Posted by: caflick | March 18, 2009

Body Painting in Key West: Fantasy Fest Occurs the Week Before Halloween

fantasyfest001_60pc_revised2Key West’s “Fantasy Fest” has evolved into a large, uninhibited festival that celebrates American sexuality. Held in October on the week preceding Halloween, the 7-10 day event is centered on Key’s West traditional main commercial avenue: Duval Street. People come from as far away as Europe, South America, and Canada to participate in an exhibitionistic gala of lingerie, high heels, body paint, and even open displays of nudity and sensuality.

Body painting has become one of the central attractions of Fantasy Fest. Beginning around 11:00 a.m. each morning, visitors line up or make reservations at the handful of exclusive body painting stations located along Duval Street. They bring with them an idea of how they want to be portrayed. Whether it’s painted lingerie, becoming a lioness, provocatively adorned in vines, or following more traditional Halloween themes, tourists want the opportunity to experience being unclad (and socially accepted) as they stroll down Key West’s downtown public sidewalks. Others are there to take it all in with their spouses and cameras in hand. In Key West, the voyeur and exhibitionist nourish each other. With one’s face painted, anyone can assume a wholly anonymous or hidden identity. So being photographed by strangers becomes part of the fun. It’s a unique opportunity to display your physical self without any negative repercussions from friends, family, or fellow churchgoers back in Peoria.

Over a decade ago, some conservative citizens of Key West lobbied the city council to put an end to nudity during Fantasy Fest. Police were instructed to arrest individuals who openly displayed breasts or genitalia. The crackdown predictably dampened visitor interest. On the following year, Fantasy Fest was a bust. Few tourists bothered to fly in for the week or book rooms. Consequently, the business community stormed city hall and demanded that this Victorian approach be rescinded and asked that public nudity downtown be tolerated during the festival. With restriction lifted, thousands of out-of-towners returned the following autumn.

During the most recent Fantasy Fest, Carl Flick of Body Painting by Flick (BPBF) was there (with 20-25 other bodypainters) to adorn tourists. A special service offered by BPBF was carrying out body paintings in the privacy of hotel rooms. Each morning BPBF had a crew member bicycle Duval and Whitehead Streets with a large sign in tow: “Mobile Body Painter For Hire – We Come to You. Phone: 561-844-2223.” Many people who run large businesses, or have become corporate or civic leaders, or who have attained a certain celebrity, quietly noted the phone number and subsequently hired BPBF to paint them in private. Away from the glare and cameras of unknown strangers on Duval Street, the subjects were able to relax and enjoy the process.

BPBF’s equipment is designed to be totally portable. A bicycle with small cart attached carries all of the necessary supplies, including: air brush guns, compressor, paint brushes, paints of all colors, and even a CO2 tank to power the air guns when electricity is not an option. BPBF typically sets up in 5-10 minutes and is ready to paint. For the corporate executive or celebrity being body painted (and face painted for anonymity), that means less time spent in the creation stage and more time strolling and showing off the results without fear of personal discovery.

One typical complaint by Key West paintees is that the body paint may not last more than 3-5 hours. It tends to flake off as one sweats, moves, and abrades the surface. This will largely not happen with body paintings completed by BPBF. BPBF uses water-based non-toxic (safe for skin) paints with a special, safe (even edible) additive bond that further adheres the paint to the skin. No other body painter has it. The result is a shinier surface, an additional 15-20 minutes drying time, and a durable body painting that will last in excess of 24 hours. With care, you can sleep in it without pulling the paint off. But when you want the painting removed, it showers off in five minutes.

To contact Body Painting by Flick and make your reservation in advance for this coming year’s Fantasy Fest in Key West, either phone: 561-844-2223, or go to BPBF’s web page: Once there, you may click on “Contact Us” and send an e-mail directly from the web site.


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