Naked people tanning, playing games and swimming: For many people, the clothing-optional beach at Haulover is already an attraction. But if you haven’t seen Steve Lauer – better known as Flamingo Steve – out there, you have definitely have missed something.
You don’t have to ask too many people to find the man who is well known at the nude beach. “Oh yeah, he is right there, he has a lot of tattoos, you cannot miss him,” says one of the lifeguards. A few feet away, Lauer, 60, sits naked in his chair, smoking a cigar; his body is covered with tattoos. Next to him, stuck in the stand, is a pink plastic flamingo. “I always bring my birds,” he says.
Today, he brought only one bird. The weather wasn’t good, and he wasn’t sure how long he’d stay, says Lauer. Sometimes he has up to 25 plastic birds around him. “At home I have 40,” he said.
Why does Lauer bring the flamingos to the beach? It’s his way of feeling like he is really in Florida.
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More than two years ago, he moved to Miami from New Jersey. “In New Jersey, I could only go to the nude beach there for a certain time during the year. Then it got cold.” He decided to end the 24-hour drives he made a few times a years to go to Miami. Finally he settled here.
“But when I was lying at the beach, I felt I was back in New Jersey,” said Lauer. He looked for something that represents South Florida. At a Dollar Tree store, he found what he was looking for: plastic flamingos in different sizes.
From there on, he came to the beach in the afternoon with his birds in a bag. “To carry those here takes a lot of time,” he says. But if he is not putting them around his chair in the beach, people ask where he left them. “They are making them smile,” he says of his birds.
Flamingo Steve, with his long white beard, had worked in a hospital in New Jersey as a drug and alcohol counselor. He gave lectures about the dangers of drugs, and helped addicted people find further treatment. Thirty years ago, he was in a similar situation and was an alcoholic, he said; he hasn’t had a drink in three decades.
Now Lauer is retired and lives not far from the beach. He stays until the sun goes down, jumps from time to time into the water, and smokes some cigars: “I like the freedom here.” Naked people, he remarks, don’t care about being fashionable – caring about what brand of swimsuit or T-shirt anyone is wearing, for example: “Being naked takes the whole stigma away.”
At Haulover Beach, he likes the visitors from different cultures and countries he finds in the clothing-optional section. He met people from Brazil, Denmark and Sweden, for instance. This is also a reason why he doesn’t want to return to New Jersey: “They’re exotic when you are from Pennsylvania.”
From time to time he has to replace his pink birds. The sun cooks them. So he buys new ones or other people bring him flamingos, even ones from outside Florida.
Recently, he says, people brought him birds from New York.