I was contacted by a guy who runs a nudist camp. He asked me to be a judge in an American Idol-style competition called "Ultimate Idol." The winner would get an iPod and go to the semifinals at another nudist camp. I told him I was flattered but that I write about parties, that the only things I write about swinging around are piñatas.
When he told me that the contestants would be partying at the campground bar after the contest, I agreed to do it.
The nudist camp was in DeAnza Springs, about an hour east of San Diego. At the gate, two vehicles blocked the entrance. When one of the cars left, I drove in through the exit. Within a minute, I saw blue and red lights in my rearview mirror.
It looked like a cop car. After going through my glove compartment for my license and registration, I turned to find a naked man at my window. He had a hat with a badge on it and asked me what I was doing. I wanted to ask him the same thing. I figured, as long as he doesn't frisk me, we won't have a problem. He radioed in and then let me go.
I drove to the offices and thought the place looked like a regular campground. Then I saw several people barbecuing -- naked. There was an old lady gardening -- naked. Normal activities but without clothes.
A couple kids rode by on their bikes and they were dressed. Seeing them kind of upset me, though. If adults want to go live on a resort like this and run around naked, fine. But bringing kids into the mix bothered me.
I brought this up with one woman I met from L.A. She comes down here every other weekend. She said, "My daughter is 15.... When we brought her here last year, we were going swimming. She said she forgot her sunscreen, and she came back topless. I have the coolest daughter."
My first thought was to ask how much sunscreen they go through, but I told her that I didn't think it was "cool." We ended up having a civil debate about it.
We changed the subject, and she told me she was singing two songs at the contest. I told her that in my three-page list of rules, it said I couldn't speak with contestants. "Oh, I'm not competing," she said. "I'm performing between the contestants. I signed up too late to qualify."
Another contestant was complaining that she didn't want any photos taken of her. I thought she said it was because she was going to pursue a career in music and she didn't want this to hinder her. (That made me laugh when I heard her sing -- she couldn't.)
I asked a resident about the trailers on the campground. "If it's 399 square feet, you get a DMV license instead of a real estate one." He explained the laws for room additions and rent prices.
When I met the owner of the grounds in his office, I was surprised to find him dressed. I noticed the photos of his dogs on the wall. They looked unusual. He told me one was an Spinone Italiano, which sounded like a dessert. The other was a Bouvier des Flanders. I said, "You should have one of those hairless dogs." He said, "Yeah. We've heard that before."
When I walked through the cafeteria, I noticed all the cooks wore clothes. I imagined they'd be naked except for aprons and hairnets.
I saw a Polynesian woman walking by with a plate of food and nothing but a lei around her neck. I smiled at her. She didn't smile back. I wasn't sure why -- I made sure I kept eye contact.
A few people were talking about a Sean Penn movie called Into the Wild. He called the resort needing 100 extras. One guy said, "We're going to go to the theaters when it comes out. When we're on screen, I'm going to stand up and say 'Those are our asses!'" Someone else said, "Other people will just think you're the ass for talking during the movie."
I lit a cigar and sat down at the judges' table. I looked over the rules. I saw that one of the things I was scoring on was "costume and attire." Easy, I thought, everyone's getting a zero on that. I wondered if Simon Cowell were here if he'd say, "How could you possibly go around naked when you look like that?"
Most of the performers did have on outfits that fit the songs. When Judith, the woman I talked to earlier, performed "Crazy," she was topless.
The MC of the event told jokes and sang a few songs, including "Folsom County Blues." He pronounced my name wrong when he introduced me, and the crowd started chanting for me to take my clothes off. I turned around and told the front row "I don't even get naked when I take a shower. I'm certainly not going to here."
The two other judges removed their clothing, and I was the middle of a naked sandwich.
When I walked backstage, I found a tall, muscular guy named Jeff shadow boxing. I asked him if he was a fighter. "No. I'm singing, and I'm trying to get rid of the pre-show jitters." Someone suggested, "Try alcohol."
I pointed out a guy in the crowd wearing a penguin outfit and was told that he was a professional wrestler in the '50s and '60s. He went by the name "Dr. Death." He told me, "I had to wear a mask when I wrestled, because I was a school counselor. I would've been fired if they found out."
I was surprised all the singers were so talented. One guy was having microphone problems when he sang "Turn the Page," but when he did a Skynyrd song, he nailed it.
After the competition, the other judges and I disputed who the top three should be. The one woman we all had on our list we named the winner. She didn't have the best voice, but as she sang Janis Joplin songs, the crowd went nuts. And she had good stage presence. I could tell a few of the other contestants were mad. One of the judges leaned in to me and said, "We screwed up, didn't we?"