terça-feira, 7 de setembro de 2010

Tarzan of the Nudists

Article: Virtually Magazine, by Richard West

When I first heard about Celso Rossi, I understood that he was a club owner in Brazil and a good contact to talk to about Brazilian Naturism. I knew little about Naturism in his country except that there are several clubs and beaches, and that it would be good to check out. Brazil is after all, a good travel destination for Naturists during the North American winter, since Brazil has its summer then. After many e-mail discussions with Celso and others, I booked a ticket and left for Porto Alegre in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, (Portuguese for - Big river of the South.) Celso met me at the airport and we drove to Colina do Sol (Sunny Hill), his Naturist club. By the end of the 40 minute trip Celso had told me many stories about the birth of Brazilian Naturism. I now realized that there was a lot more to Celso than I had ever imagined.

In retrospect my trip could have been earlier, but I was working on many projects and decided to go in late March. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, since it is the end of their season. To rub this fact in, it rained for most of my trip; though many times I was told that the weather had been perfect up until my arrival. January is the best time to go; it is summer in Brazil, people are on holidays, and the Christmas rush is over. Brazil is a very large country. There are 160 million people here, though most of the population lives on a thin strip along several thousand miles of Atlantic coast. The people and climate are very different along this strip. In the north the population is largely native, dead set against Naturism, and the climate is hot and tropical. In the south the people are more European, Naturism is popular and growing explosively, the climate is seasonal, warm and less humid (well you could have fooled me about the humid part, but ... )

Naturism started 14 years ago. Prior to that it did not exist at all. Today, there are about 10 clubs and 5 beaches, almost all of which are in the south (between Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre about 500 miles to the south.) Celso estimates that there are currently several hundred thousand Naturists in Brazil, but I supposed by that, that he was referring to people in favor of Naturism or who had made a visit to a Naturist beach. Still the turnout at each of the 15 or so locations is generally in the hundreds. It might also be useful to point out that Naturist beaches here are quite different from other places; they are not simply secluded beaches. Praia do Pinho (Pine Beach), for example has manned security gates, 2 restaurants, 3 bars, 2 hotels, several houses, a swimming pool, a camping area, and several other buildings and features.

While it would be quite impressive to see the Naturist movement grow this quickly in any country, there is another fact that makes Celso quite unique ... anywhere. Almost the entire Naturist movement has been directly attributable to Celso himself. He started the very first Naturist beach. He founded the Brazilian federation and helped to establish several of the regional federations. He orchestrated a very successful media campaign resulting in widespread acceptance of the Naturist way of life throughout Brazil. His media campaign was so successful that politicians began to actively solicit his help in establishing Naturist areas. He was invited by a mayor in the north to set up the second official Naturist beach, Tambaba. He actively sought out and established a third beach, Pedras Altas (High Rocks), with the help and cooperation of politicians. He sent shock waves through the International Naturist Federation, when he stood up and proposed that Naturist clubs should have some principles, a speech that has left a lasting impact on the INF. He served 5 terms as president of the FBN culminating in a paid trip to the Brazilian congress where he spoke in favor of Naturism and the passing of a law making Naturism legal throughout the whole country. He established his club, Colina do Sol, which he took from vacant land to a well established club with 65 buildings, 400 members and $1.5 million invested, in only 3 years - and he did that at a time when he had no money at all. He publishes a Naturist magazine called "Naturis", has produced 2 Naturist videos, and even has an LP Naturist record of his own music called, "Praia do Pinho." All the while, Celso has been a frontline fighter. He was there in the beginning when police were arresting Naturists; he spent many long nights as a sentry in a dark tent guarding the beach against the threat of intrusion; he policed the beach by swimming 100 meters out to sea and writing citations to captains of boats violating the beach; and he was there to meet the press and the politicians and offer advice about Naturism. It would be difficult to imagine that there would be any Naturism at all, if not for Celso.

It would be a serious omission not to mention Celso's wife, Paula, though it is very difficult to separate her successes from his. Paula lived with Celso in a tent in the jungles of Praia do Pinho, she helped him to organize letter writing campaigns while he cleared the jungle, she was there for the formation of the federations, and she looked after their children while he manned the roadblocks and chased away the curious. Celso has had some enormous successes over the years, but Paula has been there through the tough times as his silent loving partner and supporter.

One such project that Paula and Celso worked together on was the first Naturist congress as Celso explains: "One time Paula along with a friend and I were at Turtle's Paradise wondering what to do for the holiday on the 7th September (1989). This is the Independence Day holiday for Brazil. So we decided to have a Naturist congress at Praia do Pinho and invite Naturists from all over Brazil, along with the media and politicians etc. "Let's have a congress." At Turtle's Paradise at that time, there was no place to have a congress with lots of people. Turtle's Paradise, is on the side of a steep hill overgrown with jungle. I decided therefore, that I would make a place for people to sit. So, with a pick, shovel, and a wheelbarrow and with only 20 days before the congress, I dug out a huge flat area large enough to seat 120 people ... alone. The entire flat area that you see at the restaurant was what I cut into the side of the hill. That was my part. Paula organized the campaign to get people to the congress, wrote the rules, and contacted the press. The day of the congress the newspapers reported on the number of dignitaries that were present. We invited every authority figure we could think of, starting with the 7 candidates for presidency of Brazil. (An election campaign was under way then.) We invited all of these to come to Pinho Beach. We invited the mayor, the police, and everyone. We got a lot of answers. Several presidential candidates wrote back saying that they could not be there, but thanked us for the opportunity. Unfortunately, (or fortunately perhaps), on the day of the congress, the media was getting all prepared to photograph authorities beside Naked people, but then it started to rain really hard. So, at the last minute we had to relocate to an official government building. We organized the room with flags and a table for dignitaries. Then the authorities started to arrive. When the congress opened we took an historical photograph, because there were an unprecedented number of dignitaries in attendance. On my side (in the photo) there was the tourist secretary of the state of Santa Catarina, the secretary of commerce and industry for Brazil, the mayor of the city of Balneario Camboriú (a tourist area which attracts 1.5 million visitors in the summer), the vice-mayor, the president of the police. I doubt that any Naturist meeting anywhere 'ever' got this level of authorities. The photograph of these dignitaries appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout Brazil. So ... with this level of support we started to change the minds and attitudes of people, and get more and more support."

In 14 years the press has printed, and Celso has kept, 1000 pages of newspaper and magazine articles, reports, and cartoons about Naturism in Brazil. There is an article showing the Naturists rescuing passengers from a boat that ran aground; there is an article about Celso (swimming) towing a dead whale 3 kilometers down the coast; there are cartoons depicting big nasty police arresting Naturists - while robbers go free; there are clippings showing Celso sitting with high ranking politicians; etc etc etc. Partly because of the raw determination of this man, standing up and fighting for what he believes in, and partly the impression the press must have had of this Naked man living a basic life in the jungle; in an article a reporter dubbed Celso - "Tarzan of the Nudists", a title that seems rather appropriate.

There were stories too, that the press didn't report, such as Celso the snake hunter. Behind Pinho Beach, Celso and his Naturists have established 'Turtle's Paradise', which is a collection of many buildings, houses etc, including a restaurant, swimming pool and hotel, built right into dense jungle. Occasionally, as you might expect in the jungle, snakes would get into unwelcome places, and when they did, Celso would get them out. On one occasion there was a black snake on the roof of the hotel. Not able to see the whole snake, Celso climbed up and grabbed it by its tail expecting a 2 or 3 foot snake and intending to get a noose around the other end. As it started wrapping around his wrist ... and wrapping ... and wrapping, Celso found that he had grabbed a 10 foot snake, the biggest he had yet seen.

Celso explains some of the other stories that came out of the early days:

"When we started Pinho Beach and it started to grow and we were getting a lot of Nude people, some amazing things started to happen. The beach is located 13 kilometers from Balneario Camboriú. This is a tourist area known for it's beaches. In the summer there are 1.5 million beach going tourists coming to Balneario Camboriú, while at the time we had about 400 Naturists. You can imagine that there were a lot of curious people coming just to look. For me, who had the entire responsibility for the behavior of people there, it was hard sometimes having to receive drunken people after a local carnival, or sometimes boats overloaded with tourists that were coming just to watch."

"The sea was very calm during 1988. As a result, there were boats loaded with 50 people or so, with cameras and camcorders coming very close to the beach. They would get close enough to shout rude remarks and jokes, upsetting the Naturists on the beach. If it were only one boat it wouldn't be so bad, but sometimes we would get 4 or 5 ten meter boats, blocking the horizon and threatening the tranquillity of the beach. I was the president of the beach association at the time so I had to figure out a way of stopping this. There is a law in Brazil which restricts boats from approaching closer than 200 meters of the beach, but nobody was respecting this. I went to see the captain of the marine authority, and when I went there I was dressed in Bermuda shorts, shoes and socks and a casual shirt ... well dressed. But when I arrived, they refused to allow me in the building, because I required long pants.  So I came back the next day, this time with long pants. Now I was allowed in. I was introduced to the captain, who was responsible for the conduct of boats. "Ah ... " he said, "you are from Pinho Beach. We have received some complaints against you, because you are prohibiting people from coming onto a public beach." "No", I replied, "This is not true. We are not prohibiting people from entering the beach. That is a public beach, just like this is a public building." "Yesterday", I told him, "I was stopped at the door because I was dressed in Bermuda shorts. Today, I am dressed according to the rules of this public building. At Pinho we don't prevent people from entering the beach, we tell them they can come in, but they must take their clothes off. This is a Naturist beach; we simply ask them to obey the dress code, just like in this building." The captain liked this explanation and so he gave us permission to put buoys in the water to mark 200 meters. He designated me to be the official beach authority to police the boats."

"We then went to the Camboriú boating club and explained that their boats were coming too close to the beach, that this was dangerous, and explained that we can now write tickets if anyone crosses the buoys. The majority of boat owners had no problem with this, but there was one who snarled and said he'd go anywhere he pleased. I purchased some buoys and swam out 100 meters and placed them in the water (I could have placed them 200 but decided to be more reasonable.) The next day, the buoys were gone. Someone had cut the lines, so I bought more buoys and put them out again. This time 2 were cut. I placed them again, and finally they stayed. The boats started to respect the buoys and it was now only the occasional boat that would cross them and come close to shore. When this occurred I would swim 100 meters out to the boats, and with 30 or so people watching me I would demand to see the captain. This was more than a bit dangerous as many of these boats had big motors or sails and I would have to grab hold of some part of the boat while it was moving quite fast. Once I got hold of the boat, I would climb up and demand, "Captain, I am the delegated beach authority and if you don't go back across the line of buoys, I'll write you up!!" I'd be doing this while clinging to the side of the boat, and the water rushing past me. "Okay ... Okay ... ", they would respond, and with that I'd swim back the 100 meters to shore. This happened many many times. I started to wear a large hat. When the boats arrived and they saw the guy with the hat, they would respect the buoys. It was really funny."

"Another thing that happened was the whale. On one occasion there was a dead whale that appeared and some fishermen pulled the whale close to Pinho Beach. With the wind and waves the whale was threatening to wash ashore. The smell was terrible and had it washed ashore, it would have ruined the beach. So, while the others tried to figure out what to do with it, how to bury it when it washed ashore; I swam once again 100 meters into the ocean, put a rope on its tail and pulled it 3 kilometers away so that it would not wash up on our beach. I swam for several hours, and finally managed to pull the dead whale away from our beach."

"There was a time when we had a problem with a helicopter which came really close to the beach and started to make diving passes that were coming within 5 or 6 meters. People were screaming and kids were running away in panic. Sand was blowing all over the place. It was dangerous. The next day he came back again, but this time we had written "DAC" in huge letters in the sand, which stands for "Department of Civil Aviation", which is responsible for licensing pilots. When he came close to the beach this time, and saw what we had written, the pilot put his hand out of the helicopter and gave us a 'one finger salute', and then left. I went to the airport and reported the number to the authorities and the pilot had was fined and had his licence suspended." 

"Our rules prohibited people from filming or photographing on the beach. A lot of times we had to go after people who would sneak in with telephoto lenses and take photographs from the surrounding hills. When this happened we went after these people and ripped the film from their cameras. The boats would do this too and this was a bit more difficult. If I tried to swim to the boat, by the time I got there they would be gone, so what we would do is get in our cars while keeping an eye on the boat and follow it down the beach along the coastal roads. We knew that the boat had to eventually pull into a dock, so we might follow it for 15 kilometers, but when it came ashore we would run up the dock, board the boat and explain that we were from Pinho Beach and then say "Camera please! and rip the film out." This happened many times." 

It is not simply the 'Naked man in the jungle' image that makes the 'Tarzan' title so appropriate. Celso not only could have done other things; he did. He was already very well established in the business world, with a good management job, a nice house, 2 cars and all of the luxuries one could hope for, when he took on the Naturist cause. Imagine having such success and trading it all in for a tent in the jungle, with nothing to show but a little bit of freedom and a more natural way of life. Imagine consciously deciding to give up all of your material possessions, just because it felt better. Celso did this despite all of the words of wisdom from all of his friends and family, and all of the years of conditioning, and against all of the prevailing social attitudes, because he believed that Naturism was good. Since that time, he has fought a long and difficult battle to gain acceptance for this wonderful lifestyle. At first his family and friends were horrified, but today they regard him with awe and respect. In a rare, yet beautiful irony, Celso's strength comes from having rejected the social norm and then gradually returning to acceptability, not by changing himself, but by changing everyone around him. It is his willingness to risk everything in defense of his principles, that most reminds me of Tarzan, as Tarzan has always been portrayed - pure and incorruptible.

As the president of the FBN, Celso attended INF conferences to represent Brazil. The first one, which Celso recalls here, was in Florida:

"On the 27 August 1992 I found myself on a 767 heading for Florida, a trip which was paid for by the Brazilian government, to attend the 23rd congress of the INF (International Naturist Federation.) The congress was being held at 'Paradise Lakes' located in Orlando this year and was to take place over the next few days. When we first arrived however, there was an evening reception held at 'Club Fred' where all of the delegates met to socialize. Frankly, we were all shocked at what we saw. First, far from being a Naturist club, it was 'clothing optional'. Inside the club people were partially clad in the sort of lingerie and outfits that one purchases at sex shops. People were gyrating and dancing in an intentionally sexual manner. At one point, while we sat chatting at a table, an attractive waitress dressed in lingerie and with her large breasts lying on top of a serving platter that she was carrying, came and asked if there was anything that we desired. It was not this lifestyle which shocked us, but that the INF had chosen to hold its congress in such a place. Politics and money must surely have played a part in this choice, but we were left quite unimpressed."

"The following day, the Phillip Cardin, president of the French federation which represents 600 Naturist clubs and 120 beaches, including the Naturist city of Cape D'Agde, asked the inevitable question of the congress, "Is this kind of behavior at 'Club Fred' - Naturism?" The president of the INF, Bart Wijnberg side stepped the question completely and adjourned for lunch. The question was never answered."

"During the congress elections were held. The way that votes are handed out is that federations are allowed a certain number of votes, depending on their size within the INF. The French federation for example, gets 32 votes out of 262, where-as Brazil with its Naturist movement still in infancy, gets 1 vote. There was no way that I could hope to have any impact with our 1 vote, but as a member I could stand up and express my opinions. This is exactly what I did. My speech, which might have lasted 10 minutes began by asking why Phillip Cardin's question was never answered. In fact I spent 45 minutes talking. I was concerned that while the rules of Paradise Lakes forbade overt sexual behavior, a lot of this was taking place at Club Fred. Not only was this happening, but it was happening with the full knowledge and apparent approval of the Central Committee of the INF. I asked the question: Why would the INF pick such a free style club for a Naturist congress? Club Paradise was a complete surprise to me and I suspect also to many Europeans. Arne Eriksen, executive director for the ASA, and a good friend of Fred Bishoff (owner of Paradise Lakes), was running for vice-president of INF. Clearly, the INF was prepared to overlook this blatant misrepresentation of Naturism and promote Paradise Lakes, in return for their hopes for money that Arne Eriksen could bring to the INF as vice-president. He would certainly have won, that is, until after my speech. I was too young then, and still am, to sacrifice my Naturist principles. Once people heard how outraged I and others were, the vote became much less certain. When the smoke had cleared, the winner was 'Petra Scheller' from Canada. My speech had split the congress. In a quiet yet profound gesture after the congress, Phillip Cardin, walked all the way from the other side of the congress and presented me with a French federation T-shirt."

"Largely, I believe, as a result of my speech at the INF congress in Florida, the ASA changed their name to AANR and withdrew from the INF for 2 years."

"When I founded the Brazilian Naturist Federation in 1988 the police came to arrest people for being Nude at Pinho Beach. Over the next 10 years I served 5 terms as president. Then I was invited by the Brazilian government to speak in favor of Naturism in support of a bill legalizing Naturism throughout the country. The government paid for my trip and I spoke to the congress. After this they voted to pass the bill into law. Naturism is now legal in Brazil. Once again I asked, "now what?" I created the federation when Naturism needed a voice; when people were being arrested. I got 1000 pages of press and hundreds of hours of television in favor of Naturism. I changed public attitudes and I got the laws changed to legalize Naturism. I now felt that my job was finished, so I resigned as president of the FBN."

It was time to move on. Recently, Celso has taken on his dream project and created the thriving Naturist club, Colina do Sol ... from scratch as usual. Behind him, in his wake, he has left a tremendous 'path of creation.' His club occupies most of his attention now, and the various beaches, clubs, and federations that he has helped to create are now in the hands of others.

Celso lives now with Paula, and their two delightful children, Gabriel and Valentina, in Colina do Sol. They have been here for 3 years in this, now, very well established club. While the surroundings are a bit more rustic than the city, they are far removed from the jungles of Pinho. At sunset there is a spectacular view of the forest surrounding the club uninterrupted by civilization. They have built a large lake, which notably also has an artificial swamp in the corner that birds have now taken up nesting in. The houses and cabins are built largely out of poles from eucalyptus trees and there is a grass hut at the beach. The club is surrounded by jungle; it is a wonderfully natural area. But they also have electricity, a car, satellite TV, and a phone system that is connected to the main grid by radio giving them access to the internet. It reminds me of the end of a movie, where all of the enemies have been defeated and the conflicts resolved. Tarzan is happy and content, but somehow you sense a restlessness and that there is more to come in the sequel. Celso has hinted that we should not be too surprised if he once again walks away, with an abrupt clean break, and starts something totally new. If or when it happens, I have no doubt that we will all, once again, be amazed at the success of his next venture, and the continuing adventures of 'Tarzan of the Nudists.'

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