily welcomed at the event, invited to explore their “inner geek.” Lundgren said he was not especially concerned about the party being crashed by jocks.

“It would be sad if they did for the event, but I certainly have to welcome any paying customer,” he said.

Lunt was less diplomatic. He said he enjoyed the image of all the cool people isolated, sitting at home “sad because they don’t have a date.”

Along with about 30 volunteers, politics has also played a role in the Geek Prom. The founders were among those calling for an extension of bar hours, a move the City Council passed March 25 with ease that surprised Lundgren.

He could not resist a joke about pro-business councilor Jim Stauber, the only councilor who voted against the ordinance: “I would definitely say that his vote against it means he’s anti-business,” Lundgren said.

Lunt and Lundgren are optimistic about a good turnout and hope to make the event annual.