July 9, 2016 by John Wilcock
Chapter Twenty-three (cont'd):
ANYWAY, LIVING IN this nudist resort in the Santa Monica mountains, primitive as my circumstances were, was a heavenly, carefree existence. No cameras, radios, or car alarms were allowed on the grounds. Most mornings I would amble, naturally naked, to the hot tub about 100 yards down the hill. Leave your hang-ups here was the sign above a row of hooks, but I had nothing to leave and it was too early for visitors, so I had the place to myself apart from a few chattering birds in the trees overhead.
The actual resort, with its tennis courts, swimming pool, saunas, and spacious kitchen, was further down the hill, so my little shack offered a certain amount of isolation. When I was down at the pool I almost always chatted with my friend Noel Pugh, a Welshman, and I asked him recently how he first got involved.
He drew this picture and replied:
When Ed died, at 75 in 1995, the valuable property was sold by his daughters (reportedly for $2.6 million) and Elysium’s membership scattered, with Noel taking up residence in Simi Valley.
Surrounded by all these bare bodies every day of the week, what writer would not have turned to the subject as something to write about? I became alert to any references to nudity to provide material for another of my newsletters. The correlation between how much a model takes off and how much she takes home intrigued me.
Even an unknown earning a mere $3,000 a day for posing in a bra and lace panties for Victoria's Secret might increase her take by as much as 50% for taking them off. “The rate can go wild, depending on what the image is and who the client is” said Click Model Managements Francis Grill. “Depending on the model they can go up to ten thousand dollars a day”. And yet here, all around me, were beauties, albeit more buxom, were baring all for no reward.
Apart from what and who, there was also where to be taken into consideration. “Almost nobody wants to be bare in some frigid lower Manhattan studio” explained another agent. “But send a girl to St. Barts, Antigua, or Tahiti and, swept away by the sea and a budding romance with the lensman, and she's apt to throw caution as well as her garments to the wind.”
And whereas in the U.S. a bare breast might be enough to get magazines pulled from the newsstand, European laws are less rigid. “There's much less pressure to show the clothes” said Steven Meisel. “You can get crazy; you can photograph a girl peeing in the street”. Inevitably then, nudity became the subject of the column Bare Bones that I wrote monthly for the Elysium newsletter.
Charlotte Holtzermann, who likes to be known as Carlotta, was our princess at Elysium. A practitioner of the Alexandra Technique, she was a foxy mademoiselle whose very appearance exuded grace and goodwill. Her chosen métier was massage with a preference for practicing watsu, a pool-based method said to reduce stress and speed rehabilitation. She fondly recalls Elysium as a beautiful grassy campus where she could unfold creative projects. “Where I found a paradise on earth midway through life”, she says, “I felt God was rewarding me for living well on this cool playing field of advanced artists and souls. I was primitively alive in the grass, utterly happy in nature”.
The Economist reported that “nudity is advancing on all fronts in America and that the percentage of Americans who have tried nude sunbathing in the presence of others” had increased from 15 to 20% in the previous year. Fundamentalists had chased skinny dippers out of most Southern states, the story continued, but elsewhere the picture was bright: nude cruises were filled, the Naturist Association’s guide to nude beaches sold a quarter of a million copies, attempts by undercover policemen (wearing swimsuits) have “provoked more ridicule than fear” and nude sunbathing in Florida, once banned, was making a comeback. “Miami also permits top free bathing now; if it did not, it would probably lose many of the European tourists who flock to its beaches”.
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THE TOPLESS dancing business is unlikely to ever run out of dances or customers. In Norwalk, Conn., the Zebra Club prompted indignant neighborhood complaints when it opened across from a Catholic church. But despite the mayor’s prediction that “a very small segment of society wanted to watch topless dancers while they’re drinking orange juice”, after the club lost of its liquor license, this proved to be no handicap. Without a liquor license there was no limit on the hours the club could remain open.
In the early ‘70s, five states—Missouri, Utah, Oregon, Tennessee, and Ohio—tried to pass legislation against nude dancing. But the measures were so sloppily worded they would have prohibited being naked at home. The Naturist Society’s Pat O’Brien was reported in Reason that “somebody who dived into a swimming pool and lost his trunks could have gone to jail”.
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The monthly magazine Trailer Life reported that nude camping was a fast-growing segment of RV-ing, with even chilly Minnesota sporting a couple of nudist parks “whose members field questions about the wind chill factor for half the day and industrial strength mosquitoes the other half”. The mag’s Irene Clepper concluded that “a seamless tan, friends who are like family, healthful outdoor living, and enhanced self-confidence were among the advantages say those living this life”. One couple said they admired “the controlled atmosphere” of nudist campgrounds. “It’s not only secure but privacy is completely respected. You don’t know who is wealthy or who is just making ends meet. It’s the personhood that counts”.
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If your infant can’t stop staring at your genitals as you exit the shower, you might start wondering how much modesty to display around the home. The golden rule, writes a columnist in McCalls, is to tune in to such clues. “One not so subtle signal is a child’s shift from the occasional glance to persistent staring, or grabbing at your body”. Three years old might be an appropriate time to stop sharing showers with him/her, the article suggests. At around four the child is capable of accepting the information that although the bedroom door is locked because mommy and daddy need privacy, “if you knock real hard we’ll open it right away”.
One year later it might be the child who prefers to be alone when performing bathroom ablutions. And teenagers are sometimes over-sensitive about whether you (or they) are sufficiently dressed. “The clues adolescents give about nudity are—like everything else about that age—confusing and inconsistent. There’s no rational explanation. Just accept it”.
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In a Glamour magazine poll of its predominantly women readers, 86% of respondents felt there should be more naked men in movies but less gratuitous female nudity unless it was intrinsic to the plot. And a movie review in Premiere began: The color of her hair cannot be bought in a bottle. It is flame and copper. Lush in curl. Silk to the touch. But this is not the hair on Julianne Moore’s head. It lies below—gloriously exposed as she stands screaming and panty-less in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts.
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Golden Buttocks, a beach beauty contest, was listed by Variety as among the most popular programs on Italian summertime TV. Another program was described as containing “a striptease routine, a soda ad featuring a naked model playing the part of the bottle, an ersatz newscast in which the anchors are assisted by girls in negligible bikinis, and an ad for ice cream showing a couple getting dressed after what was clearly not just an afternoon nap.” In the story titled NUDES, PRUDES BUTT HEADS OVER ITALO TV, the magazine reported that such programs had sparked calls for a crackdown on what could be screened but that nevertheless a poll indicated that 54% of those interviewed “didn’t mind” nudity on television although 43% said it was “completely inadmissible in advertising”.
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Virginia Woolf and other literary members of the Bloomsbury group are said to have inaugurated naked bathing at lovely Studland Bay in Dorset, but these days the tradition is under fire from a local group which says there has been an increase in “indecent and threatening behavior” towards women. As many as 7,000 nudists cram into a one-mile section of the four-mile beach on Britain’s southeast coast on summer weekends, but the National Trust, inheritor of the property—along with its nude traditions—has been asked to declare them not welcome.
Computer consultant Roland Hitchcott says, “There’s a huge area the naturists have taken over with their bully-boy tactics. There are a lot of complaints and it’s serious, but the National Trust is trying to deny there’s a problem.” The Trust’s local Public Affairs manager, Liz Roberts, responds: It’s not something we could put a stop to. Indeed I don’t think you could. Our view is live and let live. Simple naturism is not against the law and we take the view it should be allowed to continue peaceably.”
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A depressing side effect of German’s unification has been the influx of prudish older holidaymakers onto traditional nudist beaches on the shores of the Baltic Sea in the Eastern part of the country. The resort of Gohren, on Rugen island for example, which for decades had been the favorite of uninhibited followers of the fresh air philosophy of Freie Korperkultur or free body culture, has been forsaken by the traditional socialist holiday makers who, now free to go anywhere, are flocking to more modern resorts such as Rimini or Majorca. Tourist visitors have dropped to half what they were and Gohren’s hotels increasingly must reply on older West-German couples who don’t like to see naked bodies. More than 200 visitors complained about nudity last year and Gohren’s council has concluded that nudity is doing the resort more harm that good.
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Reporting from a French town where it is obligatory to go naked on the beach and around the swimming pools, and where to wear clothes is to risk being arrested, writer Alice Thomson admitted that her first encounter made her blush so furiously people probably thought she was sunburned. But when she got used to it, she wrote in the London Times, she found it exhilarating although she quickly realized “that swimwear is not designed as much to keep preying eyes out as wobbly bits in. “Cap d’Agde, on the Languedoc coast, is a naturist town with 150 shops and 2,500 apartments (the largest of 40 similar French naturist communities) whose 38,000 visitors when at full capacity includes Belgians, Danish, French, Scandinavians, Japanese, and English. It is a family place, where visitors cross all class barriers and whose hefty rate for single rooms discourages solitary males on the prowl. “Most people who go on naturist holidays just want a good suntan and no hassles” says Julie who works in the office, and her partner Doug agrees. “There is nothing Freudian about naturism. It is simply the easiest way to take a holiday.” He adds that it always annoys him that “textiles” (the name given to clothed people) are so squeamish.
Fascinated by the silk handkerchiefs, buttons, and parasols in his father’s millinery shop, author Franz Kafka was also a naturist and sun worshipper who exercised naked twice daily before an open window. He also chewed carefully on a diet based on raw vegetables, according to Mark Anderson in a new book Kafka’s Clothes (Oxford University Press) which portrays the famous writer as a natty dresser, afraid of women, and a frequenter of prostitutes. One of Kafka’s gurus, says Anderson, was the Danish athlete Muller who lamented that so many artists died young because “there geniuses had no thought for the health of their bodies”. Kafka died young anyway—in 1924 at the tender age of 41.
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Confessing in Ladies Home Journal about the time she sent as a topless dancer, Kathryn Casey said it initially did wonders for her self-image. “For the first time in my life I felt beautiful, powerful and sexy. Handsome men told me a hundred times a day how gorgeous I was. I felt as though I could seduce any guy I wanted, and often did.”
The easiest way to make money, she was told, was by doing ‘floor-work’—lying down and spreading her legs. After initial reservations about doing something so ‘suggestive’, Kathryn soon became ‘free and euphoric’, making hundreds of dollars per shift in tips.
But the euphoria didn’t last. “As my inhibitions were lost so was my common sense. I (became) so devoid of feeling it was frightening. I knew then I must be really hurting emotionally.”
She recalled a near rape, getting busted for lewd exposure, having her purse snatched at a bachelor party, insults from customers. “Most of all I remember countless sessions with my therapist, crying my eyes out, wondering why I had started dancing in the first place and how I was ever going to get out of it. Even so, leaving the business was the hardest thing I’ve ever done”.
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Penis, dick, johnson, schlong, willie, trouser snake, unit member. Isn’t it strange that a body part with so many nicknames is such a shrinking violet in the public spotlight? Asks Elizabeth Larsen in a book review in the Utne Reader titled YES, WE HAVE NO BANANAS and subtitled Female Nudity is Everywhere So Why Are Men’s Bodies Off-limits?
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“Anyone who thinks the male breast and the female breast are the same is not living in the real world” was the response of a Canadian judge in Guelph, Ontario as he imposed a $75 fine on a topless college student who had argued that under Canada’s Charter of Rights & Freedoms men and women were guaranteed equality under the law. The decision sparked a mass topless rally on Ottawa’s Capitol Hill by hundreds of women protestors who were met, it says here, by “several thousand tattooed, leering and camera-toting men”.
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Reviewing a recent BBC-TV show about nudity, Craig Brown wrote: “Frankly I don’t think I’ve ever seen a naturism film that didn’t have a beach ball scene... a tradition that (presumably) grew up in the age when producers had to blank out every nude body at strategic points. In Full Frontal they supplemented their beach balls with silk hankies, which they swished to and fro for no apparent reason. My bet is that anyone who opens a fully-clothed beach ball-throwing and hankie-waving camp for the middle-aged stands to make a fortune”.
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Nudists get bitten less by deer ticks because they don’t wear clothes according to Dr. Henry M. Feder who reported being called to a Connecticut nudist camp to treat a case of erythema migrans. Despite the fact that the camp was an ideal environment for the deer tick (the doctor reported in a letter to The Journal of the American Medical Association) such incidents were rare because “deer ticks do not like nudists, as they prefer to do their biting under cover”.
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Despite the unfriendly temperatures, there are at least a couple of thousand Scottish nudists registered at clubs on Loch Lomond and near Perth, Aberdeen, and Inverness. And even four inches of snow doesn’t deter them from cavorting outdoors. “I go out in a wooly hat and welly boots to keep the essential bits warm” confessed Cecilia Low when The Sunday Times caught up with her at an environmental show in Glasgow at which Britain’s Central Council for Naturism had a booth.
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The British nude film industry originated with a $2500 movie Traveling Light made by former fighter pilot Craven Walker (who later invented the lava lamp) in 1960. In a just-published book about those days Doing Rude Things author David McGillivray tells how the film’s successful nine-month run in London’s West End triggered a boom of “crude, rude, and nude” sexploitation flicks that brought naturism into disrepute. One of the major early nudie stars, Pamela Green who adroitly perfected a walk that revealed very little, now recalls how much time was spent chasing beach balls. “British directors never knew what to do with a nude body except throw balls at it. That’s all the films were: high heels and rings and running around with nothing on.”
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BRIEFS: On New York’s Staten Island, residents of West Brighton Street managed to prevent the opening of a topless car wash but a huge advertising sign displaying a woman with huge breasts wearing only high heels and a G-string remained on view…..Glyn Stout’s 70-member Trade Association for Nude Recreation has operated out of his nude resort in Los Gatos since 1977 and nudism, he claims, brings in revenues of at least $120m per year….. Frederick Bischoff, a former fundamentalist preacher, visited a nudist resort in 1979 and promptly, says Forbes, “decided to make his paradise here on earth”. He founded Club Paradise in Florida, quickly sold out all his $100,000 condominiums, and planned a $3m nudist resort in the Dominican Republic.
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Thomas Tiemann, a Texas lawyer, set up Bare Necessities and Travel, Inc. which sponsors three nude cruises each year. “What attracted me to this business” he says, “was the economics. Guests pay $1,800 to $5,200 for the week compared with berths costing $1,200 to $2,400 on comparable clothes-require cruises during the peak winter season.” He estimated his profit margin as 40%.
Manhattan Memories is available at amazon.com.
An updated A Guide to Occult Britain, complete with new illustrations, is also available at amazon.com.
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National Weed (1974, issue #3)
Forty years ago the second of my three books about magic was published, A Guide to Occult Britain (Sidgwick & Jackson) covering a wide range of sites from Stonehenge to Loch Ness and King Arthur country to the witches of Pendle Hill. It is now available as an eBook
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An authorized comic book biography of John Wilcock,
This IS a book-length comic series on John Wilcock. People who enjoy focusing on underground and alternative media are occasionally familiar with John's work, but most often the response is "who's that?" Outside of small press historians and collectors, John remains very unknown. Which makes no sense, the more you learn about him. We're very excited about the opportunity to tell his story. Art for THE STORY OF JOHN WILCOCK is by me and co-conspirator Scott Marshall. Story comes from an extended and ongoing year-long interview with Wilcock, himself. The focus is John's years in New York, roughly 1954-1971.
January 2, 2011
A way with Andy Warhol : John Wilcock recalls life in iconic pop artist's inner circle
During a journalism career that began when he was 16, John Wilcock has interviewed celebrities — Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Bob Dylan, to name a few — was part of enigmatic pop artist Andy Warhol's intimate circle in the 1960s, traveled to exotic locations all over the globe, has written dozens of books ranging from frugal travel to magic, was one of five founders (Norman Mailer was one of them) of the Village Voice and co-founded Interview magazine (still in circulation) with Mr. Warhol.
“The Return of the World's Worst Businessman”
John Wilcock is not what you would call a household name, and yet, he has had a measurable impact on art, journalism and culture-at-large over the last century. He co-founded Interview with Andy Warhol. He also was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He has written for countless print and online publications: Frommer’s, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The East Village Other, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Ojai Orange, etc. So why, one feels inclined to ask, is he relatively unknown? The answer seems simple: Wilcock has called himself “the world’s worst businessman.” This self-description makes sense because listening to him one hears the voice of a writer and a traveler and an enthusiast, not at all the voice of a businessman. In an age when it seems like everyone is all about business—art as a business, fashion as a business, everything as a business—it is refreshing to hear someone self-identify as “the world’s worst businessman.” It seems less like he has failed as a businessman and more like he has refused to become one. In addition to all his other accomplishments,...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Jewcy Top 10 Art Books of 2010
This brilliant remake of a pop primary document is brought to you by John Wilcock, probably the Most Interesting Man in the World in the realm of writers. The Village Voice cofounder had also edited Warhol’s seminal mag Interview in the 70s. The fruit of the book is in the genius of its redesign. After 40 years out-of-print, the newly edited edition is “beautifully redesigned in a bright, Warholian palette” that surrounds a trail of Harry Shunk’s internationally Pop-art-informed camera as well as transcribed interviews with those closest to Warhol that ultimately make up an oral history of the artist’s Factory period. By looking at him through the scope of his peers, this book is the equivalent of Pittsburgh’s Warhol Museum in illuminating qualities of Warhol’s warped mirror on which our American culture was briefly reflected.
Monday, November 15, 2010
A Reader Comment from the recent New York Times Frugal Traveler post
Not only did John Wilcock shake up staid publishing in the USA, from the Village Voice to the East Village Other, his influence extended to several continents, including Australia & the UK, where - in his mild mannered way - he pushed the boundaries of image and speech. The counter culture was nothing but a dull puddle, until John kicked out the jams and ignited the Underground Press, which attracted absurd prosecutions, that of course boosted circulations. An unsung hero of the sixties,
It was the first handwritten letter I’d received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I’d never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my Săo Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.
By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.
“A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego.”