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Nudist resort stirs up residents

Caliente officials say most of the attention stems from its attempt to increase revenue by marketing toward a younger demographic through Web sites, mainstream media ads and monthly theme parties.

Times file photo (2006)

Caliente officials say most of the attention stems from its attempt to increase revenue by marketing toward a younger demographic through Web sites, mainstream media ads and monthly theme parties.

LAND O'LAKES — In this gated community, the theme parties start late, and the invitations alone are enough to upset the neighbors.

"Ladies break out those naughty school girl outfits," one invitation said. "It's time to tease your way into those good grades."

"Party like a rock star," said another. "Dress like a porn star."

The neighbors are all nudists who live at Caliente Resort & Spa, Pasco's upscale, clothing-optional community that attracts thousands of tourists each year and is a full-time home to hundreds of people.

And the parties in question are monthly, sexually charged events put on by an outside "lifestyle," or swingers, group with Caliente's blessing — sparking a debate over the nature of nudism, which devotees defend as natural and nonsexualized.

"We don't want to be thrown in with the whole hedonism thing," said Doug Butler, president of the association that represents more than 350 single-family homes and condominiums.

Complaints about Caliente's connection with swingers groups reached the American Association for Nude Recreation, which late last month temporarily suspended the resort from its organization.

Association spokeswoman Carolyn Hawkins confirmed an investigation was under way but would not elaborate on it.

The association, a national organization that requires its club and resorts to be family friendly, could decide as soon as August whether to reinstate Caliente. At risk if Caliente were to lose its membership: marketing assistance, lobbying on nudist issues and discounted membership fees that attract tourists.

Caliente officials chalked the suspension up to a "misunderstanding" about information that was on some third-party Web sites run by swingers groups.

A group called the Swingers Club List, for instance, has Caliente on its Web site as a suggested destination, though swingers gave mixed reactions.

One person who posted on the group's Web site said Caliente "is all you want it to be … it swings at night and is friendly in the daytime." Another posting said: "You must be kidding. … We went there and there are children and grandparents. Not what I would call a fun place."

Caliente management said the resort "has very specific rules to provide a safe naturalist environment for our members and guests. We do not allow public displays of affection in our common areas and this policy is enforced by Caliente security."

Caliente has no reference to swingers on its Web site, though its marketing director, Angye Fox, is a featured speaker at Swingfest '08, the "world's largest swingers party and adult expo" next month in Hollywood, Fla. Her topic: "Swingers and Nudists Can Coexist!"

Caliente officials say most of the attention stems from its attempt to increase revenue by marketing toward a younger demographic through Web sites, mainstream media ads and monthly theme parties.

Aahz Party Lifestyle Group puts on the "lifestyle" parties. Peter Smith, who runs Aahz's Web site and has attended the events, said nothing untoward happens there.

"I think they're trying to make it more of something than it is," he said of critics. "It's not that kind of party. You go there and the people are just real sexy."

He said Caliente benefits because the party guests are more likely to spend money at the club than the residents.

"They want Caliente to be strictly their kind of people," he said. "The problem is, they don't want to spend a dime."

Butler, the homeowner, said he understood why Caliente is trying to reach a younger crowd. But he worries those efforts are cultivating a bad perception — especially on the swingers Web sites that Caliente can't control.

Perception can be everything, said Arlene Reed, the marketing and activities director for Lake Como, another Pasco nudist resort. She said Lake Como has adults-only parties, but only because there is alcohol. She said she wouldn't want the parties to take on a sexual nature, and she wouldn't want to be associated with swingers clubs.

"What goes on behind closed doors is their business," she said. "But in the public eye, we don't associate with it or promote it."

Pasco officials recently got an anonymous complaint about swingers parties at private homes at Caliente, said County Commissioner Pat Mulieri. She questioned what the county could do if the parties aren't in a public place. Still, she said she hoped that Caliente tamped down the sexually themed parties, given that the county promotes its nudist resorts to tourists.

"I don't blame the people who live there," she said. "There are million-dollar homes out there. Why would they want to jeopardize that? I just think it puts kind of a black eye on the place. I've always said, 'Nude isn't lewd.' "

Smith, with the Aahz party group, said the parties aren't lewd, either.

"Ninety percent of the lifestyle people that go there are dressed," he said. "The nudists are the ones who go there naked."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Nudist resort stirs up residents 06/04/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 9:43am]

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