Each year sick and burned children in Canada receive much-needed medical attention thanks to charity efforts by the Shriner fraternal organization in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
On Jan. 25, Winnipeg's Khartum Temple held its 22nd annual "V.I.P. Gentlemen's Dinner" fundraiser at the Garden City Inn. Three hundred to 400 men threw down $75 each to attend the function, the menu of which offered the traditional staples of a Shriner's diet: steak dinner, open bar and -- nude dancing chicks. What the Shriners hadn't anticipated, however, was the attendance of two reporters from the Winnipeg Free Press, who witnessed the drunken goings-on and ran a series of stories that described public cunnilingus and nude hookers. The bad press has stirred Winnipeg into a froth of controversy, leaving local Shriners with the unmistakable stench of scandal.
According to news reports, the dinner was organized by the Khartum Temple Motor Patrol (not using minicars, but a fully uniformed fleet of 50 black Yamaha 750 motorcycles, a favorite of parades for years). On the evening of the fundraiser, fez-topped businessmen filed into the hall, booze flowed freely and two nude women soon wandered into the room. Men had purchased strings of tickets, and at around 10 p.m. the two women climbed on top of a banquet table in the middle of the room. This was the moment the guys had been waiting for.
As the fez-heads whooped and cheered the women kissed and fondled each other, and then allowed themselves to be groped by the increasingly drunken crowd. Men poured beer on the women and put bottles between their legs, and several performed oral sex on the women. The reporters noted that the women tried to stop the men, complaining of discomfort, but to no avail. Several kitchen staff gathered in a doorway to watch. A separate guest room was set up with two hookers on the hotel's second floor, with a doorman accepting $100 for intercourse, $75 for blow jobs. When the sordid affair began to wind down, at least five men were still waiting in line for their turn -- apparently still fueled by the opportunity to donate more for the children.
The shit hit the fan hard. As residents of Winnipeg expressed their outrage, Shriner officials scrambled to come up with an explanation and prominent attendees claimed they hadn't witnessed anything.
"It's really sick; it's really sad that these men have to do something like this, especially under the guise of helping children," one local resident told Reuters.
Bryon Temoshawsky, director of operations for the hotel, admitted that he was "dumbfounded" by the proceedings. Khartum Temple potentate Bill Kubik bravely pointed out that exotic dancers were not uncommon at the annual fundraiser. "It's the first time we ever had any problems," Kubik told the Free Press. "We would not sanction functions where there was nudity and lap dancing."
Shriner big shots held an emergency meeting, disbanding the group's motor patrol and freezing its funds. The men responsible for the party remain members, for the moment. "I want to emphasize the fact that this dinner was not a Shriner event or a Shriner fundraising event," Kubik announced after the meeting. "We're talking about a very small group of people who have spoiled the good things of a very large number."
Politicians, Winnipeg police and the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission all continue to look into the incident. Liquor permits do not allow table dancing or fondling of strippers. And there's also the matter of using prostitution to finance burn hospitals.
Shriners across North America, numbering 525,000 members in 191 temples, are wracking their brains for ideas on damage control. The unfortunately named Gervin Greasley, P.R. point man for Winnipeg's Khartum Temple, said glumly, "It's the impact on the children that I'm concerned about. It will take a long time to live this down and regain the confidence of the community."