What a glorious day to take the kids for a motorcycle ride to the park! The sun was high and the sky clear of the thunderous rain clouds that had darkened and drenched Miami for a day and a half. South Florida's bikers participating in the "Beach Bash Poker Run" couldn't have hoped for better conditions.
Beginning that Sunday morning, August 1, about 300 motorcyclists zigzagged along a prescribed route from bike shop to bike shop in Broward and Dade counties. At each stop they collected a playing card. The holder of the best poker hand at the end of the route would win a trophy. Last stop was the northwest corner of the main parking lot at Metro-Dade's Haulover Park, where a huge AIDS benefit party was planned. Everyone was invited, not just bikers. Some brought their families.
The day's festivities were the brainchild of Tom Clark, a not-for-profit promoter and president of Artists and Musicians Against Drugs and Abuse. He had wanted to raise money for AIDS victims and a friend had suggested staging an event for bikers, who have a reputation for hearts as big as their hogs. "I usually do Chamber of Commerce-type events," he says. "I'd never done anything controversial." While initially wary of the idea, Clark assuaged his concerns after a little research. He then rounded up participants and secured the necessary permits from the Metro-Dade Parks and Recreation Department, which also rented him a county-owned portable stage and offered a reduced rate for off-duty Metro-Dade police officers to provide security.
Up to 2000 people showed up at the park to enjoy the live music, cold beer, food, and booths selling biker paraphernalia. But that wasn't all Clark was providing. His research into the biker culture had also taught him that a successful rally required yet another ingredient: female breasts, prominently displayed. To this end Clark dreamed up a "Best Breasts of South Florida" contest and offered a $1000 first prize. He distributed thousands of flyers around South Florida highlighting the event, and in the weeks before the fundraiser, he hustled from strip club to strip club trying to generate interest among potential contestants.
Those who waited for the competition to begin late that Sunday afternoon weren't disappointed. With heavy metal blasting from loudspeakers, the first woman mounted the stage (which was proudly adorned with a Metro-Dade Parks and Recreation Department banner) and gyrated in a bikini bottom and skimpy T-shirt. Toward the end of her routine she yanked down her shirt and flashed her breasts. The crowd went berserk.
After the second contestant was booed off the stage for refusing to reveal her hidden assets, the ensuing routines became more and more provocative. "It was kind of wild," recalls "Tanya," a dancer from the Booby Trap in North Miami, who went on to win the event. "I was like the eighth girl. I went out there and ripped my shirt in half, poured ice-cold water over my chest, and threw the ice at everyone. They went crazy. I have a pretty big behind and I bent over in front of the crowd and I guess all the bikers liked it. Kids were in the front chanting, 'Tan-ya! Tan-ya! Tan-ya!' and I felt a little funny about that. But everybody was having a good time." And the Metro-Dade police officers? "They were just standing around the stage and let it go on."
For the grand finale, the ten competitors danced together, their breasts exposed to the exhilarated crowd of adults and children. Two women shed what little they were wearing and pranced around completely nude.
"This is the wildest thing I've ever been involved with!" hoots organizer Tom Clark. "It went farther than I had anticipated. I was not particularly pleased that the girls took their tops off, but it went relatively great." No arrests were made the whole day, he reports, adding that the easygoing police even snapped some photos of the entertainment. "They were amazed there were no problems," Clark concludes. "They now have a new outlook on bikers."
And perhaps a new approach to public striptease. Metro-Dade's policy regarding public nudity is currently guided by a memo issued this past year by police legal advisor Laurie Collins. Merely being nude, she wrote, is not a violation of Florida's nudity statute. However, the law does prohibit public nudity that is "lewd or lascivious," and someone publicly nude can theoretically be arrested for disorderly conduct, Collins added, "if all the elements of that crime are present."
According to Metro police spokeswoman Lt. Linda O'Brien, the department received no complaints about the event. Furthermore, she says, naked dancing girls performing at a public park is perfectly legal. "The officers did not witness a violation of the law," O'Brien says. "Thrusting breasts, bumping and grinding, and dancing naked -- unless it's done in a lewd and lascivious manner -- is not a crime." So what would qualify as a crime? O'Brien lists the possibilities: masturbation, sexual intercourse, male erection, and female exposure of internal genital areas -- "and I don't mean just pubic hair," she adds.
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Ironically, the beach across --1-- from the site of the biker rally has been the scene of recent debate regarding a more innocent form of public nudity. In the past two years, the northern-most section of Haulover Beach has become a de facto nude-bathing area. Although legal, the beach -- and the entire subject of naked bodies -- has preoccupied the parks department and its legal advisors.
"Oh lovely, just lovely," responds parks department spokeswoman Lauren Gail when informed after the fact about the "Best Breasts" contest. "As far as we knew, the permit used was for an AIDS fundraising event involving a group that conducts abuse-awareness seminars to provide positive messages to the youth of our community." Gail says parks officials got word shortly before the event that a "beauty contest" would be staged, but were assured by Clark there would be "nothing inappropriate, no baring of body parts."
The actual competition, she says, apparently didn't fit the wholesome, family-oriented philosophy of the parks department -- even though plenty of families were in attendance. "The department is going to launch a full investigation into this one," she promises.
As for Tanya, the "Best Breast" winner, she cheerfully embraced the philanthropic spirit of the day and split the $1000 grand prize among her seven Booby Trap colleagues who stripped for the crowd at Haulover.