IMG_7059Back in May — four months ago now — one of our favorite websites, Jezebel, came to an event we held in Central Park, to film a video piece about our group and the 25th anniversary of the legal decision that established that women in New York have the same right to go topless in public places that men do.

IMG_6608IMG_6612IMG_6553A few days later, they joined us a second time, to film some more footage, this time of one of our members stopping random strangers in Central Park and talking with them about toplessness and equal rights.

IMG_7103IMG_7111IMG_7126IMG_7120Our hope was to see the video run sometime around the anniversary, which was in July.

IMG_7183If you don’t remember ever seeing that video, it’s not your memory that’s at fault. June came and went; the anniversary came and went; August came and went; and now it’s mid-September, and still no video. It’s also not the fault of the excellent videographer who shot and edited the piece, Phoebe Bradford — but for some reason the piece just hasn’t run. Why? We don’t know.

IMG_6513Is it because they didn’t get any footage worth running? Probably not; as recently as August 9, Phoebe wrote, “Excited for the piece to come out!” The only explanation she mentioned for the continuing delay was some concern on the part of Jezebel’s lawyers about not having written releases from every single person they’d filmed. Of course, we wouldn’t have given the interviews in the first place if we didn’t want them used — it’s not like we didn’t know we had a camera pointed at us. (Plus, we were out in a public place! The middle of Central Park!) And we were never asked to sign releases when the New York Times produced a video about us, or either of the times that Salon did. In principle we’d be willing to sign releases this time, but they didn’t ask us to back in May, and by now some of the people they filmed back in May are unreachable — they’re traveling, have gone back to school, have moved or changed email addresses, etc. Some we can contact, some we can’t. But everyone who stood up in front of a camera and spoke for sure intended for the interview to be used. Thinking otherwise is simply bizarre.

IMG_7090So we remain hopeful that Jezebel will eventually let you watch the piece Phoebe shot and edited, and that we gladly participated in. If they don’t want to run it themselves, we hope they’ll share the footage with us so that, if nothing else, we can run it here, on our own site. But until they do one or the other — and there’s no guarantee they’ll do either — we thought we’d at least finally show you some photos we took at these events, and give you a taste of the video that might have been.

IMG_7147

There were not only interviews with us and ones conducted by us, but also a game of topless frisbee!

IMG_7153IMG_7155IMG_7165Now, what sort of cold-hearted villain could possibly capture that on film and not release it…?

Lawyers. That’s who.

IMG_7073

IMG_6346Last summer, we produced an all-female, all-nude staging of Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, outdoors in Central Park, and it was a huge success: hundreds of people came to see the play in person, and millions more — literally — read or heard about it in media coverage ranging from NBC News and Salon to every major newspaper in the U.K. (They love it when Americans experiment with Shakespeare, apparently.)

img_3506One recurring theme in the comment section of online coverage, however, went like this: “They could only do this because it was women — try it with naked men and they’d get arrested!” Well, we all know a challenge when we hear one. So our Tempest directors sat down to plan an all-nude, all-male production of Hamlet. 

IMG_6354That production was staged this summer, first in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and then, just this past week, in Central Park, at the foot of the beautifully appropriate King Jagiello statue. Again hundreds of people came, and — lo and behold, no arrests. Just a marvelous production of a great play.

IMG_6343Audience members ranged from 6 to 66, roughly speaking, and at neither end was offense taken, though the youngest viewers seem to have found the iambic pentameter somewhat hard to follow.

IMG_6326Will there be another production next summer, and if so, with what genders performing? Still to be decided. We like to come up with different things to do each year. But we’re thrilled to have helped establish a new tradition: nude Shakespeare in the park. Enjoyed by all, of harm to none, bringing a fresh view to 400-year-old plays and a glimpse of freedom to the public spaces of New York City. The sight of a bared breast doesn’t cause society’s foundations to crack, nor does the sight of a vulva, nor of a penis.

IMG_6325The beauty of the world, Shakespeare wrote, the paragon of animals…in form and moving, how express and admirable; in action, how like an angel, in apprehension, how like a god! And: There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

We are animals all — and angels all. Our naked bodies are no more than we were born with, the common currency of all humanity, and to hate another’s is to hate yourself.

Or as a playwright once put it, we hold the mirror up to nature. What you see in it is yours to grapple with.

IMG_6344IMG_6331IMG_6314

IMG_6067For the fourth year in a row, we celebrated the end of summer (which, okay, technically hasn’t come yet…but it sure feels like it has) by visiting the rooftop pool at the Dream Hotel.

IMG_5547They set aside one of their freshly redesigned cabanas for us, and we filled it with food and beverages courtesy of the hotel’s kitchen and bar — chips and guac and tuna tartare and a burger that mysteriously came with shrimp on it as a topping; and champagne, plenty of champagne.

IMG_5331IMG_5766IMG_5235We brought other things with us as well, such as one of our Doobs, those little 3D-printed statues of ourselves we had made earlier in the year…

IMG_5142…as well as numerous books, ranging from our habitual pulp fiction, both in English and in Portuguese

IMG_5667–to non-fiction such as Laura Kipnis’ latest

IMG_5737…and something called Ethical Porn for Dicks, which somehow inspired a puppy pile.

IMG_6287When we weren’t ingesting intoxicants in physical or literary form, we swam in the pool, which was a bit chilly but still very, very satisfying.

IMG_6132IMG_5598IMG_5649IMG_6096We took photos of each other and shared them with everyone in our life who might enjoy them.

IMG_6139IMG_6024IMG_5797(Leis helpfully supplied by one member helped keep some selfies Instagram- and Facebook-friendly. Though sometimes it didn’t really work.)

IMG_5951And we even converted a spectator to our cause — she saw us having a great time and eventually came over and joined in.

IMG_5911She wasn’t our only first timer either: another new friend who’s been emailing with us since July finally managed to make it to one of our events, and we’re so glad she did. She told us she had a great time, and that she has two sisters she hopes to bring in the future. We’re thrilled. The more the merrier, to coin a phrase.

IMG_5149IMG_5923Speaking of which: If you’d like to join us for some outdoor topless adventures, it’s not too late. We still have events in September each year, sometimes even October. (One year, even December!) And once outdoor toplessness is no longer feasible, we’ll continue to meet over the colder months, only we’ll do it indoors, where maybe the sun won’t shine, but we nevertheless find ways to entertain ourselves.

IMG_6033

If you’re interested, please drop us a note at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We’re happy to answer any questions you have.

IMG_5653In the meantime, we’ll leave you with a few more glimpses of our day in the sun. Just think: this could be you next time.

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

IMG_6088IMG_5658IMG_6199IMG_5753IMG_5704IMG_5686IMG_6172

MVI_3633Sorting through all our photos from the summer, remembering the good times we’ve had, we came across a brief video we shot when we were on Riis Beach but somehow forgot to include when we posted our report about that trip.

It’s just a few seconds long — not even the length of a Vine! — but we thought we’d share it anyway.

The summer may be fading, but in memory we’ll be dancing forever.

IMG_4327The third part of our day in the sun — exploring lower Manhattan with Chelsea Covington, blogger supreme  and hero of the Maryland equal-rights case — didn’t actually involve much sun. Or it did at the start, but less and less as time wore on. Because having begun the afternoon in a downtown park…

IMG_3987IMG_3822fAnd continued it with a walk through the esplanades and alleyways of the city’s southern tip…

IMG_4181IMG_4135IMG_4112…we eventually washed up on the pilings of the Brooklyn Bridge and found ourselves welcomed indoors for dinner by the wonderful staff of the Cowgirl Seahorse restaurant.

IMG_4195Had the restaurant ever hosted a dozen topless diners before? Not likely. But they didn’t bat an eyelash when we contacted them in advance and asked if it would be okay for us to end our day there. In fact, they enthusiastically invited us. And god bless them, they didn’t bat an eyelash when they saw us either, neither the female nor the male waitstaff, and impressively, not the other customers either! No one asked what we were doing or why we were doing it, no one gawked or took photos, no one looked disgusted or appalled (or, what might have been worse, turned on). Everyone just went on smiling and chatting and eating like it was the most normal thing in the world to dine shirtless on a hot summer day.

IMG_4200IMG_4264We dived into the restaurant’s neo-Southern menu…

IMG_4203…trying their shrimp and grits, their catch of the day, their bacon-wrapped scallops, their Paul Bunyan-sized salads.

IMG_4527IMG_4461IMG_3014Each dish tastier than the last, although the hot sauce was merciless and Robert Shaw kept staring down at us from the wall.

IMG_4198The rest of the decor was charming in the extreme, right down to the cutely labeled conveniences.

IMG_4381We sadly didn’t get a photo of the little plastic mermaids perched on the edges of the beer glasses. Those were cute too. (Though they weren’t topless! #FreeTheMermaidNipple) But we did get photos that we hope convey just how casual, natural, and wonderful the night was.

IMG_4222IMG_4199IMG_4277Finally, when weariness caught up with us…

IMG_4543…we bid the place adieu and hit the sidewalk to wait for Lyfts or find the nearest train station. The no-longer-sun-baked air was bracing. If anything could’ve told us our adventure had come to an end, that was it.

IMG_4544IMG_4547But what an adventure it had been! Hours of relaxation, a meal with friends, and no problems at all due to our chests being uncovered. It’s a model for how things should be: live and let live.

Which calls to mind a Cole Porter lyric, and maybe that’s as good a last word to end on as any:

Live and let live, be and let be
Hear and let hear, see and let see
Sing and let sing, dance and let dance
You like Offenbach, I do not —
So what, so what, so what?

Read and let read, write and let write
Love and let love, bite and let bite
Live and let live, and remember this line: 
Your business is your business
And my business is mine.

Live and let live, be and let be
Hear and let hear, see and let see
Drink and let drink, eat and let eat
You like bouillabaisse, I do not —
So what, so what, so what?

Talk and let talk, quip and let quip
Dress and let dress, strip and let strip
Live and let live, and remember this line: 
Your business is your business
And my business is mine.

IMG_4323f

 

 

IMG_4155In our last post, we described how we met up with Chelsea Covington for an afternoon and evening of topless fun, first in a park downtown, then strolling the streets and waterfront of lower Manhattan, and finally sitting down for dinner in a restaurant near the Brooklyn Bridge that didn’t object to serving a dozen topless patrons.

IMG_4163(Chelsea, as we mentioned, is not just one of our members but also the woman at the center of the much-talked-about legal case in Maryland regarding women’s rights to go topless on the beach there. If you want to read more about her activities, check out her blog, BreastsAreHealthy.)

IMG_4139Anyway, after spending an hour or two in Rockefeller Park we were ready for some exercise, so we strolled along the Battery Park Esplanade, past docked boats and various museums and monuments…

IMG_4150IMG_4117…not least of all the Statue of Liberty. (She’s back there, we swear!)

IMG_4175fWhen time got tight, we exited the Esplanade to cut across town and get to the restaurant a little faster. Our revised path took us past the Stock Exchange and Bowling Green and onto Beaver Street, a source of inevitable amusement for one and all.

IMG_4100IMG_4183IMG_4187As the riverside breeze buffeted us, we walked through what used to be the Fulton Fish Market and is now a collection of restaurants with outdoor seating, eliciting cheers and chants and fist pumps, some from supportive, enthusiastic women and some from, well, enthusiastic men. We’d like to think some of them might have been supportive as well.

IMG_4189IMG_4190Finally, at the end of Front Street, with the bridge for a backdrop, we came to the wonderfully named and female-founded Cowgirl Seahorse, a little Southern restaurant known for delicious seafood, plentiful drinks, and drag brunches on the weekends. And we’ll show you how dinner went in our next post. But for now we’re happy to commemorate what was our longest topless walk ever, a mile and then some, all bare from the waist up.

IMG_4191Did some people we passed behave less than ideally? Yes. We got surreptitiously filmed by some, one man even choosing to trail along after us for two blocks but then denying he was doing it when we called him on it. A few men shouted less than respectful things. But overall the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. We were greeted by far more smiles than frowns, and no one tried to stop us.

And then dinner! There’s nothing quite like tucking into hearty fare with good friends and the bare minimum of clothing. But that’s a matter for another post.

For now, we’ll leave you with a glance at the sun descending over the water — just one of the many wonderful sights we took in without having to feel the slightest concern about not having our chests covered. Really, there’s nothing better than that. Not just the actual sensation of the sun on our bodies, but the lack of concern. This is what freedom feels like. To misquote Seinfeld from a different (but not entirely inappropriate) context: It’s real, and it’s spectacular.

IMG_4157

 

IMG_3955fIt is of course legal for women to go topless in New York anywhere a man can, and it has been for the past 25 years. That’s true in any of the city’s parks, where men habitually relax topless in the grass or stroll shirtless on the paths…

IMG_3851…and it is also true on the streets of the city, such as the waterfront esplanades at the lower tip of Manhattan. It’s not automatically true in private establishments such as restaurants (which are free to impose a “no shoes, no shirts, no service” policy as long as it’s applied impartially), but any private establishment can permit toplessness if it wishes.

With that in mind, we thought we’d commemorate the winding down of summer with a day in which we did all three: began at midday in a downtown park, then took a long afternoon stroll along the waterside and through the streets of lower Manhattan, and finally sat down in the evening for a group dinner at a friendly establishment that didn’t mind our dining sans chemises.

IMG_4028Joining us for this very special event was our old friend Chelsea Covington, a tireless and passionate advocate for equal rights in general and topfreedom in particular.

IMG_3916Chelsea is the brave soul at the center of the legal case you may have seen in the news regarding women’s rights to go topless on the beach in Maryland. You can find out more on her blog, BreastsAreHealthy, and we very much encourage you to do so. If we haven’t already, she’ll inspire you to take that first step toward topfreedom yourself.

IMG_3938We began our adventure with Chelsea in Rockefeller Park, down at the far west end of Warren Street, with the Hudson River at our backs. At first, when there were only two of us there and he saw us taking off our tops, a park worker came up to us and erroneously claimed that we had to put our shirts back on; we told him he should consult with the police if he didn’t want to take our word for it that the law was on our side. He left.

IMG_4063Later, when there were more of us and we’d spent some time taking pictures of one another, a different park worker approached to ask if we were “doing a photo shoot.” We had the right to be topless, he acknowledged, but photo shoots require permits. We explained that we weren’t “doing a photo shoot,” we were just a group of friends, we had a visitor from out of town whom we don’t see nearly often enough, and of course we wanted to take pictures together, just like anyone else might. Was that a problem?

Well, no — he’d just gotten some complaints from a nearby group with children, and knowing that he couldn’t legally hassle us for being topless was trying desperately to come up with some other pretext for hassling us. But we know our rights and stood up to him, and eventually he left too. (At least this time no actual police showed up.)

In between those encounters, and on either side of them, we had a lovely time in the park — discussed books and politics,

IMG_3859Enjoyed the breezes off the water,

IMG_3932fAnd ate strawberries together with an avian pal.

IMG_3825fIMG_3914cIMG_4024Then the clock chimed four, and with just an hour until our dinner reservation, we began our walk. About which, more anon.

IMG_4084IMG_4095In the meantime, we’ll say this: getting hassled by park personnel is not fun — but it’s one hell of a lot better than being arrested and fined $1,000, which is what can happen to you in Ocean City, MD, if you’re a woman who exposes a nipple on the beach (but not if you’re a man). In New York, we have the law on our side and are merely exercising our rights. Chelsea is out there fighting for them. Our hats — and our tops — are off to her.

IMG_4043IMG_3944IMG_3979