Our intrepid new columnist ventures into the late-night jungle to witness Girls Gone Wild on the make

These ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY guys take themselves a little too seriously. They suggested my column involve a ”keen analysis of popular culture.” I’m pretty sure my column should be an investigation into the mores of culture’s everchanging semiotics, such as having me spend two days as a member of the Girls Gone Wild camera crew. The keen analysis stuff can stay where it belongs, in Jim Mullen’s Hot Sheet.

I had a legitimate journalistic interest in Girls Gone Wild. After watching the tapes seven or eight times I began to wonder if the women who take off their tops and bottoms were paid professionals. Many of the participants were astonishingly freshly groomed considering they performed spontaneously. Also, in my experience women don’t take off their tops for free. I’ve already admitted too much.

I contacted Joe Francis, a 29-year-old whose Girls Gone Wild empire includes a tape hosted by Snoop Dogg, an upcoming episode with Eminem, and a comedy being made by MGM. Joe agreed to let me be the first journalist to wear a crew member T-shirt for the shoot in Gainesville, Fla. We didn’t head out to the bar until 11 p.m., at which point I wondered if it would be just as fun to go back to my hotel room and watch Monica and Phoebe go wild. I wish girls could get wild at 5 or 6.

On the Girls Gone Wild bus, which in more wholesome times used to be Kid Rock’s tour bus, Joe and I got in what seemed at the time to be a thought-provoking debate over which is better — hot or slutty — that ended with Joe saying, ”It’s a toss-up.” When we got to the well-advertised Girls Gone Wild-sponsored party at the country bar 8 Seconds, right away women started taking off their tops and often their bottoms. What shocked me even more is when I asked them for their names and numbers for fact-checking purposes, they gave me them. I got so into the postgame interviews that the next Girls Gone Wild tape has an embarrassing shot of two topless blondes gyrating right in front of me, while I am looking away and scribbling in my notepad.

Kirby, a 20-year-old political science major who had just sold her underwear to a man for $60, which I’m worried about expensing, said she enjoyed the attention from a bunch of cute guys. ”I think sexuality should be more open and honest than it is,” she said. When I insisted that she disrobed for the limited fame of being on the video, she denied it. ”Well, you wouldn’t take off your top for ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY,” I said. Then she raised her shirt. I can’t imagine what she would have done for TIME.

That’s when I decided that my lack of a camera would not get in the way. I offered to use my notebook to sketch women at 15-minute sittings, but no one seemed to dig my romantic, Titanic vibe. The next time I saw Kirby, she said, ”I might regret this. The number of people who might judge this might outweigh my feelings about this being okay. This occurred to me when I realized I lost my shoes.” Kirby’s friend Kirsten, 22, suggested that women flashed because ”they’re sluts and whores. They have no respect for their bodies. They feel good because all these guys are hootin’ and hollerin’.” College friendships can be rough. At this point, a very happy Joe Francis walked up to me and said, ”Christ could walk in the bar and perform miracles and no one would notice. They’d say, ‘Oh, another Jew is here.”’ I didn’t know what this meant, but I felt my first bar fight coming on.

When I finally went to bed, I had trouble falling asleep because I was confused, disturbed, turned on, and really sorry that I had taken everyone to the Waffle House at 5 a.m. When I had asked Joe Francis why women strip for free, his only reason was that ”girls want to get wild. It’s a liberating thing for them.” And as Simone de Beauvoir as that sounds, I’m pretty sure no women I know feel that way. Partially, it’s generational: Miniskirts begot thongs begot low-ride jeans begot flashing. Sure, they’re doing it because they’re insecure and desperate for attention and fame, but who isn’t? And what, in the end, is more pathetic: showing your body for a split second, or admitting to being a pervert in a national magazine?

Girls Gone Wild
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