Navel Maneuvers

Stripped to a pair of boxer shorts, the obese man leaped to the edge of the plastic tub. With his toes curled around the rim like a treed possum, he howled and beat his chest. Ripples of fat rolled across the expanse of his round belly. The tub beneath him had been filled with lime Jell-O, and as the fat man shook, so did the gelatin.

This was perhaps the most eagerly anticipated event of last Thursday's much ballyhooed one-night Super Bowl cruise. Tickets to board the ship for what was billed as "Hedonism on the High Seas" and a "cruise that would make the Love Boat blush" ran anywhere from $350 to $2000. Among the enticements advertised in the weeks leading up to the great event: "200 naked showgirls and dozens of pro football superstars," "nude massages," "hot coed bubble baths," "nude limbo contests," and, of course, the opportunity to "frolic with girls in the Jell-O filled pool."

Well, here was the Jell-O. But only a Munchkin would have deigned to deem the container a pool. And for the time being, at least, this lone inebriated ape, dubbed "Jabba" by his jolly shipmates, was the sole frolicker. Moments before he'd climbed onto his perch, his buddy, a diminutive, equally intoxicated fellow, had bid $500 for his rotund pal to have the privilege of cavorting with a leggy brunette in the green cauldron of sin. But as Jabba now wobbled on the tub's lip, the brunette returned the $500 and used her long legs to beat a hasty retreat.

While organizers scurried to secure the services of another stripper, the crowd of about 200 gathered around the tub was growing impatient. "Get in the tub, you fat fuck!" screamed one thirtysomething professional clad in a designer suit. With that nudge of encouragement, Jabba cannonballed into the vat, spewing chunks of Jell-O on the first two rows of spectators. Alone in the tub, he proceeded to perform a series of acrobatic exercises that would have made Shamu jealous. Back flips. Belly flops. Even a cartwheel. Then, spotting one of his friends, he reached out, yanked the man into the tub, and the two began to frolic together, to the obvious amusement of the assembled audience.

After several minutes, however, an uneasy silence fell over the spectators, as it dawned on them that they were staring goggle-eyed at a pair of men wrestling in Jell-O. As if struck in unison by the billy-club of homophobic implications, they started to chant, "We want women! We want women!"

A pair of bouncers moved in and dragged Jabba's friend from the tub, quickly replacing the fully clothed, dripping man with a stripper wearing only panties and the pained expression of a person who has come to learn too late that some things aren't worth doing for money -- not even $500. The gropefest that ensued was augmented by whipped cream and ended when a butt-naked Jabba, having lost his underpants in the fray, came up for air long enough for the dancer to spring from the tub and dash like a whippet for safety. Left alone once more, Jabba continued to romp by himself until the man in the designer suit finally provided a sense of closure, shouting, "Get out of the tub, you fat fuck!"

Amid all the local hype that normally accompanies a Super Bowl, the nude cruise clearly caught the media's fancy this year, owing to its novelty and to its source, Michael J. Peter. With a network of nudie bars strung like prurient pearls around the world -- including Solid Gold in North Miami Beach, and Pure Platinum and Thee DollHouse III in Broward -- Peter is one of the undisputed kings of unclad entertainment. With last week's event, he is hoping to achieve in international waters what he has already accomplished on land. "This is what I do," he exclaimed as he stood aboard the Scandinavian Dawn, a SeaEscape ship he'd chartered, with naked women dancing all around him. "I am the modern-age Barnum and Bailey! I produce the greatest shows on Earth and there is nothing illegal about it!"

That last remark was probably directed at the U.S. Justice Department, which evidently disagrees. This past May a grand jury in Broward indicted Peter, charging that he threatened competitors when he believed they were trying to recruit his dancers, and that he skimmed profits and withheld taxes from one of his clubs to pay off members of the Mafia.

Peter's legal troubles, as well as the fact that the Super Bowl cruise featured casino gambling, raised concerns among National Football League officials, who saw names of current and former players being published in ads that promoted the event. Days before the ship left port, the NFL formally banned its players from participating. That didn't stop Peter from declaring during the cruise that 150 current and ex-NFL stars were onboard.

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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede