Ahoy, ulti-mates! Krewe stole the show

By Jay Cridlin
Published June 29, 2007

Search YouTube for "Gasparilla, " and among the first clips that come up are a series of video podcasts produced by Chuck Palm of Tampa.

"Today is the day after the Knights of Sant'Yago Illuminated Night Parade, " he says at the beginning of one 9-minute clip. "My voice is shot, I've got a headache, and it's one of the best parties we have here in Tampa Bay.

"My name is Chuck Palm, and I'm a pirate."

Specifically, he's a member of Captain Henry Morgan and the Krewe of RumRunners. And if his intro sounds a little like a greeting at Alcoholics Anonymous, welcome to life in a krewe.

Gasparilla krewes absolutely despise it whenever you imply they do nothing but party. Krewes are intensely proud of their charity work, and most don't like to be portrayed as beer-swilling louts who beg women to flash them for beads.

But then Gasparilla or the Knight Parade rolls around, and, well ... let's just say charity seems to be the farthest thing from these pirates' minds.

"Have you seen the video this year from Channel 8's coverage of Gasparilla?" said Palm, 39. "Toward the end, we've got at least two krewe members that look like they're being poured out of a float, with totally incoherent looks on their faces." Laughing, he adds: "We know what it's all about on the back end of these parties."

Indeed they do. When tbt* published a poll asking readers to vote for Tampa Bay's Ultimate Party Krewe, all five nominated krewes didn't just want to win. They were all blatantly willing to cheat to take home the title, casting thousands upon thousands of (probably) software-enhanced votes to earn the title of party-hardiest pirates.

The poll was up for seven days, and it attracted 82,766 votes - about one every 7.5 seconds. The Rough Riders got 512 votes. The Krewe of St. Florian got 3,055. The Krewe of F Troop got 8,037. The Thieves of San Lorenzo got 11,920. All other krewes combined got a total of 340 write-in votes.

But it was the coed Krewe of RumRunners who sailed away with the win, pulling 58,927 votes out of thin air. That's the equivalent of around 740 votes per krewe member, which is - ahem - pretty much impossible.

"That sounds very piratical to me, " said Palm, who is, it should be noted, a professional computer engineer and one of the krewe's most technologically savvy members. "The fact that there may be some shady circumstances doesn't surprise me a bit, being that most of these people claim to be pirates."

He has a point. Sure, in the end, the ballots may have been stuffed like a Christmas goose. But it's tough to argue the RumRunners didn't deserve to win.

Their Web site (www.kreweofrumrunners.com) is littered with photos of RumRunners of both genders drinking, grinding, swapping spit, doing body shots, getting lap dances, lying in the gutter, cavorting with topless gals and ogling the barkeeps at Coyote Ugly. (The Guavaween '06 photos, especially, are not for the faint of heart.)

"You'll see a lot of other krewes hanging around our bar, " Palm says. The drink of choice? "Frozen RumRunners. We actually have a frozen slushee machine we bring to the float."

Even a real-life pirate would be impressed by that.


How you voted

Captain Henry Morgan and the Krewe of RumRunners: 71%

The Thieves of San Lorenzo: 14% (11,920 votes)

The Krewe of F Troop: 10% (8,037 votes)

The Krewe of St. Florian: 4% (3,055 votes)

The Rough Riders: 1% (512 votes)

Other: 0% (340 votes -- and when 340 votes counts as 0 percent, you know your poll struck a nerve.)