In this silly season of Super Bowl, Gasparilla and finally tonight's Knight Parade — for some a time of beering and baring for beads — a cautionary tale:
Expose yourself, and people might look. They might even take pictures.
Consider a lawsuit in federal court and a story you may have heard before. Julie Tilton was two months shy of her 18th birthday when she went to Daytona Beach for spring break. According to court records, she participated in:
1. Wet T-shirt competitions attended by hundreds of spectators.
2. A contest involving the psuedo-eating of a banana.
3. Two other competitions the names of which are not suitable for your family newspaper, if you get the general idea.
A guy named Chad Ciani showed up with his camera. In fact — believe it or not — lots of spectators had cameras. Ciani, however, posted pictures and video footage on his "bikini voyeur" Web site accessible to paying subscribers. Tilton sued.
Arguments can be made here about youthful indiscretion vs. bad decisions you have to live with, about the sort of guy who runs that sort of Web site. But it's a good bet that contests involving women, bikinis and bananas are the very venues where such a person would go looking.
Though she got a confidential settlement with another party, a judge ruled against Tilton and in favor of the hotel and Ciani, whom she sued for sexual exploitation of a minor. An appeals court agreed that Tilton "did not produce substantial evidence that the videos and photographs depict sexually explicit conduct." Really? Wow. Guess you know it when you see it.
What's the lesson? Maybe that in a Girls Gone Wild world, it's a safe bet the guy behind the camera didn't plan on leaving the lens cap on.
Closer to home, publicity for the Gasparilla festivities wasn't all chamber of commerce blue skies, palatial ships and jolly pirates handing candy to sweet-faced kids.
The proof is on YouTube, in sometimes raunchy home movies made in broad daylight with beautiful Bayshore Boulevard as backdrop.
There's Gasparilla Hoochie (featuring the aforementioned baring for beads), Gasparilla Booty Dance (also for beads) and … for the love of God can someone please explain to me the lure of a 10-cent strand of plastic beads?
Another fan favorite is Drunk Guy Falls at Gasparilla, in which the unseen cameraman can be heard to chortle, "Oh, I totally got that!" after some schlub pitches forward on the parade route.
Also popular: men mooning.
But you have to wonder how many of these people in the cold light of Monday morning were less than thrilled with their newfound stardom. You hope so, anyway.
In a sobering and possibly related news item, a recent national study found that one in five teenagers has electronically sent naked photos of themselves to friends, boyfriends or girlfriends. Guess what: Those pictures sometimes end up with an unintended audience that is much, much wider, posted on the Internet.
So about those festivities.
No matter how sultry the night air, how intoxicating the party vibe, how irresistible the promise of those plastic beads, those so inclined might want to decline.
Or, in the alternative, smile.