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MEMO to Gay Pride:
Let us take our clothes off --
Or we'll die of boredom!

Why really savvy Gay Pride Committees allow nice people to be naked in their parade

E
Editorials

June 2001

OPINION
by JIM W.

MEMO

To:

Pride Committee Sponsors

From:

Long-range Planning Task Force

Re:

Parade boredom

Dear Pride Committee Sponsors:

We have a problem: Gay Pride is boring!

Drag queenRemember when drag queens were controversial? They always got into the paper. They always got cheered when they strutted by. That always drew angry letters from 'straight' gays who didn't like things femme or bizarre.

But no more. Drag queens are old news. Drag queens are respectable. They sing songs, cash royalty checks, retire to Florida. Nowadays, drag queens don't get headlines or draw photographers unless they kill someone or make Mr. Blackwell's "Worst Dressed" list.

Gay Pride is also losing its entertainment value. In fact, the whole idea of a Gay Pride celebration is just sooo twentieth century. It was invented by baby boomers, for baby boomers. Everyone's complaining, saying things like:

  • "Pride's not the same as it used to be."
  • "It's just a bunch of corporations trying to sell us stuff."
  • "It used to be cutting-edge, crazy, unpredictable -- and now it's just so... Oprah.'"
  • "Will someone wake us up when it's all over?"

In short, it's yesterday's revolution.

It's your job, as a member of the Pride Committee, to fix this. Want to get back into the headlines? Want the parade that YOU pay for to get back to being "Must-See TV" -- with film at eleven? All at no additional cost -- to you and the companies you represent?

 

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Editorial

Page 2

We have a solution: PUBLIC NUDITY!

The very fact that responsible, forward-thinking, corporate America has taken Gay Pride to its bosom is itself a symptom of the problem. So many alcoholic beverages sponsor so many gay events that the liquor companies are fighting over little shreds of the market, such as gay rodeo roundups and bingo nights! But if Absolut Vodka becomes merely the "Official Glass-Bottle Dildo of the Gay Games", and if the 2002 San Francisco Summer of Love becomes the "Wet Lubricant Lite 2002 Summer of Love/SF", then there the very real problem that rebellion itself will become unhip -- and commercially unexploitable.

And if Gay Pride has become unexploitable, then why continue to march through all that heat, humidity, and yawning?

What we need -- and you need -- is a truly cutting-edge movement to draw attention BACK to Pride marches -- and, indirectly, the corporations which sponsor them. Something which remains controversial to gay and straight society at large, but which is harmless (underneath it all) and easy to understand. We need to find a cultural issue which has an aura of innocence and the glow of insider hipness -- a profile of excitement and danger blended with familiarity and hominess. Something which will épater the bourgeois while it rings the cash registers of your storekeepers.

Three nude marchersWe, the Long Range Planning Task Force of the Pride Committee, humbly submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that the new movement we need to exploit is this:

Gay Male/Lesbian Nudism!

It's an idea whose time has come -- to a retailer near you. Just look at the following list of emotional associations (a list developed by our market researchers after a marathon of focus-grouping), any one of which could easily be exploited to sell this population more of your products:

  • Let it all hang out
  • Youthful rebellion
  • College streaking
  • The Academy
    Awards streaker
  • Suntan lotion
  • Ancient Olympics
  • All-over tan
  • Bonding
  • Thirst
  • Sweat
  • Gatorade
  • Woodstock
  • Freedom
  • Athleticism
  • Individuality
  • Self-expression
  • Mom and Dad
    don't "get" it
  • Self-acceptance
  • Skinny-dipping
  • The ol' swimming
    hole
  • College hi-jinx
  • Norman Rockwell
  • Boy was I drunk
    last night
  • A night out
    with the boys
  • A slumber party
    with the girls
  • Sexy innocence

Man oh man -- what a list! Every one of them a winner!! Any forward-thinking sponsor should be willing to pay big bucks for the chance to associate themselves with a list like that.

Now we know what you're about to say: Nudity is too controversial. It doesn't fit our corporate image. The police might stop it. Someone might boycott our products.

Oh, piffle. Nonsense! Let's look at each of those objections one by one.  

 

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Editorial

Page 3

Too controversial?

That's not a bug; that's a feature (as the computer guys used to say). Of course it's controversial! That gets people's attention! It gets press coverage! It wakes people up!

Example: San Francisco's "Bay to Breakers" race. Each year, a couple hundred men and women run the race naked -- and they're always covered in the media. Why? Because it's controversial, and also sweet and innocent. One year, the race's official sponsors were the San Francisco Examiner, Southwest Airlines, Hyatt hotels, CBS channel 5, KGO newstalk radio, a bank, a water bottler, and a brewer. They all know that controversy sells!

Nude runnerWhy else, for example, have a rule which specifically forbids nude running? (Their website mentions this rule prominently.) Everyone knows it happens, and everyone looks the other way. (Figuratively, not literally -- in reality, everyone is looking for the naked participants and everyone is a bit embarassed that they have this interest.)

Why? Because making it illegal fools a few right-wingers, makes the lawyers less worried... and increases the tension. It keeps things a bit controversial -- just the right amount of controversial!

Wrong image?

Look, it's true: ultraconservative companies should not sponsor an event with public nudity. Gillette? Stay home. Amway? Nope.

But CBS and Southwest Airlines are not exactly ideology-crazed socialists, eh? No, quite the contrary. If your company can make some money off of being hip and unconventional, associating your company's image with safe, sane, and consensual nudity is a wonderful fit.

The police?

Look, we're not dealing with the Gestapo here, right? Most police departments will go along with whatever an event's sponsors decide is appropriate. And most big-city politicians don't want to upset the gay community by raising arrests at a Gay Pride march. Even in Los Angeles -- where we'd have to contend with the LAPD -- it's possible to get around the jerks. In L.A., the parade stays within the city limits of West Hollywood, and West Hollywood has been smart enough to get its police protection from the county sheriff, not the city's LAPD. So what's the problem??

A boycott?

Oh, grow up. Wildmon has tried his boycotts and he failed. Yes, you may have to hire a public-relations firm. But boycotts generate more publicity, and as long as they spell your product's name correctly, everything will be fine. Just trot out someone -- a Christian nudist, let's say -- who fondly recalls the ol' swimming hole, and leave it at that. Norman Rockwell -- America's favorite sentimental artist -- has not one but several paintings involving skinny-dipping. Conservative Americans are less conservative on non-sexual nudity than you might think!

 

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Editorial

Page 4

Clothes manufacturers?

They'll survive. First, they won't lose any business from the nude marchers; nudists will remain in the minority for quite awhile and plenty of clothes will get sold in the meantime. Second, which clothes? Do you know how many backpackers hike nude? (A lot!) Nike can sell plenty of shoes. JanSport can sell plenty of backpacks.

T-shirts, leather jackets, hats... all of the smart ones will leap at the opportunity to associate their products with nudists -- for the news commentaries alone ("Oh look, it's nudists wearing clothes!").

Anyway, how many clothes manufacturers are sponsoring our Pride march -- or anyone's Pride march -- today? We can't think of even one.

Case closed.


In Conclusion

Change always involves risk. The trick is to take the risks that are worth taking, and then to do your best to minimize them. The risks here are very low, and the payoff is huge:

  • Putting the Pride parade back on the front page.
  • Getting color coverage, and a big photo to boot.
  • Putting the Pride parade back into people's mouths -- around the water cooler, at the bar, in the coffeehouses.
  • Continuing excitement, building from year to year, as people wonder "how many"??

Of course, we're not suggesting that we ask the leather boys to fornicate in the streets. They already fornicate with their clothes on, and that doesn't seem to upset too many people, eh? All we'd recommend is that we subtly allow nudity for the gay guys who like being non-sexually naked.

If we HAVE to keep the official rule against nakedness on the books, we just won't enforce it against those who police themselves and know where to draw the line. Courts and juries may have trouble writing hard-and-fast rules about what's sexual nudity and what's non-sexual nudity, but in practice the distinction is easy. Is a guy trying to get hard on purpose, and for substantial periods of time? Sorry, can't allow that. Is a guy a bit excited but very embarrassed and losing his stiffness? Borderline; probably OK. Are dicks or breasts just flopping around loosely? Kewl, dude -- let's have more!

Keep in mind, of course, that straight guys have tons of lesbian fantasies. So if the Dykes on Bikes start doing their thing it would be great for business. Every heterosexual male in the country would be talking about it the next morning! Not even Janet Jackson can compete with two dozen bare-breasted women.

But let's not go there. We don't need to go there. Just wait for the local gay naked group to put in their application, then stamp it APPROVED. It's as simple as that!

 

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