A topless comic garden gnome has gotten an 85-year-old in Belgium in trouble with the morals police—and created a worldwide business boom for garden centers that sell the saucy ornament.
Betty the Gnome (she has a male companion called Rafke) was spotted in Louis Poels' front yard in Turnhout, Belgium, keeping company with two clothed gnomes and reminding some observers of Botticelli's 'Venus.' Spotted by the town's 'stewards,' volunteers who patrol the streets and notify police of anything not as they think it should be.
The stewards ordered Poels, who got the gnome as a gift from a neighbor, to either put clothes on it or move it to his backyard; they argued that seeing Betty upfront would shock passing children.
Poels refused, though he said he would obey an actual police order if there were won. He told local press “I don’t understand how the city has time to comment on a gnome. I think there are more important things to take care of. Do they really have nothing else to do? None of the neighbours say they are bothered, not even the people with children.”
The garden center that sold the gnome says it is no longer available, and neither is a smaller version. Once the story hit news outlets around the world the supplier's whole stock sold out.