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ALLIGATOR-NUDISTS

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Naked Truth
Get dressed. We’re driving down to a camp just outside of Tampa, where you’ll be asked to get undressed, and meet a group of people who call being nude a “lifestyle.”
((( “naked” ))) Joan Jett

Naked Truth

By Jayne A. Thompson
Alligator Staff Writer

There was absolutely no way to get around it. I had to get h-h-hitched.

You see, I’m just not the type. It started when a woman told me that a certain Florida resort no longer accepts applications from unwed folk.

That woeful complication left me no other choice but to romp about the hinterland scouting for an agreeable chap who would “marry”* me. And then take off all his clothes.

But who might this Prince Charming be? land where was he hiding? Surely, not croaking at the stars on some god-forsaken lily pad all slimy and wet. By all means, this is no fairy tale.

Prowling a bar at night to find this prospective hubby was too much of a shot in the dark.

Besides, the only thing I can get close to in a bar is a cheap shot of scotch. Buying a classified ad in the newspaper costs moola. Hanging out at an airport might get me in trouble for soliciting. But finally, my troubles were over.

I found the gateway to nuptial bliss. It is what men refer to as their “little black book,” only mine is a Rolodex.

Although mine is a tad out of date, it’s worth a mint! It lists Michael, Jim, Roger, Steve, Richard, Joe and Carl as possible hubbies. Then again, Michael lives in Detroit, Jim is a forgotten memory, Roger abandoned me to be a deejay in Alaska, Steve has psoriasis, Richard became a priest, Joe is gross and Carl is never around when I need him.

1 looked through a stack of refill replacements and sure enough, I had skipped over Bob. Of course, Bob! If anyone would go for it, Bob would. Even the mere thought of Bob was soothing, with his curly windblown locks, offbeat sense of humor and burning desire for adventure, Bob was it. But would he mumble the words, “I do,” and tie the proverbial wedding knot without giving it a second thought PHis answer was only a phone call away, and it was local, too.

After three rings, the next step was to say,

“Hello, Bob? This is Jayne.”

“Oh, hi.”

“Say, I was wondering if you could do something special for me?”

“What’s that?”

As nonchalantly as possible, and without trying to scare the bejesus out of him, I said it: “Er, uh, get married.

“You’re getting married?!?!” (He obviously missed the word “get”.)

“No. We’re getting married.”

“We are?IP How much will you pay me?”

Little did I realize that Bob was afraid of losing, of all things, his objectivity, but he had the abominable nerve to ask me if I was still a virgin.

I assured him that taking off his clothes at a nudist park was no more or less obscene than exposing an elbow. Society has created a mystique about a person’s private parts, that’s all.

Nevertheless, after a lot of coaxing, three days, six hours and 37 minutes to think about it, Bob said, “No.” I was furious. He had jilted me. For that, I wrote Bob’s name at the top of my creep list. However, I had one more trump card up my sleeve, which was as good as the ace of spades.

David knew I was in a bind, and he owed me a couple of favors anyway. I told him I would pay for gas, buy the wedding rings and all he would have to do was act au naturel. With a bargain like that, he couldn’t refuse … and he didn’t.

The ceremony was nothing fancy. As a famous rock star put it: “No wedding dress, no flowers, no walk down the aisle or wedding day smiles.”

So, with a matching set of K-mart ‘blue light special” wedding bands slipped lovingly on our fingers, we were off to the little town of Land-o’-Lakes, 14 miles north of Tampa, to take it off at Lake Como Club, one of 13 nudist parks in Florida, and the American Sunbathing Association’s largest club, boasting upwards of 4,000 members. I needed David because Como’s singles quota is full, but families and married couples are welcome to join.

Two hundred of its members live year-round in a mobile home park on a 35-acre lake while Como visitors can stay at either the Luxury or Big T & Sandspur Lodge.

The directions I had written on a scrap of paper said to exit Interstate 75 at Zephyrhills and travel southwest on U.S. 41. We were almost there. I rounded a curve in the road and saw a sign marking the club’s entrance.

We followed a winding paved road to the main gate and parked off to the side of the road. Outside of the office, people sat at a table but I couldn’t tell who was in charge.

Everyone was naked. Of course; I was not exactly shocked to see naked people. After all, this place was a nudist park. Incidentally, one woman’s decolletage was amazing.

Mary, who manages the park with her hus-band, Cot, asked, “Are you looking for the office? It’s been moved outside.” Mary put us at ease with her hospitality. She explained the rules. A visitor is allowed to come three times before he is required to join ASA, whose membership card admits holders to any of the nudist camps in the country. Joining Lake Como costs $30.50 for families and couples and $19.50 for singles, although prices vary at each park. Mary gave a quick tour and wished for a pleasant day.

“By the way,” I said. “Do you have a problem with peeping toms?”

Every club does, but we know all the sheriffs and detectives and they come right quick,” Mary said with a snap of a finger.

“Oh Mary,” called a voice outside. She politely excused herself and said to change at our car once parked in a lot. At its entrance, a man shaded by an umbrella sat on a small tractor.

“Park behind that truck, a little over to the right.” We parked and it was time to undress. No sooner had I unzipped my pants, when the Sunday main dinner bell rang. The pants I had worn fell to the ground, bunched at my ankles. I unbuttoned my shirt and tossed it in the back seat of the car. I slipped off my panties and unhooked my bra. I was nak-ed. There was nothing to hide now. I felt a freedom I had never experienced before. There was no need to feel inhibited about my not-so-perfect figure. Nobody cared.

On the way to eat, we noticed that other than nudity, everything seemed to be quite normal. A man turned a shovel of dirt over a water pipe. People waited in line to go to the bathroom. A boy pedaled a bicycle with a towel folded over its seat. A tennis match was underway and a family stretched out on a beach towel, the child combed her doll’s hair. All were nude, but quite unfettered about it. Everyone was white.

A line was forming at the back entrance to the dining hall. We had a few minutes to spare before the second dinner bell would ring so we walked to the shore of the lake and sat on the dock. Playing with a Spiderman rubber raft, January, 4 years old, was oblivious to our presence. In fact, it was hard to get her attention. She was content at playing in the water. “January,” I said. “Do you like it here?” “I like it here,” January said. “It’s OK.” Disgusted, I looked up from the little girl and saw an elderly man, his right leg amputated at the hip, climb out of the water on crutches to join his friends who were absorbed in a game of backgammon on – a blanket.

The second dinner bell rang. It was time to eat. Unaware that we had to wear either a towel or shorts to enter the dining hall, we looked at each other, realizing that we were empty-handed.

A couple observed our predicament and obliged us with a couple of towels they had.

The second dinner bell rang. It was time to eat. Unaware that we had to wear either a towel or shorts to enter the dining hall, we looked at each other, realizing that we were empty-handed.

A couple observed our predicament and obliged us with a couple of towels they had. A woman we had sat next to at dinner said her favorite pastime was to unwind in the 100-degree water of a giant indoor whirlpool. It was in the shape of a four-leaf clover tiled in white and blue.

After dinner, we waited outside on a bench for about a half an hour before a voice on a loud speaker announced that anyone interested in taking a dip in the whirlpool should line up, take a shower and hop in. At least 13 people, of every size and shape, were already in the whirlppol when we got in line.

They adjusted to their places, preferably near a jet. A big man, moving closer, said he “likes the jets. It feels a lot better.

“What’s your name?” I asked. “Fred,” he said, quick to point out that “it doesn’t really matter who you are.

Fred was amiable, a jolly man, no less than eager to join in conversation with strangers. He must have prized himself on retaining a youthful appearance when we underestimated his age by 20 years.

“I’m 80.” Fred said, attributing his prime health to a life free of drugs and smoking.

A retired engineer with Continental Motors Corp. in Detroit, Fred said he would not trade his life as a nudist for anything.

“This is paradise,” said Fred, a 15-year resident of Como. During his first nudist experience at a Michigan resort in Battle Creek, Fred said he was startled to see three nude girls. “Suddenly, I turned around and they were standing right alongside of me, brown as a berry. I kind of (he paused to imitate a wide-eyed look of astonishment) began to realize, I’m nude myself.” Fred chuckled about how silly that seems now.

In fact, Fred was extraordinarily candid about his life as a nudist. “Nobody gives a damn who you are or what you are. The minute you come through the gate, you and I have something in common. We’re nudists.

Just like two golfers, they’ve got golf to talk about.” Fred’s motto about the human body is ‘it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but plenty to be proud of.’

It took him all summer, however, to convince a woman of his views on nudism.

“She was a big heavy set girl,” Fred said.

“She’d come here with her boyfriend, one of those dyed-in-the-wool fishermen, and sat in that car fully dressed for at least two months, and in the summertime, it gets pretty darn warm in the sun. One day, I saw her sitting in the car and went up to her in the nude and said, Why don’t you get with the group so you can be with your boyfriend?”

She said, “No sir.” A few weeks later, I was getting a drink of water and there she was with all her clothes on, looking across the lake. I walked up behind her and said, ‘You know, I think the world’s greatest people are nudists. She turned around and said, By golly, if that ain’t the naked truth.

Today, Fred said, “She gets the biggest kick out of her dumbness for sitting in the car the entire summer. Now she can’t wait to get here.

There was hardly a word to squeeze in.

Fred had a lot more to say. He said a couple had dated for several months before either of them found out the other was a member of Lake Como. Fred said the woman finally broke down and admitted to her boyfriend that she was a nudist when he insisted to know the reason he could not have a weekend date. She said,”If that’s the case, I might as well tell you. I’m a nudist and I go to Como on weekends, and he said, Why in the hell didn’t you tell me? I’m a member of Como, too.”

The story brought a few laughs from everyone in the whirlpool. He sat up on the ledge to cool off and extended an invitation to join him in the sauna. We bought a couple of beers instead.

People mingled at Larry’s 19th Hole, an outdoor snack bar. A man wearing a cowboy hat smoked a Marlboro cigarette at a picnic table. On the grass, a pale woman, with a peacock tattooed on her rump, read a book.

Their backs against the trunk of a palm tree, Charlie and Claire relaxed in the company of another nudist. We had met the Toronto couple earlier in the day at the steak dinner. We didn’t know their friend. Obviously, Claire was a big woman, but there was a candid innocence about her. Charlie seemed to be happily married, attentive to Claire. Both had read about Lake Como in a Canadian nudist magazine. On their first visit to Como, they fell in love with the place and spend at least one month out of the year at Como “roughing it.”

“It seems different, doesn’t it?” Claire said. “But it really isn’t. It’s not like people think. Everyone is so friendly. It’s sort of like coming home to see your old friends.” She described Lake Como as “a real old type camp.” “Nearly all volunteers,” Claire said. “People help with the dishes or whatever else needs to be done. It’s nice because you get acquainted.”

Charlie wholeheartedly agreed. He thoroughly was endeared to this altered lifestyle once a year. A nudist for 20 years, Charlie said he has met people from “every profession under the sun” enjoying the good life. “There’s doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, chiropractors, millionaires, priests and some sisters. They’reall here.

There was a guilelessness about his manner.

The sun punched a hole in the clouds.

Charlie and Claire said goodbye to their friend who had joined them underneath the palm tree. As they walked to the sauna, both waved hello to us. Their friend, Sam, introduced himself to us at the picnic table. He had heard that we were novice nudists.

A New Jersey native, Sam said he vacations at Como with his wife and two children on free weekends during the winter. Sam was outspoken, straightforward and frank. He had a nitty-gritty flair about him when he spoke of sex at a nudist park. While Sam said nudism per se was not sexy, his views on nudism seemed to be atypical. “You have to be a little bit of an exhibitionist to run around without any clothes on,” Sam said.

“I like to expose my penis. There’s some perversion about it. It seems to be juvenile, even infantile to some degree but there’s no other way to explain it.

The former school teacher said he has seen some instances of blatant sex at a nudist park, but no more than one would expect to see at a beach.

“You’ll find some fetishism,” Sam said. “We’ve lost a few panties over the years. One time, our daughter’s boyfriend, his first time, ejaculated in his pants. Embarrassing for him.

“But if you want to have sex, you’re not going to want to sit outside and sun-bathe. You want to go to bed.”

We talked with Sam for a few more minutes, until he saw his wife sitting in a lounge chair, and he left to join her.

David got up from the picnic table and said we should check out a nature trail. When we found its path, a baby rabbit was nibbling on a blade of grass, but scampered away.

Deep into the woods, its untouched beauty was breathtaking. It was like being in the Garden of Eden. I felt like Eve about to take a bite out of the forbidden fruit. Neither of us said a word. I spent a few minutes reflecting on the day. It was everything everyone had told us friendly, warm, relaxing and peaceful. I wanted to return to Como.

At the end of the trail, we turned around and went back to the main campground. Since it was getting late, we decided to leave. In the parking lot, a man put on his shorts.

“Too bad we have to get dressed,” I said.

“Yeah.” the man said. “It’s back to the real

world.”

Within 100 miles of Lake Como, there are two other nudist parks, Navajo Lake and Cypress Cove, the latter being one of the more elaborate resorts in Florida. It is here, at Cypress Cove in Kissimmee, where one will find the president of the American Sunbathing Association. At 55, Jim Hadley is a devout nudist, retired from the life of a newspaper typesetter.

Hadley, a nudist for 31 years, understands public obstinance to accept nudism. Overall, Hadley said, The public image is not the best because nudist parks, by their very nature, must be in secluded areas. One of the problems that we have is that the public equates nudity with sex. Once they are able to see what ‘goes on behind the fence, they find it is a very relaxed atmosphere.’

Social nudism, Hadley said, was born in Barthel the United States when Kurt Barthel emigrated to New York City from Germany in 1929. Together with his wife and three other couples, Barthel founded America’s first nudist camp on a secluded spot in the mountains up river from the city.

About 300 yards from Lake Como’s main entrance, we stopped at a house, which was separated from the club by a small orange grove. Amy, a three-year resident of Land-o-Lakes, said she is not bothered by the nudists.

“I see people driving in but I don’t know who they are. I’d never choose to go over. It’s not my thing. It’s theirs. Live and let live.”

—30—

A Florida Journalist, Photographer, and Art Director with an eclectic client list of individuals and organizations with musical, visual, educational, and editorial interests.