Naked Man
crashes China's 50th Anniversary

who is naked man?
<click to find out>

The ducts art gallery is pleased to present a special photographic essay from Naked Man's trip to China. His text introduction is followed by an exhibition of full screen pictures from his journey.

Dear Readers,

From the first day El Hombre Desnudo arrived in Beijing, people took notice. The local authorities watched closely as I snapped shots of the Chinese soldiers playing basketball on their break, just inside the Tiananmen Gate. Ironically, they were scrimmaging in Chicago Bulls Home and Away uniforms! It gave a whole new meaning to the term, "Red Guard!" (I wonder if they realize that The BULLS are [were?] AMERICA's team!) It wasn't long before I was asked to leave and the innocent university student, who happened to be practicing his English on me, was VERY forcibly taken away for questioning. I guess Beijing is still the Forbidden City in many ways...

It so happens that I arrived in the Chinese capitol city just in time for the Communist Party's Big 50th Anniversary on October 1st! Unfortunately "NM" wasn't invited. The parade held in Tiananmen was only for leading Party members and esteemed international guests. They blockaded the entire downtown ring of Beijing for miles in every direction! "Hey! I'm NAKED MAN!" I yelled at the guards! But there was no use. Even the foreign tourists lucky enough to be staying in the Beijing Hotel (right on the parade route) were asked "not to look out their windows" (yeah right!) and to remain in the building during the entire official 30 hour period of the festival. I don't know if this was actually enforced or not. I did have a hotel in the inner ring, but I didn't hang around to find out if they would lock me in. I could just imagine them posting a guard outside every hotel in the area. Believe me, they have the manpower to do it! So I moved to a dorm for Korean and Japanese exchange students, about a 40 minute walk from the square.
And so it was that I watched the parade on TV with the rest of the Chinese Proletariat. I was able however, to stick my head out the window just in time to see China's latest airborne military hardware fly overhead. They couldn't keep the Naked Man down for long though! Under cover of the night, I snuck out (with an Australian AIDS worker -- boy did she have some stories to tell!) to the Sanlitun district, where the local expats were having a party of their own!
There I was befriended by a pair of All-American guys, Bill and Mike (from Oklahoma and Texas) and 2 beautiful girls: One from France; one from Java; both named Caroline (pronounced Caroleeeen). All 4 were studying Chinese at an international business school. They showed me a great time that night -- and a side of Beijing that probably didn't even exist 5 years ago. As we entered a local disco, a scene of debauchery equal to anything I've seen in any of the "free" capitals of the world (e.g. NYC, Tokyo, Madrid), met my eyes. Bill slapped me on the back as I gawked at some scantily clad Chinese girls writhing to the music and yelled, "Tom! Welcome to Communist China!"

The whole city (indeed the whole country) was alive that night. In preparation for the celebration, red Chinese lanterns and ornamental lights were hung on every street. Fireworks were launched every hour until midnight from 8 locations around the city. A huge choreographed performance (like those cheesy ones you see for the opening and closing of the Olympics) was televised from Tiananmen Square. It must have been a great day to be a proud member of the Chinese Communist Party. It was pretty cool for me just to be there crashing the party! If there was anyone around who wasn't happy about the direction in which China was headed (wherever that may be), they weren't saying much while I was there.

The pictures that follow are a few evocative images from my journey to Beijing on the Eve of the "People's" 50th Birthday.


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