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Barely Entertaining

by Stephen Lautens


June 1, 2001

Spring must be in the air - everyone in Canada is getting naked. Or so it seems. 

For one of the shyest countries in the world, Canadians appear to be removing their clothes in record numbers.

Take for example a group of women from Newfoundland. They decided the best way to raise money for the palliative care unit of the Western Memorial Regional Hospital was to take it all off and publish their photos in a charity calendar.

The media has been quick to point out that the Newfoundland pin-ups are all over 40, bless them. As a plus 40 myself I'm happy to hear there's a market for more mature flesh. Give Brittany Spears another 25 years and she'll really be something.

Anyway, I hope they raise a million bucks and nothing froze off during the Canadian photo session.

Early spring is not a time to be caught outside in Canada without your essentials covered. Some would ague that it's iffy even in summer. Add to that our basic embarrassment about the human body, the result no doubt of it being covered in thick woolens and mitts nine months of the year.

For some reason, Canada is also home to The Naked News - a web newscast of the day's top news stories, except it's presented by naked people. To be more precise, it's presented by news anchor Victoria Sinclair, three other women and a man. They begin the broadcast fully clothed and end up - well, naked.

You can see the immediate appeal, although I'm surprised it's a Canadian invention. For one thing, the heating costs for the studio alone must set them back a fortune, even if they do save a bundle on wardrobe.

Even though The Naked News is a genuine news broadcast, I'm not sure it's something I'd want to see Lloyd Robertson trying to compete with. I myself may occasionally write my column in pyjamas and bathrobe, but I don't want anyone looking for me to provide them with the full monty. At least my editors only expect me to fill a small space.

Finally, last weekend over two thousand people got naked in Montreal to be photographed lying in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art. They only expected five hundred volunteers, but got nearly five times that many. I've always said Montreal is a friendly place.

American photographer Spencer Tunick has been going from city to city trying to get bunches of people naked in public for pictures to show how "vulnerable the body is in a hostile world". Well, you can't get too much more hostile than Canada. And if you're and artist trying to snap pictures of naked bodies in Canada, I hope you're in your blue period. If goosebumps are your thing, you've come to the right country.

Strangely enough, photographer Tunick was chased out of the City of New York and charged with public lewdness for taking pictures of naked models in public. The City of Montreal actually co-sponsored his naked photo shoot.

All I could think after looking at the pictures was how chilly the cobblestones looked in May. And what kind of small talk to you make with a total stranger lying naked on the pavement next to you for an hour or so?

Probably that typically Canadian greeting: "Cold enough for you?"

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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