HIGH FASHION TO HIGH SEAS
Gorgeous, beautiful. The elderly woman is not the first one to recognize Dorman's dashing visage. A friend and fellow pirate, Josh Lapan, describes him as "a good-looking brass young lad, who could utterly destroy somebody."
Which explains Dorman's pre-pirate career in high fashion. You can still find the photos on his Facebook page: slick designer suits, fur coats, a bad boy's glare.
The unexpected offer to work as an elite runway and print model came after Dorman graduated from Rhode Island College 13 years ago with a degree in Medieval history.
He posed for Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, and Yves Saint Laurent. And he appeared in nearly every issue of Vogue (both national and international) between 1998 and 2001, while living in England, France, and Italy.
"I was interested in punk rock and partying, and just trying to have as much fun as I could," he says. "It was ridiculously fun, but I didn't have any goals in life."
After three years of high-octane modeling, he abruptly returned to the states and plunged into piracy, leaving bullet trains and jet planes for tall ships and merchant vessels, exchanging slacks for slops, and jewelry for flint-lock carbines.
Dorman owns a personal armory that is stowed away in moving boxes at the moment. "Soon, my house will once again become a small pirate museum," he says.
There will be a slew of swords (six rapiers, a hunting sword, two cutlasses, and a bayonet), an array of axes (two Tomahawk, two broad), several hatchets, and countless firearms (a musket, five pistols, a carbine, and a blunderbuss). The full inventory includes ship's lanterns and even homemade granados — "a hollowed out piece of wood with some twine and a bunch of gunpowder," he told me.
For two years Dorman ran the Rapier Dueling Academy in Providence, but soon become enamored with local piratical acts and "the cantankerous old Roger Williams," he says.
He established RIPP in 2006 and has since reached 10,000 people through school demonstrations, library lectures, and parades, sharing the tales of Ned Low (Captain of the Fortune, who cut off the tips of prisoners' ears and noses, and slow-cooked them into stew) and John Hoar (nicknamed "the Family Man," because he named his vessel — the John and Rebecca — after himself and his wife).
Dorman has been scheming to acquire a schooner for some time. He wants a "cutter," a 25-foot single-mast ship, to "cruise around in, and do our thing," he says. Lacking the capital to build the vessel, the project is currently treading water, as are several of Dorman's other ideas for expansion.
But if he is having a little trouble getting in to port, the men beneath him seem in no mood for mutiny.
'A DORK WITH CLASS'
Dorman commands a crew of 25 part-time pirates, holding biweekly meetings at a Dunkin' Donuts on Smith Hill. The agenda consists of outreach work, script rehearsals, and petty bickering over costume design.
But when Dorman is occupied by the Formidable, he relies on RIPP's boatswain — a bald 46-year-old UPS worker named Douglas Frongillo — to direct meetings.
At a RIPP gathering in August, Frongillo works seamlessly with Dorman, speaking privately to him by phone, then barking orders at the crew.