Naked News

Forging a fast track to the front page

Someone once explained the difference between the terms "nude" and "naked" by saying, if it's art, the person's nude, if it's just embarrassing, the person's naked.

Perhaps this is why so few nude folks are making the news these days. Only the naked seem to be garnering any press.

A sampling of recent headlines from around the nation includes: "Naked Iowa Man Charged with Drunken Driving," "Naked Man Descends from Fort Worth Billboard as Storm Approaches," "Naked Man Discovered in Newark Library Men's Room," and just a week ago, "Naked Man Claiming to be Jesus Causes Five-Car Pile-Up in Connecticut."

I've said for years, if you're determined to make news, you needn't go to great lengths, simply engage in behavior that's relatively common but do so without clothes. I promise the reporters will follow.

I don't think a man claiming to be Jesus causes a pile-up if he's wearing a T-shirt and jeans. It's nakedness that does the damage. It's nakedness that gets our heads swiveling and our journalists typing. In fact, it has me typing right now.

I doubt the term "naked" made headlines a generation ago nearly as often as it does today. Somewhere along the line, average folks figured out naked equals news.

PETA protests get covered when PETA members dump their duds. Charity calendars make news when those featured do the same. Bare a bod, buy a headline. The most mundane activity will earn column inches if done naked.

Prime examples include "Toledo Woman Arrested for Mowing Her Lawn Naked," "Redondo Beach Skateboarder Apologizes for Naked Ride at Shopping Mall," "Naked Farmington Woman Demands Fast Food at Drive-Up Window."

But mundane isn't fun, it's banal. Fun is when naked behavior has at least one added twist. The best examples in recent months have been the dead naked man found draped over a whale's back at Sea World (no sign of trauma); the naked Colorado man tased by police after claiming to be a "terminator sent from a distant planet"; and my favorite, a naked man, who appeared to be tied to a rock, found by local teens behind a high school in Nevada. The teens asked the man if he was truly tied up, and he said yes. They then asked if he needed to be untied, and he said no. When police arrived they asked the man what he was doing there and he explained, "I saw some buzzards flying overhead and I wanted to see what they'd do."

Being bound and courting buzzards is entertaining in and of itself, but it's the naked part that earns the headline. And while added elements of absurdity enhance a tale, some naked newsmakers are notable for their simple pedestrian rationality. Last month, for instance, a naked Georgia man was seen driving his car in a shopping mall parking lot. When police pulled him over, the man said he was dealing the best he could with an inoperable automobile air conditioner. Meanwhile, a naked Wisconsin man caught walking through his neighborhood told police his wool suit "had grown itchy."

A recent Vanity Fair issue included an article with the headline "Confessions of a Naked Sushi Model." The author had recently taken on a job at a local restaurant, allowing patrons to use her freshly scrubbed, naked body as a sushi serving tray, with her most intimate parts covered in food or light fabric. I was surprised the editors didn't opt for the term "nude" in this particular instance, but apparently even they couldn't bring themselves to call it art. In the end it was little more than a weakly novel way for the hopelessly bored to fit a meal into their evening.

Actually, the danger with most of this nakedness is how it's going to make the absence of clothing itself all too boring. The great thrill of nudity used to be its relative scarcity. You see too many bodies in too many stages of undress and the bar gets raised too high for the tingle of surprise or the tickle of excitement. One day it will be only the exposed who feel any rush of stimulation. The rest of us will experience little more than aesthetic pangs of revulsion or vague concerns over a person's mental health. We will all have seen too much.

I think seeing too much is what the editors of The Onion had in mind when they recently featured this headline on their front page, dateline Minneapolis: "Naked Man Only One Comfortable with His Body."  

 
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