My chimerical friend Billy Cobalt is furious. The reason he is furious is that Supervisor Mike Antonovich, God’s best friend in Los Angeles County, is still trying to shut down Topanga Canyon’s famed Elysium Fields.
The reason God’s Best Friend is trying to shut it down is that Elysium Fields is a camp that permits nudity and, as everyone knows, the Lord never intended anyone to appear naked in public except at birth.
Antonovich, who himself was born in a blue, pin-striped suit, understands that. Billy Cobalt, an unemployed Zen psalmist who lives in a Fernwood root basement, does not.
“What is it with the man?” Billy demanded one day after the Board of Supervisors had voted to deny permission for Elysium to continue operating. Antonovich led the campaign.
“Well,” I said, “Mike apparently believes that nudity is lewdity and he is exercising what he understands to be God’s final decision about clothing-optional camps.”
“How in the hell does he know what God wants?” Cobalt demanded.
“Perhaps they discussed it over apple juice and cookies,” I said, “or perhaps it came to him in a dream. Local politicians are often known to receive . . . well ... signs .”
“You know what that man needs?” Cobalt asked.
“I don’t think I want to hear it,” I said.
I have known Cobalt for a long time. He is inclined toward intemperate comment.
“Then what ‘s going on with him?”
I really don’t know why God’s Best Friend has taken it upon himself to shut down a place that has never been a problem to begin with. Elysium, in fact, seems to have general support throughout Topanga, except for a handful of individuals who still belong to the Clothed Birth Foundation.
That does not seem to influence Antonovich in the least. Hand him another fig leaf, he’ll cover another fig.
To be fair about it (since when?) , I must say he is not the first politico-moralist who has been trying to put Elysium Fields out of business.
The fight has been going on for 16 years, handed down like an Inquisition whip from one God-lovin’, Bible-readin’ supervisor to the other.
They have accused the camp of everything from sexual depravity to inadequate geology, only to discover that they were wrong on all counts.
At one point, a county ordinance was created that would have categorized as a nudist camp any facility that tolerated the gathering of three or more naked human beings.
A state court, however, fearing it could affect the shower room of the Los Angeles Rams, threw it out.
There have been long periods of sweet silence in the ongoing battle between the board and the camp, and even some hope after each Elysium victory that government would finally stop harassing people who were not harassing them. No such luck.
Whenever anyone needed a good, obvious moral issue to bolster his own flagging fortunes, there was Nudity in the Santa Monica Mountains. What is more obviously immoral than (gasp) human genitalia?
Show me a hillside full of naked liberals and I’ll show you a conservative’s highway to heaven.
That may be Antonovich’s motivation at the moment. Things are not going well for him in his effort to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
He is the object of a recall movement in one part of his supervisorial district, accused of displaying an insensitivity to the needs of his constituents.
He is being criticized by his own philosophical soul-mates for gruesome anti-Rose Bird television commercials.
And he has been passed over for Senate endorsement by his own beloved California Republican Assembly.
Naturally, a guy who is slowly sinking into a swamp of his own making is going to reach for anything to pull him out.
Enter God and nudity.
Mentioning God and nudity in juxtaposition during a political campaign is a rock-solid guarantee of stirring ‘em to song down around the Light of Heaven Fundamental Church of God and Decent Clothing.
Those who fall somewhere between Jerry Falwell and Lyndon LaRouche will march right along with Antonovich in his effort to rid the mountains once and for all of Human Nudity.
And when Elysium Fields fights back, as it is vowing to do, that will simply cause more gymnophobes to join God’s Best Friend in his campaign to simultaneously fight sin and win the Republican nomination.
“That doesn’t sound good for Elysium Fields,” Billy Cobalt said.
“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed, “but sometimes you have to sacrifice temporal pleasures for more ecclesiastic endeavors.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Billy, when Elysium Fields is gone forever with its exposed human genitalia, God’s own legions will move in and build a temple to the victor.”
“Heavens no. A housing tract. Human nudity may come and human nudity may go, but a slab-sided, stucco-sprayed condo complex will last forever.”
We’ll call it Antonovich Oaks. A contractor’s gratitude knows no limits.