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Nudist club comfortable with reputation

Some say the Riverboat Club in Land O'Lakes is more about sex than nudist values. But the club's owner says that's just not how it is.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 25, 2000


Delve into the Pasco County nudist community and you're apt to discover a live-and-let-live folk with a liking for in-the-buff volleyball and bare-as-you-dare dances.

But when talk turns to the Riverboat Club, a nude campground east of U.S. 41, some nudists turn more prudish. After 10 years of operation, Riverboat has yet to shake its reputation for excessive carnality.

The rumors of public orgies are just not true, said owner Richard LaRiviere, who invested part of his personal fortune to upgrade a neglected central Pasco pasture in 1990.

But the club is host to enough nude "foam parties," pagan campfire dances and sex camps for adults to confirm the lurid reputation in many people's minds.

The official attitude of Paradise Lakes, North America's largest clothing-optional community, is typical. Paradise sits a few miles south of the Riverboat Club on U.S. 41.

"We understand that club doesn't run in accordance with the nudist lifestyle," Paradise spokesman Bob Moore said. "We just disassociate ourselves from them."

Ousted from the National Association of Nude Recreation three years ago, LaRiviere wears his non-conformity as a badge of honor. Only his club, among Land O'Lakes' four nudist resorts, is denied membership.

To celebrate his jubilee the weekend of July 7, LaRiviere has scheduled a Nudestock music festival featuring seven bands.

"I refuse to be a hypocrite," said LaRiviere, a 55-year-old Massachusetts native. "I'm not going to look you square in the eye and say it's a family place."

Denied participation in the national nudist association -- he insists the AANR is captive of large resorts such as Paradise Lakes -- LaRiviere has promoted his own alternative organization, the World Naturist Network.

The network's Web site lists hundreds of nudist clubs on six continents and promotes such thrills as nude cruises to the Galapagos Islands.

A new venture coming this summer is the Big Happy Mall, a Web site selling handmade clothing, jewelry and other crafts.

LaRiviere said he made a fortune in the 1970s running a New England electronics chain called Verada 214. He closed the business in 1982 and moved to Florida.

A nudist since he was 17, LaRiviere bought a place at Paradise Lakes. He has fond memories of the resort, but said he needed something more rustic.

"It just quadrupled in size," LaRiviere said of Paradise, which has grown to 354 homes with 71 more condominiums on the way. "It was turning into a city."

So he bought 4.8 acres on Carriker Road, built a home and widened a swamp into a lake. Riverboat has 74 campground hookups, an in-ground pool, sauna, showers, a hot tub, a concert stage and a dance floor.

The club, which attracts about 100 visitors on a good weekend, has been profitable for the past four years.

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