I, Voyeur: Hell is Other People

Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov

The dress-code choices were listed on the invitation: leather, vinyl, fetish glam, uniform, formal, gothic, drag, storybook/fairy tale. Hmm. Maybe a nice Metro-bus uniform, I was thinking.

But of course they don’t rent those at the costume place. So I opted for a leather skirt and a leather jacket that I already owned, hoping that together they added up to enough leather to get me into the annual Fetish Ball. And if they didn’t, maybe I’d get by on the premise that it was kinky to be so warmly overdressed on an 85-degree Saturday night in June.

As I strode boldly into the Hollywood Athletic Club, I was immediately pulled aside by two large, unfriendly security men, who proceeded to search every inch of my purse before throwing away my 8-ounce bottle of Evian. Was I a victim of profiling because I was fetish-impaired?

Inside the club, a hurricane of recorded music blasted from enormous amps. There were different rooms to visit, each and every one so loud that it felt like my DNA strands were unwinding and the sequence of my genomes was being shuffled. Unsure of what to do with myself, I sat down on a couch, like a leather-clad Margaret Mead, and watched as the happy fetishists poured through the front door. Well, maybe happy is a poor choice of words. I began to hear an odd kind of parade commentary running in my mind: Oh, look, the orthodonture contingent has arrived. And it’s a very nice turnout this year for the Gas Mask People.

Quite a few of the costumes were disturbing. What do you say to an adult male in a diaper? I don’t generally carry a bottle of talcum powder around, and failing that, I was out of topics completely. This went double for the giant sad-eyed panda with the black angel wings.

“What are you supposed to be?” I tried shouting over the music to one 60-ish guy in a harness and some sort of asymmetrical crown. “King Neptune,” he screamed back. “I have a fish fetish.” Then he dangled a fishing line with a dildo at the end of it in front of me. Interesting technique, I thought. Maybe he’s planning on clubbing the fish with it.

By now, the velocity of the bass vibrations was so intense that it felt like a sound-wave stake was being hammered right through my heart. Apparently the idea of conversation was a fetish that didn’t interest anyone except me. It was certainly out of the question for the mystery human, breathing through a tube, shrink-wrapped between black latex sheeting like some kind of oversize, poorly labeled piece of luncheon meat. He/she so unnerved me that I stumbled backward into a switch and accidentally turned on all the lights in the room.

As the evening continued, the crowd got bigger, until every room was a pulsating petri dish of human strangeness. They were all there. Young nude men in chaps. Old nude geezers in G-strings. A woman with a parasol being led on a leash by a Ted Bundy doppelgänger. A bare-chested guy with a disco ball on his head next to a bald guy in only a truss next to a dashing Napoleonic aristocrat with a riding crop. Lots of babes in PVC and spiky, spiky shoes, with their shaved and oiled, harnessed and grommeted men. A woman in a little-girl outfit who looked like Judy Tenuta but wasn’t. A woman in a rubber dress who looked like Margaret Cho and was. A man with a whip and a backpack next to a woman with a broom and a dustpan. What kind of a fetish is that? I wondered. Some sort of anal-retentive obsessive-compulsive cleaning thing? Oh — she’s actually cleaning up.

And so I said goodbye to the Fetish Ball even as I tried to make sense of it. But as I drove away, I realized I had learned a valuable lesson: Leather clothing in summer is not such a good idea.

—Merrill Markoe

I, Neighbor: A Crazy/Beautiful Cakewalk

I went to teeny, tiny, tornado-prone Fritch, Texas, once, just to get a helping of its annual Howdy Neighbor Day. Howdy Neighbor Day is the day Fritchoids come out of their storm shelters and have a parade, a sack race and a cakewalk. Each happy citizen of Fritch is required to repeat the happy phrase “Howdy, Neighbor!” to every other happy person they amble past. The Lions Club makes pancakes. It’s totally satisfying, and I’ve despaired at finding an equivalent event here in Los Angeles.

I found it at Platinum Oasis, the Outfest-sponsored, 18-hour art happening that invaded the Coral Sands Motel this past weekend. Performance artists Vaginal Davis and Ron Athey (who are also L.A. Weekly contributors) lassoed dozens of poolside acts and about 40 different artists to squat in the motel’s rooms and create their own slumber parties. It was Howdy Neighbor Day with blowjobs!

 

I went straight for the food first, daintily consuming chocolate cake and getting a sucrose-powered, lipsticky, girl smooch on my cheek in the “Cake and Kisses” room. Then, swooning from my first buss of the day, I was primed for a Dame Darcy palm reading. Sadly, every time I went by her room she was way out instead of real in. Dang! Between rooms, there was an endless array of performers on the pool-area stage. Now, I once saw LL Cool J dry-hump a sofa, but fetish-worthy Latino rapper Dead Lee was the first hip-hop artist I’ve ever seen drop to his knees and grind his face into another man’s crotch. Howdy, Neighbor! Then, my new favorite Mr. Lady and co-host of the day, El Cholo, crooned, “I’m Your Puppet,” and sex-changed “puppet” for “cholo,” waving a big pink dildo around like a semaphore. I spaced for a moment and fantasized that Gwyneth Paltrow took the stage and joined Cholo for a nice “Cruising” duet. That would have been sweet.

Resuming my room visitations, I spied on the diaper-change area, where adult babies could get stripped, changed, powdered and pushed around in a petite pram by a gruesome Gacy clown. The event’s two plushies, a bear and a puppy, hovered nearby. The puppy-suited boy was adorable, and just as I decided to go pet him, a daddy bear of the human kind came up and began pawing me instead. He and everyone else there, it seemed, were under the hypnotizing spell of MC Vag’s constant make-out exhortations. “Everyone have sex!” repeated Dr. Davis, and Daddy Bear wanted to have it with me. Right on!

I removed Furry Papa’s tongue from my throat just in time to witness Osseus Labyrint flail around in the water — two naked, spastic, million-dollar mermaids. I’m totally inviting them to the next pool party I attend.

After 11 hours of genially debauched art interaction, I was spent. I’d witnessed a friend get his hump on in the porn Polaroid room; Clint Catalyst ditch his spoken word to demonstrate how he got his butthole waxed; a very tall, very skinny man in pumps, a miniskirt and a turban going at it with a woman in a schoolgirl outfit; a man with a boner splattered with fake blood in Bruce La Bruce’s faux-snuff-film chamber; cuddly bulldog artist Franko B. splattering himself with his own very real blood (on video, at least); and Kembra Pfahler’s body-painted naked-lady revue. They sang “Kansas City Here I Come,” then piled on top of each other to get turkey-basted with Elmer’s Glue. Or maybe it was doughnut glaze. Either way, it reminded me of pancakes and syrup. Next year there should absolutely be pancakes.

—Dave White

Dancing Fool: What’s the Worst Thing?

A recent Friday night I got aboard the last Metrolink train to Lancaster to visit a friend who works in a bar there on weekends. I had some misgivings. Friday nights are an all-black crowd, Saturdays all-brown, and I’m a tall white boy with long, light-colored hair. Also, I’m fond of biker jewelry. I was prepared to face the worst thing that could happen, although I had no idea what that would be.

My friend was glad to see me when I settled in at the bar with my first zombie. I checked out the crowd, and I realized that I was being sized up by both the men and the women. No one seemed surprised or irritated, so I let down my guard. As a deep-bass, funkish reggae played, the crowd at the bar thinned, and I found myself with another zombie, sitting next to a fly black girl who leaned against me as she looked the other way sipping her gin on the rocks. I used my oddest opening line: “What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?” The girl laughed and spoke to me without turning around, “Guess it was the hangover on my 21st birthday.” Fair enough. “What about you?” I asked her drinking buddy, a squat sister with cornrow hair. The girl looked away with a terrible sneer, “Missing The Simpsons on TV,” she hissed. After a few more tries at conversation and one more zombie, I headed to the dance floor.

The mood had changed, and I was aware that I was getting some hostile looks. A few times I was patted on my lower back. They were either looking for a piece or testing my strength. The dance floor was packed with madly dancing bodies surrounded by the usual ring of males getting up the courage to dance with the single women on the floor. I checked it out for a few moments. Fuckit, back in my punk rock days I learned to dance by myself, and I wasn’t going to just stand there with that awesome, massive beat ripping the house down. I scooted out into the middle of the crowd. I started stomping, dancing in a freakish Silver Lake stylie and having a great time; I didn’t give a shit. I saw anger and disbelief on the faces of a few of the brothers, but I was getting too drunk to care. They must have thought I was some kind of white-boy madman. I had to be dangerous, or dangerously insane.

 

As I careened around the dance floor I became aware of a flashing red light that appeared and disappeared. I finally pinpointed it to a couple who were dancing in the middle of the floor. Every time the brother would speak or laugh, a red light flashed out of his mouth. What the hell was it? I gyrated closer to find out what was happening, and after a few moments saw that he had a light-up false tooth, an LED tooth that flashed. He saw me looking at him and smiled broadly, showing it off. I gave him the thumbs up and clapped. He made some motion with his hand, and suddenly a huge woman appeared in front of me, crooking her finger at me and moving her bulk around in a sensual come-on. She was enormous, smashing into me to the beat and cooing “baby” when I’d throw a hip motion she dug. The guy with the light-up tooth looked on in a weird manner, and I caught a few glances from the sidelines that told me I’d better get off the dance floor — that bad things were going to happen if I stayed.

At the bar again with another zombie, I began talking to a beautiful sister drinking cognac on the rocks. “What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?” I asked. “I guess the time my daddy died,” she said. “My father died a few years ago,” I told her. “It’ll get better.” She looked at me like I was made of shit. “I ain’t talking about my father. I’m talking about my boyfriend.” At that moment I sensed someone rushing up behind me. It was the brother with the light-up tooth; he pushed between us and ordered a shot of gin. I gulped my zombie and started talking to him, figuring that my acknowledgment of his outrageousness gave us some kind of camaraderie. “What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?” I asked stupidly. He gave me a look of pure evil and hatred, his tooth flashing in my face. “The first time I ever met a white man, that’s the worst thing that ever happened to me. And the best thing that’ll ever happen to me is when all y’all white motherfuckers are gone.” He turned and walked into the crowd.

“I’m sorry about that,” the girl said. “But you gotta understand. It is the worst thing that ever happened to him. Could be it’s the worst thing that ever happened to me.” She held her drink and stood up. “And maybe you shouldn’t ask us that question, or you’ll be telling people that the worst thing that ever happened to you happened here.”

—Anthony Ausgang


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