Naked Ambition and the Publishing Industry

Alas, it has come to this.  It used to be that some things could never be given away, they were yours forever.  Call me ‘old fashioned’ as well as ‘Stuart’, but our foibles should not be mere commercial fodder available to the highest bidder. Because there’s just one thing in this old world that is truly your own, and that’s your stupidity.  Or so it was, until last week.

When newspapers reported the arrest of a 24-year-old man for streaking in front of President Barak Obama in Philadelphia, I dismissed it as mere a prank.  As it turns out, it was sheer opportunism.  There are lots of good and legitimate reasons for deciding to embark on a nudie run, and all of them involve beer.  Who amongst us has not, in a moment of boredom, contemplated dropping their strides and making a dash for the other side of the room? In my view, downing your dacks and running as if your life depended on it is the ultimate weapon against tedium, which is precisely why so many streakers choose the cricket.  Not Mr Rodriguez.

Philadelphia is a wonderful part of the world, but it suffers a serious shortage of cricket matches.  I had assumed that it was for this reason that Juan chose a rally by President Obama.  If only.  As it turns out, the motivations were far more mercenary.

Until last week, I’d never heard of ‘Alki David’.  Apparently, he’s a billionaire shipping tycoon who offered a million dollars to the first person to run naked in front of President Obama with the name of his website across his chest.  But anyone stupid enough to do such a thing is probably willing to go just a little further, so in addition to getting your gear off, you had to shout out the name of Alki’s website six times.  Mr David has, in effect, outsourced stupidity.

Web sites rarely roll off the tongue.  He may as well have demanded the hapless human target recite The Hobbit backwards in Spanish with a mouthful of marbles whilst writing pi to seventy places across his left buttock.  That the whole, ridiculous exercise didn’t end in a hail of secret service bullets is nothing short of a minor miracle.   However, this was not the only attempt at the rally to capture the President’s attention.  Whilst nudie-boy Juan James Rodriguez was motivated by the promise of cold, hard cash, another man was arrested and later released after throwing an object at the President.  Upon hearing such a report, you’d be forgiven for assuming that it was an egg or perhaps even a shoe, but no.  It was a book.

The man was detained but later released without charge because it was decided that the man had not intended to threaten President Obama.  This, I feel, is largely attributable to the fact that it was a paperback rather than a hard cover.  The choice of book may also have been important.  For had the hapless man hurled a copy of The Bridges of Madison County towards the Commander In Chief, I have no doubt that he’d still be subject to questioning and face the very real prospect of being charged with treason.

The book, as it happens, was the man’s own.  Clearly keen for Mr Obama to read his stuff and presumably unlikely to get the nod as Oprah’s book of the month, the man took matters and the book into his own hands before piffing it in the general direction of the President.  

Getting someone to read your work is no easy task.  But before I bundle up my manuscripts and go looking for a head of state at which to toss them, one thing must be noted – whilst naked Juan has managed to get his name in print, our hapless hurler remains absolutely anonymous.  Talk about being upstaged.  No one saw fit to mention his name, much less give a brief review of his, no doubt, marvellous book.  Perhaps the lesson for all writers is that in order to truly capture the imagination of the public, all publicity events should be performed naked.  And even if this fails to shift a few more copies it will, if nothing else, guarantee solid attendances at writer’s festivals.

There is, however, something of a sting in the tale.  Having generated mountains of publicity for his website, Mr David refused to pony up the cash on the basis that not all the conditions had been met.  In reaching the undoubtedly difficult decision to keep his million dollars, Mr David placed some importance on the fact that the White House had not confirmed that the President had sighted Juan’s streak.  Whilst I’d like to believe that this is because the White House has better things to do, it was all Alki David needed to hang on to the dough.  He had, however, paid the man an undisclosed sum in exchange for a promise that he’d perform the stunt in front of another head of state.  What a gyp. It just goes to show how dangerous stupidity by proxy can be.

No one could accuse Shane Evan Thomas of being greedy.  Last week Mr Thomas pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm for setting his friend’s buttocks alight whilst he slept.  The story noted that the two are no longer on speaking terms, but if there’s any consolation to be found, surely it’s in the fact that he did it for free.  The judge described the actions as ‘brainless’ as indeed they were.  I’m sure there’s a decent explanation for why he set fire to his friend’s backside, but it’s yet to be revealed.  Perhaps he should write a book about it and throw it at somebody famous. Whilst naked.

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