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From sea to sea, pirate scene hooks recruits

There is a growing sub-culture of pirate-lovers across the globe, a growing tribe that encompasses history buffs, musicians, actors and hipsters.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2006 16:00 IST

Shuhe Hawkins wanted to be a pirate when he grew up. Apparently, he was not alone.

Hawkins is part of a sub-culture of pirate-lovers across the globe, a growing tribe that encompasses history buffs, musicians, actors and hipsters.

Across the United States, from New York City to Portland, Oregon, the pirate movement has spawned pirate bars, social circles, bands, festivals, magazines and apparel.

Devotees are attracted by pirate fashions, the spirit of rowdiness and the opportunity to engage in anti-establishment behaviour. It's unclear where it began, but pirates are clearly in vogue.

"We are in the throes of its real peak," said Hawkins, 35, who performs as pirate Luc the Lucky in Portland. "Pirates are like the new cowboys."

Modern pirates fall into several categories. There are the re-enactment crews, which perform in staged battles at parks, yacht clubs and festivals.

There are music groups, like Portland-based Captain Bogg & Salty, that have adopted the pirate as their symbol, dress the part and typically attract a pirate-centric crowd.

And then there are the non-performers, who simply like to dress as pirates.


"We've had a lot more fun being pirates," said Christine Markel Lampe, who performs as female buccaneer Jamaica Rose.

Lampe said she took to the role a while back after a pirate crew "kidnapped" her from a Renaissance fair.

The huge success of the summer movie sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest underscores the subject's broad romantic appeal. But the subculture emerged long before the original movie in July 2003, with some experts dating the trend back to the mid- to late-1990s.

Lampe and her husband Michael, whom she met on a pirate ship, run a pirate magazine out of Riverside, California called No Quarter Given -- meaning "take no prisoners" -- which has about 600 subscribers from the United States to Australia.


For Christian Trosclair, the pirate scene isn't about entertainment, fashion, art or history.

"It's about being ridiculous and absurd," said Trosclair, 32, standing in line in pirate gear before a recent "Jolly Ship the Whiz-Bang" performance in New York.

Brooklyn-based "Whiz-Bang" is part puppet act, part rock band. The seven-member group started doing pirate stuff in front of a dozen or so people a few years ago and are now selling out 200-seat venues.

"Pirates have always been cool," said Raja Azar, 26, the shaggy haired keyboard player and co-founder. "You can project more with pirates, more so than with robots or ninjas," he said, wearing a striped tank top and black studded pants as he stood aboard a boat before the gig.

Not only are pirates a Hollywood success, they're a Las Vegas hit as well. The nightly "Sirens of TI," is a popular Vegas show at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino featuring scantily clad women tempting a group of buff buccaneers.

Pirate fashion, with rock 'n' roll icon Keith Richards among the poster children, is also gaining popularity.

Neal Kirk dresses like a pirate, but it's mainly for work, which has him booked nearly every weekend through October.

Having left the Civil War re-enactment business because it got expensive and "too political," Kirk now runs a pirate crew called "Free Men of the Sea" from his house in East Hampton, Connecticut. He has 200 pirate books in his library at home.

"We get calls from yacht clubs saying 'can you spare a few pirates?' for one of their parties," Kirk said.

First Published: Aug 26, 2006 16:00 IST