Articles written for AUFBAU by Leonard J. Lehrman

AUFBAU 68:16 August 8, 2002 p.16
Leserbriefe | Letters to the Editor



"When Everybody's Naked..."

Aufbau 68:14, July 11, 2002, p, 18

As a reader [of] and writer [of over 100 articles] for Aufbau since 1995, I feel the need to comment on [and to correct the July 11, 2002 issue's] articles by Talia Bloch and Heidi Keller on FKK in Germany and the U.S. It is true that there are more clothing-optional beaches in Germany than in the rest of the world put together. [There are also more opera houses, which may or may not be a related issue. For better or for worse, Germans do seem to take (sometimes inordinate) pride in local assets, and in the nobility of the human form and the highest forms of artistic creation.

For decades, most of American culture has lagged behind European, seeing both opera and clothing optionality as somehow alien.] But [that is changing. Both are becoming more mainstream: Opera companies and new American works are springing up all over the country, like nude swimming holes; and] surveys have shown that a large majority of Americans (over 80%, according to the latest Roper Poll) actually favor the right of people to swim nude in areas carefully designated as clothing-optional, so as not to offend anyone accidentally.

[Talia] Bloch's statement, "in the U.S., nude swimming is considered an oddity..., associated with old-time hippies, but not something a 'normal' person would do," is becoming less true every day. Thanks to The Naturist Society (founded in 1980 by Lee Baxandall, an American [Germanist] scholar who studied at the Berliner Ensemble), located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but sponsoring Gatherings all over the country, free body culture, or its [less compulsive] American variant - clothing optionality - has become the norm at places in virtually every State in America, not only at private resorts but on parts of federally-owned public beaches as well.

Weather permitting, New Yorkers can (and thousands do) sunbathe or swim in the altogether every day at the eastern end of Jones Beach, at Lighthouse Beach (and several other beaches) on Fire Island, or on Gunnison Beach in Sandy Hook, in northern New Jersey. Police and rangers regularly patrol these beaches without even blinking an eye at the prevalent nudity of beachgoers, who conscientiously see to it that sexual misbehavior is consistently less of a problem there than on many "textile beaches."

What's more, thanks in part to the legislative and lobbying efforts of the Naturist Action Committee, women in many States, including New York, have the right to go topfree (a much better translation of "oben ohne" than "topless," as it implies freedom, rather than deprivation) anywhere that men can. [The Topfree Equal Rights Association, founded by Dr. Paul Rapoport (, is working to extend that right to other States and Canada as well.]

Heidi Keller acknowledges the existence of that right, but notes that no one seems to exercise it. She's just been looking in the wrong places. Topfree picnics in the park and clothing optional cruises in the harbor don't happen every day. But they do happen. [And not just in "nudist colonies" or pagan festivals, such as one in Sherman, NY, near the Chatauqua Institute, July 25-28. There was a very successful topfree picnic in Dewitt Park in Ithaca, NY this past July 18.

The Northeast Naturist Festival meets at Empire Haven in Moravia, NY the second weekend of every August. And for the past five years, the Eastern Naturist Gathering has taken over the lush Eastover Resort in Lee, Mass. for a clothing-optional week in the Berkshires near Tanglewood. This year, The Naturist Society's Opera/Musical Theatre Special Interest Group (founded in 1989) will present, on August 22, a uniquely Jewish program onstage at Eastover entitled "Naked Klezmer," featuring works of Goldfaden, Ellstein, Bock & Harnick, Judd Woldin, Tom Lehrer, and a brand-new song cycle based on "Jewish Haiku" which begins: "In the beginning/No one wore any clothing./Then there was Loehmanns'!" and concludes: "Is one Nobel Prize/So much to ask from a child/After all I've done!?" - sung to the tune of "Dayenu."

For further information, please contact The Naturist Society at 920-426-5009 or on the web at]

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