Two calendars, two causes, both genders, all nude. Forget the puppies, astrology, Twilight and lighthouses calendars at the mall kiosk this year. Depending on your sexual preference (and other associated fetishes) there are but two choices (excluding the other locally focused calendars currently in stores): Hot Dames 2010 and Men of Ojai 2010.

Hot Dames, a product of Rubicon Theatre Company’s Grande Dames fundraising auxiliary is a full-color racy spread featuring high profile mature women posing as characters from productions past wearing little more than a prop or two. Tastefully photographed by Jeanne Tanner, the women — who include former deputy mayor Rosa Lee Measures, arts patron Sandra Laby and community icon Helen Yunker — bared all to raise money for the award-winning theatre company.

Brave as it would appear for women of a certain age to show their stuff, Seana Sesma, owner of The Wine Rack in Ventura, says all who participated are hams at heart, spending hundreds of dollars in a $20 per ticket drawing, for a chance to pose for the calendar.

That’s not to say the experience was without its challenges. “The biggest thing was letting go and being OK,” says Sesma. One of the women recently battled breast cancer and wanted women to know you can still be beautiful naked, post-mastectomy. Another woman, at 70 seized the opportunity to purchase her first thong undergarment. Helen Yunker, 88 years old and a fixture at Ventura City Council meetings for more than a decade, let down her hair for the occasion to “portray” Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire.

Sandra Laby, who posed as Dulcinea from Man of La Mancha said she was “overjoyed” when plans for the “Calendar Girls” project was announced at a Grande Dames meeting. In retrospect, Laby, who says she would do almost anything for the Rubicon, would have preferred to have done the shoot with a drink in her belly. “It was a little scary, but the feelings that all of us had actually helped us through the group pictures. We could all feel the uneasiness that we all shared. We did lots of laughing almost like a group of school children.”

Rosa Lee Measures agreed that the shared experience was bonding. “It has been a lot of fun and has created an amazing camaraderie among a group of great volunteers,” she said.

While the women of the Rubicon withstood the bright lights of the stage sans apparel, the Men of Ojai endured elements with nary a prop to benefit arts education for children in Ojai. The Men of Ojai calendar, first created in 2007, is the brainchild of theater instructor Demetri Corbin, who originally tossed the idea around as a joke. “I started asking friends if they’d pose nude for a good cause, and people said yes,” he mused. Corbin assembled a group of female friends officially and affectionately known as the Council of Fabulousness to judge the male calendar contenders. The men were expected to have strong connections to the community and asked to give a personal definition of freedom. The result was a dozen or so men ranging in age and ethnicity but sharing a quality that Grande Dame Seanna Sesma described as “delicious.” Photographed in black and white by Attasalina Dews and Bobbi Bennett, the images are provocative and artistic, showing the men on location in and around Ojai doing what they do in their “free” time.

Nudity is not unheard of in Ojai where hot springs and other natural attractions invite it, but according to Corbin, once upon a time, it was much more public. “Everyone was nude — little kids, old people.” Even the statue at Libbey Bowl, which has since been replaced, was nude. Sometime in the 80s, he says, the attitude changed and a more buttoned up mentality took over the bucolic valley.

Corbin’s hope is that the calendar will raise much needed funds for arts education in Ojai but he’d also like it to raise a few, um, eyebrows.    

The Hot Dames calendar is available for $25 at the Rubicon Theatre and the Wine Rack in Ventura. The women will be signing calendars at the Wine Rack on Wednesday, Dec. 16 from 6:30-8 p.m. The Men of Ojai calendar is available for $25 at Soultonic in Ventura, at various stores in Ojai and at www.menofojai.com

michel@vcreporter.com