No Nightmares for Dashing Society Wildebeest

He crossed the 59th Street Bridge. Cruising through Queens with one hand on the wheel, he discussed his trip to India last February.

“Even though I was staying at five-star hotels and had a car and driver, I couldn’t deal with the squalor,” he said. “And I don’t understand how a nation that purports to be at the cutting edge of technology, services, and this and that can be willing to live like pigs in a toilet. The pollution was so awful you could hardly breathe and—look at that ass.” He honked a few times.

He got on the Meadowbrook Parkway and said we’d be taking the scenic route. He shared highlights from his summer in the Hamptons. The Watermill Center bash, where he admired Arnold Scaasi’s red patent leather pumps. The fashion designer told him how it’s a shame that the only thing that gets bigger as a man ages are his feet. “And Parker Ladd, his partner, was standing behind him nodding sadly,” said Mr. Speck.

He turned onto Jones Beach Road. He stopped at a deli so I could get some Fritos. Ms. McFadden is always telling him he needs to lose weight.

“And she’s quite right. Lord, I look like I’m 10 months’ pregnant. I used to have sixpack abs and I even have a picture to prove it.”

Back on the road, I asked if he had a boyfriend. Long pause. Then he said no and that he’d never had one. “I don’t identify myself in that way since I’ve been married to a woman. All of my love affairs have been with women.”

I apologized, saying I had no idea, and that I’d been asked the same question before, and even admitted twice in print that I was 6 percent gay based on my musical tastes (e.g., Indigo Girls).

We arrived on the easternmost point of Fire Island. Before we began the long walk to the nude beach, I asked, “Just out of curiosity, is it a gay nude beach?”

“It’s everything. Lots of girls, lots of tits.”

“Will there be other people who are not nude?”

“No.”

We left the parking lot and passed a muscle-bound man and a blond woman sporting huge ripe grapefruits.

“There’s a straight couple to make you feel more comfortable,” Mr. Speck said, stepping onto a deserted trail to the beach. Fifteen minutes later, the nudity began, and each minute after that, I noticed fewer and fewer women, and more and more cocks and balls swinging down the beach.

I held my tape recorder out in front of me, to ward off danger. I wished I had a T-shirt that read “Not Gay! Just Doing My Job Here! Interviewing This Guy! He’s Not Gay, Either!”

Soon we were deep in super-gay territory, but Mr. Speck kept walking another five minutes before he stopped. On the 50-yard line. Completely surrounded by nude dudes. He whipped out a white sheet from his bag and weighted each corner. I sat and hid behind the Post. Reading a conservative newspaper here, everybody! Not as gay-friendly as The Times!

To my right I could feel Mr. Speck stripping. Off went his drawers. He sauntered into the water. I kept my shirt and shorts on but removed my New Balances and tube socks to blend in. A huge fly attacked my foot. I accidentally looked up and saw Mr. Speck heading back from the water in all his glory.

“How’s the water?” Sitting down, his pot belly was, thankfully, covering up his junk.

“The water is better than it’s been all summer. You really should go in.”

He regaled me about one of the most debauched persons he’d ever met, who for the sake of his famous-ish children I’ll call “Lance.” Mr. Speck used to spend weekends at Lance’s Fire Island house in the ’70s. “They’d dance their asses off until nearly dawn; they’d head over to the Meat Rack to participate in orgies,” he said. “So as a consequence, fully 80 percent of the beautiful boys on Fire Island died off in a few years.”

Did Mr. Speck ever swing by the Meat Rack, just to check it out?

“Of course! You could do it today. If you went there at this time of day, you would find every possible sex act going on.

“You really should get in the water a little bit, even if you don’t want to get your shorts wet,” he added.

The first time Mr. Speck was ever on a nude beach was 1973 in St. Tropez. “And I’ve gotten to the point that I really don’t like wearing a swimsuit on the beach,” he said.

“Right.”

“It feels better without it.”

“O.K.”

“And I think, in our own little way, this is the closest we can get to Eden. Everybody’s sort of exposed but not in a vulnerable way.”

ggurley@observer.com

No Nightmares for Dashing Society Wildebeest