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The naked truth about the Geek Prom benefit

By Will Ashenmacher
Aug. 2, 2007 | Duluth News Tribune

You pushed them on the playground in grade school. You made them your dodgeball targets in high school. Then you wouldn’t let them into your house party.

Now, geeks from the Twin Ports are hoping you’ll burn off some of that bad karma by coming to their Friday benefit concert at Pizza Luce.

Three area geeks, you see, need your help.

At the last Geek Prom, officers from the St. Paul Police Department stung six Geeks with pepper spray and a total of $2,640 in fines and fees, not counting the $1,000 they paid for an attorney.

Their offense? A surprise display of, uh, Geekcake.

Six male geeks streaked to honor a tradition begun at the first Geek Prom at Duluth’s NorShor Theatre in 2002. In this case, that meant sprinting through the Science Museum of Minnesota on May 12 without so much as a strategically placed pocket protector to preserve their modesty.

“This is something that has sort of repeated itself each year,” said Geek Prom organizer Paul Lundgren, adding that the annual parade of geek flesh isn’t planned.

At last year’s event, also held at the Science Museum, Geek Prom-goers said St. Paul Police officers didn’t seem to find anything wrong with the geek-o-licious exhibition, even though it was held in the lobby, which had windows that passers-by ostensibly could’ve seen through.

This year’s event was held in a windowless private room displaying, ironically, anatomical drawings.

“Everything went fine,” Lundgren said. “There were Geek Streakers again, but they weren’t concerned. The police officers probably didn't want to chase and tackle naked people.”

“In fact, they were laughing about it,” recalled streaker Ben Fisher-Merritt, the organizer of the Geek Streak, which included Chris Nordlund of Duluth, Irv Mossberger of Superior, two other geeks from St. Paul and one from Cyrus, Minn.

The police officers’ response confounded Fisher-Merritt.

“The event is 18-plus only, so it’s not like we’re running down the street in front of school buses full of children,” he said. “In my opinion, it gets a lot more dirty when you do it in public or where there might be minors present.”
While no one disputes that the geeks were, in fact, completely naked — a violation of Minnesota Statute 617.23, which establishes that one who “willfully and lewdly exposes the person’s body, or the private parts thereof” is guilty of a misdemeanor — Geek Prom-goers felt the consequences were harsh.

“There’s nothing very threatening about naked people, unless they try to hug you or something,” Lundgren said.

The pepper spray in particular is seen as unwarranted.

Fisher-Merritt said the pepper spray was aimed close to, ahem, waist level and caused neck-to-knees agony for a good 12 hours.

“You don’t want six naked men screaming and writhing on the floor,” Fisher-Merritt said. “That’s a mess you don’t want to clean up.”

“That’s not what pepper spray is for,” Lundgren said.

Messages left for a St. Paul Police spokesman regarding this incident were not returned.

Lundgren said streaking didn’t ruffle Science Museum officials enough to not let them have the Geek Prom again there in 2008.

Fisher-Meritt said he probably won’t streak again. It’s his understanding a second indecent exposure offense would get him on the list of registered sex offenders, and that’s too high a price to pay.

Too high even to keep tradition going.

The details

What: “Geeks Gone Wild: A Benefit for Six Streakers Who Met Officer Killjoy.”

Who: Trailer Park Queen, Haus Meeting, The Gallows and the Lake Superior Cacophonic Choir.

When: 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, 2007

Where: Pizza Luce, 11 E. Superior St.

Suggested donation: $6.

Wait a minute — these Geeks got in trouble in St. Paul, and then they come running back to Duluth for our help? Why should we help them if they took our Geek Prom away?

Don’t be a spaz, said organizer Paul Lundgren.

First, three of the six Geek Streakers are from the Twin Ports.

And secondly, all the Geek Prom Committee members are here, so staging the benefit here makes sense.

And maybe, just maybe, the prom might be making its way back to our fair city.

“I can’t say for sure, but we are certainly looking into that,” Lundgren said. “We want to [bring the prom back], but we don’t know where it would be yet.”