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Fashion Magazine’s Planned Guantanamo-Themed Party Causes Uproar

Miami — The prison has inspired tasteless T-shirts like “Come for the beaches, stay for the waterboarding” and political satire like the Daily Show’s guest Muppet “Gitmo.” The film industry hijacked the narrative when a pair of potheads, Harold and Kumar, managed to Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

But it took an exclusive invitation this week to a Guantanamo-themed party promising “pleasurable torture” on the fringes of a West Coast music and arts festival to find the joke that went too far.

A Hollywood film production firm, Smashbox Studios, withdrew its sponsorship. The fashionable Coachella festival in Indio, Calif., made clear it had nothing to do with the event. And the edgy Flaunt fashion magazine was contrite yesterday as controversy swirled around its exclusive invitation featuring scantily clad women wielding assault rifles that popped up on Internet sites.

Flaunt Magazine never intended to cause offense or harm,” said editorial director Matthew Bedard in an email yesterday afternoon.

“We value and respect the concerns of the public, and have subsequently revoked the word ‘Guantanamo,’ and any references to it from our promotional materials. The event will certainly carry forward, and those in attendance will likely have a spirited and lovely time.”

Bedard, who was handling questions on behalf of editor-in-chief and founder Luis Barajas, a Venezuelan, said the magazine had thought the juxtaposition of a party called “New Guantanamo” featuring semi-nude women, some blindfolded in bikinis, would “invoke a contradictory spirit of love and carefree fun.”

Plus, he said, “Guantanamo has been controversial from its inception, and that an unresolved human rights issue is again fetching headlines is, in our opinion, true to our aims as a publication and not to be interpreted in black and white terms.”

As though to underscore it, the magazine re-issued its invitation with the words “New Guantanamo” blacked out in similar fashion to a government censor’s redaction. And stamped Confidential over a model’s earlier exposed breasts.

No mention was made in the statement of the ongoing protest at the Pentagon’s offshore prison camps where the military yesterday classified 43 of its 166 captives as hunger strikers, with 11 of them being fed nutritional supplements by tubes snaked up their noses and into their stomachs by Navy medical workers.

But Smashbox Studios, a Los Angeles firm that houses photo shoots for the fashion and entertainment industry, was not amused.

It said it saw the invitation for the first time Monday, after it was issued, and immediately withdrew its sponsorship.

“We were never informed of the theme and most certainly never agreed to provide ‘pleasurable torture’ as the copy stated,” Dee deLara, vice president of creative, said by email yesterday.

“We feel strongly that even with a new event title, the feel-good atmosphere of the party has been tainted,” deLara added.

Coachella, the annual festival that the Los Angeles Times reported drew more than 650,000 to its grounds last year, also distanced itself from the controversy. A query sent to its Web portal for media inquiries resulted in an unsigned email response: “Not something we’re involved in.”