Underwhelming Nude Olym-picks

Dan Rodricks

June 24, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

Random thoughts while strolling through the Nude Olym-picks . . .

1. If God had wanted us to be nude, he wouldn't have invented beer.

2. If God had wanted men to be nude, he wouldn't have invented back hair.

3. If God had wanted us to be nude, he wouldn't have invented TV crews.

4. Some reporting jobs are exciting, some are mundane, some are just gross.

These and other thoughts occurred to me during Friday's press safari through the 1991 Nude Olym-picks at Darlington, a small town that should have a welcoming sign saying: "You Are Now Way The Heck Up in Harford County." To give you an idea exactly how far Darlington is from Baltimore, you drive to C-Mart, then go another half hour, easy. Get the picture? (By the way, if you go to Darlington, pack a lunch. There aren't a lot of nice restaurants. I ate at a joint that had table clothes the color of mop water; the owner must have put them out special the day President Truman passed through.)

Anyway, the Nude Olym-picks sounded amusing enough.

Until I got there.

After a few minutes of observing -- Dan was definitely a wallflower at this orgy, folks -- I felt like I was in "Meatballs III," as directed by Frederico Fellini. Very bizarre.

First of all, there were a lot of naked people -- about 1,000 of them spread across the terrain of a summer camp. Almost everywhere you looked, there was either a pine tree or somebody's buttocks.

There were men and women, young and old and in the middle. Couples with kids. Singles. Men with beer guts. Women with grey hair. (Had they told me that I'd be seeing somebody's naked grandmother, I think I would have skipped this job.)

So, as I was saying, very strange stuff.

And not just because there were a lot of naked people. But because I couldn't figure out why on earth the organizers of this event wanted the press there.

A little naturism is probably good for the soul. But with 1,000 other people? Within range of TV cameras? During flea and tick season?

When someone invites me out for a journalistic look-see, I only balk if the tour threatens to bore me. (I once turned down dedication ceremonies for a new water tank in Howard County for that reason.) If there's a chance the experience will be semi-interesting, I go. Nuclear power plants, wineries, breweries, sausage companies -- I've seen the inside workings of many such institutions at the invitation of the fully clothed people who run them.

Never did I expect to be invited to a nudist camp.

But, that's what happened. So -- what the heck -- I went.

Along with three dozen other guys! There were TV crews from Washington, New York, Baltimore, Wilmington, Scranton, even Japan and Germany, not to mention that tabloid TV show, "Hard Affair." (Or is it "Current Copy"?) There were newspaper reporters and photographers from everywhere. No one wanted to miss this story.

There was a caravan of press cars and trucks. We stopped at a wooden pavilion. Naked men and women greeted us and gave instructions.

I won't go into all the details, folks, but let's just say press restrictions on the Nude Olym-picks might have been greater than press restrictions on the Persian Gulf war. Add the self-censorship employed by most of the mainstream press represented in Friday's safari, you end up with a sanitized picture of life at a nudist camp.

Which gets me back to the question of why the nudists wanted us there at all. Was there some raging controversy in Darlington? Were the nudists, who claim they don't care about public opinion, trying to gain greater acceptance from American society?

I still don't know exactly why they wanted to break their own privacy rules and bring in the scavenger dogs of the press. (Ruff, ruff.)

After a few minutes of investigative reporting, I realized that organizers of the event were far more interested in press coverage than were most of the vacationing nudists. There were probably a dozen naked types willing to be photographed and interviewed. One nudist -- a burly guy wearing nothing but a beard -- saw a Japanese photographer shooting video of a large nudist group and threatened to throw the camera in a pond.

It got a little ugly.

In fact, it got a lot ugly.

Did I mention the boat race? A terribly lame event in which four naked people, all bloated and sweaty, crammed into a rowboat and raced against another quartet over scummy water. Get the picture?

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