Naked truth

Dec 31, 2008 at 12:00 am

Things are bad all over. The international economy is in shambles. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created fear and loathing around the world. Here in the United States it seems that right and left shall never come together. And in Detroit, will the city and suburbs ever bury the hatchet on Eight Mile Road and embrace each other in love and harmony

Could all these problems be in part because that there is not enough public nudity for the common good? Oh sure, there is plenty of private nudity going on, former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer can attest to that. Not to mention former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty. And there are plenty of cute young celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears willing to show off their coochies in public — but to what end beyond getting the paparazzi to flash and snap, and selling a few more supermarket tabloids?

Once upon a time it wasn't just brain-devoid tabloidistas taking their clothes off. During the Vietnam War, female antiwar activists had the slogan "I say yes to men who say no" to the draft. Now that's commitment. People took their clothes off for a cause. John Lennon and Yoko Ono got naked for peace. Women burned their bras to advance the feminist agenda. Detroit even had its moment when Cindy Darrah attempted to paddle across the Detroit River on a door while sporting only a couple of bumper stickers during her anarchist run for mayor.

Nowadays, the only folks with that kind of spirit march in the San Francisco gay pride parade. The last good public flashing we've had on television was Janet Jackson's errant boob during halftime at the Super Bowl. Even streaking has fallen on hard times.

Gone are the days when people got naked for art and peace. We've recently had a reminder of that era. Thanks to the good folks at the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research group at George Washington University, who last week revealed an online edition of transcripts of 15,000 phone calls of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, we know just how high up the political food chain that activist nudity was discussed.

In 1971, during the Vietnam War, beat poet Allen Ginsberg called Kissinger and proposed a discussion including politicians such as Sen. Jesse Helms and President Richard Nixon, and peace activists Rennie Davis, David Dellinger and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. Kissinger did not dismiss the idea as out of hand. Here's a bit of the transcript:

Ginsberg: ... perhaps you don't know how to get out of the war ...

Kissinger: I have been meeting with many members representing peace groups but I find that they have always rushed out and given the contents of the meeting to the press. But I like to do this. ... I would be prepared to meet in principle on a private basis.

G: That's true but it would be a question of personal delicacy. In dealing with human consciousness, it is difficult to set limits.

K: You can't set limits on human consciousness, but ...

G: It would be even more useful if we could do it naked on television.

K: [laughter]

G: It might be too [missing word] but under some kind of circumstances. What shall I tell them that might be encouraging.

K: That I would think about it very seriously.

We know that meeting never happened, but could the vision of Nixon, Ginsberg, Kissinger et al. naked have shocked the world into peace? Hmmm ..

Anybody who knows their Ginsberg knows that he'd disrobe at the drop of a hat (or any other piece of clothing). I once spoke with a woman who saw Ginsberg naked at a poetry reading in the 1970s. She said that he looked pretty dumpy. I said that it was easy to walk around naked when you are beautiful. It takes some guts to display your stuff when you are saggy and baggy

What about today? Could a nude televised meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and poet Maya Angelou advance the cause for peace? I know that Angelou could make some crucial points in her measured, stentorian tones while Rice's razor sharp eye cut across the room. Maybe former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the incoming Hillary Clinton could join the discussion. I'm pretty sure Bill Clinton could get behind the idea. They could do it at the United Nations where a clothing-optional dress code shall be instituted in solidarity with the poor and oppressed of the world

In that same spirit of full disclosure, here in Detroit, the next mayoral debate should be held nude at Cobo Center during the North American International Auto Show. It might add some zip to the foundering event and bring the crowds downtown. Have Ken Cockrel Jr., Freman Hendrix, Dave Bing, Warren Evans, Nicholas Hood III and the rest of them show all as they tell all with no hidden agendas. Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson could moderate with his tail hanging out and, in the spirit of Ginsberg, let's have M.L. Liebler and Naomi Long Madgett join in with metaphorical commentary instead of television news anchors retelling us what we just heard. Something about standing there bare to the world should promote honesty and integrity. The people will see what they're getting. And if a candidate doesn't have the guts to get naked, then he or she can't be mayor

Furthermore, next time the heads of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors head for Congress to seek a loan, let them show up with nothing on their backs in a show of poverty. And anyone from Congress who wants to get up and comment on the issue of a loan to the carmakers shall likewise wear their birthday suits

With that kind of policy in place we might be spared a lot of bullshit and posturing. Make that do-nothing school board of ours come forward au natural and donate their clothing budgets to the education of the children. Every board meeting, every county commission and city council should be as naked as naked can be. Anyone who wants to can step up to the mic and speak at these meetings — naked. The state Supreme Court should literally disrobe before any important rulings. Let's all get naked for the common good

Just think if Kwame Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty had been required to be naked during the police whistleblower trial ... naw, that's just asking for trouble.

0-16: I, for one, didn't want to see the Lions achieve that terrible record. Not that I felt like the fumbling football felines deserved better. But Detroit deserves better. It's just one more piece of bad publicity for the city to be splashed on headlines across the nation — more jokes from comedians, more fodder for folks to rip the city. My main object of disdain was Matt Millen. Once he was out of here I got back behind the boys in Honolulu blue. And as we know, there's at least one coach over there who's ready to get naked.

Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]