Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Naked truth about going nude in Seattle

The Seattle Post Intelligencer
May 2, 2008 6:36 p.m. PT


Although the air temperature has been a bit nippy this spring, the teasing rays of sun that make it through the chill gently remind us that it is possible to actually be outdoors and be warm at the same time. Who could forget that Saturday in April when it was 80 degrees? It's like when John Lennon was killed -- we all remember where we were when the sun came out that summerish day just a few weeks ago.

I happened to be downtown that hot day and witnessed throngs of humans in varying degrees of improvised undress. Women were in sport bras, their shirts stuffed into their handbags or tied around their waists. Men stripped down to pants-only and marinated in the grass on the hills of Victor Steinbrueck Park.

Kids were having intimate relationships with cups of gelato while their bare feet dipped into the fountain at The Harbor Steps.

It was one of those sneaky superhot days when the socks and boots could have stayed home and last year's Keen's should have been on. If I had worn a decent undergarment, I would have loved nothing more than to peel off my black long-sleeved shirt and throw my pasty self at the mercy of the sweet, sizzling sun.

Everyone knows that the best place to strip off in the sun is at the beach, but sad to say, this pleasure is not allowed on Seattle beaches. No clothing-optional beaches have been recognized by Seattle Parks and Recreation, but if Daniel Johnson has anything to say about it, that will one day change. Johnson (his real name) has been a longtime proponent of nude recreation and backs both the World Naked Bike Ride and NudeBeachesYes.org.

When I was a child, I never saw my dad naked and saw my mom topless once, only by accident. In contrast, at my home we are frequently nude. My daughter loves to contort her body into strange positions when naked and then call us into her room for viewing.

"Oh dear God -- I did not need to see that." I might say, and then we laugh.

Maybe the fun-factor is why burlesque has found a happy home in Seattle. Several Seattle-based troupes have maintained a healthy following with their striptease routines that beckon a bygone era. The dance routines are flirty and often steeped in humor. Nipples and reproductive areas are covered for maximum law-abiding tease effect. That "naughty but nice" overtone is sorely missed in Seattle strip clubs, where only men go for tasty $9 pineapple juice.

Can Seattle strip clubs ever be fun? I have my doubts. The process of acquiring licenses and property for adult entertainment venues tends to dissuade investors from pursuing such ventures, which is just how the City Council likes it.

We only need to look 172 miles south to Portland to see that adult entertainment venues need not be ruled by the "dirty" stigma that our city officials tend to favor. Last weekend, I visited a club that was just like any other bar -- good loud music, people playing pool and darts, men and women conversing at tables, but there also was a stage for nude dancers. Portland is host to scores of strip clubs, and they know how to run them right. They are fun and all-inclusive to males and females. No weirdness. No dirty vibe. There's even (gasp) alcohol and video poker if one chooses to imbibe in either of those horrible sins as well.

The NudeBeachesYes.org Web site has its manifesto clearly outlined. Topics include the importance of proper signage and nudity and children. At the beach, most children have to fight the urge to take clothing off, and in fact find nakedness rather funny. Every summer I have to have that conversation with my daughter (now 9 years old) as to why she can't take her top off at the beach but the boys can.

"I don't see what the big deal is," she said last summer. "I look just like a boy up there anyway."

Yeah. Me, too.

Cathy Sorbo is appearing with "Puppetry of the Penis" at ACT Theater Saturday and Sunday (www.acttheater.org).

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