IMG_8771When a mild Halloween is followed by an even milder November, there’s nothing for it but to break out the old beach towels again and go back to the park. Yes, it gets late earlier these days, like (the late) Yogi Berra used to say. But while those fine golden hours last, it’s lovely to spend them surrounded by the crisp autumn air, meeting friends old and new.

Our reporter friend from the New York Times came out again, shooting some more video for her story, which we’re hoping will see the light of day while there’s still enough daylight to see it by. Two first-timers from St. Louis also came, together with a bunch of our regulars, and we all enjoyed doughnuts and hot chocolate and a discussion of unreliable narrators and the feel of the breeze against our skin.

IMG_8743IMG_8733IMG_8852We were probably more conspicuous than at the height of summer, if only because we were the only ones sitting out on the lawn, but no one bothered us, and the handful of passers-by our reporter friend spoke with all seemed at worst indifferent to and at best supportive of what we were doing.

IMG_8870To be fair, there were other things going on nearby to capture the attention of people in the mood to be shocked — the performance artist Matthew Silver and his crew were leaping about wildly in their underwear just outside the park, while a few yards away someone had outfitted a batch of taxidermied rats with roller skates and remote controls and was scooting them around underfoot. (Yes, one of them had a slice of pizza gripped in its claws.) What’s a half dozen women calmly discussing books without their shirts on compared to that?

But as our St. Louis friends reminded us, this is nothing to take for granted. Where they’re from, doing what we did would be illegal  — six women who did it recently got arrested for it, they told us. It’s something to remember, and something for us, living in New York, to be thankful for. The simple act of sitting shirtless in a park on a beautiful fall day should not be a crime, either for women or for men, and where we live it isn’t one. It’s really not too much to ask that women everywhere have the same right.


IMG_8478Most of the time, New York is cold enough on Halloween that only a madwoman would go outside shirtless. But once in a very long while it’s milder, making a variety of costume options feasible that otherwise might not be: topless flapper, for instance, or topless princess, or topless Carmen Sandiego. Several of us explored these and other forms of sartorial self-expression at the intersection of Stanton and Allen Streets, where the city has helpfully set out some benches in the middle of traffic…

IMG_8494c…before heading down the block to the Slipper Club, burlesque emporium extraordinaire, for an evening of merriment.

20151030_173933What sort of merriment? Well, to start with, it was the largest gathering of our members we’ve ever had, with several dozen of us in attendance. Costumes were welcome (as was the lack of costumes — we’re nothing if not open-minded). We welcomed cyborgs…

IMG_8548…and monsters…

IMG_8508IMG_8519…droogs that would’ve made Anthony Burgess proud…

IMG_8671c…and various other characters, familiar or invented.

IMG_8515IMG_8514(What is this last costume? So glad you asked. It’s a blue-footed booby, of course.)

The Pinchbottom burlesque troupe put on a special stage performance just for us, featuring numbers inspired by Shelley, Coleridge, and Dante, with pulp novelist Jonny Porkpie on hand as Master of Ceremonies and Reader of Excerpts From the Referenced Literary Works.

IMG_8644IMG_8654Afterwards, there was a bit of a bar crawl involving Bulgarian hookahs, Belgian ale and silent televisions playing World Series game three for the Mets fans among us. Photos are few from the indoor portions of the evening, and in-focus ones fewer still. But you can get some sense of what we got up to below.

(And here’s an extra treat for those of you in the UK: a reporter from the one of the biggest newspapers in London flew in just for the event, and an article about us is supposedly forthcoming. Who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire a revolution across the ocean…)

IMG_8558IMG_8525IMG_8573IMG_8559IMG_8659IMG_8660Happy Halloween, all.

IMG_8287Ever dream you went to a Broadway show, only to discover, when you got there and took your coat off, that you weren’t dressed underneath?

We got to live out this dream the other night…

IMG_8119IMG_8135…courtesy of a friend of ours who also happens to be the writer and director of a show currently knocking ’em dead on the Great White Way, Cynthia von Buhler.

Countess von Buhler is the brilliant and beautiful painter, sculptress, author, and theatrical impresario responsible for restaging the “Midnight Frolic” of master showman Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. A century ago, Ziegfeld bucked social norms by presenting late-night entertainments on the Great White Way filled with half-dressed showgirls and other scandal-worthy elements (such as racially integrated casts, featuring performers like Josephine Baker).

IMG_8253IMG_8255IMG_8258IMG_8259IMG_8273That’s all on the positive side of the ledger. He also bedded any number of his leading ladies and chorus girls, several of whom later came to untimely ends, such as Olive Thomas, dead of mercury bichloride poisoning while on her honeymoon in Paris. Was it murder, suicide, an accident…? Who can really say?

Well, Cynthia can. In her latest interactive theatrical extravaganza, she both recreates Ziegfeld’s most risqué show and takes the audience to the Paris hotel room where Olive Thomas met her terrible fate. The death is staged three ways — once as accident, once as suicide, once as murder — while out front Eddie Cantor and Fanny Brice and Josephine Baker whip the crowd into a frenzy. There are singers and dancers, and aerialists suspended from a giant chandelier…

IMG_8232IMG_8192IMG_8209Drinks flow freely, dinner is served, and what exactly is that white powder the flower seller keeps urging you to sniff…?

And for one very special performance, there were also a dozen topless women in the audience, joining in the fun.

IMG_8136IMG_8389cIMG_8451IMG_8423IMG_8252We got to rub elbows with all the performers, see the show from the best seats in the house, crack open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, and take part in a demonstration where one of our number was placed in a coffin and transformed into a revolting corpse. (We got her back, safe and sound, before the night ended.)

Actually, come to think of it, the night never did end, not really — after the show, we accompanied cast members to an all-night spa for massages, steam, soaks, and scrubs, and before we called it quits, PM had given way to AM. Just like it says in “Lullaby of Broadway”: When a Broadway baby says good night / It’s early in the morning…

We left the camera in the locker room while at the spa — what happens in Koreatown stays in Koreatown — and even at the theater the low-light conditions and constant motion proved a challenge for documenting our adventure. But here are some glimpses of the fun we had.

You’re just going to have to imagine the rest.


IMG_7462After our rooftop adventure (chronicled previously), we headed down with our new friend from the New York Times to the streets of Brooklyn and the grassy lawns of Prospect Park.

IMG_7374IMG_7372IMG_7387At first, no one seemed to take notice of us — so much so that our reporter friend commented on it, amazed that the presence of half a dozen women relaxing topless in a public space attracted not a single stare or rude comment. But like most things that seem too good to be true, it was: after perhaps half an hour, a police car cruised slowly to a stop alongside us and the officers inside sheepishly indicated they’d received several calls to 911 complaining of our presence. Because, you know. Breasts. Clearly they require armed men in uniform to subdue.

IMG_7414IMG_7419What were we doing to deserve the attention of the police? Sitting; reading; talking; eating chocolate. All while failing to conceal our nipples. While on the next lawn over, mind you, this was going on:

IMG_7473Yes, a bare chest! But a bare male chest. No one called 911 about him. But two or more people thought it was a good use of the city’s emergency system to report us.  It’s heartbreaking, in a way. That in 2015…in Brooklyn, New York, of all places…anyone could be so afraid of women’s bodies that they’d think calling the police is the proper response.

Fortunately, these particular policemen were well trained, acknowledged that what we were doing was perfectly legal, and wearily rolled on. We bear them no ill will — they have to investigate complaints. But the people who called them…for them we have nothing but pity. Well, pity and scorn. But pity sounds so much more polite.

Ah, well. We didn’t let it ruin our afternoon. And perhaps it gave a keener edge to the interviews we gave the Times, which you should be able to see on their site in another week or two. It’s easy to forget sometimes that a lot of people not only don’t know that it’s legal for women to go topless in New York but don’t think it should be.

Unfortunately, this seems to include the mayor. And he really, really, really should know better.

But mayors come and go.

Breasts are forever.


IMG_7270Most of the time we confine ourselves to Manhattan — more a matter of laziness than principle, really, and even the laziness doesn’t make much sense when you consider how many of us live in Brooklyn. Perhaps it’s the centrality that attracts us. In any event: we generally meet in Manhattan. But with summer winding down, and with one of our number having access to a lovely rooftop sundeck in an Outer Borough, we decided to peregrinate to the other side of the river. And look what we found when we got there:

IMG_7082Just a little reminder of what we stand for. Individual liberty — and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. If only she wore her robe draped just a little more loosely, hers could. And why not? She is French, after all.

IMG_7131IMG_7229IMG_7215We were joined on our afternoon adventure by a reporter from the New York Times, who wanted to learn more about our group and why we do what we do; you may see a report from them sometime over the coming weeks. (Here we are striking a pose for her camera. Because why not. We’re proud of what we do.)

IMG_7363We were also joined by some bagels and black-and-white cookies from Barney Greengrass, some bubbly intoxicants from Ms. Liberty’s homeland, and books by two Kings (Stephen and Lily).

IMG_7304Later in the afternoon we wandered over to Prospect Park, where someone with no knowledge of the law called 911 on us, causing the police to roll up, see that we weren’t doing anything illegal, and roll on. But that’s a subject for another post. For now, let’s remember the happier parts of the day — when Liberty was in sight, and no one was trying to dismantle her.


IMG_6991How do you follow an hour of play in the grown-up version of a kids’ ball pit? Dinner, of course, at an open-air French bistro, whose owners, being French, don’t see anything wrong with a dozen women dining topless in their establishment. Is it unusual? Bien sur! But is it shocking? Mais non. Should it be prohibited? Pourquoi? Let the wine flow, the foie gras and tartare get plated, and the shirts come off. Liberté, egalité, sororité!

IMG_6824IMG_6849IMG_6874We were joined by two surprise guests, the extraordinary art photographer Gunter Knop, whose female nudes are legendary…

IMG_6896…and this fellow, all 6’4″ of him, who must’ve come only to drink since he arrived with a box of 7-Eleven pizza in hand, and who joined us in toplessness and earnest philosophical discussion.

IMG_7055IMG_7075IMG_7023There were some onlookers from outside, peering in with curiosity (and iPhones — damn you, Steve Jobs!). There was a school group, and we’re told that we inspired a few dozen teenage double-takes.

IMG_6928IMG_6910But mostly the night passed without event. The food was delicious. The company even more so.

IMG_6977We rarely go out after the sun goes down, but when we do, we do it right. And with nights getting longer, you can expect to see us doing more of it in the coming months.

We’re delighted to have discovered Parigot, and will return there with pleasure.

We recommend the scallops.

IMG_6972IMG_6885IMG_6911And the creme brulee. :)


IMG_6608We’ve Got Balls

Playing With Someone’s Balls

Balls, Deep

The punny titles just write themselves, don’t they? And while we bow to no one in our capacity for innuendo and juvenile humor, this time we’ll let it go.

What’s the story behind these rather unusual pictures? Simple. We heard that the downtown ad agency Pearlfisher had installed a giant ball pit in its reception area and invited members of the public to come and enjoy themselves in it. It’s meant as some sort of paean to childishness and playfulness and free-spiritedness, three things we like to like to think we embody. So we called them up and asked if perhaps they’d let us commandeer the space some afternoon and disport ourselves like the overgrown children we are. They said yes, and a subway ride later it was us and 80,000 white plastic balls in a battle royal.


The experience was exhilarating, though perhaps more physically taxing than we expected. (Ever sink beneath a truckload of plastic spheres and find yourself unable to get up again? Fortunately some of our members are in peak physical condition and could fish the rest of us out.)


There were selfies to take and ball fights to have…


…juggling to practice and pretend spa treatments to enact…


…swimming metaphors to explore and Chuck E. Cheese memories to blissfully expunge.


No, we didn’t read any books in there; we didn’t even discuss any. But by god, we had fun. Hats off (bras, too) to the cool, supportive staffers who let us come and were super-nice to us while we were there. To the handful of ad execs in the back trying to get some actual work done while we frolicked noisily in their entrance after hours, our apologies. But tell the world it’s okay to come over and play with your balls, you’ve got to expect some people to take you up on it.

Ah, smutty puns, we can’t resist you after all!

Perhaps for our next outing we’ll have to go to the Jewelry District and try on some pearl necklaces.

In the meantime: Balls.

Enjoy ’em. We did.



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