FORUM AT NATURIST RESORT GOES OFF WITHOUT HITCH
Date: Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Edition: Palm Beach Section: LOCAL Page: 1B
Byline: HOWARD GOODMAN COMMENTARY
It is great to watch the body politic put democracy in action, but maybe not so much when the body isn't wearing clothes.
That was plain to see at last week's candidate forum at the Sunsport Gardens Family Naturist Resort in Loxahatchee Groves.
The hopefuls for the Groves' first Town Council were fully dressed, mind you.
But moderator and the nudist camp's owner Morley Schloss wore only a pale beaded necklace.
And about a dozen men and women in the audience of about 100 also were clad only in the skin God gave them, plus some more picked up at the dessert table. A dozen other folk were in sarong or towel -- feeling overdressed, I imagined.
It was an unlikely meeting of potbellies and pothole politics. Private parts and public policy. News people and nude people.
Although photographers, including some from national publications, snapped away, business was conducted as if it were nothing to take questions from people dressed in nothing.
If anyone felt weird that a naked woman was signaling "time's up" when candidates rambled too long about traffic noise, police response times or unused sewer capacity, no one showed it.
"Not here in the Groves," said Bill Louda, a candidate for Seat 2.
Louda, a teacher of chemistry and environmental science at Florida Atlantic University who wears a cowboy hat, is the kind of idiosyncratic character who's drawn to the 5-acre lots, dirt roads and dread of city life of Loxahatchee Groves. Residents recently voted to incorporate, the better to protect their rural, live-and-let-live lifestyle from fast-approaching development.
Out here are nurseries and horse farms. Dirt bikers and NRA members. That guy who keeps pet tigers.
Individualism is so venerated, it seems only natural that one of the main local institutions is a 42-year-old naturalist camp.
About 90 people, including 14 children, live at Sunsport Gardens year-round -- the biggest single community in the town of 3,100, according to Schloss. Another 100 people are currently wintering at the resort.
Members of the Loxahatchee Landowners' Association are used to stopping at Sunsport Gardens for the annual progressive dinner. When Schloss sent out e-mails inviting the 10 candidates to a community forum, two said yes within a minute. Only one, Toni Vorsteg, citing religious and moral objections, declined.
I went out to Sunsport a couple of hours before Thursday's event to look around.
It looked a bit like Eden, if Adam and Eve lived in a tropical trailer park.
Men were standing in small groups and talking in front of their mobile homes, just shooting the breeze -- and no doubt feeling the breeze in places where men tend to be sensitive.
Being in the buff, I soon saw, was more important at Sunsport than being buff. Unlike South
Beach or Boca, no one seemed shy about showing off their imperfections.
"It's all about body acceptance," said Anne Fischer, a nine-year resident who chatted amiably and bare-breasted.
I kept seeing naked men doing things you don't expect to see naked men doing. Paying a bill in the office. Changing an overhead light bulb. Giving an interview.
Well, to be completely accurate, Dick Pivetz, the camp spokesman, was wearing a shirt, open to the nether regions. "Sunsport is like one extended family," said the retired Air Force computer analyst. "The people are just incredible."
Here for the winter, he wakes up at dawn for a three-mile walk on a nature trail, au naturel.
At 2 p.m., it's time for petanque, a boccie-like game played with steel balls. After a swim in the pool, where a sign commands, "Nude Bathing Only," it's time for dinner.
It did sound relaxing.
"We are so spoiled," said Robbie Robinson, a semi-retired marketer. He said he hates going out to buy groceries: "You have to put your clothes on."
The men said it was liberating to shed their social disguises. "No one knows who's a banker or carpenter or what," Pivetz said.
I must report that the forum drew practically a full house.
Quick. Alert the political scientists.
Sun-Sentinel photo/ Jim Rassol: Murray Schloss moderates, immodestly