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Meanwhile, the Vulcans were growing increasingly family-friendly. Free fire-truck rides for kids became a staple, as did hospital appearances. They were now more likely to be in the news for their charity work. But the Krewe's worst brush with sexual scandal was yet to come.
Day Seven of the 2009 Winter Carnival... O'Gara's Bar and Grill, St. Paul...hundreds of Vulcans, past and present, and their flare-laden supporters/friends/wives/etc. are clustered in front of the back-bar stage, gulping beer. Their chatter is drowned out by a sound system from which dozens of overwrought, '80s-era anthems blast during the course of the evening. For now, we're treated to the theme from Rocky.
At stage right, a Vulcan grips a microphone. "Are we going to have fun tonight or what?" A slender, dark-haired, bikini-clad woman stands at stage left, her exact function unspecified. In the center, a sign with red-and-yellow writing reads: "Dance With No Pants."
In front of the stage, before the crowd, stands a heavyset man wearing nothing but a black Speedo, work boots, cap-and-goggles, and boxing gloves. Approximately $20 in one-dollar bills are tucked into the Speedo. Ten feet to his right stands another man, this one taller and more fully clothed, but in the same basic garb, dancing with a middle-aged woman.
"I think he's getting wood!" jokes the MC from the stage. He scans the crowd. "Step right up, ladies, it's the Dance With No Pants! We've got Klinker and Ferty here waiting!"
Women line up to waltz with the men of the hour, tucking bills into bulging swimwear for the privilege.
This is the extent of tonight's tomfoolery. Tagging along with the Vulcans these days leaves one almost disappointed at the lack of raciness, the ho-hum diligence with which they party. A typical Vulcan shindig more resembles a Rotarian potluck than a foray into unbridled hedonism. Where are the maniacal rapscallions of lore?
"They've definitely cooled down over the decades," says a middle-aged male bartender over at the Glockenspiel, one of the Krewe's many watering holes. "These guys come in and it's like they're relics from a bygone era trying to live up to something they can't—or aren't allowed to—be anymore."
This sits just fine with the Vulcans.
"The Krewes over the past few years have been outstanding," says Register, a Vulcan diehard sine 1981 whose house in Eagan is packed with Krewe memorabilia. "We've had a couple of problems, no doubt about it, but we don't like to dwell on the past. We want to look to the future."
The "couple of problems" is a string of lawsuits levied against the Vulcans throughout the late '90s and mid-2000s when allegations of sexual misconduct plagued the organization.
First came a high-profile groping case in 1998. During Winter Carnival, a horde of Vulcans swarmed into Great Waters Brewing Co. in St. Paul. Amid the cavorting, two former Krewe members—Marc Malmquist, then 35, and Mark Weinand, then 45—asked a 24-year-old woman if she wanted a temporary tattoo. She said she did. The three ducked out of the bar and went into a nearby empty lobby. Weinand proceeded to fondle her breast and kiss her hand, according to the police complaint, while Malmquist tried to lick the tattoo onto her lower stomach. The two plead to disorderly conduct and were handed one year of probation, a $210 fine, and 50 hours of community service.
But the biggest blow to the Krewe's reputation came in 2005 when three female bartenders accused eight Vulcans of acts that sound like something straight out of The Accused.
The Krewe strode into Alary's bar in downtown St. Paul on February 1, decked out in their full festive garb. At one point, a small group of Vulcans asked a waitress if she'd take part in the "Garter Ritual"—whereby a member slides a garter up the recipient's leg. After performing the ritual on two bartenders—molesting them in the process, the women would later allege—the eight Vulcans turned their attention to a third, identified in court documents as C.A.L.
They grabbed her and surrounded her "like a football huddle," according to the complaint, holding their capes up to conceal her. At that point, Thomas Trudeau, then acting as Vulcanus Rex LXVII, slid his hand down C.A.L.'s shirt and fondled her breast, according to court records. As Trudeau put the garter on her right leg, his seven companions chanted for him to go higher and farther, which he did. His extended fingers "pushed, jabbed, rubbed, and penetrated C.A.L.'s genitals," according to the complaint.
The resulting lawsuits—all three bartenders levied charges—are a continued source of embarrassment for the Krewe. (More than a few Vulcans suggested we not mention "the 2005 incident," as they call it.)
Present-day Vulcans make no attempt to defend the behavior, framing it as an isolated incident that runs counter to what the Vulcans are supposed to be all about.
"That's absolutely not acceptable," says Joe Vogel, this year's Vulcanus Rex. "The Garter Ritual had very harmless beginnings—if a lady asked, they'd put it up to her knee—until one idiot went too far. We've worked so hard to clean up our image, and one idiot like that causes so much problems for us."
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