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Columns

Nudists show their clout behind blanket of $2 bills

By ANDREW SKERRITT
Published March 2, 2007


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The best way for nudists to show off just what they mean to central Pasco isn't by baring their suntanned bods.

There will be no Lady Godivas parading down Land O'Lakes Boulevard, no nudist billboards. They plan to paint the area green - as in the color of money - $2 bills to be exact.

Beginning March 15, they're launching a month-long campaign to spend $2 bills to remind local businesses that nudists are here in greater numbers than ever.

For those who aren't familiar with our currency, the $2 bill is a note graced with the face of Thomas Jefferson, America's third president.

Jefferson is an apt icon for this nudist promotion. He was open minded enough to probably have gone skinny dipping when he was U.S minister to France. We all know about the French's laissez-faire attitude toward nudity.

I can hear the jokes already. Since nudists don't have pockets, where do they keep the dollar bills before they spend them?

Laugh all you want, but this is serious business. This is about economic impact.

Pasco County is a major destination for people who want to live, play tennis, swim and sunbathe in the buff.

The Pasco tourism office's Web site promotes four major naturist destinations - Caliente, Lake Como, Paradise Lakes and Gulf Coast Resort Hudson.

About 150,000 people pass through the gates of Paradise Lakes in Land O'Lakes every year. It's the second largest generator of bed tax revenues in the county - behind Saddlebrook Resort.

Paradise Lakes, Lake Como and Caliente, all in central Pasco, generate more than $2-million in annual property tax revenues. That's one million $2 bills.

"We want to be recognized," said Paradise Lakes president Joe Lettelleir.

He was speaking in a fiscal, not physical sense, of course.

I'm not sure why local nudists would feel neglected or under-appreciated. Like manatees and bald eagles, they've got protected status. There's not even a hint about curbing clothing-optional resorts. Even conservative Republican politicians are supportive.

For these resorts, though, this is a busy time of year with snow birds from up north and sun-starved visitors from Europe. A perfect time to show off their clout. Clothing sellers might not see many $2 bills, but waiters in local restaurants should be prepared to make change from $2 bills.

The SunTrust Bank branch in Land O'Lakes has ordered 1,000 $2 bills. Other banks are expected to follow suit.

A similar promotion turned more than a few heads when Paradise Lakes tried it during the mid 1980s, recalled longtime Paradise Lakes resident Jack Gibson. He suggested reviving the idea this time around.

"It was interesting to hear the reaction when people tried to use the $2 bills," he said. "It was a real hoot."

Gibson is now 58. He's still zealous about his clothing-optional lifestyle. It's family friendly and healthy, he said. He wants me to come visit his resort. That can wait. Meanwhile, Gibson is eager to start spreading around his crisp new $2 bills. The reaction he gets from local store clerks should be revealing.

Andrew Skerritt can be reached at (813) 909-4602 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4602. His e-mail address is askerritt@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 2, 2007, 05:58:50]


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