|Remembering those fun nude days|
Both Victors are honorary lifetime members of Kansas City's oldest gay nudist group -- KC Strip -- which they helped to organize back in 1972. In those days, it was just good, clean, healthy fun to sit around naked while eating snacks and socializing. Six people showed up to the first meeting ("Two of them never came back," Victor says), and the host served chili. Sex didn't rear its ugly head, as it were, in those early days. It wasn't until much later, when KC Strip became a lot more popular, that some of the members sneaked off to other areas of a host's home to do something a little more erotic than just eat snacks and socialize.
It was the Vics, as their friends called them, who helped popularize
the nudist movement among gays of the 1970s. Until then, gay men saw
one another naked only in locker rooms, bathhouses and the privacy of
their own bedrooms. KC Strip made it possible to let it all hang out in
a whole new way.
The problem in the beginning, Victor says, is that one of the other founding members put serious restrictions on who could join the group: "He wanted any new member that joined to be physically fit and have, like, a 9-inch penis. No fat people were allowed in. Since no one really lived up to that, we only had a few members for the first few months."
Eventually, the Vics took control of the group and were more tolerant of different body types (and dick sizes), and KC Strip became a lot more popular. Over the years, two other gay nudist groups formed to compete with KC Strip, but the Vics say they didn't last long. "One just fell apart and the other became more of a jack-off club," Victor says.
The two Vics have seen a lot happen in the gay community since they first met in 1952. In those days, there were only two gay bars in town: the Terrace at 11th and McGee and the Colony, near Armour and Troost. The young gay men and women who happily attended last weekend's Pride events would have been shocked at how repressed the gay community was in the 1950s, Young Victor says. "Gay bars were raided quite frequently -- almost always right before an election. After a while, we all started carrying $25 cash because that's how much it cost to be released from jail if you got caught in a raid."
The vice officers were so familiar to regulars at the Colony and the Terrace that they would come in early and warn men to leave before 11 p.m. "The raids were usually held at 11," Young Victor says. "They would back the paddy wagon to the front door and just start loading everyone inside."
It wasn't until New York City's notorious Stonewall Inn riot in 1969 that the rage to rebel kicked in in Kansas City. One night, right after a raid, a lawyer climbed up on the bar at the Terrace and gave a riveting we-don't-have-to-take-this-anymore speech to the crowd. Everyone left in the bar, including the bartender ("And he was straight!" Young Victor says), went to the police station and demanded to be arrested. "The police chief asked what the hell we were doing there and made us all leave," Young Victor recalls. "And after that, the raids started to taper off."
It was one thing for gay men and women to band together against the vice squad, but there were still cliques and subgroups in gay "society." Wealthier gay men had their own notoriously snobby group, the SIS Club. "It stood for Sisters in Sin, and they had very elegant parties," Young Victor says. Another group hosted the annual Black and White Ball at one of the downtown hotels. It was a huge drag ball and was by invitation only. "We never got an invitation to that," Young Victor says, "although we had friends who would go and they spent weeks working on their costumes."
The Vics still have friends who belong to KC Strip, but they don't attend many meetings anymore. For one thing, Victor gets cold when he's not wearing clothes. "When you get to be my age," he says, "you don't have a lot of meat left on your bones."
Home page image via Flickr: -Marlith-