Fashion mag's racy invite to Guantánamo-themed party causes uproar

04/09/2013 1:53 PM

12/08/2014 2:45 PM

The prison has inspired tasteless T-shirts like “Come for the beaches ... stay for the waterboarding” and political satire like the Daily Show’s guest Muppet “Gitmo.” The film industry hijacked the narrative when a pair of potheads, Harold and Kumar, managed to Escape from Guantánamo Bay.

But it took an exclusive invitation this week to a Guantánamo-themed party promising “pleasurable torture” on the fringes of a West Coast music and arts festival to find the joke that went too far.

A Hollywood firm, Smashbox Studios, withdrew its sponsorship. The fashionable Coachella festival in Indio, Calif., made clear it had nothing to do with the event. And the edgy Flaunt fashion magazine was contrite Tuesday as controversy swirled around its exclusive invitation featuring scantily clad women wielding assault rifles that popped up on internet sites.

“Flaunt Magazine never intended to cause offense or harm,” said editorial director Matthew Bedard in an email Tuesday afternoon.

“We value and respect the concerns of the public, and have subsequently revoked the word ‘Guantánamo,’ and any references to it from our promotional materials. The event will certainly carry forward, and those in attendance will likely have a spirited and lovely time.”

Bedard, who was handling questions on behalf of editor-in-chief and founder Luis Barajas, a Venezuelan, said the magazine had thought the juxtaposition of a party called “New Guantánamo” featuring semi-nude women, some blindfolded in bikinis, would “invoke a contradictory spirit of love and carefree fun.”

Plus, he said, “Guantánamo has been controversial from its inception, and that an unresolved human rights issue is again fetching headlines is, in our opinion, true to our aims as a publication and not to be interpreted in black and white terms.”

As though to underscore it, the magazine re-issued its invitation to Friday night's 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. party with the words “New Guantánamo” blacked out with a marker mimicking a government censor. A stamp declaring "Confidential" covered a model’s exposed breasts.

No mention was made in the statement of the ongoing protest at the Pentagon’s offshore prison camps where the military on Tuesday classified 43 of its 166 captives as hunger strikers, 11 of them being fed nutritional supplements by tubes snaked up their noses and into their stomachs by Navy medical workers.

But Smashbox Studios, a Los Angeles firm that houses photo shoots for the fashion and entertainment industry, was not amused.

It said it saw the invitation for the first time Monday, after it was issued, and immediately withdrew its sponsorship.

“We were never informed of the theme and most certainly never agreed to provide ‘pleasurable torture’ as the copy stated,” Dee deLara, vice president of creative, said by email Tuesday.

“We feel strongly that even with a new event title, the feel good atmosphere of the party has been tainted,” deLara added.

Coachella, the annual festival that The Los Angeles Times reported drew more than 650,000 to its grounds last year, also distanced itself from the controversy. A query sent to its web portal for media inquiries resulted in an unsigned email response: “Not something we’re involved in.”

Verbatim | Magazine statement

Flaunt Magazine never intended to cause offense or harm with our Coachella, CA, private event invite, or its verbiage. The imaging, as well as the usage of the word "New" in front of Guantánamo, and the language in accompaniment, were in fact intended to invoke a contradictory spirit of love and carefree fun. As we have previously stated, Flaunt is a publication that routinely illumines topics of social and political contention. Guantánamo has been controversial from its inception, and that an unresolved human rights issue is again fetching headlines is, in our opinion, true to our aims as a publication and not to be interpreted in black and white terms. Still, we value and respect the concerns of the public, and have subsequently revoked the word "Guantánamo," and any references to it from our promotional materials. The event will certainly carry forward, and those in attendance will likely have a spirited and lovely time."

— editorial director Matthew Bedard

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About Carol Rosenberg

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Carol Rosenberg reports on Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the place, policy, people, war court.


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