The end of the Cold War may have spelled the destruction of the Berlin Wall, but a culture war continues between what was once West Germany and East Germany over one simple thing: being naked.
With nowhere to go anyway, East Germans found comfort and freedom from leaving their clothes at home. Being nude was a way of life, until their neighbors from the west arrived and told them to put those clothes back on.
Nudism doesn’t have the popularity it once had in the European country, but it’s prompted one film crew to travel the world to see what being naked is like in other countries. And they ended up in the American heart of nudism, Pasco County, this past week.
“The people in the east were definitely raised naked,” said Bjorn Buck, the husband of documentary producer Monique Liliensiek, who both made the trans-Atlantic trip to Land O’ Lakes. “All the Baltic Sea beaches were naked beaches, and that was absolutely normal to them.”
Liliensiek found Pasco’s nudist community thanks to a Google search, which introduced her to Caliente Resort. A phone call later, she was in touch with retired firefighter and nudism champion Pam Oakes, who introduced the entire film crew to the rest of the local community, setting up stops in a variety of places including Lake Como and Paradise Lakes.
“This has been a niche kind of tourism for Pasco all these years,” Oakes said. “There was an opportunity to reach out to Europe where there are 50 million naturists alone, and they speak English.”
The documentary is tentatively called “World of Nudism,” and is set to air on Germany’s Vox network next month — a channel typically home to American shows like “CSI: Miami” and “Burn Notice.” Liliensiek and her crew from Runge.TV already have visited places like Turkey and Austria, but plan to make Pasco’s nudism community a primary focus of their two-hour exploration into nudism.
Pasco County commissioner Pat Mulieri has represented the area where most of the nudist communities are centered for the past two decades, and said even she had to have a little time to adjust.
“I’ll never forget the one day at the beginning of my term, I was speaking at the Butt Hutt (at Lake Como), and I was thinking, ‘I got this made,’” Mulieri said. “All the guys there had shirts on, and was fine, until they stood up.”
The communities, however, are one of the key components to Pasco’s tourism, and also to other services like charity, said county tourism director Ed Caum.
“I wanted to say thank you to our naturists and all you do,” he told a crowd that gathered at Hungry Harry’s Lake House last week to welcome the film crew. “They are great volunteers. I’ve never seen so many people without clothes do such a great job of collecting clothing to give to other people.”
Buck spoke on behalf of his wife, who did not know a lot of English, but said he and his crew were welcome from the minute they stepped off the plane.
“We come from the second-largest network, and we have a little budget, but nobody cares about that,” he said. “We were told that you’re a family and you’re a friend, and that is quite overwhelming.”
This exposure on national television may not be the last time Pasco County ends up in German living rooms in the near future, either. While Liliensiek and her crew headed back to Europe last weekend, Buck stayed behind, and will explore other areas that might get a more in-depth look from the crew. That’s especially true for Caliente, which Buck says could warrant a feature of its own.
“This isn’t only for the naked community in Germany, but for everyone there,” Buck said. “In the end, I think what people will realize is that nudism is something good, or at least it’s not bad.”
Published June 11, 2014
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