San Francisco Board of Supervisors candidate George Davis campaigned in Times Square completely naked earlier this week. He lacks clothes; geographic literacy, all the more so. If not for the politician’s mistaken belief that the “Manhattanization” of his city includes New Yorkers winning the vote in San Francisco elections, the nothing-to-hide politician might have earned my support. Rare is the honest politician who bares all.
It’s plain strange to campaign on the East Coast for an office on the West Coast, to say nothing of doing so with one’s junk staring at passersby. Davis regards nudity as “more comfortable, natural, and free.” For whom? Sadly, the people who most want to be naked are the people we most want to be clothed. Their freedom oppresses us.
Davis insists that he possesses the right to free expression through nudity. The police, ever jealous of their own rights, express their disapproval by periodically arresting him. Davis conceded during his mayoral bid a few years back, “Because of the harassment I haven’t been able to run as an effective campaign as I’d have liked.” A Latin immigrant, perhaps ignorant of the folkways of San Francisco, interrupted the television interview to protest the protester’s presence: “He’s a person that’s not allowed around here—too many children.”
Where? San Francisco, overpopulated by George Davises, has halved its 18-and-unders from about 25 percent of residents fifty years ago to roughly 13 percent today. The absence of children paradoxically compels adults to act like them.
“I’m running for the seat that was formerly held by Harvey Milk,” Davis explained Wednesday in the Big Apple, where sales of “loosie” cigarettes recently brought a father of six extrajudicial capital punishment but a penis escaping its pants-prison elicited no such police posse. “Harvey Milk was the first elected gay official in America in the 1970s. If elected I will be the first ‘out’ body-freedom activist elected in America.”
He fails history as well as geography. Several uncloseted homosexuals preceded Milk in public office, including Massachusetts state legislator Elaine Noble. More importantly, Milk preceded Davis as a naked freedom activist in word if not in deed. The since-slain city supervisor told one audience, “I know of no Commandment that says, ‘Thou shall not walk around naked.’”
Not a theologian myself, I can’t gainsay his biblical scholarship.
The Bay Area has a proud tradition of naked shamelessness. In 1968, a hands-up, clothes-off Eldridge Cleaver surrendered to police buck naked to alleviate any suspicion that he might have been hiding a gun after the West Oakland shootout. Six years later, San Francisco artist Robert Opel famously displayed his “shortcomings” to David Niven at the Oscars. And to this very day, PCP enthusiasts from Richmond to Berkeley and beyond disrobe upon angel dust’s revelation of the invisible bugs accosting from their secret nests inside one’s garments.
As Davis’s Bay Area constituents know well, legitimate reasons exist for public nudity: to surrender without arousing suspicions, to seek a laugh, to shed the creepy crawlies revealed by hallucinogenic narcotics, and perhaps to night swim. Politicizing nudity takes the fun away.
Davis could overcome his one-man movement’s factual missteps if only he relied on the right messengers. Employing such silent spokeswomen as Beyoncé, Danica Patrick, and Hayden Panettiere would surely do more to advance the cause than Mr. Davis’s ongoing impression of Donald Sutherland in Animal House. But what fun would it be for Mr. Davis then?
The tic to publicize the private so overwhelms that invasions of privacy by the government, corporations, and the media practically follow invitations. The San Francisco politician’s crusade meshes well with a TMI age of YouTube confessionals, Twitter Tourette’s syndrome, and such reality television fare as VH1’s Dating Naked, TLC’s Buying Naked, and Discovery’s Naked and Afraid. Alas, not every exhibitionist rates a voyeur.