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Nudists angered anew by Foley

Lake Como members find the scandal involving former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley has revived bitter memories of his attack on the resort in 2003.

Published October 5, 2006

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LUTZ - In July 2003, Marion Hagans brought two of her grandchildren to a televised interview in New York with former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley.

"He looked my 16-year-old grandson in the eye and said, 'I'm here to protect you children,' " Hagans said, recalling the exchange on The John Walsh Show.

A month earlier, Foley, then running for the U.S. Senate, had compared Lake Como's summer nudist camp for children to child pornography and child molestation Web sites.

Hagans was among a group of outraged Lake Como members fighting to restore the resort's reputation.

These memories flooded back to Hagans on Saturday morning when a friend called to tell her Foley had become embroiled in revelations of his sexually explicit e-mails to underage male pages on Capitol Hill.

In this nudist community of 1,149 members, the revelations have revived bitter memories and brought no small sense of vindication.

Van Bradley, the resort's general manager, characterized Foley's 2003 remarks as an attack. Foley pressed for and got a state investigation into Lake Como that later found no wrongdoing in the resort.

For about a year after Foley's attack, the resort lost an uncounted amount of business from people Bradley knew. They told him they stayed away because they did not want to be associated with nudism after the incident.

Foley's smear hit Bradley in a personal way.

"My daughter-in-law wouldn't allow my grandson to come back to the camp," he said.

At the heart of Pasco's nudist resorts - the county's second-biggest tourism earner - is a deep-seated fear that the industry will forever be associated with sex.

That's the kind of response that those in Lake Como have strived for 60 years to overcome. Its officials say the camp has strict rules barring sexual touching and remarks.

"If you grab somebody's butt, you are out," said marketing director Rene Niquette.

Its one-week Junior Camp for children 11 to 17, started 16 years ago, is conducted in a roped-off area. Two counselors are provided for every five children. Classes are taught on citizenship and civic values, among other things.

"Even going to the bathroom, counselors walk them," said Arlene Reed, Como's activities director.

As Foley's scandal unfolded, emotions ran the gamut at Lake Como.

"At first, I jumped for joy," Hagans said. "I took it personally. He had been trying to negate our children's nudist camp. It's not correct that he should make me or other participants feel guilty. Our kids are well-protected, and we teach them proper values in life. ... When I thought about it, I became quite angry. I feel he owes my grandson an apology."

Not that there is a chance Foley can visit to make that apology.

"Not anymore," said member Mike Chauncey. "Now he's on the 'Do Not Admit' list."

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at 813909-4613 or

[Last modified October 5, 2006, 12:41:17]

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