Lady Godiva rides again

Published in The Indianpolis Star, Stars and Stripes, Sentinel Tribune

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A 20-year-old modern-day Lady Godiva rode through the streets on a dappled gray steed Monday to protest high taxes, her modesty protected by little more than her long blond hair and a string of pearls.

The woman rode bareback, bare front and bare everything else, her spokesman said. It was hard to tell, since her long tresses covered everything but her legs, but she appeared to have nothing on but a triple strand of pearls.

The woman declined to reveal her identity, and there was reason to believe there were other things she did not reveal.

'She's not wearing clothes? She's suppose to be wearing a body stocking,' gasped a spokeswoman for the Winston-Salem Police Department.

Godiva, her head bowed, said not a word as she peeked demurely at what police estimated was a crowd of more than 10,000 people who poured out of office buildings to take a gander at her charms and cheer as she rode by.

One man rushed into the street and tried to hand her a single red rose but Godiva, her long hair covering the essentials, didn't reach for the flower.

Many along the route complained bitterly about taxes.

'Taxes are going up and no one is doing anything about it,' said Cliff Marsh, who lives in a neighborhood about to be annexed by Winston-Salem. 'My taxes will triple. This is a good way to have some fun and protest taxes.'

'The whole thing is a symbol of taxes,' said Joe King, a 77-year-old artist who organized the ride as a protest against a planned 41 percent property tax hike. 'It's a subtle, lovely way to protest.'

King said he and a group known as Concerned Citizens Against Higher Taxes organized the ride to oppose action by the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen, who proposed a whopping 41 percent tax hike.

'I think taxes are already higher here than most places,' he said. 'I hope it will create a dialogue between the people and find some alternatives to the taxes we already have.

'I think all of our government, not just locally, has a lot of waste. There is so much waste in our federal government. People are getting pretty fed up,' he said.

According to legend, Lady Godiva rode nude through the streets of Coventry, England, in 1028 after her husband, the earl of Leicester, levied heavy taxes on Coventry's citizens. Lady Godiva begged the earl to cut the tax and he promised he would, but only if she rode a horse naked through town.

Clad only in her long blond tresses, Godiva complied, after asking villagers to close their doors and windows and remain indoors. But a voyeur failed to oblige and was afterward dubbed Peeping Tom.

The contemporary Godiva had all kinds of Peeping Toms to watch her exhibition, so to speak. She was escorted by volunteers -- all males -- bedecked in medieval costumes and by officers from the city police department.

The entourage's route took them down Fourth Street, around the courthouse and up Summit Street, about three-quarters of a mile. King refused to identify the rider or let her talk to reporters.

'She's been very reticent to talk to anyone, because a lot of reporters might say something embarrassing,' he explained. 'They can ask unusual questions, you know.