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Ship of Fools 

Wednesday, Jul 26 2006
The S.S. Jeremiah OBrien, the floating museum moored at Pier 45, is a San Francisco icon, but apparently the bacchanalian crowd that rented it for a Memorial Day weekend party didn't appreciate that.

First, someone reportedly burned a small American flag.

Then, as the booze flowed freely from an open bar, revelers trashed the beloved World War II-era vessel, one of only two ships of its kind still in existence, say several sources, including members of the ship's crew.

But when the restrooms became inoperable and were shut down, all bets were off.

"People were urinating everywhere — on the floor, in paper cups. I saw this one chick doing it in a corner," says a musician hired to provide entertainment at the party, who asked not to be identified.

Others painted a similar picture.

"It was just uncalled for," says Claire Mack, a freelance decorator at the event. "People were throwing trash everywhere, vomiting, peeing on the boat, peeing off the boat. They didn't seem to have much respect for the fact it's a World War II ship and a museum."

The "Prelude to Xingolati" party, produced by Guy Grand Productions, based in Austin, Tex., drew an estimated 600 people. It was aimed at an artsy, avant-garde clientele that several sources say drew heavily from the Burning Man crowd. (Neil Turley, an organizer of the event for Guy Grand Productions, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.)

The gathering began at sunset and continued until midnight, featuring music and performances by gypsies, mariachis, and a burlesque troupe. Promoters touted the event as "rich with an exotic flare [sic] that goes far and beyond what one would expect."

Things apparently went a bit too far.

The S.S. Jeremiah OBrien, which participated in the Normandy landings shortly after D-Day, is a National Historic Landmark and longtime tourist attraction at Fisherman's Wharf. It's operated by the nonprofit National Liberty Ship Memorial, and most of its 200 crew members are volunteers. Some described the mess left behind by the Xingolati event as "disgraceful," including a cache of used condoms found the next day in the crew berths.

Shipkeeper Philip O'Mara said the nonprofit group received $10,000 from the sponsors of the event. "We were totally unprepared for what happened," he says. "I doubt that you'll see those folks on board again."

Meanwhile, Chet Robbins, the nonprofit's administrative director, sought to put the best face on the ordeal.

"The event really wasn't that bad," he says, "except for the mess."

About The Author

Ron Russell


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