Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Retirees at ease in their skin..." - by Lon Wagner

"Retirees at ease in their skin show it off to lend a hand"

By Lon Wagner
The Virginian-Pilot
Oct. 31, 2007


Whew, their clothes are on. But maybe not for long.

"We're going into the back room," says Marion Keeler,
"to take 'em off."

Now, now, ladies.

Marion, Betty, Iris, Lib, Ethelyn and Ruth Lee range
in age from 73 to 83, more or less and not necessarily
in that order. They have gathered in Ruth Lee's
apartment at Westminster-Canterbury retirement
community to explain why they got naked to make a

To explain precisely how nude they were when they
dragged downstairs to the beach on a 98-degree August
day and posed behind beach balls and sand chairs and
big red hearts and even climbed inside gift-wrapped

They must've had underwear on, right?

"What do you think?" Betty Clarke asks.

"That's for us to know and you to find out," Ruth Lee
Wooldridge says.

Half nude?

"Now what could be behind that?" Iris Kennedy says,
gesturing to a picture showing lots of skin. "Who said
we were half nude?"

"You see this one?" Marion says. "They asked me to
lean back, so I didn't show all my boobs."

Oh, my.

The cal gals of Westminister-Canterbury got their idea
from "Calendar Girls," a film co-starring Helen
Mirren, about English women who posed nude as a

It all started one day when the women were talking
about the 2003 movie "Calendar Girls," about
middle-aged women in England who posed nude.

"We thought," says Iris, "that since we are 25 years

"We'd make it funny," chimes in Ruth Lee.

"No fool like an old fool," Iris says, "so we'd go
ahead and try it."

They recruited Ruth Lee's daughter-in-law to take the
pictures and granddaughter to direct the photo shoot.
Then they went on a shopping trip to the dollar store
to buy props to obscure themselves. They spent $9
each. On the day of the shoot, they were a sight
walking down to the beach with balls and boogie
boards, swim caps and kites. So they had a cover
story, Betty explains: "We said Ruth Lee's
granddaughter was doing a project for college about

The photographer took hundreds of photos, and the
women weren't quite sure what to do with them. Like
the calendar girls from the movie, who raised funds
for leukemia, they had a cause in mind: the foundation
that pays the way for people who normally couldn't
afford Westminster-Canterbury.

When Dave Iwans, of DIA advertising and public
relations, saw the photos, he thought the women really
had something. He collected sayings, about staying
young, living life, being happy and getting naked, one
for each month. He got Norfolk printer Teagle & Little
to produce 10,000 of them, at cost. And when he showed
a mock-up to the manager of Barnes & Noble at
Tidewater Community College, he agreed to sell the
calendars and host a signing.

Saturday, during movie night at the retirement
community, "Calendar Girls" the movie was shown, and
then the women unveiled their own calendar. Iris
figures some people will think they're foolish, but,
says Marion, guess what:

"We don't care."

They seem to be enjoying their new roles, maybe a bit
too much.

"Do you want us to take all our clothes off?" Iris
teases. "We don't want to disappoint."

"They might run, Iris," Ruth Lee says.

"OK," Iris says, "but come back next year... we're
thinking of something bolder."

Ladies, please!

Lon Wagner, (757) 446-2341,

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