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Interest in Shirtless Guy Is Skin-Deep

A campus club tracks the Orange college student, who accepts body ads.

November 07, 2005|William Lobdell | Times Staff Writer

The legend of the Shirtless Guy was born little more than a year ago when student Jacob Authier decided to go topless at Chapman University.

By wearing nothing above the waist each day except sunglasses and black paint on his nipples, Authier has given the small private university in Orange one of its first campus characters.

Authier's half-nakedness has inspired the second most popular online group at Chapman -- the Club Dedicated to the Fellow Without a Shirt. With 509 members, it ranks behind only the George Bush Is Not My Homeboy club in popularity.

The junior film major's muscled chest and back have been rented out for student political campaign slogans and birthday wishes at just $1 per message.

And students eagerly await holidays, when the Shirtless Guy usually comes through with something special.

For St. Patrick's Day, he colored his nipples emerald green. And on Valentine's Day, he had a heart scratched with a pocketknife on his chest and wings on his back -- body art that alarmed school administrators enough to get the Shirtless Guy an appointment with the dean of students.

"He just wanted to make sure I was OK," Authier said.

At a fraternity Halloween party this year, one of the students dressed up as the Shirtless Guy.

Authier, 20, says his evolution from regular guy to Shirtless Guy was gradual. He said that while growing up in Coalinga, where his father taught middle school while his mother stayed home, he rarely wore shirts indoors because he didn't like feeling constricted.

When he arrived at Chapman two years ago, he flirted with the idea of losing his shirt, but for most of the year he wore a black hooded cloak instead.

By last fall, he decided to go the distance -- the full half-monty, so to speak.

"The idea just kind of stuck," said Authier, who lives on campus with his brother Josiah, 19, a sophomore. "And that's when people started to notice."

Sophomore Regina Aletto, 19, said she was so intrigued by the Shirtless Guy that in February she started the online Club Dedicated to the Fellow Without a Shirt, available to Chapman students. The group posts Shirtless Guy sightings and debates his general hotness.

"I was wondering if anyone else thought this guy was weird too," she said. "Turns out that everyone at school was obsessed with him."

Though shy and polite in private conversations, on campus the Shirtless Guy can be an intimidating figure with his straight-ahead stare, black shades, long chin beard that grows from his jaw like two dark lightning bolts, black nipples, body scarring and natural reticence.

"I've talked to him just once," Aletto said. "I said, 'Hey, I'm the girl who started the club.' He said, 'Oh, cool.' He shook my hand. He was nice about it, but that was about it."

Michael Kohelet, a 2005 Chapman graduate, said students have embraced the idea of the Shirtless Guy because the 5,100-student liberal arts university in the middle of Orange County doesn't typically manufacture campus characters.

"Chapman's a pretty small school, and we don't have a lot of weirdos like a lot of schools," said Kohelet, who for two years attended the 30,000-student University of Iowa, an institution he said had plenty of oddballs. "In comparison, the Shirtless Guy is pretty tame."

Earlier this year, Kohelet posted a message to members of the online fan club crediting Authier for changing his life.

"I think if it weren't for the Shirtless Guy," Kohelet confessed, "I never would have had the courage to unbutton the second to the top button on my shirt and walk around showing a little chest hair."

In class, Authier said half his professors ask that he put on a shirt, which he does. Some, including Paul McCrudden, who teaches screenwriting, even ask him to button it up.

"Maybe it's just me, but I find it distracting and slightly disruptive," McCrudden said. "I was actually going to bring a T-shirt for him to wear this week if he did not have a shirt of his own."

Other professors, such as Rabbi Mark Miller, haven't enforced a classroom dress code because students seemed unbothered by the Shirtless Guy.

"I think I was more concerned that he wore dark sunglasses," Miller said.

He said Authier had been "unfailingly polite and respectful" in class.

"He reminds me of something I think about when I attend Bob Dylan concerts," Miller said. "He's definitely moving to the beat of the song -- but it's not the song that's being played at that moment."

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