Archives for category: art

So it’s nearly 2020. And how are we going into the new decade? Loudly.

You’re not really surprised, are you? No one has ever mistaken us for shrinking violets. We speak our minds, we raise our voices when change is needed in the world, and when it comes to leisure-time activities, it’s true that sometimes we like to just lie in the sun and read, but other times? Other times we like to make some noise.

That is how we found ourselves for the second year in a row taking over the largest room at Alphabet City’s best dive karaoke bar, Sing Sing on Avenue A.

What makes it a dive bar? Well, we love the hell out of it, but it’s not exactly for clean freaks. It’s a dark, grotty space, with the karaoke rooms located down a steep staircase in a dungeon-like basement. The walls are scarred and pockmarked, as if from all the decibels that have battered them, and no one wants to think about all the spills the floors have soaked up.

And yet — it’s a wonderful place. Warm when it’s cold out, and we’re not just talking temperature. (Though, yeah, we’re talking temperature too.)

This is the sort of place that, when we call up and say we want to bring two dozen topless women to belt “Macarthur Park” and “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Disco Inferno” and “Jump (For My Love),” they don’t ask any questions. They just take our drink orders and leave us to it.

Did we only sing old stuff off our parents’ vinyl? No way. But by the time we got to timelier fare, no one was keeping track of the tracks anymore. There was Gaga, there was Outkast. Some raps were rapped. But sometimes you just can’t beat “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics. We all wish we were Annie Lennox sometimes. I mean, come on.

What else went down? Well, halfway through the night the $1 pizza joint down the block delivered a stack of pies. There may have been some fancier food hiding somewhere in the room too. Port wine potato chips and such.

Selfies also got taken, solo and group.

But mostly it was a night for singing, for total abandon, for letting it all hang out with dear friends and showing the night and the winter and the dying year and expiring decade who’s boss.

It felt really, really good.

Cathartic in that wonderful way only pouring everything you’ve got into a mic can.

And why does being topless make karaoke better? Damned if we know. But being topless makes everything better. And we’re not so sure bottomless isn’t better still.

So, what do you think, are you going to join us next time? We’ve got an acroyoga class planned, a couple of figure drawing sessions, a possible baking adventure, a dinner, a D&D night. (Yes, a D&D night. What, you think only boy nerds like that stuff?) And all that’s before the thaw comes in the spring, at which point it’s outdoor time again!

If you’re an open-minded, freedom-loving woman in the New York area, we’d love to hear from you. Email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com or message us on Insta or Twitter.

And then come sing your heart out with us. It may not be Auld Lang Syne, but there’s no better way to ring in a new year.

Every so often we’re contacted by someone who wants us to take a look at something she or he has done. It might be a writer who would like us to read her book or an artist or photographer who’d like us to pose for pictures or, in one memorable case, a member of the Queens Economic Development Corporation eager to have us grace his borough rather than spending all our summer afternoons in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Generally, we politely say thank you but no. But once in a while something special catches our eye.

This summer, we heard from Deb, one of a trio of charming Canadian ladies who’ve spent the past 25 years doing various body-casting projects and more recently have created a cast-at-home kit you can use yourself to make permanent casts of…your nipples.

The kit is called Areola Art, and they sent us one to try out. It uses the same stuff dentists use to take impressions, and after mixing up a batch in a little plastic cup (feeling every inch a Girl Scout — the kit even comes with little wooden tongue depressors for stirring!), you bend forward, aim, and plop your boob down in the goop.

Yes, it’s cold. And squishy. And feels funny as it hardens. But not bad. And peeling it off is kinda fun. Then you mix up a batch of stone, fill the mold, let it harden, pull off the mold, and — voila!

The next step is to use the included set of paints and brush to add color and transform your little stone nipples into proper works of art. We didn’t take it quite that far — we were trying this out at a Very Special Indoor Event, and by the time our nipples had hardened, some other stuff was calling us away from the kitchen that we found rather hard to resist. (What was it? That’s a subject for another post.) But here are some examples of what other Areola Art customers have done with their nipples:

Would we recommend Areola Art? Absolutely. It’s a fun group activity at a party (if your parties are anything like ours), and the end results are kind of cool. Who wouldn’t want to see her nipples made permanent in stone? Look on my nips, ye mighty, and despair!

Our male friends might be interested as well. (You might just need a bigger kit.)

Cynthia Plaster Caster poses for a portrait at the Michael Mauney Studio in Chicago, IL, January 1969.

Fall is coming. As much as we might wish summer would last forever, next week it comes to an end. Yes, the temperatures are still poking up into the 70s most days, but pretty soon they’ll top out in the 60s, and then it’ll be 50s, and then we’ll all be wearing knit hats and the greenmarkets will be touting hot apple cider.

But we’re still hanging on to summer with both hands — we held an event in the park yesterday, and we think we can get in one last visit to our favorite rooftop sundeck, too.

Will it be as exceptionally well attended as this one was? Probably not. It’s easier to get people to come out and shed their clothes in August than September. But if anything can inspire us to strip down to the barest of bare essentials, it’s our little rooftop sanctuary.

What calls to us here? The relative privacy, for one thing. Though any guest of the hotel can use the roof, few ever do. And the easygoing, live-and-let-live atmosphere helps too. (The fellow in the foreground here wasn’t a member of our group, but he didn’t seem bothered to have two dozen naked women descend on him — or, as you can see, unduly excited by it.)

We like having an outdoor spot where we can relax in peace–

–with some cool water and a stack of books.

Where we can eat a simple meal–

Draw a little, paint a bit–

Catch up with whatever’s happening on the internet–

Share with our neighbors–

Be neighborly in other ways–

And just bask in the sun–

–all without worrying that the sight of our bodies might alarm or offend anyone.

Remember that interview Shailene Woodley gave at the height of her Divergent fame, where she talked about the salutary effects of sunlight on body parts too often kept under wraps? “I like to give my vagina a little Vitamin D,” she was quoted as saying. “When the sun finally comes out, spread your legs and get some sunshine.” We feel the same way.

Only with warm days in waning supply, it’s less when the sun finally comes out and more before the sun goes away.

What will we do over the winter? Oh, we always find fun things to do indoors. We sing karaoke, we visit the spa, we do yoga.

Or we brave the snow and ice for some Polar Bear Club-style outdoor fun:

But there’s nothing quite like the freedom and the unstinting, luxurious abandon of getting naked together on a summer afternoon in a cozy spot where you know you’ll feel comfortable and loved and accepted.

“Prelapsarian” is one of our favorite obscure words. It means “before the fall,” but less in the calendrical sense than the biblical one. It refers to the time in Eden, when we were naked and innocent. Well. Far be it for us to preach, but we believe you can make your own Eden, even in the heart of busy, noisy, not-so-innocent New York City.

We’ve made ours.

And if you’d like to join us there for our last visit of 2019, let us know. (Email: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Insta: @topless.pulp.)

We think Mother Sol has one more dose of Vitamin D left in her.

Yesterday our little group turned 25.

Years? No. We started meeting in August 2011, which makes us a bit over 8 years old. By that accounting we’re not even in our teens, never mind our 20s.

But there’s another way to measure our growth, and that’s how many people we’ve reached, and how many times we’ve reached them. And by that metric, around noon yesterday, New York time, we turned 25: this blog we created 8 years ago has now been seen 25 million times.

25 million!

It’s a number you can’t even properly hold in your head. If you grew up in a small town or a small city (or even a small country!), you didn’t have 25 million people to call your neighbors. Even if you’re a New York native, it’s more than the number of your fellow New Yorkers. 25 million gumballs outweigh the Statue of Liberty. 25 million subway cars would stretch from here to the moon.

And yet that’s the number of times people have come to this site and seen one of our photos or read our words, discovered what freedom looks like and sounds like, what a woman exercising her equal rights is like.

For our first event all those years and views ago, we went shirtless in Central Park, so we were very pleased to be able to commemorate this milestone with a report about a return visit. Not to Sheep Meadow this time, but to a quiet lawn on the east side, where passers-by stroll and strollers pass by,

where four-legged companions are welcome,

and two-legged companions too.

Where you can discover the sense of style you share with a total stranger–

Where you can partake of art in all its forms, whether that’s painting–

Or photography–

Or reading–

Or writing–

Or drumming and dancing–

Or the gustatory arts,

Or the simple art of the snooze.

And you can partake of any of these artful activities with or without a top on,

Solo or in a group,

Regardless of what body parts you happen to have been born with or acquired at puberty.

It is a wonderful thing to live in a city like ours, at a time like this, to have our autonomy and equality respected. But we’re conscious of the fact that our experience is still very nearly unique in the United States and in too many other parts of the world. Yes, you can go topless or even fully nude on select beaches throughout Europe and the Caribbean, and that’s a wonderful thing. But how many places offer true equality?

We relish the thought that some of the 25 million times we’ve been seen it’s been by women in those other parts of the world, where freedom isn’t as widespread — yet. Only one view once came from St. Bart’s, where a bared breast wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow, but 6 came from Vatican City — and hundreds of thousands came from Russia and China, tens of thousands more from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the rest of the Middle East. We like to know that we’re providing a model of free expression and female liberation to places that lack it.

And even in our own back yard, we like to know we’re opening eyes and minds.

Of course, winter is on the horizon, so for this year our balmy days of sunbathing in Central Park are numbered. But even that doesn’t feel so terrible when the number we’ve reached is such a triumphant one.

25 million!

We thank you all for your part in helping us achieve what we’ve achieved. And we hope if you’re a woman — whether near or far, nervous or bold — you’ll stand up and be counted along with us someday. That you’ll take that wonderful first step toward freedom.

And if you’d like to do it with us rather than alone, we’d love to welcome you to the fold. Getting started is simple: just email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com or find us and message us at @topless.pulp on Instagram or @ToplessPulp on Twitter.

All it takes is one message, one moment of being brave. That’s how we’ve gotten here, one brave moment at a time.

Times 25 million.

One month into the new year and we hadn’t held an event yet — it was time. But it’s still cold out! So we asked ourselves, what sort of fun could we get up to indoors?

New York’s warmest, most inclusive, most accepting piano bar called to us. The Duplex is an icon, having opened in 1951 and moved to its current space on Christopher Street in 1989. Generations of pianists, singers, comedians, drag queens, and future Broadway stars have performed there, or at least dropped by for a drink. The place isn’t huge, but what it lacks in grandeur it more than makes up for in bonhomie. (Ooh, aren’t we French all of a sudden? Perhaps the Duplex’s lovely French doors, with nice open views onto the street, inspired us.)

Could we enjoy an evening of song and good company there topless? Of course we could, they told us. Why not? And so we shed the winter blahs along with our topcoats and sweaters and scarves and blouses and bras; and having heaped all that in a pile in the corner, we got down to the serious business of nibbling meringues and fruit tarts from a patisserie down the block while the wait staff brought us brilliant libations and belted out the greatest hits of Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Elton John, Billy Joel, Lennon and McCartney, Boublil and Schonberg, and some Disney princesses if those Disney princesses had been a lot hornier than the movies would have you believe.

We even stepped up to the mic and belted out a song or two ourselves: “Valerie” by the Zutons, “Popular” from Wicked. Was the point to dethrone Kristin Chenoweth as the perfect Glinda? It was not. But if we didn’t bring her soaring soprano, we more than made up for it with brio. (And now, suddenly…we’re Italian. What can we say, we contain multitudes.)

We didn’t get any reading done at the bar, of course, but we brought a bunch of pulp fiction to share and carry home, courtesy of our friends at Hard Case Crime: a new Mike Hammer comic book, a delicious Donald Westlake novel about monks on Park Avenue, a pre-release copy of Joyce Carol Oates’ tale of a serial killer in 1960s Hollywood. Good to have reading material for these cold winter nights.

But some cold winter nights you just need to go out and get your groove on.

And it’s hard to imagine a better place to do that than the Duplex. Welcoming, tolerant, queer-friendly, generous with both the tunes and the beverages, and (unlike, say, Tumblr or Facebook) utterly unfazed by the sight of a female-presenting nipple or two. (Or two dozen.)

Will we be back when those French doors open up in the summer to let the balmy West Village air in? Oh, yes. With a song in our heart and no clothing above it.

IMG_9039FA few years ago, writer/director Cynthia von Buhler invited us to her immersive theater show Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic, and we had a great time. There was a recreation of an old-time Broadway revue, an investigation of a scandalous celebrity death, and the chance to wander around a beautifully appointed space, mixing with the actors and audience members — sort of like Sleep No More, only instead of having to wear masks, Cynthia let us wear nothing at all from the waist up. Can’t do that at Hamilton!

IMG_8846So when Cynthia let us know she had a new new show opening last week, we were there. This show is called Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini, and it’s based on Cynthia’s graphic novel of the same name, about the death of the famous magician, escape artist, and debunker of phony spiritualist mediums. The mystery to be solved this time is: did Houdini die of natural causes on Halloween 1926, or was he a victim of a plot by the spiritualists…?

IMG_8981It’s all very exciting stuff. Along the way the audience gets to attend seances and have their palms read by mystics with swinging pendulums…

IMG_8755IMG_8741…sip bootleg absinthe cocktails (this is during Prohibition, remember)…

IMG_8736…and watch Houdini prepare for and perform (and teach his lovely new assistant to perform) his famous straitjacket and rope tie and Water Torture Cell escapes.

IMG_8924IMG_8805Minky is the private eye hired by Houdini’s wife, Bess, to find out whether Houdini is cheating on her, only to discover there are bigger games afoot. (Speaking of which, Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, is in the show too. He and Houdini were friends in real life. For a while. Until they were enemies.)

IMG_8970The show takes place not in a Broadway theater but up and down the three floors of a Prohibition Era speakeasy building.

IMG_8838There is a theater on the ground floor…

IMG_8993…but you’re also transported to hotel rooms, hospital rooms, bedrooms, barrooms, and more.

IMG_8873IMG_8887FOh, and? We were — possibly for the first time in our history — not the nakedest people in the room. Seems the spiritualist mediums of the 1920s sometimes did their stuff completely in the nude. (The adulterers, too. Go figure.)

IMG_8975The chance to participate in a show like this in our customary state of undress was a treat, especially since we also got to combine it with 1920s-style garb and decoration.

IMG_8611We didn’t attract too many stares inside the theater (maybe other audience members thought we were part of the cast?), and even when we found ourselves out on the sidewalk, crossing from one of the building’s entrances to another, passersby took our appearance in stride. It all felt free and fabulous.

IMG_8650IMG_8659IMG_8870The show runs until November 10, so if you’re in NYC, by all means check it out. We can’t promise there will be topless audience members there the night you go — but there always can be, if you’re feeling brave enough! Just tell Cynthia hi, from us.

IMG_9045FAnd tell Houdini to watch his back.

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IMG_8324Okay, so it’s now officially Fall. Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. (Thank you, John Keats.) But we’re not quite ready yet to put away the things of summer, Keats or no Keats.

Yes, it’s getting dark earlier, and the mists are a real thing (it’s been overcast and drizzly and gray gray gray), but the temperature still periodically peeks up into the 70s, even tiptoeing toward 80 on occasion, and on one recent Monday afternoon we headed out to one of our favorite little lawns in Central Park for some proper R&R (reading and relaxation).

IMG_7889IMG_7898We were joined by a couple of first-timers —

IMG_7787–and an art photographer who used this marvelous old-style camera to capture the beautiful autumnal light on the grass and the leaves. (And on us.)

IMG_7996We were also joined by a marvelous fashion designer who brought a piece of custom lingerie she made in the classic pulp fiction style of a 1940s film noir femme fatale, so of course we had to try that on.

IMG_8295IMG_8178And then there was time spent petting a total stranger’s adorable dog.

IMG_8342Throughout all this (well, all but the lingerie part) we were blissfully bare from the waist up, drinking in those precious last rays,

IMG_8048…aware that it’s sweater weather now more days than not, and soon will be winter-coat-and-snowboots weather. On days like this, we treasure not just the legal right to go topless but also the waning proximity to the sun that gives us the privilege.

IMG_7785cIMG_7960What will we do in October, November, December? You’ll find us indoors — as always, we have some fun notions for places to go naked when it’s too cold outside. But that’s tomorrow. Today was sun, today was grass, today was nature. We feel fortunate to have had the chance. And perhaps, if the weather cooperates, it might not even be the very last chance of the year.

If you’d like to join us sometime — outdoors or in, this year or next — and you’re a body-positive woman in the New York area, drop us a note: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you and to meet you.

Maybe even in our secret garden.

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