Diners enjoy buffet dinner in the buff
Friday, February 18, 2005 Posted: 10:12 PM EST (0312 GMT)
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- The diners arrived at a nice Manhattan restaurant on a cold February night and stripped off coats, hats, gloves and scarves. They didn't stop there.
Skirts, shirts, pants, underwear and stockings all ended up stashed in plastic bags by the bar as the patrons got naked for the monthly "Clothing Optional Dinner."
"It's exciting to be in a restaurant nude," said George Keyes, 65, a retired junior high school English teacher.
Nude yes, but not unadorned.
Keyes, a lifelong nudist, wore a necklace, earrings and white sneakers.
The dinner was started by a group of New York nudists who wanted something a bit more elegant than the wilderness getaways and beach resorts they generally frequent.
"When you go away on holiday it's more you're roughing it in the woods, whereas this is a really nice restaurant," said Keyes, a member of gay nudist group Males Au Naturel, or MAN.
John Ordover set up the dining club about a year ago, recruiting members through word of mouth and the Internet.
"Next month is our Easter bonnet event, where everybody has to come wearing an Easter bonnet," said Ordover, a heavyset man with a jovial smile and glasses.
Something to sit on
Around 30 people arrived for the buffet dinner -- organizers specified no hot soup on the menu -- most of them middle-aged, several married couples, some singles, the youngest perhaps in their 30s.
"They're a good class of people, they're no different to you or I," said John Bussi, owner of the midtown restaurant. "They're not hurting anybody, it's not a wild Roman orgy."
Health regulations mean staff must remain clothed even if they wanted to join in. And diners must bring something to sit on -- a towel or, for discerning women, an elegant silk scarf.
The restaurant's manager covered the windows to maintain privacy at the strictly private party. Extra heaters kept the temperature at a comfortable level for nudity.
Ordover's wife, Carol, said they first went on a naturist holiday five years ago and she found the experience empowering. But, she explained, it's "the least sexual thing you can possibly imagine."
"Men in nudist resorts are striking a bargain. They get to see as many naked women as they like as long as they are polite and look them straight in the eye," she said.
Sherry Stafford, a petite and elegant 51-year-old with blond hair and high heels, brought brochures and videos advertising her travel business, Internaturally Travel.
One of the flyers was for a resort called "Hedonism II" whose slogan is "Be wicked for a week." But she said nudists should not be confused with swingers.
"Wearing clothes and going to church does not protect you from moral evil," Stafford said, lamenting what she saw as a tendency to demonize people just because they like to be naked.
Sandy, a slim woman in her 40s, said she never felt self-conscious about her body and was comfortable dining in the nude. But she did admit to being a bit more nervous before a recent naked yoga class attended by around 25 people.
"Everyone was a little concerned there would be people looking around but the good thing is nobody really was," she said, standing at the restaurant's bar before dinner.
"If you try to maintain a yoga position you're going to fall if you start looking around -- and that's more embarrassing than anything else."