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That time James Gordon played a nudist resort

Already a singer-songwriter, author, musical theatre performer and politician, James Gordon can add one more item to his resume: Roots Music Canada columnist.  He’s graciously offered to share some entertaining stories with us from his lengthy career in the arts.  If this one is any indication of what they’re like, we can’t wait to hear more!

Here’s a tale from Coeur D’Alene, ID, where one frosty night I played at, yes, a nudist resort. I have to admit that I only took this gig for two reasons, and NOT for the exposure! I thought it would make a good story, and I mistakenly thought that “nudist resort” meant that the patrons would be out doing their thing in the great outdoors in a natural setting, not sitting naked in a theatre watching a folksinger.

The promoter had braced me for the event by showing me nudist magazines the day before. These publications were filled with pictures of impossibly fit and happy couples walking along isolated beaches, staring at sunsets, lounging on sailboats, perched on mountain peaks, or frolicking in outdoor hot-tubs. It all looked reasonable to me.

On our long drive, the promoter and his wife outlined what I might expect, and we arrived after midnight at a lovely mountain retreat,  where they led me through darkened halls to a pleasant room. They bade me good night and asked me to meet them for breakfast at 8.

Being a bit jet-lagged still, and a bit apprehensive, I was late arriving in the dining room. It was full. Everyone was all together in their all-togethers, naked people sitting at chairs and lining up at the buffet table.

The picture before me was one that didn’t quite make the magazines. For one thing, this WAS middle America, where everyone has super-sized their middles. For another thing, the average age was over 60. For the women, picture Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith show with no clothes. For the men, though they were mostly Republicans, picture Michael Moore naked. OK, think of something else now. A group of women were gathered in the kitchen preparing food, looking for all the world like United Church ladies except for one obvious difference. They were all wearing rubber gloves for sanitary reasons, but nothing else.

I was the only person in the room from what they condescendingly called the “textile world,” but they didn’t seem to mind an alien intruder. They were all quite pleasant, relaxed, and jovial. Gathered around long communal tables, the chatter was mostly about the election. I kept my mouth shut and my clothes on, for most of these nudists had more than just red necks.

At one point, the talk turned to bargain hunting at WalMart. One lady mentioned the recent scandal where WalMart had been taking out life insurance policies on older employees without telling them. Others mentioned their questionable hiring practices and their poor record as ‘corporate citizens.’ I thought I had found kindred naked spirits when the talk turned back to their favourite purchases there (though I wondered why nudists needed all those cheap clothes!). I innocently asked why they still shopped there, knowing the company’s profile. None of them saw the connection. Apparently WalMart IS America now. It would be un-American to NOT shop there. But I digress. But I don’t undress.

One blotchy rubenesque woman sat beside me and delivered possibly the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard. “Don’t worry,” she said, “This rash is not contagious!”

After the meal, they spent the day sitting around the fire reading newspapers or playing board games in the lounge. Some headed for the pool and hot-tub, and another group prepared the hall for the concert. I chipped in, first by removing the decorations from their recent Halloween party. I wondered what kind of costumes they weren’t wearing. Naked men with drills and hammers began the stage erection.

When the work was done, I joined another group of men toasting their buns by the fire as they told hunting stories. It turns out to be true what they say about men with big guns. In the afternoon, I tramped the hills and valleys around the resort without meeting a soul, then I gathered my courage and nothing else before heading for the pool. A large sign in the health club area said, “Nudity is required in the pool and spa. Avoid wearing lingerie and swimsuits. ‘ Damn, that little Victoria’s secret number I’d packed wasn’t going to get used!

Modest Canadian that I am, it took me a while to launch myself from the change room to the pool. (I’m not sure why they had a change room. I might have been it’s first user). In the 90-degree pool, though, I lingered till I was as wrinkly as the rest of the patrons and never saw another human.

Safely back in my room, I prepared for the concert, which went off without a stitch. I looked out at a small crowd of about 40 naked bodies and was reminded of that old showbiz adage: “If you’re nervous, pretend the audience is naked.”

Pretending they were clothed didn’t help.

Early in the show, I performed a special “nudist resort theme song,” which I had written for the occasion. It was met with my first ever nude standing ovation, so I endeavored to not make the rest of the show quite so exciting.

They had really been urging me to perform naked, but frankly I didn’t see the point. I could see all their points though. Besides, I only got into showbiz because I wanted to stand out in the crowd. I’m always accused of having a bland, utilitarian wardrobe. Tonight I was a rebel in cotton!

They all seemed to enjoy the show, though their lack of pockets kept CD sales to a minimum at intermission. (I hate to mention it, but one woman showed me how she could transport a CD hands-free by placing it in a built-in fold created by a combination of gravity and age.)

After an encore, they all rushed the stage, and I could see something else in the works that I hadn’t bargained for. They wanted hugs.

Having survived this frontal assault, three women flopped towards me and invited me upstairs to play a game. Early on in my career, I was sure that the rock and roll lifestyle would one day enable me to fulfill fantasies like having three naked women invite me upstairs. This particular invitation came 25 years too late to really be that enticing to me. I inquired hesitantly about what kind of game they had in mind, and I joined them in the lounge, to play, yes, Scrabble, with my three companions late into the night.

I wondered if elsewhere at the resort, as couples drifted back to their rooms, if women were excusing themselves and slipping into something less comfortable. I wondered if men were sneaking clandestine peeks at “Textile Monthly”.

Out the window, a harvest moon, looking refreshingly mysterious cloaked in a filmy loud cover, hung high over the Rockies, while inside the Sun Meadow resort, three smaller moons hung a little lower over plastic lawn chairs as I sipped on Moose Drool beer, searched for that elusive triple-word score, and dreamed about returning to “Textile Land.”

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