I’ve never shared that purpling rage that comes over militant Women’s Liberationists at the mention of beauty contests. Agreed, the contestants are all exploited to a degree but the movement rhetoric that says beauty pageants are semi-civilized white slave markets has always struck me as wild overstatement. I have yet to see a beauty contestant forced on stage. Whether the girls are there because of some dream of instant wealth or to satisfy some deeper psychological need, it’s still their free choice. So let them get on with it, or off with it, for all I care.
That, in part, explains why I agreed to be a judge at one of the advance competitions for the Miss Nude World Pageant 1973 (it’s part of the established tokenism now to try to have at least one woman judge at beauty contests). The other reason was that the competition was being held at the Toronto Men’s Press Club and I wanted to be there to see the club make a spectacle of itself again.
The Toronto Men’s Press Club is the only one of 18 professional journalists’ clubs in Canada that still has made no move to allow women members. It does have lawyers, stockbrokers, policemen, a fireman and others bar-propped for so long that their occupations are lost to memory. But working newswomen can only come in as guests. Or, presumably, as Miss Nude World contestants.
The purpose of the show was blatantly commercial; the contestants all paraded in front of us in a new type of stitch-it-yourself dress that comes packaged in something like a tea box and made even Miss Bare State (36-25-36) look like an awkward teen-ager from Virden, Manitoba. Our scorecards said we were to judge the competitors on such things as hips, busts and legs, but those dresses could have concealed anything from a Twiggy to Sophia Loren without making a wrinkle. So the contestants came back again, first in bikinis and later in cobweb-sheer negligees. But by then it was too late. One judge (not me) was so drunk that he couldn’t keep score (the measurements of one particularly shapely contestant came out on his card as 24-37-
36); another judge (still not me) stalked out in indignation, I’m not sure at what; many of the Press Club barflies whirled away and buried themselves in their drinks at the sight of all that youthful pubic hair. And one member hurried from corner to corner of the club to escape one of the young Miss Nudies, herself slightly tipsy, who kept following him and whispering insistently in his ear that he was “her sweet Schnauzer.” Clearly, after its long monasticism, the Press Club was not ready for women either liberated or unliberated.
The final Miss Nude World competition was held a few Sundays later in August at Freelton, a tiny community near Hamilton, Ontario. I wasn’t a judge for the finals but something, perhaps the hope of seeing another fiasco, drew me to it as a spectator.
The pageant was at an established nudists’ club, the Four Seasons Nature Resort, very big on the beauty of the human body and health through nudity. A lot of the regular members were there, appropriately naked and carrying their Volleyballs, to create a backdrop for the Miss Nude World contestants.
I was in jeans and a sweater, feeling totally out of place and wishing by now that I hadn’t come. I retreated to the hot dog stand. The man in front of me ordered and overloaded his hot dog with mustard. He bit; the mustard gushed out, down his chest, over his stomach, and plop! Chalk up another advantage for clothes: at
least the Bicks stops somewhere.
We waited for the contest to begin; the nudists set up their volleyball nets and broke open picnic hampers. It got hot and I got sick. But the organizers had thought of that possibility, too. I was directed to a mobile clinic on the grounds. I swung open the door and was greeted by a tall, handsome man, completely naked. I hesitated but he assured me that he really was a doctor and then wiped out my remaining disbelief by handing me three Aspirins and asking me for my medical insurance number.
When the competition finally started, it became clear that the Nude World has considerably narrower boundaries than the one in geography books. Of the 33 contestants, 11 were from Ontario, eight from Quebec, one from Saskatchewan and 12 from the United States. The world beyond North America was represented by Olga Margrest Sigurdsson, a six-foot, one-inch blonde glorying in Vikingesque measurements of 39-26-38. Her
Maggie Siggins is a Toronto television reporter and free-lance writer.
nationality was listed as Icelandic but she admitted when I talked to her that she lived in Hamilton.
The 15 judges, all male, most of them radio disc jockeys and all of them fully clothed, interviewed each contestant for three minutes to give her a personality rating.
“Does your mother know you’re here?” one asked. This to a girl who had waxed her nipples and trimmed her pubic hair into the shape of a heart for the competition.
“Tell me, my dear, in 30 seconds, what you think of Watergate?” another judge asked. Stunned silence.
But most of the questions were directed at finding out whether the contestants had undergone cosmetic surgery. At last year’s competition, one particularly prominent contestant was found to have had silicone injections and there was a lot of angry talk about her giving the pageant a bad name. The judges’ other concern was to weed out the pseudo-nudists. They achieved this by a minute scrutiny of each contestant for tell-tale bikini marks showing through the tan.
Bonnie Hornby of Freelton had been a nudist for two weeks and Dolly Sansone of Toronto for three days. Both were eliminated in the preliminaries. A cocktail waitress friend of Dolly’s was furious. “They encouraged us to take off our clothes so everyone could stare but they didn’t tell us there’d be no way we’d make the semifinals. It’s a Goddam rip-off.”
That, it undoubtedly was.
Hans and Lisa Stein, owners of the Four Seasons Nature Resort, want to build an outdoor swimming pool, a
new lounge and a motel. They charged five dollars admission to the pageant and estimated that more than 6,000 people came. A Saturday night dance and bar added another $4,000 to the weekend take.
Photo coverage was controlled by the Toronto Sun newspaper syndicate, which offered to sell customers “as conservative or risqué a layout as you desire.” A Sun syndicate man said a number of men’s magazines in the United States “can hardly wait to get their hands on this stuff.” An army of local bouncers was hired to prevent anyone else taking pictures. One skinny, elderly nudist, not knowing the rule, brought out his Instamatic and was pounced on by a huge, bearded tough with “Bull Shirt” lettered on his T-shirt. The nudist’s film was confiscated and stomped on.
After 10 separate promenades, by which time much of the audience had left and those remaining were yawning openly, the Miss Nude World title went to Dee Dee Nolet (36-24-35), 18, who had lost her job as a clerktypist for a San Bernardino, California, parts company because she entered the contest. But she didn’t care. She won $8,000 in prizes (only $1,000 in cash, the rest in sculpture, a trip to Florida and the Bahamas, an oil painting of herself and assorted other giveaways) and maybe, she said, the title will start her on her way to becoming a movie star.
And, of course, she’ll get a chance to explain nudism to the world.
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