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An Evening in the Nude With Gay Talese

Gay Talese's interest in the girl whom he had brought to The Fifth Season seemed to end with the dropping of a towel. It was shed by a tall girl who had just appeared at poolside. She made a graceful nude dive. She was the only one in the water. I watched her solitary figure moving back and forth from one of the pool to the other. I looked away and when I looked back there were two figures swimming side by side, the girl and Gay.

Sitting by the pool, I noticed a scene that looked like a version of Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe. A fully clothed man stood chatting with a gaggle of nude men and women. I learned that his name was Craig Nolan and that he operated The Middle Earth and The Victorian massage parlors and produced pornographic movies. Fifth Season regulars said that he never took his clothes off when he came there. This shy pornographer stood in the tropical heat of the health spa—wearing his turtleneck, his gray trousers, and his matching gray shoes—sweating.

After a few laps, Gay and the girl climbed out of the pool together. She turned out to be taller than he was. The girl's name was Kathe.

Gay told the story of a girl from Bogotá, Colombia, who had worked at The Secret Life. One day a man came in, put down his money, and then looked at the girls available. Expressions of mutual horror passed over his face and the face of the girl from Bogotá. The man was her brother-in-law. He picked up his money and ran out. She cried hysterically. Still the girl from Bogotá continued to work at The Secret Life, although her secret had been found out.

Gay said, "She was breaking out of her Catholic upbringing."

Talese, who was breaking out of his, went on to boast that some of his massage parlor customers were priests.

While Gay Talese chatted with nude girls at poolside, Nan Talese was at home with the couple's daughters. She was reading manuscripts, paying bills, and helping the girls, Pamela, nine, and Catherine, six, with their homework. Gay says, "I revel in the fact that the children are not doing well in school." Nan does not revel in that fact. She insists that she prefers an evening at home with her children to an evening skinny-dipping in a health spa.

Nan is always having to explain to people why she does not go where Gay goes, do what he does, and act the way he acts. One evening, Nan & Gay had dinner with Shirley MacLaine & Pete Hamill & Joni Mitchell & Warren Beatty, who all asked as many questions as children who had just heard about sex. What they wanted to know was how Nan was reacting to her husband's liberation.

Shirley MacLaine took an equal-rights position: she seemed to imply that every infidelity on the part of the husband deserved an equivalent infidelity on the part of the wife.

Nan tired to explain that if she adopted Gay's life-style, that would not be liberation but a new kind of subjugation. It would amount to her trying to be him. She did not want to take a lover for every lover Gay had, because to her sex "terribly private." The discussion went on until the restaurant closed. That dinner has been re-enacted countless times since with a different cast but with more or less the same dialogue.


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