Spaced Out

Don't mess with Colorado's Klingon club.

"Klingons are so misunderstood," says French, the captain of a Klingon ship called the Vendix Siren. Beneath their tough exterior, Klingons just wanna have fun. "Everybody knows we have the best parties," she says. "We're like the bikers of the universe." She acknowledges that some people might find her Klingon leaning a little odd, but she likens it to car collecting: "It's just your hobby, what your thing is."

One of the draws, members say, is the completeness of the Klingon culture. Klingons have their own history, government and traditions, and even a real language that was invented for use in the Star Trek shows and movies and is promoted by the Pennsylvania-based Klingon Language Institute. Most House Veska members speak at least a few words or phrases; some are more fluent, having learned Klingon in classes or from books and tapes. The Klingon tongue is harsh and guttural, but with an odd, lilting quality. Insults, such as "Your mother has a smooth forehead," are an essential component of Klingon verbiage.

Making and wearing Klingon gear is another draw for House Veska members. "I don't say this to brag or anything, but it's one of the coolest costumes you can put on," says 33-year-old Bruce Kesler, one of the club's founding members. (His Klingon name is Kav'Ij, or "The Thruster," because of his style of dancing. "I do a lot of hip thrusts," he explains.)

Perhaps the most important part of the Klingon getup is the ridged prosthetic forehead, usually made of molded latex. To aficionados, the headpiece is also known as a "turtle head," "speed bump" or "cheese grater." Then there's the black tunic, silver shoulder yoke, wrist guards, spine cover, spiked boots and fingerless, claw-studded gloves.

"I've gone through six, seven sewing machines since I've started," says Harding. "You're talkin' sewing through Naugahyde folded in half here." And the man knows his cosmetics, too. "You know the best makeup remover? It's the Mary Kay stuff that comes in a little blue bottle. That stuff is great."

Most House Veska members say non-Klingons today treat them with curiosity, tolerance and occasional teasing. But Smith remembers a golden age when Trekkies were abundant and ran free. "When we were kids, being a Trekkie was cool," he says. "We let our freak flags fly."

Times have changed.

"At my school, Star Trek is sort of the uncool thing," says Bobby Martin, a fifteen-year-old Wheat Ridge High freshman. "If I told my friends just how much I'm into this, my reputation would go down the tubes." So he doesn't flaunt his Klingon connection at school and participates in other activities, like the pep club. But then, House Veska encourages outside interests. "We have a rule that reality always comes first," he says.

Smith agrees: "You've got to have a healthy real life to have a good fantasy life." But he acknowledges that for some group members, the boundary gets a little fuzzy. "It happens all the time," he says. "I've seen guys standing up talking about honor and glory, and I'm like, 'Man, you work at King Soopers for $3.75 an hour! Get a life!'"

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