Semi-Naked Defiance

My girlfriend and I arrived late to the Topanga Beach Resistance Sexy Costume Party. We drove through a creek, wound our way around a tree and parked behind an economically diverse assortment of mud-splattered cars.

Charlotte noted in sotto voce the Amazon woman wearing a string of Barbie dolls around her waist and silver rings through her nipples.

“That’s Log,” said a bare-midriffed but otherwise well-shrouded Berber nomad passing by. “She’s a performance artist. She sticks vegetables in her ass.”

I thought she looked familiar.

“I wonder what her in-laws think of that,” mused Charlotte.

“Well, her boyfriend’s name is Toilet and he eats the vegetables out of her ass,” the Berber replied. “It’s part of the performance. So they probably don’t mind.”

Charlotte made an abrupt and hasty farewell, leaving me to brave yet another Rodeo Grounds extravaganza on my own.

The ancient Chumash gathering spot has hosted (and boasted) many legendary parties and Sunday night’s fund-raiser was no exception. L.A.’s motley liberal vanguard — a colorful assortment of creative types — gathered in sequined droves to support the community and to celebrate the magic of the Rodeo Grounds. Tourists in telltale Gap gear happily mixed in with the tattooed and mohawked in-crowd to make for a weird, groovy harmony.

The hootenanny was called by the residents of Lower Topanga — a tight-knit community of artists, writers, filmmakers and families — who have been fighting eviction ever since the State Parks Department bought the beach-adjacent parcel and gave them the boot a few years back. The land grab is ostensibly to turn the area into a park and wetlands, but many here see a conspiracy at work to rid some of L.A. County’s most prized real estate of smelly hippies.

While most of the locals took their paltry payoffs and ran, others are refusing to budge, preferring bucolic bliss and community values to petty cash and urban sprawl. Following State Parks’ most recent maneuver (it’s rescinded trash service and instructed local sanitation to repo residents’ trash bins), the holdouts held a fund-raiser Sunday night to raise money for their fight to stay put.

Costumes ranged from slutty to sluttier. I had gone vintage for the occasion.

“Are you supposed to be a librarian?” queried a passing drag queen.

He was the third person to ask.

I talked coincidence with a hotshot director. I cradled a homeless man’s polished log, which I was told needed my energy. I swayed giddily to Magic Box’s improvisational grooves while hometown hero and Rodeo Grounds legend Norton painted and a dominatrix shimmied. A sarong-wrapped black man with crooked nipples put something in Log’s butt. Toilet shouted. Everyone was smiling.

There was “Burt Reynolds,” a barefoot clown and a sprinkling of nudity. Some guy was running around the compound for over an hour before I realized that, aside from being nekkid, he was also an old friend (never quite sure of appropriate etiquette when interacting with the publicly nude, I usually just ignore them).

The State Parks thugs watched from across the road. The police came. An illegal fund-raising citation was issued. By 2 a.m, the vibe had mellowed. Shivering revelers bundled up by the fire. A shirtless man with dreadlocks strummed a guitar.

Leaning against a fat, happy yucca tree that the state wants to cut down to make way for the wetlands, I inhaled the jasmine and dizzily surmised that none of these people had jobs. I guess that’s why they’re smiling.