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Laguna Niguel wants to cover up Amtrak mooning event

April 7, 2009 |  2:59 pm

Moon The full moon has become the Full Monty — and now Laguna Niguel is trying to cover up the thousands who bare all (or at least some) during an annual summer ritual.

For decades, a growing stream of regulars has come from as far as France to the Mugs Away Saloon and — full of beer and confidence — mooned the passing passenger trains. Last year, however, the annual moon-fest got a little too exuberant, drawing 8,000 beer-swilling, clothes-dropping patrons who bared more than their behinds when the Amtrak came rolling down the tracks.

Now, officials in the south Orange County city are planning to crack down on the event, which has grown from a small barroom bet among friends to a full-scale festival with reports of people passing out, having sex and freely sprinkling their clothes every which way as passenger trains chug past.

Tonight, the City Council will vote on a series of ordinances designed to eclipse the 30-year-old “Moon Amtrak” event, scheduled for the second Saturday in July. The measures, which include banning street parking and cordoning off the mooning grounds for four days and permanently banning public alcohol consumption, are part of an effort to bring a little modesty and order to the tradition.

“What was originally just a fun, family-type of event of showing your rear end to the train has just gotten out of control,” said Linda Solorza, the city’s police chief.

Last year’s event was shut down by authorities, who brought in more than 50 officers and a squadron of helicopters to restore order.

“There were people that were drunk, unable to care for themselves and in various stages of undress. There were sex acts,” Solorza said. “This year, we want it to be as safe as possible.”

But why mess with success, especially in the midst of a recession, wondered one bartender at the saloon, which sits in a strip mall across the train tracks and is filled with mooning memorabilia and photos of past events.

“When the mooning happens, all these businesses up and down here, they make money,” said bartender Linda Aleman, who said she’s known as the “mooning girl” after more than five years of serving up drinks at the event.

“It’s something that keeps people happy with what’s going on with the economy. It’s just something that takes the edge off.”

The event is being promoted on a website that features frequently asked questions about mooning (Q: Must I "moon" or can I just watch? A: No, you can watch) and a schedule of the exact times the trains will be passing (about every 20 minutes).

Typically starting early in the morning and continuing into the night, “Moon Amtrak is said to have started when a patron offered to buy drinks for any of his buddies who would run out to the tracks and bare their bottoms for the next passing train. Many did, and a tradition was born.

—Tony Barboza

Photo: A few of the participants in 2008.

Credit: Caveman 92223, from Flickr