Hippie commune bares all to the sun

Laura Johnson
Life and Arts Editor

The place said to have inspired Jim Morrison of the Doors to write the song "Roadhouse Blues" once also inspired many to take their clothes off — and stay that way. The nudist colony, known as Elysium Fields, opened it's welcoming arms in the 60s to  Bohemians living the hippie lifestyle in the hills of Topanga Canyon — the purpose being to offer solitude in uninhibited nude living.

Those of the happy commune enjoyed their personal freedom until they were inadvertently forced to sell the property in 2002. It was then that the directors at the time took it upon themselves to procure another slab of land in nearby Malibu.

But, the relocation was not to be. Once moved, the group's membership suffered greatly, as it was no longer as easy to get to. The new property was sold at the end of the year.

However, the effort to resurrect this once-great establishment has not been lost forever. Southern California Nudist Association, a non-profit mutual-benefit California Corporation, was founded in 2001 from the remaining members of the Elysium Fields crew. 

According to SCNA’s Web site, their mission is to promote and encourage clothing-optional recreation, education and personal growth opportunities for all ages. 

Now, instead of being able to meet in their own location, the group convenes in backyards and nearby resorts. Anyone 18 or older is free to join. 

Although, for the safety of everyone involved, all applicants are subject to a felony and Megan's Law search before approval is given. In this way, singles, couples, and families can go nude together in harmony.

Bob Morton, executive director for the Naturist Education Foundation and avid nudist, said choosing to go without clothes is all about body acceptance. 

"People have a problem with themselves," Morton said. "I'm not just talking about big breasts or small breasts. I'm talking about the human experience and being comfortable with yourself. The best way to do that is through nude recreation."

Although the colonial option is gone from the region, some people in Malibu already have no qualms being in the buff.

According to a 2006 Roper Pole, 74 percent of American's believe the people who want to sunbathe nude should be able to do so without interference from local officials, as long as they do so within a confined space. 

"People often confuse sex and nudists," Morton said." Being a naturist is a way of being accepted. We find that children who grow up with nudist parents are much more mentally stable and healthy than those who don't.”

Katherine McCune, a nutritionist for the Pepperdine Health Center, said that, although there may be some health benefits, it may do the body more harm than not.

"As all know in Southern California, my main concern would be skin care," McCune said." Wearing sunscreen and still getting the proper amount of Vitamin D need to be more consciously thought about for those who don't wear clothes in the sun. I suppose if you feel less stressed from it, then maybe it can be a healthy outlet. Although, yoga and hula dancing would probably accomplish the same thing."

Dr. Lucy Larsen, also from the Health Center, said there are many risks to take into consideration. 

"You will expose yourself to major skin damage when you put yourself in such a vulnerable position,” Larsen said. “You also need to think about a vulnerable social position if, say, you decide to lie out on the beach nude. It's about being safe. Also, you'll want to look out for sand fleas and other air pollutants."

On the other hand, Morton claims there are many benefits to not wearing clothes.

"Whether swimming or hiking, we are less susceptible to parasites,” Morton said. “Small bugs like confined spaces, we are able to stay clear. We also have large cancer screening events, which of course go much quicker than if in a doctors office because we don't have to trouble with taking off clothing."

Although the nudist colony of Topanga Canyon is no more, there are still other options for those wanting to be free. However, it may be a while before doing so in public is socially and legally acceptable.

Although the nudist colony of old Topanga Canyon is no more, there are still other options for those wanting to be free. However, it may be a while before doing so in public is socially and legally acceptable.