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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide

Milwaukee's Paradise Beach attracted thousands of bathers until it closed in 1993.

Nude beaches crack the sunbathing norm


Although rumors of suitless swimmers still surface, Milwaukee's Paradise Beach -- AKA "Bare-Ass Beach" -- was closed in 1993.

Originally located on the public lakeshore property in the 3300-3500 blocks of North Lake Drive, the beach was popular with bare bathers, called naturists, for decades.

In 1991, the naturists moved to a larger beachfront just south of the UWM alumni house. During this time, au naturel activists Mike Froemming and the late Dick Bacon -- who once did the New Year's Day Polar Bear dip in the raw -- stepped forward in defense of the controversial strip of land.

"There was a three-sided concrete wall (on the beach) and originally we were on the north side of it," says Froemming, who was often called "The Mayor of Paradise Beach." "But we started to notice shadows in the wooded area, so we migrated south of the wall, which was larger, sunnier and sandier."

"We thought we had a right to it because it was public land," he says. But public or not, Froemming received a $210 ticket in 1991 for disturbing the peace -- even though he says nude bathers were not visible from the street.

"The Naturist Society (in Oshkosh) hired me a lawyer," says Froemming. "And the judge dismissed the case, saying it was not a disturbance of the peace."

Froemming says the demographic of Paradise Beach was about two-thirds men to one-third women, and it was a mix of gay and straight.

He and Bacon handed out literature defining the rules for the beach (no sex, gawking, drinking or drugs) and they often acted as "police" for the occasional woman who felt threatened.

"We ran a pretty tight ship down there," he says. "But we occasionally had to tell a man to back off because he didn't understand a woman was just being socially friendly."

Froemming says the core of naturism is body acceptance, not sexuality.

"At the most, it's sensual, but really, it's about body acceptance and exploring that side of yourself," he says.

For the past 11 years, Froemming has relocated to Mazo Beach, Wisconsin's only official clothing-optional beach that's 30 minutes west of Madison near Mazomanie. He says the Mazo group also has indoor activities during the winter months, attracting between 75 and 125 people.

Paradise Beach had similar numbers. He said on warm weekend days the beach had up to 150 nude or semi-nude (topless) bathers and anywhere from a dozen to 75 during the week.

Naturalist resorts -- once called "nudist colonies" -- are now a $300 million-a-year industry and popping up all over the country. Nude family recreation, previously a European concept, is also gaining popularity in the United States.

"Children are natural nudists. They love running around without clothing," says Nicky Hoffman, the administrative director of The Naturist Society in Oshkosh. "There have been studies done relating to children and nudity and they show that children raised in a nude environment have better body images."

The Naturist Society is 20,000 members strong and claims to have initiated a celebration of the buff called "Nude Recreation Week" that's now celebrated all over North America. This year, the event is July 5-11 and the theme is "See the Light, Discover Naturism."

"Resorts across the country will be offering many different types of events. Some hold art shows featuring the artist and model, both nude. Some host open houses inviting everyone in the community to attend and see what the resort has to offer," says Hoffman, 55. "Our non-landed groups will have beach parties with Olympic type games, sand castle building contests and perhaps a parade or two."

The Naturist Society's Web site is naturistsociety.com.

Talkbacks

Wi_Cobb | Jan. 17, 2012 at 10:57 a.m. (report)

A perfectly placed tuft of grass provides just the right amount of camouflage for creepy balding guy.

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citizen | Sept. 5, 2010 at 5:03 p.m. (report)

I travel to a small resort in the Wisconsin Dells area which has a clothing optional pool for adults. Also, vacation at a clothing optional resort in Fort Lauderdale and also visit Haulover Beach in Florida. In Milwaukee we just use our private backyards and practice nudity in our homes.

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chattieh10 | July 23, 2010 at 10:59 a.m. (report)

We came into this world naked as a blue-jay, so I don't see why clothing is all that important at the beach. In Santa Cruz, CA they have a law which states; that all who want to go without a top on can do so. Now let me tell you, it is the law! So, men and WOmen can go bear breasted. Now, this is a law which is deemed appropriate. So, like I said, we all come in naked, so let's enjoy the time in our suit that the heavens gave us, and go out with it. -Rob

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milROCKeeguy | June 21, 2009 at 3:07 p.m. (report)

HA...yes, that is a viking ship! vikings love to get all nude with their swords. i read that somewhere

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Southern_Ex_pat | June 13, 2008 at 4:38 p.m. (report)

Colony? Nudists are not lepers. "Leon In Pensacola said: Where can i find a nudist colony these days? I have never minded a little nude. I love booty both sexes"

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