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.


IMG_5975The temperature is still hitting the 80s in New York City — it doesn’t at all feel like summer’s over. But it’s September. Winter is coming.

So we got the group together at the single most appropriate spot in Central Park, below the bust of Thomas Moore, the Irish poet who wrote “The Last Rose of Summer,” as fine a tribute to the season’s end as ever there was.

IMG_5934IMG_6026A dozen of us filtered in and out, rekindling old friendships and discovering connections among us.

IMG_6062We were joined by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, and maybe an article will result and maybe one won’t, but that’s not really the point. We stared down a half dozen rather too eager photographers determined to capture us for posterity, but that’s not really the point either.

What is the point? The point is that Central Park in September is just about the most beautiful place to be on the face of the earth, and bare-breasted is just about the best way to enjoy it. The air was warm, the sun mild, the grass comfy, the treats from Mille Feuille heart-melting. We read The Picture of Dorian Gray, we read The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes, we read the numbered entries of the Position Sex Bible. (What’s #69? Not what you think.)

IMG_6035IMG_6038IMG_6033And we relaxed. We weren’t a spectacle, we weren’t offensive. In as public a space as New York has, we were topless and decorum wasn’t shattered, nor traffic stopped, nor tourists scandalized, nor children scarred. Are you paying attention, Mayor de Blasio? Governor Cuomo?

We haven’t shared our feelings about the inane Times Square brouhaha in so many words. But as a lovely summer draws to a close, we trust each of these pictures to be worth a thousand of them.


IMG_4779Sunbathing in the great outdoors is all well and good, but there comes a time when you’d really like a dip in cool water to relieve the golden toasting the sun has given you. When that time comes, if you’re not by the fountain in Washington Square Park, your options are limited. Yes, there are some public pools, and someday we’ll try one. But this past week we went to our favorite private pool, on the roof of the Dream Downtown hotel. Unlike every other hotel with an outdoor pool we’ve reached out to, the Dream isn’t scared by the prospect of bare-chested women joining in with all the bare-chested men lounging by their pool. On the contrary, they’re a topless-friendly pool all the time. Consequently, when the time comes for our annual pool adventure, that’s where we head, books in tow.


A dozen of us took over one of their cabanas, relaxed on their lounge chairs (with real sand underneath, for that Authentic Beach Feel), toasted each other with champagne, and read Lawrence Block (The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes), Karl Ove Knausgaard (My Struggle), and Megan Abbott (The Fever).


We also indulged in a little live broadcasting via Periscope, teaching a few thousand observers about gender equality in New York…


…and just for fun, also a little touristy photography, shooting up through the cutouts in the pool bottom, as seen from the hotel lobby:


“What is this?” some hotel guests asked. “Why are you topless?” The same reason you are, we explained — if we were talking to a man. Or, when we were talking to curious women: You know you can too, right?


And a few of them took our contact info. Will they join us at a future event? We hope so. The summer isn’t over yet. Before the cold sets in (and if last year is any indication, it could be a long one), why not take an afternoon to lounge topless in the sun?

Or in the water. It’s all up to you.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,982 other followers