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One 'Wild' night - Girls Gone Wild Visits Battle Creek Michigan

10:06 AM, Mar 3, 2006   |    comments
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A young woman wearing a tiny tank top and underwear stands in a plastic kiddy pool on stage in front of several hundred screaming men. Her knees shiver and she tilts her head down so her blond hair covers her eyes. Two men stand beside her with ice-cold pitchers of water in their hands. She winces as the first splash hits her face and chest, droplets running down her stomach and legs. Camera flashes go off in the crowd. Men scream louder and more icy water is poured over her. She looks up, eyes slightly dazed from alcohol and mascara running down her face. The crowd cheers. She does a seductive dance and smiles. She might have this contest in the bag. And within a few months, this moment could be part of a popular pornographic video series. This was a scene from Planet Rock, a bar where the "Girls Gone Wild" Rocks America Backstage Pass Tour stopped in Battle Creek on Feb. 17. The event was for people age 18 and older and paired rock bands Hinder, Revelation Theory, Faktion and Default with thong and wet T-shirt contests while cameramen filmed naked local girls for a new "Road Trip" video series. "Girls Gone Wild" is the raunchy California-based video series and Web site that features young amateur women stripping, flashing and engaging in sex acts, often in public locations. This was the first trip to Battle Creek by "Girls Gone Wild," whose sexually charged video advertisements are a staple of late-night television. In the past few years, "Girls Gone Wild" has faced criticism - and several lawsuits - claiming it takes advantage of intoxicated young women for profit. "Girls Gone Wild" was created in 1997 by Joe Francis, 32, who started by selling videotapes of girls flashing at Mardi Gras and on spring breaks. In the past eight years, "Girls Gone Wild" has produced more than 200 video titles and the content has evolved from breast-baring to amateur hard-core pornography. Current titles include "Dorm Room Invasion" and "Island Orgy." "We're looking forward to combining these amazing bands with the wild party atmosphere "Girls Gone Wild" brings to each venue it visits," Francis said in a news release before the Feb. 17 event. "The tour will give new meaning to having backstage groupies!" Planet Rock owner Ted Keaton said the concert sold out quickly, as he expected. "It's been crazy. I'm sure that part of it is the "Girls Gone Wild," but it's mostly the bands," he said. "The bands are great and they are what are selling the tickets." Though the bands were a large draw, a good portion of the tickets for the sold-out show appeared to have been purchased by men looking for some of the nudity and sexual exploits for which "Girls Gone Wild" is famous. "I want to see some chicks get naked," said Trevor Gibbs of Kalamazoo, who bought a ticket after hearing about the event from friends. "Getting drunk and watching chicks go nuts, that's why I'm here." His response was echoed many times over. For every few men who said they were there mostly for the bands, there was one who said he didn't care about the music. The event was sponsored by "Girls Gone Wild" and the Lansing-based rock radio station Q106.1 FM. The station's emcee for the evening, a disc jockey and a promoter known as "Mojo," said the station was there to promote good bands, not the girls. "I mean, if it wasn't for Default and the bands here, I wouldn't be here," said Mojo, whose real name was not released by the radio station. "It's not really my thing." But seconds later, Mojo jumped on stage and yelled out "Everybody make some noise for 'Girls Gone Wild!'" The Q106.1 crew seemed eager to get girls to participate. Before Faktion delivered its charged-up set, girls were directed to a table where sign-up sheets for the contests were located. When only three girls immediately signed up, some promoters working for 106.1 went into the crowd to find more. As the bands played, some girls in the audience bared their chests and a few crowd-surfed while topless. During Hinder's set, singer Austin Winkler reached out and touched a young woman who was stripped from the waist up as she was held up and passed in the crowd. Between band sets, the contests took place. Before the thong contest, a member of the "Girls Gone Wild" crew took to the stage to get people even rowdier and directed in explicit terms to cheer for the breasts and nudity they were about to witness. "Remember, drink up everybody, 'cause the more you drink, the more chaotic it's gonna get," he said. "The more wild the girls are gonna get!" Though public nudity is illegal in Michigan except at licensed locations, there was not a police presence inside Planet Rock. The event was advertised as having wet T-shirt contests and thong contests, but not involving any nudity. "We were not contacted about the event," said Cmdr. Jackie Hampton of the Battle Creek Police Department. "Most of the time when there is a large event where a potential problem may occur, we are contacted by the event coordinators and officers are paid a fee to be there. "No police were inside Planet Rock, which provided its own security. Though Battle Creek police squad cars were seen outside Planet Rock at the end of the show, Hampton said that is typical. "If we have officers that are available and not out on 911 calls, we make our presence known at bars or clubs on the weekend," Hampton said. "So being there is something we might normally do." Christi Boyd, a striking brunette in a short skirt and black knee-high tights, got quite a few comments from men as she weaved through the crowd. "I'm here to see the bands, not strip. I think I am a little too classy to get up on stage and get naked," Boyd said. "I mean, I'm a mom. I'll drink and have a good time, but as far as that other stuff goes - no way." As she watched girls sign up for the thong contest, she shook her head in dismay. "Could you imagine your father up watching late-night TV and he sees one of the commercials?" she said, laughing. "'Hey, isn't that my daughter?'" Though most of the men seemed hto watch the drunk women get soaked with water and flash, some didn't feel it was right. "I mean, of course I like boobs, but I really hate how "Girls Gone Wild" approaches the girls," said Dustin Barnes, a Planet Rock employee who worked at the event. "The cameramen push the girls by saying things like 'Oh, what color panties are you wearing?' and that's just wrong. The girls are drunk and they are pushing them to a point where they have little control. I think it is really degrading to women." Barnes said he felt bad for the girls who end up on the "Girls Gone Wild" videos and Web sites. "I know that when girls drink, they can do stupid things, but it usually doesn't end up on TV," Barnes said. "Some do it for fun or to get a reaction, but some girls seem to have low self-esteem and just need some attention." Bill Horn, a spokesman for Mantra Films (which is owned by Joe Francis and releases the "Girls Gone Wild" videos), said the girls are not pushed to strip for the cameras. "The majority - I'd say all of them - want to be filmed. I've been on the "Girls Gone Wild" shoots and we have girls approach us," Horn said. "People think we are taking advantage of the girls and that's not the case. Just because people can't understand why a girl wants or desires to be filmed by us doesn't mean it's wrong or they shouldn't do it." Some of the women were less forgiving. "I would never be able to get up there and do it," said Amber McVeigh of Battle Creek. "I'm sorry, but I don't really feel bad for the girls who do because they know what they are doing when they get up there. For some of them, it's just getting drunk and having fun." One young Battle Creek couple were casual about attending the event. "I don't mind it. I mean, they're just boobs. Who cares?" said Stephany Ball, a blond dressed casually in an Abercrombie & Fitch hoodie and jeans. "I like to get crazy, too, and if I didn't have a boyfriend, I probably would get on stage and do it." Ball's boyfriend, Mark Wilk, agreed with her. "I'm here for the music, but if I see boobs, I won't be complaining," he joked. Things weren't so funny to Wilk a few hours later when Ball decided she wanted to join some friends on stage for one of the "hot body" contests. "I really want to do it, but he's really mad at me right now," she said as she was pulled through the crowd by a petite brunette. "I don't know what I should do." Ball decided to keep the peace and did not join in, staying back and watching the concert with her boyfriend. Though Wilk said he wouldn't mind seeing some nudity, having other men looking at his girlfriend naked was a different story. Plenty of girls did participate. Tara Garcia, a doll-like girl with long curly hair, wearing a tiny, plaid kilt and knee-high black leather boots, was the winner of the thong contest. Minutes before she was bent over on stage gyrating with her skirt lifted up, she said she didn't think the contest was demeaning toward women. "I think it's great. I won at the Flint show, too!" Garcia said as she ran by excitedly with her friend. Before the wet T-shirt contest, participants were ushered to the side of the stage, where they were ordered to hand over their bras and T-shirts and told to strip from the waist up in plain view of dozens of people near the stage. Some men snapped pictures with their camera phones. The producers made the decision to hold off on the wet T-shirt contest, instead taking a group of eight girls to a bus waiting outside. A few of the girls walked unevenly and had slurred speech, appearing to be intoxicated. A crew member there said explicit sex acts between the girls may be filmed. Media aren't allowed on the "Girls Gone Wild" bus. But a peek into the bus parked outside Planet Rock revealed what looked like a mobile studio, with plush beds, couches and camera equipment. This is where the majority of the action is filmed. According to Bill Horn, the film company spokesman, any girl participating in the videos taken on the bus must prove she is at least 18. "We are very strict with this," Horn said. "A girl must show photo identification with her age and state on film that she is at least 18 years of age. We also have a written release that they must sign and we get a copy of the driver's license." As far as any public nudity that is filmed in a crowd setting, Horn said there is a sign placed in the front of the venue that states that any actions filmed are done so in a public space and those at the event can legally be filmed. A similar sign was posted at Planet Rock. When the girls returned from the bus, some of them looked disheveled. A member of the crew described what happened on the bus in explicit sexual terms. Horn said the "Girls Gone Wild" camera crew is instructed not to film visibly intoxicated young women. "They are told not to shoot," Horn said. "And we review footage. If a girl looks like she is intoxicated, we will not use the footage. There have been many girls we have filmed going wild and then decided not to use because of that." One young blond woman who walked to the bus with the group of girls said she was "totally wasted" and couldn't feel her legs. She wasn't sure what happened on the bus, she said. Attempts to contact two of the contest participants nine days after the event were unsuccessful. According to Horn, if a girl who has been filmed by "Girls Gone Wild" contacts Mantra Films soon after she has been filmed and asks that the footage not be used, it will not be used. However, once the footage reaches the production stage, it is too late. "They have to call in a reasonable amount of time, within a week or two after they are filmed," Horn said. "In my memory, over the years we've only had a few girls call and say they didn't want the footage of them used. We honored their requests." As the crowd dispersed from the sweltering club to the wintry weather outside, some men chatted excitedly and slapped hands. Inside, the band roadies packed up the gear, and the cameras were shut off. Through the blowing snow, two girls who had appeared on stage for a contest held each other's hands as they shuffled to their car. Maybe they would not remember what they did on stage. But if they end up like the girls who appear exposed on the covers of the "Girls Gone Wild" videos, their actions could be viewed by countless strangers. Stephanie Antonian Rutherford is a general assignment reporter. She can be reached at 966-0665 or srutherford@battlecr.gannett.com.


About 'Girls Gone Wild' Created by Joe Francis in 1997, Girls Gone Wild has expanded from direct-market home video footage of women flashing at Mardi Gras to a pop-culture phenomenon. Mantra Films, Francis' California-based production company, has released more than 200 video titles under the Girls Gone Wild series. The Girls Gone Wild web site (girlsgonewild.com) provides frequently-updated Web-exclusive content for $29.95 a month. In addition, Girls Gone Wild has a pay-per-view special and a clothing line, GGW Rags. The videos and brand have been featured on television on "Saturday Night Live," "The Tonight Show," "Access Hollywood," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "Entertainment Tonight," FOX News, Mad TV, VH1, Maury, "Extra," CNN and "The Howard Stern Show." Videos are sold online and by phone order. Girls Gone Wild titles also are for sale on mainstream Web sites, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sam Goody. Sources: Mantra Films, ConsumerAffairs.com

Stephanie Antonian Rutherford - The Enquirer

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