"Nude Fishing" in Kentucky
By Chip Rowe
Chip Rowe, a former AJR associate editor, is an editor at Playboy.
Earlier this year, reporter Bob Segall wrote a story that appeared on page A10 of the Lexington, Kentucky, Herald-Leader describing a new isolated, seven-plot housing subdivision. Segall reported that the owner did not permit lawn mowing in the wooded development, but the 13th paragraph of the 19-graph story noted that she did allow "nudity" and "fishing in the development's stocked lake."
That evening, the piece was rewritten and distributed by the Associated Press. "Residents of a new environmentally conscious subdivision near Lexington are permitted to go fishing naked, but they'd better not mow their lawns" read the lead. Among the headlines for the story: "No need for clothes or lawnmowers" (Albany Times Union); "No cover-up at Kentucky subdivision" (Chicago Tribune); "At home with nature in the buff" (Vancouver Province, with illustration of naked man with a fishing pole); "Nude fishing OK, but no lawn mowing" (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette); and "Subdivision goes all natural" (New Orleans Times-Picayune).
The day after Segall's story, Lexington's WLEX-TV sent a reporter to ask local kids if they'd seen anyone fishing in the nude. CNN picked up the story as well, and ran it that weekend.
Four days after the story appeared, Jay Leno joked on the "Tonight Show": "Anybody know where Sadie-ville, Kentucky, is? Well, residents of a subdivision there voted to allow themselves naked fishing... There was a bad accident there the other day because some guy caught a snapping turtle."
A day later, Arsenio Hall joked on his late-night show, "A new subdevelopment in Sadieville, Kentucky, now allows nude fishing. Don't you think fishermen lie about size enough already?"
And more than two weeks after the "nude fishing" story broke, syndicated radio commentator Paul Harvey and National Public Radio mentioned it.
A bemused Segall says, as he looks back on the saga, "If [nude fishing] were really happening, I would have put it in the lead."