“We need nudists on the beach now more than ever”

No nudes is bad news

The sad thing is, we need nudists on the beach now more than ever. They alone are brave enough to defy the tyranny of the body beautiful. Dedicated as they are to feeling comfortable in their skin, they eschew such practices as bikini-waxing, fake tanning, or plastic surgery. Lumpy, hairy, defiantly natural, they are our last defence against the porn-star aesthetic.

That may explain why there seems to be a growing mood of fondness towards nudies. Last month, Stephen Gough set off from Land’s End to reprise his historic walk – this time in the company of a naked girlfriend. They got as far as Shropshire before they were arrested. But the locals have come out in their defence: in a poll for the Shropshire Star, 67% said they wouldn’t mind encountering a naked rambler. If only the people of Illinois had been so enlightened.

This opinion piece wasn’t contributed by a recognized naturist/nudist leader, but instead by editorial writer Jemima Lewis of the UK’s Guardian Unlimited. (If you read the article, it will be apparent why it didn’t appear in a major U. S. media spot.)

The piece is based on a couple of interesting news tidbits. The first is the rather unhappy story of the passing of an elderly U. S. naturist named Robert Norton. The best account seems to be here: Nudist’s naked burial wish denied, again from a UK source (the BBC). Some out there may recall having read about Norton in recent years. The octogenarian liked to work nude in his garden in the midwestern small town of Pekin, Illinois, for which he was regularly arrested on the complaint of his neighbor, Brenda Loete.

Brenda Loete said she never spoke to Norton despite living next door to him for more than a decade.

“We didn’t really know him. We just had him arrested,” she said.

She had spent years taking her daughter to the park rather than letting her play in the garden because of the naked old man next door, she said.

“Normally, if we had him arrested in the spring he’d be gone for the summer and we wouldn’t have to worry about him until the next spring.”

How mean-spirited can a person be? Well, even more mean-spirited than Ms. Loete, it seems. Norton’s last wish was to be buried nude. His own family, especially a brother named Jack, who is a minister from Columbus, Ohio, saw to it that this wish was denied:

His brothers have decided to lay him to rest in grey trousers and a shirt.

One of them, Jack, is a minister. “He’s not going to be buried in the nude,” he said.

How’s that for small-mindedness? (More news reports: here).

The other story is a bit more upbeat and concerns the “naked rambler” Steve Gough. It’s true that Steve and Melanie were arrested in Shropshire on July 19. However, the complaint of only a single individual was required to trigger the arrest, and the case was eventually dropped on August 15. Even better, the trek by Gough and his friends has revealed widespread public support for the naturists’ plucky adventure. This public relations victory, of course, was one of Steve’s objectives.

There’s been a considerable amount of additional news about the little jaunt of Steve and friends (which you can find at nakedwalk.org), but we’ll put off commentary on that for another time.

Originally posted August 28, 2005