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An Evening in the Nude With Gay Talese

"I tried to get Nan to come to the massage parlor where I worked to have lunch," Gay said one evening. "I thought she would enjoy the massage parlor, too."

"It seemed indelicate for me to be there," Nan said. "I don't think there is anything wrong with the massage parlors, but they go against my own sense of privacy. Public sexuality is in every way antipathetic to my idea of sexuality. I can never imagine being a part of that world."

In that world, the world of public sexuality, Gay, the outsider, is an insider, and Nan, the insider, is an outsider. She did, however, agree to accompany Gay to a nudist camp in New Jersey because she made a distinction between open sex and open nudity. Gay was proud of his wife, but he kept peering at her as if he expected her to dissolve.

"There was a point when you realized that this was not exactly my field," Nan told Gay. "I was out of place."

For Nan, the worst thing about the book is that it has taken Gay out of town so often. Last fall, he went to California to stay a few weeks and ended up staying almost half a year. Gay stayed on because he was seduced by a place called Sandstone, a nudist sex commune in Los Angeles's Topanga Canyon. Sandstone had taken what Esalen had begun and carried it to its logical conclusion. Sandstone had institutionalized the orgy so that it was always there when you needed it. Sandstone stood as a monument to prostate power. Many of the openly copulating residents practiced the reverse of fidelity: they were strict about not making love to anyone to whom they had made love to before. It was like patterning your life on Oh! Calcutta! Gay moved in and stayed. Oh! Sandstone!

Gay told a reporter for Coast magazine, "I'm not that young anymore, and lately the most I've been doing is about once a day. But I've been engaged at least four times a day since I've been here. After a hundred times, it gets a little wearing." But Nan could hear a kind of exhilaration in his voice when she talked to him on the telephone. When Gay returned to New York, his friends say that he was more easygoing than they had ever seen him. He had grown up in a resort town but he had had to go to California to learn to relax.

Gay says that his research on the sex book has not changed his sex life with his wife either for the better or for the worse. Nan, who tries to evade such questions, says that she is not sure and will only know later, in retrospect.

"After fourteen years, I still find her very exciting," Gay says. "There is just no comparison."

Gay and Nan are still very close and their marriage seems a strong gone. They are not only husband and wife, but friends. Still, Gay concedes that since he started working on his sex book, his life with Nan "has not been a honeymoon."

Gay lounged beside The Fifth Season's pool like some decadent John the Baptist waiting for new believers to baptize. He welled with the fervor of someone new to the faith. He seemed to want everyone to dive head first into the wet, warm sexual revolution.

Gay was preaching the advantages of life in a massage parlor to Kathe and Carol. He had left the trade months before but he was still trying to recruit new masseuses for The Middle Earth. The girls were interested.

"I'll take you up to The Middle Earth tomorrow," Gay promised them, "and I'll give you a massage."

For a year now, Gay has been inviting people to join this new world that he has discovered. Many have accepted his invitations, but they have been none of his closest friends. David Halberstam did once consent to come up The Middle Earth for a visit, but he was appalled.

"Halberstam wanted it to be like a dentist's office," Gay told his poolside flock. He added, "David takes himself so seriously. He sees himself as a part of history. His sense of self is second only to that of Charles de Gaulleómaybe."


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