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For one night, geek is chic

By Chris Havens
April 14, 2002 | Duluth News Tribune

It was definitely a night of spectacles. Especially thick-framed ones with tape between the eyes.

The Geek Prom — an event for the socially inept, fashion-challenged and, well, plain ol’ nerdy — welcomed Northland dorks Saturday at the NorShor Theatre.
Lou DeGraef was dressed for a good time. Plaid suit, pocket protector, red suspenders and white socks inside black loafers.

“I’m going to look at the other people who had enough nerve to dress like this,” he said while standing next to the bar at Pizza Lucé. DeGraef, his fiancée, Beth Busch, and their friends Rene DeBeir and Lisa Meinke were
priming themselves for the geek gala.

The theatre was primed as well, awash in a kitschy combination of powder blue and orange. Powder blue replaced the original aqua blue because it “seemed more springy,” said production designer Doug Odlevak. At 8 p.m., when the NorShor doors opened, he was still finishing up last-minute decorations — most of which, he was proud to say, were made from recycled things.

Paul Lundgren, who writes for the Ripsaw News, came up with the concept of an adult prom three years ago. It wasn’t until Saturday though, that his ideas were put into action. The event has received national media attention.

“To me, this is just a silly little party,” said Scott Lunt, co-host and organizer of the Twin Ports’ biggest local music bash, the HomeGrown Music Festival.
Lunt said about 100 tickets were sold in advance, but he expected a solid 500 people to show up.

The nerds began to arrive a bit after 8 p.m., and as they made their way into the joint, a panel of celebrity geek judges stopped them to comment. A king and queen would later be crowned.

What exactly are geeks judged on?

One of six judges Saturday night, Jim Richardson, a Ripsaw writer, shared some notes: “terrible hair.” “bad matching skills,” and “mom gave him a Star Wars tie.”

For the record, Lundgren said, Leonard Nimoy, “Spock” from Star Trek, was invited to judge the event, but the Vulcan declined.

Fittingly, some overzealous technical-type nerds used their brilliance to hook up an Internet connection. The event was broadcast live on the Web, and there was a room for people to play video games.

“I’m only 10 percent geek,” said ShannaLee Horvik after showing off her nifty retainer. “I took a test on the Internet.”

“If you take that test, you are a geek,” said Michael Lyons, her date, who had a bandage on his nose.

At 11:30 p.m. the prom goers would be entertained by Vinnie and the Stardusters. Lundgren described their music as power-rhumba-parody. In other words, great spazdancing music.

Speaking of spaz, the man working the door had to move quickly when Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker puttered into the lobby on a blue scooter.

“It’s definitely geektacular,” Lundgren said.