David Bruce: Nudity Anecdotes

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Groucho Marx used to tell a story about a beautiful Ziegfeld girl who liked to have a few drinks before and during a show. In the show, she would sit on a swing, and swing while singing a little song. The words of the song didn’t matter, for the real attraction was her beauty. In Philadelphia, she received some applause for her act, but at the show’s Boston opening, she received ovation after ovation, and she did eight encores of singing her song and swinging in her swing. Her fellow members, the director, and the stage hands stood in the wings, wondering about this sudden burst of enthusiasm for this particular act, but the men in the audience knew exactly why they were applauding. The Ziegfeld girl had had a little more than usual to drink that day, and she had forgotten to put on her underwear.

In the early 1960s Royal Shakespeare Society production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, actress Judi Dench appeared nearly nude as Titania. She wore pointed ears, a strand of ivy, green body makeup, a chamois leather G-string, and two small chamois patches over her nipples. While filming at the lake in Compton Verney, the director wanted rain to appear to be falling on the lake, so a fireman was hired to train a hose on the lake. However, the fireman saw Ms. Dench’s lack of costume, did a double-take, and accidentally trained the hose on her, propelling her into the lake. Getting out of the lake, Ms. Dench fell in the mud, which removed most of her green body makeup, as well as the patches covering her nipples. No filming was done that day.

At the beginning of the NCAA gymnastics meet in 1974, a man walked out onto the floor exercise mat wearing nothing but pantyhose — over his head. Otherwise completely nude, he performed a roundoff, a back handspring, and a back somersault, then he raced away with a police officer in pursuit. After managing to elude the police officer, he removed the pantyhose mask, got dressed, and returned to watch the competition. The nude gymnast was Jim Culhane, who made $35 in dares for performing his stunt.

When Judge Roy Hofheinz wanted support to build a domed stadium in Houston, he took a bunch of VIPs out on a junket to visit some major league stadiums before stopping at Las Vegas, where the VIPs enjoyed a show filled with topless showgirls. Morris Frank was among the VIPs. When the VIPs arrived home again, Mr. Frank looked out of the plane window, saw his wife waiting for him, then complained, “Well, it sure was great seeing all them major-league boobies, but it’s back to the minors today.”

Director John Waters once tired to track down stripper Blaze Starr so he could ask her to make an appearance in one of his films. Finally, he tracked down Blaze’s sister, who was acting as her agent. Blaze’s sister asked if nudity would be involved in her role. Because Mr. Waters knew that Blaze must be in her 60s at that time, he replied that there wasn’t any. “Oh,” said Blaze’s sister, “she wouldn’t be interested then,” and she hung up on him.

Sometimes what you think you see is not what you actually see. To create an illusion of nudity, female dancers sometimes wear flesh-colored costumes on which nipples and navels have been painted. Sometimes what you think you see is what you actually see. In 1978, Vivi Flindt stripped off all of her clothing to perform the dance of Salome for the Royal Danish Ballet. Her husband, Flemming Flindt, danced the role of Herod.

A model was starting to change clothes when she saw an elderly window washer outside her window. She decided to give him a show and took off her blouse. No reaction. She then took off her skirt. No reaction. She took off the rest of her clothes, then walked over to the window and stood directly in front of the window washer. He asked, “What’s the matter, lady? Haven’t you ever seen a window washer before?”

After having a mastectomy, comedian Danitra Vance (1959-1994) went on stage and performed as the character Harriet Hetero the Feminist Stripper. At one point in her act, she stripped off her shirt to reveal one breast. Over the place where her other breast had been was a taped X. Why did she do this? She answered, “I had to show that this body is okay.”

When Harpo Marx first met George Bernard Shaw, Harpo had just finished a swim in the nude and was wearing only a towel around his waist. Mr. Shaw pretended to be going to shake hands with Harpo, but instead he jerked Harpo’s towel off, then, with Harpo standing naked, said, “And this is Mrs. Shaw.” The two men became friends.

I usually don’t like celebrity tell-all gossip, but this is a funny story, even though I’m not going to tell you the names of the celebrities involved. A famous baseball player once boasted to a famous actress about a particular part of his body. For the baseball player’s next birthday, the actress sent him a ruler and a mirror.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), a traveling preacher, was a strong African-American woman, and she was dogged by rumors that she was really a man who dressed in women’s clothing. Once, she bared one of her breasts before an audience, then said, “It is not my shame, but yours that I should do this.”

Once, a couple of people streaked stark naked across the baseball diamond of a game Yogi Berra was playing. Later, his wife asked him if the streakers had been male or female. Yogi replied, “I don’t know — they had bags over their faces.”

The American musical Hair contains a brief nude scene. When Hair was exported to England, critic John Osborne said, “There will probably be a quick rash of hairy American filth, but it shouldn’t threaten the existence of cheerful, decent, serious British filth.”

When a man streaked across the stage during the Academy Awards, Oscar presenter David Niven said, “Let’s not pay any attention to him. All he is doing is showing his shortcomings.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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