They are nude, they are free and they call from Van Nuys. : Getting Naked in America

There is a naked couple somewhere in Van Nuys known as Buddy and Mona who telephone me every summer to tell me that America will never truly be free until it allows nude sunbathing. They send me literature from something called the Nudist Information Center that contains, among other art treasures, depictions of a naked Statue of Liberty and the photograph of a half-naked grandmother.

The half-naked grandmother is pictured talking on the telephone, no doubt calling her half-naked grandchildren up north to wish them a happy birthday from jail. More about granny later.

Shortly after receiving the literature, I hear from Buddy and Mona. I don’t know what their last names are because, when I ask, they say no way, Jose. They think I’ll turn them over to the CIA or the FBI.

They only inform me that they are calling from Van Nuys and that they are nude and they are free. Free, by the way, refers to choice, not price.


Mona does the dialing because she is the more militant of the two nudists, and then Buddy picks up a phone in the other room. They remind me a little of Bob and Ray.

The most recent contact came last week. There is no folksy preamble to their calls, just a flat:

“Well, did you get the material?”

That was Mona speaking.


“With the Statue of Liberty?”

That was Buddy, picking up the phone in another room.

I knew instantly who they were.

“I got it,” I said. “I’ve never seen a naked Statue of Liberty before. Not bad.”


Not bad isn’t the point,” Mona said.

“The point is we are a repressed society,” Buddy said.

Then they did a kind of song and dance about how Hitler hated nudity and Stalin hated nudity and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is not really big on nudity either.

“Dictators,” Mona said, full of anger and indignation, “fear the naked human body because it represents the ultimate freedom.”


“And that’s exactly what we have in America,” Buddy added.

“You’re telling me that we aren’t free because Ronald and Nancy Reagan won’t take off their clothes in public?” I asked.

“You just never get the point,” Mona said.

“You miss it completely,” Buddy added.


I forget every time they call, since they call so infrequently, that I never get their point.

“Well,” I said, “if your point is that Ron and Nancy ought to preside in the altogether, I fear I am not ready for that. I felt the same way about Jimmy and Ruby Carter, or whatever her name was.”

“You just don’t get it, do you?” Mona said.

“You never will,” Buddy added.


“Look,” I said, “we’ve done this routine for a lot of years. You send me naked pictures, I study them, you telephone me, we talk, but I never get the point. Just what the hell is the point?”

Their point, as I understand it, is that nudists deserve a beach of their own and that 71.6% of all Americans agree with them. The percentage comes from a 1983 Gallup poll.

“It’s in the literature we sent,” Mona said.

“I didn’t read it all,” I said. “I just glanced at the pictures. By the way, why the photo of the half-naked grandmother?”


Read the material,” Buddy said impatiently. “She was arrested for, and I’m quoting, ‘nudity on beach in plain public view.’ She had the audacity to remove her clothes in America!”

“Amen,” Mona said. Suzy Davis was the grandmother arrested, along with William Davis, who, one presumes, is her husband. Their case is pending.

They will no doubt be fined and sent home, fully clothed. Nudists are seldom shipped off to the gas chamber.

Mona and Buddy then called my attention to a list of nations that have legal nude beaches.


Iran, one of our newest enemies, is not listed, although West Germany, with its long history of freedom and tolerance, is. Ditto our traditional friends, Japan.

“As I understand it,” I said to them, “you believe that only those nations with legal nude beaches are truly free?”

“That’s one measure,” Mona said.

“Right on,” Buddy added.


I mistrust white people who say right on.

“Well,” I said, “Russia and Poland have nude beaches and they sure as hell aren’t free. Maybe it takes a little more, huh?”

We were coming to the end. Mona sighed theatrically. Then Buddy sighed. It was like a wind through the rocks at Zuma Beach.

“You’ll never get it,” she said.


“If you lived to be a thousand,” he added.

Then they hung up. Simultaneously.

I don’t care who goes naked in America. I would find naked traffic cops offensive, I suppose, but then I find them offensive fully uniformed, so it doesn’t really change anything.

While I do not believe that nudity necessarily equates with liberty, it’s all right with me if they want to have beaches where they can strip to their suntans and sit and stare at each other until their eyeballs fall out.


I think that’s why they do it anyhow.

If you get my point.