Last summer, I commented on the desnuda phenomenon in New York's Times Square. The mostly naked ladies wearing mostly body paint seemed to appear with the nice weather and the summer crowds. If you wanted a picture of yourself with one of them, you could arrange it for about $20.
Mostly the desnuda customers were men or teenage boys. Local merchants and city officials were dismayed and tried without success to stop it, but the painted ladies were popular and reported to be taking in as much as $300 daily, or about five times as much as the Elmos and Spidermans who had been working Times Square for several years.*
Sex sells, of course.
Summer High Points
-- A 46-year-old bank executive from out of town ventured over to Times
Square to have himself photographed with two desnudas. When he
reached into his back pocket to pull out his wallet and give them a tip,
he discovered his pocket had been picked. The two ladies said he then
hit them. They dared him to find his wallet on their persons. We know
the desnudas have "assistants" or "boyfriends" (or pimps) to
hold their clothes and protect them. My guess is one of those gentlemen
got the wallet, but who knows? The matter is now in court.
-- One desnuda and her "boyfriend" had the misfortune to attract the
attention of two plainclothes NYPD detectives. They enticed the officers
to a private location, where the boyfriend sold one cop illegal drugs
and the lovely lady quoted the other a price for a blow job. Legal
-- Another desnuda, perhaps whose babysitter bailed on her, brought
her two-year-old daughter to work with her one day. The girl was attired
(or perhaps unattired) like her mother, with no shirt but an artistically
rendered heart painted on her toddler chest.
Surprisingly, not even one man in the louche Times Square crowd was
interested in paying for a topless mother-daughter photo.
A police officer, one of the many who now prowl the area, urged the
mom and child to put their clothes on and go home.
-- At least one female newspaper reporter got painted up and strutted through
Times Square for a desnuda-for-a-day story. A second woman writer, for a
weekly, participated in a nude body painting event in Bryant Park and also
filed a first-person story.
Both women appeared to be good sports, and pictures of both appeared
in their respective newspapers. I assume neither was pressured by editors
to take on her assignment.
By early August, the squares in city government, the police department and the Times Square merchants association had had enough of the naked women, cartoon characters and beggars who pestered tourists and office workers in always-crowded Times Square.
The squares formed a working group that was immediately dubbed the Topless Task Force. After several meetings, the TTF recommended new rules for 2016. They suggested setting aside specific areas -- one for cartoon characters, one for desnudas -- to let tourists seek out their preferred photo friends rather than the other way around, and also to improve traffic flow for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who for some reason flock to Times Square each day.
To my knowledge, no official action has been taken yet on the proposal.
Still Not Over
And then the weather began to cool, as it does in the autumn. The summer waves of vacationing families had gone home and the children were back in school.
Surely, I thought, this was the end of the desnudas story, at least until spring 2016.
Alas, no. The desnuda phenomenon seems to have moved into popular culture. My bet is that nubile and mostly naked working women will be appearing at other popular gathering spots in warmer climes over the winter and in cities nationwide next summer.
A couple entrepreneurial desnudas and their male assistant already are pitching for paid private appearances And, of course, a reality TV show.
One article said this:
"The women have also been contacted about appearing on a live Times
Square show on New Year's Eve as well.
"'Just like the showgirls from Vegas, the desnudas will become the trademark of
'New York City,' (one) added."
(If the mayor read the above, my bet is that it made his head explode.)
Advertising professionals, always looking for new ideas, have taken up the desnuda as well. I found this promotion for a new perfume in a magazine last month.
Is this a great country or what?
*When I mentioned the earnings of Times Square photo-posers, I spoke only of their gross incomes. Naturally, when these workers file their tax returns in April, they will make Social Security and Medicare contributions, as well as federal and state (and possibly NYC city) income tax payments, which will reduce their take-home pay by a certain amount.