Bad Nudes Bared: Lupin Lodge’s Idyllic Clothing-Free Lifestyle Unravels in Alarming Fashion

Lupin Lodge has an impressive 80-year history, but things haven't been stress free the last couple decades. (Photo by Robert Bergman, via Naked Club)

Lupin Lodge has an impressive 80-year history, but things haven't been stress free the last couple decades. (Photo by Robert Bergman, via Naked Club)

Jean Farmer, a Louisiana transplant dogged by a federal fraud charge, followed her husband Robert Cowan on a job lead to Lupin in late 2008. For the equivalent of $8 an hour, Cowan would take care of landscaping in exchange for a place to park his RV.

The couple fell in love with Lupin, named for the California flower that blossoms into a spear of purple petals. Founded as Elysium by Euro-phile naturist George Marcellus Spray in 1935, the resort offers a panoramic view of mountains and redwoods. It feels remote—with wandering deer and the occasional mountain lion. Still, it’s a quick drive from both Silicon Valley and the coast, suspended in what Glyn calls “a creative vortex” between valley industry and Santa Cruz earthiness. Some 60 or so people live on the grounds in an assortment of cabins, yurts, tents and trailers.

But there’s a saying among Lupinites: “You fall in love with Lupin, but Lupin does not fall in love with you.”

Cowan stopped working after months without payment of any kind, he said. His wife picked up a job at the clubhouse restaurant, a three-month trial starting with the holiday rush in return for rent and a membership. Farmer said she never got paid either, despite long days running the kitchen. She complained, got laid off and then sued Lupin for $70,000 in back pay and overtime.

While the lawsuit played out in Santa Clara County Superior Court and a parallel claim through the Labor Commissioner’s Office, Farmer said, her trailer’s electricity and water were shut off as retribution for alerting the authorities. The Stouts settled out of court, avoiding trial. But the case pointed to trouble in Lupin’s hallowed naturist paradise.

Records show that the Stouts have increasingly relied on tenants who barter work for rent and food, only to fire and evict many of them on short notice. “You start to feel like it’s more of a transient place,” said a former member who lived for decades on the grounds and asked to withhold his name. “People have to wonder whether they can sustain a way of life there.”

Musician Little John Chrisley says he moved into the Sleepy Hollow cabin in 2006, though his eviction papers filed by Lori Kay say he arrived in November 2010. Per his contract, he would work for $8 an hour in Lupin credit, good for meals with room and board. Chrisley, a South Bay-raised blues prodigy who played in his early days with Huey Lewis, Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker, agreed to also host occasional concerts. Over time, his responsibilities shifted to tending the property and helping Glyn.

But a year later, in 2011, Chrisley quit and hid away in his cabin. He said that Lori Kay instructed kitchen staff to withhold meals, forcing him to salvage rice and boiled eggs from Glyn’s fridge after a full day working in the hills. Broke and paranoid, he said he felt imprisoned in a moldering cabin with a rotting-out sink and no toilet.

“Lupin traps you up on that hill,” Chrisley said. In May of last year, he was evicted for not paying rent.

“What they did to Little John was reprehensible,” said Russ Klein, a 30-year real estate broker who’s rented a cabin at Lupin for six years and said he acted as mediator between Chrisley and the Stouts. “They picked on somebody who couldn’t fight back.”

Lori Kay countered that the only time people are denied food is if they don’t have enough credit because they either stopped working or stopped paying. “No one is starving up here,” she said.

Twenty former live-ins allege similar treatment in a dozen eviction cases filed since 2009. Coraleen “Corky” and Steve “Butch” Fontanetti said they couldn’t apply for unemployment benefits after they left because work hours weren’t properly accounted for. Military veteran Adam “Army of One” Sanders and girlfriend Danielle Perkins said Lupin demanded an increasing number of work hours without overtime or holiday pay. Mildred Baker and her family said they were kicked out after alleging sexual harassment. Many of these people had no recourse due to verbal lease and work contracts. Another ex-tenant asked not to be named because he said the one thing he did sign was a nondisclosure agreement.

Maura Byrne moved into the Baytree cabin in 2010 and got kicked out three years later. Like many of Lupin’s jilted tenants, she claimed in court that the Stouts retaliated against her for summoning the county Department of Planning and Development after repeated requests to eradicate rats and replace a wall heater. Joe Hughes, the housing inspector who responded to her complaint, found a host of violations: inadequate foundations, a rat nest in her daughter's bed, lack of sewage disposal and a nearby tool shed illegally converted into living space.

Source: Santa Clara County Department of Planning and Development

Source: Santa Clara County Department of Planning and Development

Adding insult to Byrne’s legal injury: her car got towed at Lori Kay’s behest and she was too broke to pay the $800 to get it back. In an email dated April 18, 2013, Lori Kay told Byrne to move her car to the “Back 40,” a former storage area and now a plot of derelict trailers hidden from view to most visitors. “[W]hat you did was illegal and immoral,” Byrne wrote back. “It surprises me, given my knowledge of all your shady business practices, that you would go the route of retaliation.”

Over the years, Lupin shunted more and more staffers to the Back 40, recently renamed The Terraces, which lies off the margins of a map given to visitors and beyond a sign marked “Maintenance Area.” Rows of dilapidated trailers abandoned over the decades sit next to plastic chairs and propane tanks, tilted awnings and leak-shielding tarps. There is no plumbing or septic, only makeshift electrical wiring.

“It’s shocking to think that a place that looks like the Back 40 is so close to Los Gatos,” a Lupin tenant said. “Most people there are recovering from some setback in life. They don’t know any better.”

Many of Lupin's resident workers live in an off-grid part of the property called the Back 40.

Many of Lupin's resident workers live in an off-grid part of the property called the Back 40.

Largely through word of mouth or “help wanted” Craigslist ads beckoning people to “come live in paradise,” residents claim, Lupin has hired people “in transition”—transitions from prison, probation, broken relationships or drug and alcohol addictions. According to both court records and internal company documents supplied by former employees, many worked for the equivalent of minimum wage in “Lupin Bucks,” basically a credit on their account to pay for lodging, meal tickets and membership fees.

“Many times we work more on a barter system rather than traditional models,” Lori Kay explained. “Over the last 80 years this has served Lupin and many of its members very well. Unfortunately it does not work for everyone.”

The property subsequently fell into disrepair and ran into trouble with regulators over labor and safety violations, as well as illegal grading and construction. One such violation, in 2010, involved a propane tank explosion that sent a burn-blistered tenant to the hospital for five days. The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the management company, Lupin Heights Inc., $12,000. “If it ain’t broke, wait a week,” Lupin dwellers often quip.

Though not certified as a sober-living environment, Lupin has also presented itself as a place to get back on one’s feet. “They deliberately look for people who are in a desperate situation,” said Klein, who almost moved out several times because of what he calls rampant and passively accepted methamphetamine use on the grounds. “They have a twisted notion that they’re some kind of a rehab.”

Lupin’s membership materials appear to support that claim. “Over the years, Lupin has been a haven of sobriety for many who have learned that their lives depend upon avoiding alcoholic consumption,” a handout states. Felony drug use, it continues, results in automatic dismissal. In practice, however, that wasn’t the case.

A couple years ago, the county’s Department of Family and Children Services took custody of newborn twins from their meth-addicted mom, a chef at Lupin’s restaurant. The mother, identified in court papers only as J.A., told the judge that she lived in a “zero-tolerance” community at Lupin. In its response, the county discredited that notion, pointing out that Lupin holds a liquor license and only bans alcohol from the pool and spa.

Still, many former and current residents said that they came to Lupin looking for some measure of healing, only to get swept up in a cycle of codependency by relying on the Stouts for housing, food and work. One couple said they had to sign up for public welfare because the Lupin credits they earned didn’t cover for enough meal vouchers. Former Cabrillo College instructor Robert Eckert, who moved into the Tiger Lily yurt in 2009 as a paying tenant before getting evicted a year later, said he would sometimes give staffers rides to the food bank so they could eat.

In a phone conversation with San Jose Inside, David Benfell, a graduate student who lived at Lupin from 2002 until he moved out on his own accord in 2008, said he became disheartened by the stark socioeconomic divide between paying members and the live-in workers.

"I saw people 'down on their luck' brought into a place where, yes, they were surrounded by incredible natural beauty, but where they were still 'down on their luck,' and hopelessly trapped in an abusive condition," he wrote on his blog in 2013.

There’s another adage in the camp that Lupin employees are more likely to have an outstanding warrant than a valid driver’s license. The Stouts dispute the assertion, saying the club performs background checks and sometimes drug tests to screen employees, though a criminal conviction won’t necessarily disqualify a person from moving in. In fact, a considerable number of resident-workers came to Lupin with checkered pasts—commonly with domestic violence, drug and theft convictions—and often brought their troubles with them. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. James Jensen said that in the past two years deputies were called out to Lupin once every eight days on average.

Thirty-eight-year-old Mike Buckland, one of the two resident workers caught up with the Stouts on water theft charges last month, came to Lupin with a mile-long rap sheet and nowhere else to go. The Stouts gave him work, a trailer to live in and food from the kitchen—which got temporarily shut down for vermin by county health inspectors last month.

Eviction records state that Lori Kay’s half-brother, Ricky Mendoza, began working at Lupin in 2008. Court records indicate he was an ex-con battling addictions to meth and heroin. Already a wiry 5-foot-5, Mendoza began wasting away from drugs—in virtually every arrest report, police said he was coming down from some kind of high. During his stay at Lupin, police say they caught him with drugs, blank checks and stolen cars.

The week between Christmas 2008 and the New Year, Mendoza, high on meth and heroin, stole a 2002 Mitsubishi Gallant and high-tailed it past the Great Mall in Milpitas, according to court records. Police described him as thin and rank, with a shaved head and a goatee. Panting and drooling, he curled up on the ground in a fetal position and said he felt like his heart would explode.

“My stomach’s hurting,” he told the officer, admitting he’d been using drugs all day and, in a panic, had just swallowed a gram of meth. “I’m going to die.”

Mendoza’s sister, Lupin owner Lori Kay, formally evicted him from his trailer in 2014. By then an exodus was occurring for many longtime members. Some defected to other clubs, fed up not just with the drugs but also the all-night raves and fetish parties that they felt flouted the wholesome ideals of naturism.

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Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

19 Comments

  1. Very informative story using just the “bare facts.”

    Good Reporting Jenn W.

    David S. Wall

  2. I would suggest that you either get a base tan, or apply sunscreen liberally. Nobody will care what you look like, and you might find there are others that are a bit more out-of-shape than you! Check LocalNudistSingle com to give yourself a better chance by meeting nudist singles who enjoys the same nudist lifestyle that you do!

    • ya,maybe they should give you free tanning lotion on the days there are police raids..

      • Police raids? What century are you living in? Lupin has been there for 80 years or so….the police don’t care…in fact, more than likely, there are, or have been, a few law enforcement personnel who were members or casual visitors over the years.

        • yes warren..police raids..one every 8 days for the last 2 years on average…you can find the century im living in elsewhere.

          • John, you’ve misquoted Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. James Jensen:
            “…in the past two years deputies WERE CALLED OUT TO Lupin once every eight days on average.”
            These were not raids by police, these were responses to calls for assistance from members, residents & employees of Lupin.

  3. “Lupin traps you up on that hill,” Chrisley said. In May of last year, he was evicted for not paying rent.

    I lived a few years one road up from you on Laurel when I was in High School. As a teen without a car, ya I felt pretty trapped up there (only laurel is one helluva last push compared to just going to Lupin)

    I also visited Lupin.. Alot. Between 1989 and 1991. Summer would come, and I’d sneak a dip in the pool. Never got caught going by myself, but one time I brought some friends there and… Sheriff. Ah well, lesson learned.

  4. yes the nudist/naturist lifestyle can be truly enjoyed at aanr endorsed clubs..lupin is not one of them..

  5. An interesting case study in “tribalism”.

    Probably mirrors the way humanity lived 10,000 years ago before the invention of herding, agriculture, private property, and individual “rights”.

    The “shaman” ran the show: leader, warlord. medicine man, pope, judge, and jury all in one.

    My way or the highway.

  6. Here’s a prayer that the besieged couple who own he park get their problems worked out, get more membership and visitors, and restore the park, one part at a time to its original glory. Unfortunate things happen, but with a positive attitude things can be worked out. This article seemed to be a bit of an overkill to me. Bad health, and an earthquake was certainly not their fault. The barter system is a good workable idea as long as the barterer continues to keep his part of the bargain. When he does not, of course bad feelings result when that person is kicked out. Let’s all wish them well as they go forward to the future.

    • pathetic and insensitive of you to offer up a prayer to the stouts and bypass michael schaupp and his family.

  7. Why is it being characterized as a problem, that some people at the Lupin community, apparently like to do meth? I have it on good authority that some people in the city of San Jose, like to do meth too, LOL. Meth’s actually everywhere, Aunt Martha.

  8. I was a frequent visitor to Lupin when I lived and worked in the San Jose/Santa Cruz area. I am acquainted with Lori Kay and Glyn and briefly considered taking a position of general manager when their then manager was retiring. Although it was a very fluid discussion about what the position, pay, responsibilities etc were in actuality. I found them difficult to nail down on almost anything. I’ve found it’s best to make sure that everyone understand the terms of any deal before entering into it, otherwise there will undoubtedly be unmet expectations on somebody’s part. Many of the the claims reported above became clear to me during this time. The drug abuse while somewhat hidden from visitors and while officially not tolerated by the management was definitely part of the subculture enjoyed by what seemed to be an indentured staff. There was a palpable sense of desperation among the staff. The barter system works great if the credit one is given in return for the labor is enough to cover their needs and if everything you need is available for purchase with your credit. People have needs beyond room and board and food. I gave numerous staffers rides into Los Gatos to the CVS there. I got to know a few and it was apparent that they were at Lupin’s mercy. They had no where else to go, and no way to get there even if they did. To be fair Glyn and Lori Kay were working with an aging membership that was declining in numbers. Ed had run large numbers off and in his absence they weren’t returning. Gentrification was taking it’s toll on membership. To Glyn and Lori Kay’s credit they understood that they had to change the status quo at the lodge to attract new younger visitors and members. The raves and the fetish parties are attempts at doing just that but more so at bringing in much needed funds for the ongoing operational costs of the lodge. I sat one morning watching a crew of Lupin’s finest work (I use the term loosely) on several small projects. One guy was working on a remodel of a small cabin. This project had been going on for weeks and it was nearing completion. Now in all honesty this cabin should have been torn down and replaced from the ground up. It was small enough that with a coordinated effort and proper scheduling of the trades involved that the thing could have easily been replaced in a couple weeks. So this fellow gets dropped off by the foreman of their construction crew and he sets up his work area tools, saw horses etc. He goes inside to measure something and comes back out. Now all this going on with a liberal amount of swearing, and kicking things around. He finally gets his saw set up and looks around for the board he wants to cut. He finally finds it and goes back in to measure again. He comes out puts a mark on the board and cuts it. Hooray. He goes into the cabin and you start hearing all the swearing and he comes out looking around the ground, kicking a few things and stomps off towards the back 40. 20 or 30 minutes later he comes stomping back with another board in his hand. he goes in to measure again, comes out and cuts the board. He takes it inside and soon you hear the swearing again, but this time you also hear the hammering. He comes out looks around on the ground for something for a little while until he again stomps off to the back 40. Another thirty minutes and he returns with another guy. They go into the cabin talking back and forth and they both come out and stomp off toward the back 40. This went on all day. He installed almost nothing all day. I was curious so I went into the cabin which was a one room approximately 12’x8′ area. It was made up by a small living sleeping area and a smaller still breakfast nook area. There were no appliances (it looked like an under counter refrigerator may have gone in later) and a sink. No restroom. It looked new inside, with fresh paint and newly repaired countertop. The flooring was new but the floor sloped easily 2″ from one corner to the other. The outside was dilapidated with pieces of siding replaced here and there and none of it matched. Plain flat plywood, plywood with vertical grooves (T1-11) and ship lapped pressboard siding. It was obvious that they used whatever was available. If it was any better off than when the work started it must have been in horrible condition. I spoke to Lori Kay who seemed pleased with how it was coming along. I explained that the crew was basically incompetent, lacked any sense of direction, there was no planning involved, materials weren’t readily available, inefficiency was the rule rather than the exception, and that although she was paying very little for the work she was getting even less for it. Lori Kay didn’t appreciate my take on things. She spoke of the “Lupin Way” of doing what it takes, coming together as a community, overcoming adversity through communal…. blah, blah, blah. Okay that’s all fine if your are living on a commune, tending bees, and selling honey to get by. But Lupin is a business. It is a naturist lodge, on edge of the silicon valley, trying desperately to attract new visitors. Clearly on the edge of no longer existing. I explained in my opinion “doing what it takes” wasn’t getting it done. The Lupin way no longer supported modern expectations for the accommodations and amenities of such a business. I asked them both to take a trip to Costanoa near Ano Nuevo, Sycamore Mineral Springs in Avila Beach, and El Capitan Canyon North of Santa Barbara to see models of what could be. Sure these were not naturist resorts. They were modeled in more of an eco-tourism model but they share many similarities and if marketed correctly the naturist component would be the icing on the cake. I explained that they needed to act on what they knew needed to be done. Gain a vision for a new Lupin, and develop a master plan for shepherding it there. I understood in the wake of Ed their wariness of partners but without the influx of some serious capital they were going to find it difficult to make the change. This Lupin way is at the root of all their troubles. When you can only offer room and board in exchange for the labor of others you are not going to be able bring quality staff on board. Your going to get folks that are in a desperate situation and everything that is listed in the above article is what comes with that. You have to feel sorry for the Stouts to an extent, they are trying their best to hold on and keep it all going but its a war of attrition. Unfortunately I think they are too bogged down in the muck and the mire of it to see a way out.