Get naked and party

First things first.

There's no creepy guy leering at the girls, nor an overabundance of people you wish covered up. The crowd minds its own business — drinking beer, playing beach ball in the pool and perfecting strapless tans.

That's the scene at Skinny Dip Sundae, the area's first clothing-optional pool party. The site? The Caliente Resort, a nudist community in Land O'Lakes.

Promoter John Melfi started the Sunday afternoon parties a month ago to offer the young party crowd an alternative to beach bashes. He wanted to duplicate European-style parties in South Beach and Las Vegas and thought Caliente, with its Caribbean-inspired pool area and liberal clothing policies, was the ideal spot.

Caliente jumped on board as part its ongoing efforts to attract a younger clientele. Officials thought that by offering outsiders a sneak peek at the club, and all its amenities, maybe they would come back.

It was a risk that, so far, seems to be working. Sunday attendance and liquor sales are up, despite a recent run of stormy weather. Attendance has ranged from a few dozen on slow days to upwards of 1,400 people on July Fourth.

Theresa "Tweety'' Mitchell heard about Skinny Dip Sundae through Facebook a few weeks ago and decided to give it a try. After five minutes, she was hooked — and stripped down to zip.

"I love it here,'' she said. "People think it's a wild sex party and a MTV video, but it's just not like that.''

Mitchell, who lives near Wesley Chapel, found such a great community of people she's been coming back to Caliente several times a week for karaoke nights and other events. She enjoys the freedom and natural feel of nakedness, especially in this sticky summer heat.

Would she consider becoming a Caliente member?

Absolutely.

•••

Caliente is a 125-acre community of rental and private homes, condos and villas. Guests can stay for a night in the hotel or live there year-round. Membership, which is required to stay at the resort, runs $1,500 a year for couples or $50 to $75 a day, with discounts available. The club has about 3,000 members.

All members have access to Club Caliente and its 4,500-square-foot spa, two restaurants and nightclub. The focal point is the pool area, with its 250,000-gallon lagoon pool, sand volleyball courts, tiki bar and hot tubs.

Normally, guests must be naked to swim in the resort's seven pools. On Sunday afternoons, the pools are clothing-optional to help newbies ease into the concept.

"We're keeping the integrity, but we've relaxed the rules,'' said Deb Bowen, a Caliente spokeswoman. "We give you the freedom of choice. If you want to a wear a parka, you can.''

Few people do. By end of most parties, birthday suits outnumber bathing suits.

"It's a little weird getting used to it, but after you see a lot of naked people, you get over it,'' said Missy Williams, 24, who had no qualms going topless during last weekend's Skinny Dip party.

Her boyfriend, Steve Evans, 26, wasn't quite so comfortable but, nonetheless, enjoyed the party and its cool vibe. He might consider losing his trunks, "but I'm not there yet.''

The Hudson couple started going to the parties to hear DJ Mondo, who spins house music at Floyd's, AJA and Whiskey North. The parties have assembled some of South Tampa's hottest deejays, including Coro from Hyde Park Cafe's Tuesday nights and Tony Puccio from Jackson's Bistro. All have suggested it to friends with mixed success.

"If they gave it a chance, they would like it,'' Mondo said. "There's no sexual stuff going on. It's more just free and liberating.''

In fact, anyone observed gawking or getting frisky gets reported to security. The meat-market mentality is discouraged.

Coro said the challenge of Skinny Dip Sundae isn't so much the venue, but the distance from Tampa and the never-go-north-of-Kennedy crowd. He's partied nude before at Caliente and had a great time.

"I just wish people didn't think it was so far,'' he said.

•••

The parties haven't been without growing pains. Early on, Skinny Dip organizers moved the parties to the "conversation'' pool, which is upstairs from the main lagoon pool. Melfi, the promoter, said some Caliente residents complained about the heavy bass. Others grumbled at seeing "textiled'' people in the pool, normally a sacred spot for nudity.

Changing locations seems to have been a good compromise. Residents can still hear the music throughout the main pool area, but it's not distracting. And party-goers still self-conscious about getting naked can have their own space for warming up to the idea.

For Kenny and Kimmie Stadelman, the setup has worked well. They come to Caliente once or twice a month with their friends for the luaus, costume parties and, now, Skinny Dip Sundaes.

He's comfortable baring his bum and, in fact, "feels like the weird guy'' when he wears clothes around the pool.

His wife? "I'm still a little shy," she said. She has gone buff in the pool — a process that involved wearing a towel up to the pool's edge — but prefers to keep her bikini bottom on.

That could change after a little encouragement.

"Once you get a few drinks in you," he said, "you realize no one is checking you out.''

Just dive in

Skinny Dip Sundae is from noon to 9 p.m. every Sunday, rain or shine, at the Caliente Resort, 21240 Gran Via Blvd. in Land O'Lakes. Admission is $10 for ladies and $20 for couples or single guys. To get in for free, sign up for the guest list at

skinnydipsundae.com or RSVP on the party's Facebook page. 21 and older only. Call (813) 675-4465.

Get naked and party 07/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 15, 2010 4:12pm]

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