Naked Ambition

Our friend takes photos of naked people at City Hall. And then he publishes them.

Our housemate was nude on the Channel 7 news. Let us explain.

It all starts the day Harvey calls. He's been tooling down 101, fresh from terrorizing Seattle, where his naked-in-public photo shoots had been splashed across the Seattle Times and the Stranger. Though we haven't seen or heard from Harvey (who goes by his first name alone) in, oh, five years, he wants to know: Can he crash on our couch for a week? No sooner have we said yes than the doorbell rings.

His pre-owned BMW is weighted with copies of his coffee-table book, The Spirit of Lady Godiva, and 10 years' worth of postcards, calendars, and T-shirts, all chock-full of unclothed people he's shot in public in cities across the United States and Canada.

Like his contemporary, the better-known Spencer Tunick, Harvey knows Job 1 is finding models. Luckily, he's not picky: Male, female, octogenarian, skinny, fat, quadriplegic — any nude will do. But he does love the ladies. To picture him, imagine Jack Kerouac and Hugh Hefner sharing the stocky, 5-foot-8-inch body of a 40-year-old former hockey enforcer.

When Harvey hits a new city, he starts a buzz by talking to local morning radio. Dog Bites swallows a chortle when he picks KQED-FM randomly out of the white pages to help him recruit models. After encountering a palpable lack of enthusiasm and a labyrinth of voice-mail transfers, he tries Live 105 — a great choice, except they air Howard Stern. Strike two. On to — what's this? — the Bone. That could be good.

A producer sounds excited and wants Harvey to phone in at 7 a.m. tomorrow for a segment called “Favor Thursday.” Harvey is happy. “Some poor kid needs a pair of gloves, but they're gonna bump that to put us on because we're talking about naked people. Funny how that works,” he says.

The next morning, on the air, Harvey makes his request: He wants models to show up at Adobe Bookshop in the Mission District the following day to prep for a shoot on the steps of City Hall. The DJs make a joke about shooting on Bush Street. Then they try to get the traffic girl to pose for Harvey; she just laughs in embarrassment. The phone goes dead, and Harvey goes back to sleep.

He's cool and carefree on the morning of the shoot. He has already recruited our housemate, Kristin, who had been a complete stranger to him 24 hours ago, and who has in turn recruited co-workers from an upscale Noe Valley restaurant. (We like Harvey's photographs, but find it amazing how easy it is for him to get people to be in them, especially pretty women.)

Three intrepid Bone volunteers turn out: a male-female duo of fun-loving Renaissance Faire regulars and a young male college student with a calm sense of mischief.

The models are collected into the back room at Adobe, where they stand around awkwardly and probably imagine each other naked. When Harvey announces that camera crews from ABC7 News and Fox are on the way, one female recruit has a freakout. “You know, I just — I just can't do this. This is not what I thought it would be like at all!” she exclaims. At that point, Dog Bites expects everyone else to just say, “Yeah, what the heck are we thinking? This is crazy!” and follow her right out the door. But they stay put, perhaps sensing that an adventure is about to begin.

A camera van starts to unload.

“I always have those dreams where I'm nude and no one's cool with the nudity. You know, like I'm at a family reunion,” Harvey tells his models. “For these pictures, pretend that you do have clothes on and that everybody's cool with it.” Then he goes over a series of hand signals, and the models practice getting out of and back into their clothes inside 10 seconds. (Harvey likes to hit and run.) Then they're off, camera crews in tow.

Two hours later, the front door of our flat swings open and Kristin falls into the hallway with an adrenaline rush, like she's just robbed a bank and has a giant bag of money. Her eyes are a-sparkle and her face carries a grin as big as a butt crack. “It was AWWWESOME,” she says. “Wooo! Omigod!”

That night on the local news there's a long segment at the very end about Harvey and the shoot. And there's Kristin being interviewed after almost getting arrested at City Hall. The police had heard “Favor Thursday” on the radio and were lying in wait with unmarked cars and plainclothes officers with earpiece-radios. It was probably good timing that Kamala Harris had just announced the day before that she didn't want to waste taxpayers' money overprosecuting petty crimes.

Despite the near-bust — during which Kristin is interrogated by the cops for 10 minutes while completely naked — Harvey gets almost a hundred shots, including usable ones for a new San Francisco calendar.

That same night, at her restaurant shift, Kristin and her fellow model/co-workers enjoy an evening of celebrity among the staff. The ABC7 News team enjoys what might have been a little spike in viewership. The officers, too, have a great story to tell, and Dog Bites has a column to write. And Harvey? Well, Harvey is pleased … grinning on the couch, planning his next shoots: Lombard Street, the Castro Theatre, and Amoeba Music. And his next destination — L.A. (Todd Spencer)

Tags: , , , ,

Related Stories