|Naked Cyclists in Bellingham, 2012|
Bellingham. A hot summer's night in 1972. The Shriners were having a fund-raiser in the formal ballroom, the Chandelier Room, of The Leopold Hotel, the Grande Dame of hotels. The finest hotel north of Seattle, festooned with art deco lions and original art by Sydney Lawrence. Its inlaid marble and tile lobby was presided over by a massive, yet soulful, night auditor named Joe Bernard.
He had watched Bellingham's high society assemble that evening, saw distinguished couples arrive in black tie and ballgowns. He figured the average age of that crowd was probably right at 70. There was much glad-handing and back-slapping as some paused at the downstairs bar. Scotch for the gentlemen, champagne for the ladies. This was Their Night. The night when they could Make A Difference and raise money for those less fortunate. Which probably included everyone outside that ballroom at that moment, in their estimation.
The couples left the lobby and retired to the Chandelier Room. Joe started his nightly auditing of the seven restaurants and bars of the Grande Dame from his perch at the front desk.
Suddenly the tranquility of the lobby was shattered. The side door slammed open and five naked people burst into the room. They all had hair down to the middle of their backs. All appeared to be in their early 20's. All were lean, athletic. And all had a destination in mind: The Chandelier Room.
Streaking was a phenomenon that occurred in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Naked people would run through serious events of the time. It happened at the Republican National Convention. It happened on late night talk shows and at PTA meetings. Perhaps the streakers were trying to make people really evaluate the societal norms of that day. Also, they probably really liked their own physiques: I never heard of an overweight streaker.
Joe was secretly thrilled at the colorful interruption to his ho-hum night shift. This was going to make a great story later at the after-hours poker game he was going to when he got off work at 6 a.m.
The streakers entered the Chandelier Room and stayed for what seemed like an enternity: three minutes? four? Joe couldn't be sure.
Then, like a group of synchronized swimmers, with no water in sight but the small fountain bubbling from the lion's mouth into a 19th century tile bowl in the lobby, the streakers left the ballroom. Zipped through the lobby like a school of fish. Exited through the double set of bevelled glass doors leading to Cornwall Street, where surely there was a getaway car waiting. For they disappeared into the night.
Couples burst out of the Chandelier Room. One white haired woman, garbed in white satin and sequins, fell upon the antique embroidered couch in the lobby. "Oh! What has become of society?" she sobbed, as her tuxedoed husband fanned her with the program from the fundraiser. "Oh, Harold, it's just hideous! Hideous, I tell you!" the lady in the burgundy formal with white fox fur collar shrieked.She fluttered her hands into the air, her two-karat flawless diamond ring shimmering in the chandelier light.
Another matron fell into a Henry the 8th side chair, the back of her hand dramatically shading her eyes. Alas! Too late to keep her from seeing the spectacle.
The police arrived in moments.
"So, how many were there, and were they men or women?" the uniformed cop barked at Joe the Night Auditor.
"There were five streakers, but I couldn't tell if they were men or women: they all had long hair!" Joe told the cop.
"Oh, a wise guy, huh? I can see we're going to have to talk to somebody else!" the cop said.
Bellingham. A hot summer's Sunday in 2012. Joe Bernard is in a van with his friend Luke, heading off to walk the trails of Whatcom Falls Park. In the van are Luke's sons, Jacob and Adrian, and their friends Olin and Soren, and Joe's wife Debbie. The boys range in age from 10-12. Minutes into their ride, at the foot of Forest Street, 30 nude bicyclists suddenly appear and ride towards the van.
Some of the women cyclists have painted flowers on their breasts; some have painted eyeballs. One is wearing an extremely adorable pink tutu. The men sport loincloths, or nothing at all except a coonskin tail tied around their waist and extending down their backsides. All are wearing helmets. Some are carrying cardboard signs that say, "Get out there and do it!"
Luke, Joe and Debbie, the adults, are mesmerized. "Wow! Look at this!" The four boys are mortified.
One of them bends down and puts his windbreaker over his head, avoiding the naked assault on his eyes. The other three boys have a red-cheeked, "What just happened?!" look. Luke is a good father and tries to make the sighting seem like no big deal. But all seven of us will remember it forever.