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Klinging to Fantasy

Shu-shu Sanders has a sure way to get her son's cooperation. She's learned that the spirited kindergartner obeys more readily when she switches from English to the thick, guttural language spoken by fictitious warriors with ridged foreheads. She says, "Ba," he sits. She says, "Ghos," he stops dawdling and comes inside.

"My son seems to listen better to Klingon," Sanders claims. "The way you speak Klingon, you do put more authority into it."

Yes, there is an actual Klingon language. And Sanders isn't the only South Floridian speaking it. She and dozens of other Star Trek enthusiasts are keeping the Klingon culture alive and well right here on Earth.

"We're a fan club. We just take it a step further," offers JoAnne Williams of Wilton Manors, an account executive for a financial public-relations firm -- and Klingon captain of the IKV Jangral.

The Jangral is one of six South Florida Klingon "ships," the local chapter designations of the Florida-based fan club Klingon Legion of Assault Warriors (KLAW), which emphasizes role-playing. Each member creates a Klingon character with an elaborate biography and ongoing stories. Together, they study the intricacies of a made-up Klingon culture, like the mating ritual in which the male reads poetry as the female throws heavy objects at him. Finally they dress up in uniforms resembling those of their TV and film counterparts.

Sanders' outfit consists of black leggings and a black vinyl jacket with a revealing lace-up front and fur trim. Once the outfit is on and the fake forehead is in place, the mild-mannered sub-shop manager from Sunrise becomes Tarna', executive officer of the ship Batlh'etlhqul.

She walks a little taller, talks a little deeper, and stares a little harder. She wields a rubber blade that can squirt something that looks like blood. She tilts her head provocatively when bantering with "earthlings" and is quick to curl her lips into a snarl.

These pseudo-Klingons take their role-playing seriously, and they often do so in the real world. Don't be surprised if you see one striding in heavy boots through a mall, growling and making loud remarks about odd "human" activities. At one mall they stopped to watch a Leapazoid (Easter Bunny) inspect sacrificial offerings (crying children), then return them to their parents. Sometimes Klingons show up at a pub or restaurant, where they ignore the flatware and eat with their hands. One place they can always be found is at a Star Trek event, such as the Star Trek Fantasy Weekend taking place Saturday and Sunday in Miami.

Wherever they are, Klingons love posturing for the public as proud, aggressive conquerors. "It's improvisational theater in the round," explains John Bandy of Lauderhill, an electronics technician and the president of KLAW. Audience reaction varies. "We get a few people that are like, 'What is this?'" he says. "[But] most of the time people are like, 'Whoa! Klingons! Cool!'"

So what draws ordinary folks like Sanders, Bandy, and stockbroker Angie Feurtado of Hollywood into the Klingon fantasy? "How many people do you know that get to wear leather, fake guns, and weapons, and walk around and growl and bump into each other?" Feurtado asks. "Personally, I'd say we're frustrated actors."

Ed Moore, owner of the Wilton Manors science fiction shop Trek-In-Time and a member of KLAW, says he and his Klingon cohorts go all out while in character -- especially at conventions. "These people eat live worms," he says. "Proudly."

-- Patti Roth

Star Trek Fantasy Weekend will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Miami Museum of Science, 3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami. Klingon Day is Sunday. Admission is $6 to $10. For more information call 305-854-4247, extension 263. For information on local Klingon groups, call 954-563-8735.

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Patti Roth

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