...a deleted scene from “Diary of a Rope Slut”
So I told The Southern Gent [the photographer I was working with that night] about the shoot I’d done a couple weeks earlier with Philly Dude [a traveling photographer] who was doing a series of night time long-exposure shots of nudes in city landmarks. My hope was to make The Southern Gent understand how liberal the nudity laws in Portland really are so that he would be less nervous about our shoot.
Philly Dude was going around the country and shooting similar photos with whomever he could get to pose naked in very public places. Beforehand he would gather a posse: two look outs to keep an eye on creeps who might try to mess with the models, a person to hold lights, and a couple models.
Around midnight we met at the center of the city in Pioneer Square with the hope there would be little car or foot traffic. We weren’t so fortunate. People were milling round everywhere and cars drove by on a steady basis. The other model and I took all this in and feeling safe with our entourage, shrugged and undressed, pretending this was totally normal. And in a way it was, since the law protected us by saying as long as the nudity wasn’t meant to titillate (i. e. no one was touching their genitals) it was legal.
At first being this publicly nude was anti climatic, we hurried through several poses at the corner of the park filled with benches and trees. Just as we were feeling cavalier about prancing around without comment, one of the look outs nodded his head in the direction of two people coming our way.
From a distance in the dark it was tough to tell if they were security guards or cops. It was clear from their pace and the walkie talkies in their hands that they meant business. The other model, Pixie, and I quickly pull on our robes and act casual as they approach. We get our stories straight and feel confident that being honest and promising to move on is the best option.
Philly Dude is from out of town so he’s nervous enough for all of us, incrementally bringing up the stress level in our group each time he whispers under his breath, “Shit!”
“Just say we’re making art, and it will be fine,” I keep telling him.
It seems to take forever for security to approach until we wonder if they were even interested in us. With the high population of transients and drunk people in the area it was possible they saw something more urgently in need of their attention. Regardless we were in a holding pattern waiting for them to approach us or disappear all together.
Finally when the suspense was so painful we considered packing up and taking our chances walking by them on the way to our cars, the youngest and burliest of the guys walked over. I was so tense my shoulders were at my ears. Philly Dude’s prickly attitude wasn’t helping. Getting into a debate with a cop while essentially naked wasn’t something I hoped to be doing that particular evening.
The security guy advances on the photographer and says in an authoritative voice that feigns courtesy but has already seen too much shit for one evening, “Excuse me sir, are you smoking?”
I exhale so fast it turns into a laugh without my volition which Pixie mirrors. We were so focused on being naked we’d forgot that smoking in parks is illegal in Portland! That was the concern, the reason they had been circling us.
“You can’t smoke here.” The cop points at the “no smoking” sign we’re standing a few inches away from as illustration.
“Outside? A person can’t smoke outside in this town? What kind of…” the Philly Dude starts, his macho ego getting ahead of him and threatening to get us all in trouble. Before he could mouth off further, the woman who had organized the entire shoot stepped in front of him, taking the cigarette from his fingers to put it out in a receptacle.
“No problem, sir.” She beamed her enormous lovely smile, her waist length flame red hair dancing around her face like a mane as she held eye contact with the young police officer.
“Alright, good.” He walked away with an aside over his shoulder, “We’ve been enjoying the tits.” He gestures to his partner. “Gotta warn you thought, shift change is in 10 and the next guy is a grumpy Mormon.” With that he walked away and disappeared.
We looked at each other shocked. One of the look outs managed, “Did that just happen?”
After composing ourselves we were highly motivated to set up the shots we needed. One look out kept close track of time, the other scanning traffic for an angry Mormon starting his shift (whatever that might look like.) All went off without further issue. We got several more photos, trying not to shiver while the photographer counted down the long seconds we needed to hold statue-still for the camera.
We got dressed and moved on to a new location like nothing had happened. Because Portland where smoking is more scandalous than boobs.