Take a long, but not lingering, look at nudity



“I have nothing against body painting at Fantasy Fest,” declared former City Commissioner Bill Verge at the public lectern. “However, I’ve never thought of going down there in body paint myself —”

“Thank you,” said Mayor Craig Cates (laughter).

“At least not right now,” continued Verge. “You know what cold temperatures can do to certain body parts” (more laughter). “Commissioner Clayton Lopez of course, never has that problem” (extended laughter).

We knew from the moment when Coast Guard Chaplain Lt. Peter Dietz gave his invocation at the meeting’s outset and mentioned Mardi Gras that we could be in for a racy time.

The only other big event at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting at Old City Hall was discussion of a Vietnam War memorial proposed for Bayview Park.

“This is long overdue,” said Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, echoed by John Dick, county school board member who served in Vietnam as a post commander. The emotion implicit in the topic could clearly be heard in the confession of a high-ranked veteran that his healing from the war only came when he heard the words, “we were not at war with the enemy but with ourselves.”

The proposal for a granite memorial in Bayview Park sponsored by Mayor Cates and Commissioner Billy Wardlow and designed by architect Bert Bender who donated his work, passed unanimously and the hall emptied like the departure of a platoon back to barracks. “Booyah!” boomed Commissioner Mark Rossi.

Then Weekley’s proposed ordinance to amend chapter 42 (“miscellaneous offenses”) of the city’s code of ordinances by revising the definition of body painting in section 42-9, came up for its first reading.

Weekley himself was nakedly honest from the beginning. Sloan Bashinsky, whose run against him for his seat in the past, pondered whether the commissioner had had a religious conversion to be raising the nudity issue after ignoring it during past Fantasy Fests. “I’m not born again,” said Weekley.

The images got a bump up with a reminiscence from another citizen who said she’d used to like attending the Fantasy Fest parade all dressed up, “not too fancy” until that time when she saw, just ahead of her, “two young kids, 5 or 6 years old, their parents drunk,” who all came up against a man “maybe 400 pounds and almost naked but wearing rubber male parts,” she recounted. “I spun the kids around and offered them candy while this man shook his appendage at me and spilled a drink on me. I was so angry. My $100 outfit was ruined.”

She thanked Weekley for proposing a revision to the ordinance and thanked former Harry Bethel for writing a letter that had brought the problem to the public’s attention.

But what problem exactly? Another member of the public, John Walsh, pointed out that trying to change the rules about body painting is “like stopping drive-by shootings by changing the speed limit.” Florida already has “a tyrannical nudity law” and to load the statute to specify, for example, the painting of breasts, is “discriminatory against women.”

This effort to revise the ordinance came about, explained Weekley, because of a number of complaints two years ago concerning a body-painted naked man sighted in Publix. “It gets worse every year. The commission has a right to declare community standards. We won’t lose any visitors because of it.”

Weekley intriguingly unveiled his mind. “Sex on the beach — I’m not against that,” he said, “provided it’s not visible. But Fantasy Fest has gotten more and more raunchy, you know? We need to reel it in.”

Market Share (which promotes Fantasy Fest but does not run it aside from the parade) is “not responsible,” continued the commissioner, “and let’s not blame the Chamber of Commerce either. But everyone agrees that we have to do something.”

“We already have an ordinance to prevent sex acts in the street,” said Commissioner Tony Yaniz. “I don’t condone any of it. And I agree with you about the problems, but a revised ordinance has nothing to do with it. This is really all about breasts. “So I’m opposed to this proposal. I don’t believe naked breasts are debauchery.”

Police Chief Donie Lee told the commissioners that prosecuting offenders would not help anyone, least of all the police who’d waste valuable time writing tickets or taking offenders to the detention center (there are only 130 officers, not all from Key West, on duty to police a crowd of tens of thousands.)

Mayor Cates then invoked a mental picture, with vigorous nods of agreement from Yaniz, of that very first Fantasy Fest parade all those years ago, when a lady called Sister, seated on the hood of a car, had not a stich on and wore nothing but silver paint.

By this time, Weekley felt it politic to withdraw his proposal. So in the wink of an eye, he stripped it from the agenda.






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