No nudes is good nudes
RICHARD L. HERSHATTER
With troubled times on Longboat Key,
With problems far and wide,
It’s good to know pornography
Forever is denied.
A news item last week in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that the town of Longboat Key had rejected a painting by local artist Pat Kaufman, entitled “Circus 2, Word Slingers,” for display on the Town Commission chambers walls.
The reason given was that the painting depicted “nudity.” Susan Phillips, assistant to the town manager, conceded that “Circus 2, Word Slingers” was not pornographic or obscene, but stated that no nudity was permitted because she “had to consider the venue.”
(Columnist’s note: the venue is us – average age 68.)
Town Manager David Bullock supported the decision, with the declaration: “We keep it kind of mild.”
This columnist objects to the decision for several reasons: first, as a “word slinger” himself, he is wary of any restrictions on the word slingers of the world, and second, on the issue of pornography, he has no words to describe it, but he knows it when he sees it.
This isn’t it.
An examination of the painting in question discloses, at most, a “wardrobe malfunction” on the right breast of the woman at the left, disclosing or outlining the body part, with a suggestion of nipple.
Coincidentally, the Supreme Court of the United States this same week has reversed fines levied against Fox and ABC television stations by the Federal Communications Commission for brief nudity inherent in a similar brief breast “outing” such as that occurring several years ago involving Janet Jackson.
The high court was careful to limit the extent of its ruling restricting the FCC, holding that it could “keep the airwaves free of objectionable material during the hours when children are likely to be watching.”
(Columnist’s note: Although the Town Commission is sometimes noted for childlike decisions, there has never been, in all its recorded history, a record of any child wandering into its chambers for an examination of the art displayed upon its sacrosanct walls.)
It should also be noted that in this 21st century social customs in the United States seem to have been trending to a greater liberality, some of which, by necessity, would undoubtedly spill over onto Longboat Key.
Last week, in faraway Seattle, that city’s Parks and Recreation superintendent announced an exception to the department’s clothing policy so as to allow a Seattle breast cancer survivor, whose breasts were surgically removed, permission to swim topless at a city pool.
Think of the ramifications if and when the rule is extended to Longboat Key. Bare-chested men and (some) bare-chested women — all in the same pool at the same time.
(Columnist’s note: In the interest of fairness and equality, it should be noted that some elderly males whose bosoms have surrendered to Newton’s discovery of gravity might have to have their pool access prohibited.)
It is not the purpose of this column to take sides on the appropriateness of “Circus 2, Word Slingers” for the chaste walls of the Town Commission chambers. After the age of Dali, Pollock, Warhol and Mapplethorpe, who is to say what is or is not art, or, if art, whether exposure to any particulate “venue” might or might not be damaging?
With all the weighty problems affecting the town (and the nation), it is good to know that authorities are keeping the welfare of citizens in mind.
At the present time, Longboat’s commissioners are struggling with the problems of multi-million dollar runaway deficits in the town’s three pension plans, which, if not resolved, could bring the town to the brink of bankruptcy.
Added to those knotty problems is the issue of the huge Longboat Key Club expansion and how to cut, patch and fit the town’s long-established Comprehensive Plan so as to satisfy the IPOC, the Key Club and the courts.
Then there is the problem of whether to undercut the overlay for the north end of the key, so as to eliminate any dissonance caused by a vacant gas station and empty bank building adorning the entrance to the peacock paradise of the island.
Commissioners are also concerned about the ultimate fate of the famed Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, which has seen its legendary founder Murf Klauber’s dream become his (and the town’s) worst nightmare.
All of these issues fester as the season approaches, with snowbirds destined soon to return to an island without a viable grocery store and a pharmacy building beset with questions as to how to conceal its growing height and location-disclosing sign.
As Einstein so famously said: “Everything in life is relative.”
Longboat Key’s residents can rest assured that the town fathers (and mothers) will continue to juggle the serious problems facing the town, without the distraction of a naked, or semi-silhouetted, breast adorning the place where they do their thing.
Richard L. Hershatter is a retired lawyer and novelist who writes an occasional column for the Longboat Key News. He can be reached at email@example.com.