When it comes to naked lunches, novelist William Burroughs could learn a thing or two from the punk rock group Leaving Trains.
The band was nearing the finale of its outdoor lunchtime performance at the Student Union building at Cal State Northridge on Wednesday when singer Whitey Sims took off his pants and continued singing in the nude.
Voila, the rebirth of a campus fad with a new touch: Musical streaking, defended on religious and political grounds, sort of.
Sims' strip brought gasps and cheers from students, which was a plus of sorts for the band. Before that, the audience had paid little attention to the group, witnesses said. Word spread quickly and other students on their way to class crowded into the quad to see the naked singer.
The finale was definitely more than administrators could bare. College administrators unplugged the group's sound equipment and campus police were summoned, but Sims managed to put his pants back on and slip into the crowd before he could be caught, police said.
Members of the band were questioned by police, but there were no arrests, campus police said.
Several administrators and student leaders of Associated Students/Student Productions and Campus Entertainment (AS/SPACE) offered red-faced apologies Thursday for the band's behavior.
"Who would have thought they would have stripped in front of 200 students?" said Susie Shannon, AS/SPACE executive director. "I'm completely shocked. We're going to make a public apology to the students in the campus newspaper. I mean, we don't book bands \o7 like that\f7 ."
In addition, the band will not be paid its $200 fee, said David Weiss, president of the Associated Students.
"In the contract, there's a clause that says you must abide by university guidelines and regulations, which they clearly did not do," Weiss said.
The reaction to Leaving Train's performance brought a bemused reaction from the group's co-leader, Falling James, who defined the band as a "very educational, physically beautiful, musically trying performance combo."
He kicked the blame upstairs.
"Nudity is a victimless crime," said James, 30. "If God thought nudity were bad, he would have made us born clothed. So I blame God. We're only doing what feels natural."
Also, nude singing is. . . . Well, politically correct for those who don't believe in either politics or correctness.
"We are the point men for the anarchistic revolution," James said.
He added that Sims has performed nude on stage in other shows: "It depends on the mood and the weather conditions."
Peter Egeghi, the AS noontime concert director who booked the group at CSUN, said he was dressed down by administrators unhappy with the group's manner.
Egeghi said he had heard of the band, but was unaware of its fondness for nudity. He booked the band after listening to a tape provided by the group's booking agent. Leaving Trains, which has been together about 12 years, released an album recently titled "The Lump in My Forehead."
"I try to get a wide variety of entertainment for the students, and I thought punk would be entertaining," he said.
He said he didn't notice anything unusual about the band when they arrived late for their sound check on Wednesday: "They were all dressed normally, except for the guy in the dress."
Egeghi said the concert seemed to go smoothly, except when the band made bitterly sarcastic comments about comedian Bob Hope's USO shows and feminists.
Sims began removing his pants during the band's six-minute original song, "I'm O.K." James said the song is about a mental patient being released from a hospital.
Asked why Sims stripped, James replied, "The character is unbalanced."
Angered by the sound system cutoff and the administrators' approach, James began emptying a trash can on stage. Initially, police thought it was James--who was wearing a short satin black skirt, lace stocking and "too much eye makeup"--who had undressed on stage.
"I told them I wouldn't do that, because it takes too long to put these clothes on," James said.
Egeghi said he was sorry.
"I didn't plan for it to happen and it's not going to happen again," he said. "But I don't feel it was a total loss. We are a university, and a university should feature a variety of experiences, not just shelter students from the outside world."