Toplessness is legal in New York. But no matter how many times the public (and police) are reminded of that, it never seems to stick. However, for Holly Van Voast, a nudity activist who has stripped all over New York's landmark locations, it's a way of life. Van Voast is a photographer from the Bronx who can be seen around town sporting her signature platinum bird's nest, drawn mustache and exposed breasts.
After being summoned to court for stripping in Grand Central in August, Van Noast entered the courtroom and did what she does best -- she took off her clothing. From the New York Times:
She removed her black coat to reveal her bare breasts to the court. The room went silent. "It was like, 'What do we do now?'" a court officer recalled.
Judge Mella tabled the case until the afternoon, saying she would consider not filing a complaint against Ms. Van Voast if she apologized for her behavior.
Eventually the courtroom room reconvened and Voast did sort of apologize to her 89-year-old judge, which was enough to keep things cordial (and keep her out of jail for contempt of court).
Voast admitted to the Times that her lawyer wasn't exactly on board with her strange courtroom antics, and that he was "sort of confused by my behavior.”
Voast's most recent brush with fame came as she flashed the red carpet of a film premiere about breast cancer and ended up in a photo behind Jennifer Aniston. Many at the screening applauded her action, mistakingly thinking it was somehow related to the film's content.
The Daily Beast examined Voast in September and tried to figure out what the nudity thing was all about -- feminism? Activism? Reality television? The Beast's conclusion was the latter, mostly.
The attention is precisely what Harvey is seeking, as she pursues her dream of landing a reality show about her life with her group of friends in the underground drag-performance scene in New York. Van Voast moved to the city in 1984 with the goal of becoming a famous painter but eventually took a job as a graphic artist to pay the bills. She never shook her dream of becoming famous, so she’s been filming her friends at a nightclub in the hopes that the footage will persuade a TV producer to turn their lives into a reality TV show.
In this video, Holly Van Voast's alter-ego, Harvey Van Toast, visits the Staten Island Ferry and the Empire State Building (video contains nudity, obviously):