Nudist Activist Betty Utey Meltzer Passes Away at 81*
Betty Utey Meltzer was a nudist activist for women and former activities director of Elysium Fields nudist park (closed in 2000). She died of throat cancer on January 16 after a yearlong battle. Her daughters and close friends were at her bedside.
Betty had a long career in ballet (the San Francisco Ballet Company) and show business before discovering nudism. She often told stories of her days during the 1950’s and early 1960’s as an uncredited bit player and dancer in several popular movies.
She danced with both Fred Astaire in Silk Stockings and Frank Sinatra in Pal Joey. She also worked with Charlton Heston in 1956’s The Ten Commandments (she dies on the Gold Calf with Edward G Robinson at the end of the film), as a dancer in The Pajama Game (1957) behind Doris Day, and as a prostitute with Orson Welles in Touch of Evil (1958). As an accomplished dancer and choreographer, she created Salome’s sensual dance (as she demanded the head of John the Baptist) in King of Kings (1962).
She also appeared in several television series of the era, including Wagon Train, Perry Mason, and Mike Hammer.
It was on the set of Party Girl (1958) that she and director Nicholas Ray fell in love and they married soon after. They had two daughters, Nicca and Julie. They divorced in 1964.
Betty outlived three of her four husbands: Nick Ray, LA psychologist William Lesley, and Noel Pugh. Noel, an accomplished artist and cartoon caricaturist, married Betty at Elysium Fields in 1984. Her fourth husband, Sandy Meltzer, a Los Angeles family law attorney, currently is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.
In the late 1960’s while Betty was working in Standards and Practices (i.e. the legal and censorship department) for the ABC television network, she said she had an epiphany about the silliness of restricting people’s right to see nudity and hear profanity if that was their choice. As she often told us, after a co-worker took her to Elysium one Saturday in the early 1970’s, she fell in love with the place after she heard founder Ed Lange advocating for those same freedoms.
Betty became Lange’s Activity Director and held that position for many years, developing the popular TGIF Introductory Night and Massage Magic workshops. She was a vocal advocate for women’s rights in business and American culture. In 2001, The Naturist Society gave Betty a Lifetime Achievement Award for her efforts in behalf of social naturism.
Ed Lange passed away in 1995. From 1998 – 2000, Betty, along with former SCNA President Gary Mussell served as members of the nudist park’s Board of Directors. They struggled for two years to keep it afloat and purchase the property from Lange’s daughters. Instead, the Lange daughters sold the property to a hotel executive.
Betty and her husband Sandy Meltzer then purchased an under-developed 22-acre property in Malibu where they hoped to re-build the Elysium Institute. Unfortunately for all the nudists in Los Angeles, the under-financed venture failed a year later.
After Elysium Malibu closed, the Meltzers retired to a senior community south of Phoenix in 2006.
She will be missed by her friends and all who knew her.
*Editor’s note: We could not find Betty’s date of birth in 1935, so her age at her death is our best guess.