The Naked Truth: Not Me, Thank You

COMMENT

June 27, 1993|By ELISE ARMACOST

Bill and Fran Pacer are encouraging me to bare a lot more than my soul next week, when nudists from all across America converge on Crownsville for the fifth annual "Nude Olym-picks."

Mr. Pacer, the Olym-picks PR man who signs his press releases, "Naked as day one," tells me I am cordially invited to attend. Indeed, I am cordially invited to strip down and savor the full Olym-pick experience.

"You can come on a day when cameras aren't allowed," he says (we are talking on the telephone; he tells me he is nude as we speak). "No one will hear about it from us."

My editor thinks this is a great idea.

I think he will see Gibson Island throw open the gates to visitors before I am caught covering the Nude Olym-picks in the buff.

You may have heard of the Olym-picks. In 1991 and 1992, they were held in Darlington, a Harford County farm town in the middle of nowhere. Reporters came all the way from Japan and Germany to observe 1,000 naked people playing tennis (!), Twister (!!) and a variety of other nude fun and games. It was the most excitement Darlington's had since . . . well, it was the most excitement Darlington's had.

Alas, Darlington's 15 minutes of fame have come and gone to the Pine Tree Family Nudist Park on Hawkins Road, near Crownsville State Hospital. "We decided it would be a lot more fun to have [the Olym-picks] at a real, live nudist park," Mr. Pacer explains.

Save for an occasional newspaper feature, "naturists" have been cavorting at Pine Tree virtually unnoticed for years. Indeed, here in the newsroom we tend to forget the place exists until one of the Pacers' entertaining news releases rolls across our fax machine. Earlier this month, for example, we received this gem: "NUDIST PARK WELCOMES WOMEN: 'BACHELORETTES IN THE BUFF DAY.' "

"Bachelorettes in the Buff Day" was June 19, an event designed by Mrs. Pacer, chairwoman of the Pine Tree Women's Committee, to introduce novice female nudists to the joys of the clothes-free life -- less laundry, fewer hang-ups about your body, a nice all-over tan.

"As we sit around the buffet lunch," the release quoted Mrs. Pacer, "the women will discover the vast difference between nudity and sexuality. Nudity is the lack of attire; sexuality is a state of mind."

As a woman who has never sat around a buffet lunch without her clothes, I couldn't help wondering: What kind of women are these who will be munching tea sandwiches and sipping lemonade without theirs?

So I called, told Mrs. Pacer I was thinking of writing a column and that I'd like to come -- clothed. She was all for the idea, but said she'd have to check with the rest of the women's committee.

Their verdict came down a couple of days later: No go. Novice nudists are uncomfortable enough, they said, without a reporter in their midst.

Before disappointment could set in, the Pacers assured me that an even better opportunity to learn about the nude lifestyle was coming July 8 through 11: the Nude Olym-picks, sponsored by the Tri-State Sun Club, the nation's leading nudist group. In addition to the aforementioned games and sports, I am told there will be classes for newcomers on how to dare to be bare, with tips such as how to converse with a nude person.

"It's no different than talking to a person with clothes on," Mrs. Pacer explains. "You look at their face. If I have clothes on and you're staring at my breasts I'm going to feel just as uncomfortable as if I'm naked and you're staring at them."

Once the classes are over, novices can shed their clothes and stay at the Olym-picks or go home. No oglers allowed, Mr. Pacer says. I have yet to meet the Pacers in the flesh, so to speak, but they sound like a fun couple. He's 43, a dispatcher for the Maryland Shock Trauma Center who learned that clothes-free is stress-free after a trip to the French Riviera 20 years ago. She's 40, an account manager for a tax-filing firm. They live in Randallstown with their three kids, ages 6, 5 and 2.

"We're nude when it's appropriate," Mr. Pacer says, which means when they're at home, entertaining fellow nudists or at Pine Tree.

I have a post card of our local nudist park, sent to me by a Sun reporter who wrote a story about it several years ago. There's a big kidney-shaped swimming pool in the foreground and a tennis court just beyond it. The photo is shot discreetly from a distance, but you don't need a magnifying glass to see that everyone in the picture -- the lifeguards, the sunbathers, the tennis players -- is "naked as day one," to borrow Mr. Pacer's phrase.

Mrs. Pacer feels it's only fair to warn me, "If you go to a place like this, where everybody else is naked and you're the only one with clothes on, you're going to feel awfully strange." Perhaps. But I think I'll take my chances.

I never have tanned very well, anyway.

Elise Armacost is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.

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