After undressing and interviewing ordinary citizens for the books Naked New York and Naked London, photographer Greg Friedler turned his lens on Las Vegas, which of course is built on people losing their shirts. While Friedler was in pursuit of willing subjects for his 2008 art book, he was followed by producer/director/cinematographer David Palmer, whose documentary Stripped: Greg Fiedler's Naked Las Vegas has a midnight premiere Friday at the Onyx Theatre. It screens every Wednesday in March and airs on Showtime later this month.
Palmer's camera trails Friedler, who resembles comedian Seth Rogen, in his meandering, amiable hustle to get people to participate. Friedler rounds up the expected showgirls, strippers, sex workers and swingers, but also gets casino dealers, CPAs and Ren Faire swordsmen to pose and talk about their lives. Friedler's grail is an Elvis impersonator, and the elusive Jesse Garon ultimately does the King proud. There are also appearances by Downtown gallery owner Naomi Arin, who hosted the photo shoots, former KNPR interviewer Dave Berns and Mayor Oscar Goodman—all non-naked.
Friedler's self-justifying about the Deep Meaning of self-display is a bit annoying, but about halfway through, the 78-minute film becomes affecting and even revelatory. The camera takes in views of Vegas that are seldom seen and certainly never filmed. And the nakedness becomes less an art gimmick than a reason to assemble and focus on these very individual individuals; the things they reveal about themselves and the rootlessness and anomie of Las Vegas are fascinating.
One unexpected and welcome side effect of Stripped: After watching the proudly presented, defiantly realistic physiques, you're almost guaranteed to feel better about your own body.