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Naked history

Exposing Whistler’s unclothed past and present

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"That was the one that raised a lot of concerns about nudity, and if I am an ambassador of Whistler I shouldn't be doing this kind of thing," recalls Rob.

"There were a lot of people who were uncomfortable with their bodies and nudity and they raised a lot of stink about it. As a result, I lost my contract with the Whistler Resort Association, which was Tourism Whistler's predecessor."

But Rob doesn't appear to regret being in the photo that got him fired.

"I did it partly out of helping a friend, but also that sort of Whistler free spirit idea," he says.

MOULIN ROUGE OF THE MOUNTAINS

Whistler's naked legacy hit another level thirteen years ago. Before Cornucopia was founded, on a weekend in November when nothing worth noting was happening in Whistler, a man named Andre St. Jacques threw the first of what was to become a series of legendary debaucheries: the MasquerRave parties.

The concept of MasquerRave was to blow the concept of wine tasting into something bigger, more fun, more approachable and way less serious than tradition dictates. Enter body paint. 

"The first year, all the wineries didn't even know what I was doing," says the proprietor of the Bear Foot Bistro, who had gotten a slew of wine tasters from the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival to come up to Whistler for the occasion. "It was a great delight when they found out I was painting girls and guys in the logos of their wine as they are pouring wine."

The rowdy wine event with naked models was a resounding success. It not only became an annual event in Whistler, but it was also folded into Cornucopia when the food festival popped onto the scene in 1999.

In fact, during its 11 years of existence, Andre's anything-goes, sexed-up party grew from 150 attendees to a remarkable 2,500 guests willing to pay the $250 cover charge. People were even travelling from as far as San Francisco, New York and Australia.

Each year, Andre made sure to raise the bar and keep people on their toea. One year he had an ABBA cover band. Another year, he put on an acrobatics show. Nude ice sculptures with vodka shots from their nipples, shadow-box sex shows, and penis-shaped hors d'oeuvres were also reported inside the Bistro's tavern. Oh, and then there was the time Andre had to cancel the live lion act he had planned for the fete because of the controversy it created with animal-rights groups.