Longform

Beach Blanket Bacchanal

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The stripper, a hard-looking, baby-voiced young woman named Rose, who resembles a cross between Pamela Anderson Lee and a young Cloris Leachman, has considerably better luck when she takes to the roof. Doffing her bikini top, she immediately earns high-decibel encouragement from several boatloads of beer-stoked frat boys.

Switching to some far more explicit gynecological posturing, she attracts even more attention, including that of a patrol boat captain from the La Paz County Sheriff's Department.

"Young lady!" he hollers through a bullhorn. "How would you like your mother and grandmother to see you in a tape like this?"

Rose modestly crosses her legs. "They already have," she mutters under her breath.

"How would you like it if I drove my pickup truck down your street with my girlfriend naked in the back?" the patrolman continues.

"Yeah?" responds Rose, sotto voce. "What time?"
Finally realizing the futility of trying to shame someone who's pleasuring herself on the roof of a boat surrounded by hooting onlookers, the officer lets her off with a warning: If she doesn't get dressed, she may be booked as a "sex offender."

"Sex offender?" Snorting derisively as she searches for her errant bikini bra, Rose sniffs, "And your point is?"

The point--moot though it may be--is that public indecency is indeed illegal, an offense usually punishable by a fine-bearing citation, similar to a traffic ticket.

Fortunately for Martin and the unabashed revelers he photographically stalks, it isn't illegal unless someone complains. Which is something people on the lake and river rarely, if ever, do.

"Before we can do anything, we've got to have a 'victim,' a complaint," says Lieutenant Dan Davis of the La Paz County Sheriff's Department, echoing official policy of five state, county and federal agencies that have jurisdiction over the waters, which straddle the Arizona/California border. "As police officers, we can't be offended. When you don't have anyone that's offended or [willing to make] a complaint, there's not a whole lot the prosecution is willing to do."

That said, Martin currently finds himself embroiled in a Byzantine legal battle with the San Bernardino County prosecutor's office, stemming from a 1996 incident in which he was charged with soliciting lewd acts in Lake Havasu's Copper Canyon, a formerly popular party spot. Although Martin claims he could have cleared up the matter by paying a $400 fine, he's chosen to fight the citation on principle, spending a reported $50,000 in the process. He even talks about filing a $20 million lawsuit should he prevail. San Bernardino County authorities refused to comment on the case, which has been dragging through the court system for nearly three years.

Surprisingly, Martin claims that he's yet to get any legal flak from those who'd seem most likely to sue. Namely, the snockered wahines who've been providing his bread and tanning butter for more than a decade.

"Are you kidding?" asks an incredulous Martin. "These girls love it; they can't wait to get their hands on these tapes."

And in the event that one of these liquored-up libertines ever does come to her sense of decency after she finally sobers up? According to a less-than-sympathetic Martin, legally speaking, she'll probably be up one of the Colorado River's tributaries without a paddle.

"I'm only documenting what's going on out there with a video camera," he says. "If you choose to expose yourself in public in front of thousands of people, you're going to have a pretty hard time convincing anyone that your privacy has been invaded."

George Martin hasn't always been the Pasha of Public Domain Poontang.
A San Diego commercial photographer, he fell into the business quite by accident during the early days of home video, when a friend invited him to tape a nude beauty contest near Yuma. When the finished product, rough as it was, drew raves from patrons at a local bar screening, Martin placed a $110 ad in a mainstream video review, offering copies of the racy novelty at $50 apiece. When orders topped the $1,000 mark, the wedding photographer hung up a permanent "Gone Fishin'" sign and headed for the wild shenanigans rumored to be taking place on the Colorado River. Since then, he's also shot similar videos at Mardi gras, Daytona Beach and various motorcycle rallies around the country.

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Dewey Webb