Artist Goes Topless Outside Manhattan Court
By Kiratiana Freelon on February 28, 2012 3:54pm
MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — Heads turned outside criminal court Tuesday when an artist arrested for shedding more than her sins at St. Patrick's Cathedral last month sauntered out of the hall of justice topless.
"Wow!" remarked one male onlooker, as he gawked at Holly Van Voast's assets on full display in front of the 100 Centre St. courthouse before asking the man next to him for a smoke.
The daring display didn't thrill everyone — a postal worker, one of a handful of onlookers who witnessed the spectacle, walked by without paying notice.
This was not the first bare-chested brush with the law for Van Voast, who has been arrested for flashing her flesh outside Grand Central station and in Williamsburg. She also claims to have shown her breasts to a judge in Midtown Community Court.
But she steered free of the long arm of the law Tuesday because women are allowed to go topless in public under a 1992 state appellate court ruling.
Van Voast, of the Bronx, a 46-year-old self-described "topless gender-bending character," faces misdemeanors for allegedly strolling down the aisle at St. Patrick's topless while "talking very loudly" on Jan. 30, prosecutors said. The church was open, but Mass was not being celebrated at the time.
Sporting a Marilyn Monroe-esque hairdo and a mustache drawn with eyeliner, Van Voast was promoting her alter-ego character, "Harvey Van Toast," which she said was conceived to draw attention to the need to protect art and to entertain the public.
"This is what New York is begging for right now — something kind of funny, a little outrageous. Something that blows your mind," Van Voast told DNAinfo after her appearance.
As she was leaving the courthouse, she shed her zipper-down sweatshirt to the delight of onlookers, and mugged for photographers.
She then went back into the courthouse clothed and stripped again for a second crowd.
Van Voast said her skin show has received rave reviews, including a shout-out from scantily clad crooner John Burck.
"Everyone says they're very, very nice," she said. "The Naked Cowboy just this weekend said, 'Nice t--s.'"
Van Voast turned down a plea offer of time served Wednesday because she doesn't feel she did anything illegal and was never asked to leave the Fifth Avenue Catholic church, her attorney, Ron Kuby, said.
"It is legal in the state of New York for women to bare their breasts," Kuby said.
Van Voast was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana for drugs allegedly found in her bag. Kuby maintains she was never asked to leave the church.
"This was not during Mass," he said. "The place was filled with tourists snapping pictures."
He said he plans to ask for her case to be dismissed on March 14. He will also argue that the search that resulted in the marijuana possession charge was improper.