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SF's Most Notorious Nudist Stakes Her Claim to History 

Wednesday, Dec 2 2015
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After a year in Boston, Taub relocated to the Bay Area, where she discovered LSD.

"I'd heard that everyone was dropping acid at Cal, so I figured if it wasn't making them stupid, it probably wouldn't make me stupid either," she says.

She stayed up all night during her first acid trip and promised herself that she'd go to the library the next morning to learn how to make her own LSD. Like a true communist, she believed in owning the means of production. (She never mastered the recipe.)

At 23, Taub enrolled at City College of San Francisco and declared a pre-med major. Her interest in altered mental states had encouraged her to become a psychiatrist. To help pay tuition, she enlisted with a modeling agency that got her gigs in adult entertainment. An amateur pornographer who sold VHS tapes via mail-order catalogs hired her to do solo videos, and later, girl-on-girl shoots.

Although she was making money and earning straight A's, Taub says it was a bleak time. She didn't have many friends, and America "didn't represent the things [she] was looking for in terms of freedom." She dropped out of City College after a year and a half.

"I felt really broken inside, and I was tired of projecting this image of being a successful person and fooling everybody," she says. "I spent all of my time studying. I didn't have a social life. It was a waste of time."

In 1995, she experienced the "biggest awakening of [her] life." She'd gone to New Mexico to track down an Indian shaman from whom she hoped to learn ancient healing arts. Instead, she was invited to a peyote meeting in Steamboat, Ariz., a sparse desert settlement in the midst of Navajo, Apache, and Zuni Indian territories.

Peyote meetings are intensely private, confessional affairs. Two dozen tribal members cram into a teepee and ingest peyote. A drum beats. One by one, each person unburdens his or her grief while everybody else wails or chants or staggers outside the teepee to vomit.

"I wanted to move there as soon as I experienced it," Taub says. "I'm from Russia, I couldn't be farther from the Indian culture, but it was so healing. I felt reborn."

Shortly after, she traveled home to post-Soviet Russia and fell in love with a long-haired countryman named Serguey, whom she married.

Serguey had horrific baggage: At 16, he lost both his brother and his best friend to suicide. Another brother was murdered that same year.

"He had a lot of emotional problems," Taub says. Yet, over the next three years the couple carved out their version of domestic bliss. They went to Grateful Dead concerts and peyote meetings. They filmed a porn together before deciding their lovemaking was too sacred to share.

Then, in 1998, Serguey killed himself.

"It was unbelievably painful," Taub says. "I wanted him to come back."

She believed that Serguey's spirit was still at-large in some parallel universe and that she could reach him through psychedelics. She dropped acid and took ecstasy at concerts, desperate for a conduit to her husband's soul. Every day she performed manifestation rituals she'd learned online. She attended an ayahuasca ceremony in Peru, hoping to come closer to Serguey, but the plant only unleashed nightmares.

At a peyote meeting in Shiprock, New Mexico, a healer told her, "You need to face your fear or it's going to run you off a cliff." Taub says she felt heaven and hell inside of her then, and knew the only thing "separating God from the devil is fear." She had to embrace her fear, even if it meant accepting that Serguey's spirit might never come back.

Until it did.

In 2013, at the Rainbow Gathering in Montana — an annual confab of hippies, stoners, burners, artists, and assorted other utopians — Taub met Jamyz Smith, a 20-year-old traveler from Jackson, Mo. Smith's unkempt, dirty-blonde hair perpetually hid his face, but when he took Taub in his arms to dance, she knew that Serguey had returned.

"His eyes are the same, the way he combs his hair is the same, the way he laughs, smiles, gets angry, cries, the clothes he wears, every goddamn little detail is the same," she says.

They returned to Berkeley and got engaged. By then, San Francisco's nudity ban had been in effect for almost half a year. Taub was deep into her activism. Smith had "a lot of hang-ups" about being naked in public, according to Taub, but after the couple's engagement, he began championing his finacée's cause — so much so that on Dec. 19, 2013, the couple staged a nude wedding on the steps of City Hall.

It was another anarchic Taub spectacle. George Davis officiated the ceremony, reading from a thick tome labeled EROTIC ART. Local press photographers lent the wedding a kind of paparazzi luster. Taub and Smith stripped down to repeat their vows. After the kiss and bouquet toss, a mariachi band burst into vehement song, and the newlyweds danced.

It turned out to be anything but a fairytale marriage.

"He was too young for her," fellow nudist Lloyd Fishback says of Taub's husband, adding that she led Smith around "like a rag doll," although "he seemed like the kind of person who wanted to be led around."

Taub and Smith recently separated, and Smith returned to Missouri.

"He's going through a really dark stage in his life," Taub says. "He was raised around Bible-thumping people. Everybody was cooking their own meth and abusing their kids, prostituting their kids. He went back to Missouri to take care of some things."

(Smith could not be reached for comment.)

Taub says she's open to reconciling some day, provided Smith stops being "an asshole." Until then, a new passion now occupies her time.


"It's not just about Gypsy and nudity. It's about protecting everybody's right to engage in symbolic speech." This is how Gill Sperlein, Taub's attorney, describes the lawsuit now wending its way through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Whether or not something constitutes symbolic speech is notoriously tricky to parse. There's a chance, albeit slim, that Taub's case could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Jeremy Lybarger

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