ACT News

Life in raw for good cause

'My wife was afraid of the dark,' US comedian Rodney Dangerfield has quipped, ''then she saw me naked and now she's afraid of the light.''

In that spirit and reluctantly giving in to modern readers' demands for more nudity in this column here today on this page are some of the alas unforgettable pictures of men vying for inclusion in a forthcoming, fund-raising 2014 calendar. On the Canberra Times website you'll find, if you dare, a whole gallery of them.

Vietnam veteran Greg Carter of Bairnsdale is organising the calendar. He was an unforgettable Mr February (''because I'm a bit of a romantic and wanted to be in the Valentine's Day month'') in the 2007 version, posing with a similarly naked Clydesdale horse called Mac. Now he is looking for male readers who might like to compete to be in 2014's sepia blockbuster.

Your only qualification is that you must be a Vietnam veteran. And you qualify as one, he explains, even if as an airman or a sailor you didn't actually set foot on Vietnam but did serve in that theatre.

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Those of you who fancy being in this tournament are asked to contact him, whereupon he will try to connect you with a professional photographer. And we use the word ''tournament'' advisedly because later this year the choice of 12 photographs from the many submitted will be made by a discerning panel of lady bowlers.

''Our plan is to get a group of lady bowlers, in their white uniforms, to study the pictures and give every man a score out of 10. It should be a lot of fun.''


The project sounds frivolous but this columnist's conversation with Greg Carter contained as many serious passages as chortles because it all has its serious side.

He and his wife Annie have a 20-hectare property near Bairnsdale, part of which they use as a ''safe, secure and peaceful retreat'' for Vietnam veterans and their wives. The men who come there are almost all ''TPIs'' (they're totally and permanently incapacitated) who, because they carry Vietnam-caused PTSD demons with them, have a range of emotional problems not dreamt of by most of us.

For them, staying in a typical caravan park may be fraught with problems. So, for example, the retreat doesn't allow children, not because anyone hates children but because it's impossible to expect children to be quiet and because, for troubled Vietnam vets, sudden noises can set off all sorts of emotional alarms.

When you're a Vietnam vet, Carter counsels, that sudden caravan park noise at 2 in the morning that most of us will sleep through can plunge a troubled man back to the Vietnam of 1969 and 1970 ''with the back and the front of his mind playing games with each other''.

And the retreat discourages casual visitors and has only veterans (and their wives) there because, Carter says, people who didn't serve in Vietnam can sometimes, clodhoppingly, say the most insensitive and unsettling things.

Carter is a PTSD sufferer himself (but says he's blessed by being ''a very, very positive person'' blessed with a wonderful and very positive wife) so is sensitised to the needs of those who retreat to the retreat.

The point of the fund-raising calendar (the 2007 one raised $65,000) is to earn some money to spend on the retreat. It needs repairs and maintenance. Because the place is his private property it can't attract any government money (he says that Veterans' Affairs pats him on the back and says what wonderful work the retreat does but regrets it can't help him financially), hence the need for dollar-generating enterprises such as the calendar.

It has been a long time since the 2007 one (though fun, it was hard work and took a year out of the Carters' lives) ''But people have kept asking, 'When are you going to do another one?'''

Lots of those doing the asking (''our target audience has been older ladies'') have been the ladies' bowling clubs where the 2007 creation proved especially popular.

Every photograph in the 2014 calendar will be sepia-toned. Carter has been a professional photographer and thinks sepia gives the pictures an extra, aesthetic something, a historical feel the calendar's older clientele appreciates, that black-and-white and lurid colour can't quite. The 2014 calendar will probably be launched in October and probably, like 2007's, at the retreat. Full nudity will be possible there to suit the media since ''they'll really want to see a backside here and there.''

The 2007 one was given, after its launch in the bush (Normie Rowe, clothed, performed there), a big, signing-of-calendars occasion at Federation Square in Melbourne. But it was a place that couldn't be festooned with true backsides (''There were four school choirs there that day so we had to be a bit discreet,'' Carter remembers) and so the men kept their undies on, thank goodness.

Suitably qualified, fame-seeking male readers should call Greg Carter on 0409 418 332.