The Go-to Guy for Skinfo | Our Town | Chicago Reader

The Go-to Guy for Skinfo 

How Mr. Skin became the biggest name in celebrity nudity.

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

Mr. Skin stands at the window of his River North condo, gazing out over the ass end of the Rainforest Cafe frog. With one hand he holds a cordless phone to his ear; his other hand is tucked into the elastic waistband of his basketball shorts. It's 9:52 AM, three days before Thanksgiving, and he's waiting to go on the air in Joliet. He's already done three radio shows this morning, and he's anxious to leave for a session with his personal trainer. But when WYKT's Tomano & Touhy finally put him on, he delivers his latest top-ten list, "Turkeys: A Thanksgiving Special," with the sniggering authority that's endeared him to shock jocks across the nation.

"Most of the time we're always celebrating the best nudity," he begins. "But you know, around Thanksgiving it's time to acknowledge the ten babes that should have left their clothes on."

Mr. Skin, whose real name is Jim McBride, is the "world's leading expert on celebrity nudity in film," according to his Web site, MrSkin.com. More accurately, he's the world's leading expert on female celebrity nudity. Growing up in River Forest in the 70s, he nursed a typical teenage yearning for TV's Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter. Then in 1980 his parents got cable, and McBride caught a glimpse of Carter's left breast in Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw. "It went from nothing to a ton in just one day. It was overwhelming," he says.

"Let's say there was a girl who lived next door to you your whole life and you always thought she was really hot, and you got to see her naked. That would be a big thrill. Well, it's like a celebrity--you've grown up watching Wonder Woman, and you lusted after Wonder Woman, and you thought she was super hot. And then to find out she did a nude scene? Yeah, that would be a lot more exciting than some average babe you've never seen before. It's almost like seeing someone that's a part of your life naked."

Holed up in his parents' basement rec room, McBride would scan the cable guide for content warnings and program the family's twin Betamaxes to record the overnight movies on HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime. The next day he'd fast-forward through them until he caught some female flesh on the screen, then dub the scene onto another tape. Within a year or so he'd gathered hundreds of naked actresses on compilation tapes, which he organized by decade or class of star ("TV Stars," "Movie Stars") and stashed in his bedroom closet.

His parents never bothered to wonder what was on them, but the collection was popular with his high school pals. "We'd sit around and watch the tapes before we'd go out and drink beers or whatever," he says. "And they always got a big kick out of the fact that I was able to pause it at the exact point where the girl's breast would turn. I got very good at editing these, where I would stop the tape exactly where the nude scene ended or I'd be able to cut the scene out [so] you wouldn't see the guy nudity but you'd see the girl nudity."

By college he'd committed to memory thousands of actresses, movie titles, and the corresponding body parts displayed. And even after he graduated, working as a commercial real estate broker and then as a trader at the Merc, McBride was known as the go-to guy for "skinfo."

"When times were slow brokers and stuff would write down questions for me and have a runner send it over and I'd answer the questions. The guys standing around me would ask, Has such and such ever been nude?"

Still, McBride felt unfulfilled. "I used to really think like, 'This isn't where I should be. There's something out there for me. I don't know what it is, but this isn't it.'" He found it in a Lincoln Park bar in 1996, when he demonstrated his breadth of knowledge for WMVP radio host Harry Teinowitz. Teinowitz invited him on the air, and, adopting the Mr. Skin pseudonym, McBride took calls from excited listeners anxious to know if their favorite actresses had ever appeared nude. He was invited back and became a regular. Steve Dahl got wind of the spots and invited McBride on his show. After that, offers poured in from across the country: Mancow, D.C.'s Greaseman, and Howard Stern.

By now McBride's developed stock answers for questions he's been asked hundreds of times. Why no male nudity? ("I don't want to stay up till three in the morning to get nude scenes from Ed Asner.") What are the best lesbo movies? (Bound, Wild Side, and The Hunger.) "Now I can kind of control the interview," he says. "After you've done so many of these you can pretty much handle any situation. You get a couple times where you get some people that think it's disgusting or disturbing or that I have a bunch of problems. But even that I can spin into a fun thing. You know, I just play it off like, yeah, you know, of course I have problems. I'm Mr. Skin." His proudest moment came last summer when the Stern crew gave him a standing ovation.

McBride did the interviews for fun, but in late 1998, after he played in Dahl's celebrity softball game, he was approached by Internet marketer Jim Lillig. At the time McBride was more or less computer illiterate, but Lillig persuaded him that he could make profitable use of his expertise on-line. McBride quit the Merc, raised $70,000 from friends, and set about researching the competition.

After scouting existing celebrity nudity Web sites, he decided he wanted none of the usual fakery--only real celebrity T and A. And he wanted a "classy," informative, searchable database with biographical information and cross-referencing. "Let's say you knew there was a hot babe on Three's Company but you couldn't remember the name. You could type in "Three's Company" and it would tell you everyone that's been on Three's Company that's done nudity. And you could work backwards and find Suzanne Somers and find out she was in a movie called Magnum Force--a Dirty Harry movie--where she was naked in 1973."

Above all, though, McBride wanted his subscribers to be able to see the uncredited Somers frolicking topless in a swimming pool (just before she and her companion are riddled with bullets). A lawyer advised him that posting clips and stills of naked actresses wouldn't violate copyright laws because the accompanying film reviews and bios would warrant fair use of the material.

McBride and his partners spent a year building the site, making countless trips to video stores and typing in reams of biographical information. Launched in August 1999 with a database of about 800 actresses, MrSkin.com got its first subscriber in under five minutes. Today it has more than 10,000, and gets about three million unique hits per month. It contains pages for some 6,500 actresses, about 27,000 stills and collages, and 7,000 video clips. Unlimited access costs $29.95 a month, three days costs $4.95, and browsing the biographies and filmographies is free.

McBride himself doesn't spend much time fast-forwarding to the nude scenes anymore. He has a staff of 25 employees ("skinterns") who mostly work out of a 1,000-square-foot space in Oak Park, under framed photos of their leader posing with Dahl, Stern, Bill Clinton, and the cast of Jackass. Shelves in the back are loaded with rare videos and DVDs.

In the beginning McBride wanted to focus on faces familiar to American audiences, but more recently his team has been tracking down little-known foreign flicks and straight-to-video releases with the stated aim of cataloging every naked actress ever captured on film. It's an unattainable goal, he admits, but one that has led his operatives to finds like the 1986 Italian film Manhattan Gigolo, which features CNN anchor Andrea Thompson in a graphic menage a trois. They've also collected some prize footage featuring bigger names, including the initial broadcast of MTV's Diary with Christina Aguilera--during which the censors were supposed to have blurred the singer's pierced nipples but missed by about an inch--and four minutes and 20 seconds of Heather Graham naked in a 2001 erotic thriller, Killing Me Softly, that's yet to be slated for release in the U.S.

The big studios make it easy: McBride gets advance copies of DVDs and videos from publicists who hope their clients will merit a mention on the "Mr. Skin Minute," a radio rundown of the flesh parade that's syndicated weekly in about 80 cities nationwide. He enhances this report with selections from a list of breast-related slang he's compiled over the years. It starts with "Abbott and Costellos" and ends 17 pages later with "ZZ Tops."

During his "Turkeys" bit for WYKT, for instance, he refers to Aida Turturro's "milkwagons" and Mamie Van Doren's "flopdoodles." In the same interview he describes Camryn Manheim on a massage table as "two sand dunes in the distance" and Rosie O'Donnell in bondage gear as "two pounds of sausage in a one-pound casing."

After 25 minutes, he rolls his eyes: he could talk about Marge Simpson's "phony funbags" and Salma Hayek's "heaving jalapenos" all day, but he's gotta run.

"I have the coolest job in the world," he says after he hangs up. "Think about it. Dude, it's talking about nudity in movies. I'm doing it on the radio. It's a riot. Why would I ever get tired of it?"

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Cynthia Howe.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Mike Sula

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Manic Mondays Frances Cocktail Lounge
November 20
Music
October 21

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories