Matthew R. Perrine
July 22, 2007 | Duluth
Paul Lundgren knows streaking is illegal, but he’s not
sure exactly why.
To him, it’s no big deal.
It happens every year at Geek Prom, the self-explanatory event
he started in Duluth five years ago, and no one seems to mind.
“I’m out on the
dance floor, having a good time, and all of a sudden I hear
this screaming,” is how he described the first “Geek
Streak.” “I turn around and they ran right past
me. As soon as I turned around, there they go.”
The tradition, which lasts
“probably 40 seconds or less,” was never an issue
until Geek Prom 2007 — held earlier this year at the
Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul — when all of
the participating streakers (six males) were ticketed for
Not only that, but they were
also pepper-sprayed by an officer from the St. Paul Police
“The fact that these
guys were ticketed is one thing, but the fact that they were
pepper-sprayed is a whole other issue,” Lundgren said.
“That kind of sticks in everyone’s craw that was
there. They did this in a crowded room. People who were just
standing there got hit. … We got a letter from one person,
who has asthma, who was having trouble breathing all weekend.
They had to go to the doctor on Monday.
“You know, since it’s
the Geek Prom, I have to imagine that there’s a lot
of people with asthma and other (conditions like) sensitive
The offending officer, Genaro
Valentin, was hired by the museum as event security along
with another police officer.
“It was either just a
Barney Fife-like blunder on his part — without much
thinking to it — or else it was well-thought out,”
Lundgren said. “In which case, how horrible was that?”
One of the six streakers was
Duluthian Ben Fisher-Merritt, who’s done the “Geek
Streak” all but once. (He was on his honeymoon.)
“It takes being out of
the country for me to miss it,” he joked during a telephone
Fisher-Merritt — aka
King Geek 2003 — recalls the May 12 incident vividly.
He and four of the other would-be streakers’ first stop
was the men’s room, where they ditched their geek attire.
As Lundgren tells it, St. Paul
streaker Jackson Kisling was actually a last-minute addition
to this motley crew.
“(He) was actually in
the men’s room ... when the guys came in and started
taking off their clothes,” he said with a laugh. “They
just looked at him and said, ‘Are you in?’”
And, oh yeah, he just happened to be on his honeymoon at the
“So, imagine if you will,
that you’re his new wife,” Lundgren said. “You’re
at Geek Prom with your new husband, he goes to the bathroom
and, the next thing you know, you seem him running through
the room naked and getting pepper-sprayed and ticketed.”
Fisher-Merritt, who was playing
the role of “lead streaker” that night, laughed
when he recalled the area of the museum they first jaunted
through: the Human Body Gallery.
“I find that extremely amusing,” he said.
Far less amusing to Fisher-Merritt
and his cohorts, though, are the $3,640 in legal fees they
face. (Lundgren admits it could’ve been a lot worse,
though, as the attorney cut them a deal: $1,000 for the group
instead of $1,000 for each individual.)
Nevertheless, Lundgren and
the rest of the Geek Prom “prom committee” are
looking out for their nerd brethren.
They recently announced an
Aug. 3 benefit concert at Pizza Luce, which will feature performances
by Minneapolis’ Trailer Park Queen (a former Geek Prom
act) and local outfits the Gallows, Haus Meeting and the Lake
Superior Cacophonic Choir.
Lundgren wants to host a raffle
on top of the concert, but is unsure of the legality of that.
“We don’t want to have an illegal raffle and then
have to hold another benefit to raise money to cover whatever
fines arise from our illegal raffle,” he joked.
Fisher-Merritt did admit, though,
that the $3,640 is far better than the alternative. Their
attorney worked out a deal where, as long as they don’t
commit the same offense in the next year, the incident will
be washed from their records.
This is good news, as streaking
falls under the general umbrella of indecent exposure: After
two offenses, you have to register as a sex offender. (Fisher-Merritt,
a 26-year-old married father of one — who also holds
an elementary education degree — said that “doesn’t
look so hot.”)
Their attorney called the deal
“Let me tell you,”
Fisher-Merritt quipped, “justice is expensive.”
The St. Paul Police Department
did not immediately return requests for a public statement
on the Geek Prom incident.