Naked tween essayists and other terrible ideas from mid-90s nudist magazines
Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
Seven issues of The American Sunbathing Association Bulletin
Date: 1992 - 1996
Discovered at: An estate sale that included noting else odd whatsoever
Like cockfighters and Tea Party protesters, America's nudists spend a lot of time insisting that their batshit hobby is a natural and wholesome expression of our most vital freedoms. Your Crap Archvist has nothing against the olds gathering together in isolated compounds to let their freak sacs fly.
Still, as I paged through this stack of mid-nineties issues of The American Sunbathing Association Bulletin, I found myself wanting to grab the nearest nudist and shout, "If you want to win Americans to your cause, stop running photos of naked kids."
Wait. Yuck. I wouldn't actually grab a nudist.
The December '92 issue runs on its cover buck-naked kids with foam reindeer antlers on their heads. November offers an Abu Ghraib-style photo of four nude apple-bobbers with their faces submerged in a bucket of water. September features a nine year-old's doodle as he brandishes his "Kid of the Day" certificate. March of '93's cover showcases a naked 4H-looking gal cradling a pair of Pekineses beneath the caption "It Must be Puppy Love."
Creepiest of all is a photo of nude 13 year-old Jennifer reading her award-winning speech "What Nudism Means to Me." Jennifer writes,
"So many of my friends think nudism is strange or weird or something, but a lot of my friends think it is cool. It's kind of scary to tell your friends, because you have no idea how they'll act. But if they act strange, or don't want to be your friend just because you're a nudist, they're not worth having as a friend. If they're gonna put you down for being a nudist they'll put you down for anything you do different and they don't know how to really be a friend."
Of course, nude public speaking is an essential part of growing up.
On every page, the newsletters insist all this is good family fun.
Of course, this photo is just pages away from an ad for Hedonism II.
[NOTE: In the interest of modesty, I have touched up the photos with my collection of Colorforms.]
The Sunbathing Association is now the more-honest-sounding American Association for Nude Recreation. Judging by their web-site, the AANR has learned not to center its marketing efforts around nude children, which are pretty much the only thing America hates more than Jay Leno.
Anyway, here's more highlights from a pile of the Association's old newsletters.
Best photo caption: "[NAME WITHHELD] finds that regardless of winter's big chill, he can still enjoy his favorite nude activity."
I repeat: HIS FAVORITE NUDE ACTIVITY.
The layout is 90's newspaper professional, with photos of popular columnists.
To this end, there's several photos of happy nudes collecting Toys for Tots or adopting disadvantaged families. In fact, nudity is presented as so unrelated to sex that an article about "Crazy Dayz" in Federal Way, Washington, shows cheerful naked folks chainsawing car-bumpers into sculpture and promises "They have more fun than monkeys."
In the February '96 issue, president Leinite Moore chides the AANR that its emphasis on "family" nude recreation might have left single mothers feeling unwelcome. A December '92 editorial by Mike & Theresa Craley titled "How to Recruit Single Women" explains, "Recruiting single women takes times and patience." They write:
"Because single women will feel much more comfortable taking the initial plunge into nude recreation with a couple than a single male, we need to show them the positive aspects of nude recreation and be patient while we do it."
Failing that, you could make them do it while very, very young, so they don't know anything else.
Also, enjoy these accidentally risque headlines:
"Nudism on the Rise"
"Membership Enhancement Now on Sale"
"Trustees Stand Firm on on Principles and Commitment"
"Headway Increases at NRPA Congress"
And, what the hell, here's one more!
[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice's sister paper, The Pitch.]
The mighty Studies in Crap e-mail list updates you whenever a new SiC post hits. Sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.