A Considerable Town
Putting Faith in Dog
Linda Blair had set up her puppy adoption on the grass in front of a tack store in Burbanks equestrian neighborhood. On a folding table were brochures about her animal-rescue organization, World Heart Foundation, and her book, Going Vegan. A mounted poster implored, "Break the Chains That Bind." It showed Blair in a half shirt and femmed-up cargo pants holding a muscular pit bull by a chain. She gave the camera a sizzling look. The poster was meant to educate about the evils of dogfighting, but I couldnt help wondering if it was not also a reference to her 1983 womens-prison sexploitation film, Chained Heat.
She was giving a pep talk to a teenage boy who was taking a shepherd pup home when I noticed her.
"Youre going to like him. Hes groovy," Blair said. "Hes not like these other guys." She shoved a handful of dog biscuits in his hand. "Remember, no treat unless he sits first." Then, Blair expertly demonstrated getting the pup to sit and come. I listened for any hint of the insanity that sometimes comes with those who devote themselves to animals, especially those who were also mega-stars in their early teens, thanks to movies about Satan, and who later went on to have trouble with drugs and the law.
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I sensed perhaps a slight over-identification with abused puppies, but no insanity.
"Im all about education," she told me.
She talked about her groups efforts to eradicate dogfighting, to promote spaying and neutering, and to expose "backyard breeders" of inevitably diseased animals. As she spoke, she moved almost imperceptibly closer to me. She had the habit of shutting her eyes for a long time, maybe 10 seconds, as she spoke. I have noticed this tic in others and tried it out myself to see what the benefit is. In Blairs case, it probably has to do with taking a break from a lifetime of being looked at. In any case, it gave me the opportunity to look her over frankly, as though she were sleeping or dead. I examined her eye shadow, her age lines, her foundation and her chemical-ravaged hair.
It was odd to gaze into the face of someone I had never met, yet felt I knew. Of course, the image of her rotating head was iconic. But the movie that seared Linda Blair into my brain when I was 11 was 1974s Born Innocent. It tapped into something very deep. I knew a million girls like the character she played older girls who were tough and tender, blandly describing all sorts of sexual violation as though it were as common to being a teenager as bad skin. The infamous reform-school broom-handle rape scene had disturbed me in part because it had aroused me, theres no denying it. I figured thats what lesbians did, and promptly grew up to be one.
Blair stared down into the puppy pen, trying to find the words to describe her feelings about animal abuse. "I get sad. I get . . ." She looked up, so close now I could smell her breath, which was not unpleasant. "I get mad. And when I get mad, I do things."
I didnt doubt it.
"This is Sunny," she said, pointing to a banged-up brindle pit in the brochure. "He followed me home one day and changed my life. My mother had just died from cancer. I was depressed. I call him Sunny because he brought sunshine into my life."
To Boldly Go Where No Woman Seems To Have Gone Before
"Does that do anything for YOU?" a man in a bar asks me about whats on the TV. And hes not talking about "the game." Hes referring to nonstop, hardcore man-on-man porn.
While I do prefer mens genitalia in a partner, when said genitalia prefers the entanglement of its doppelgänger, the attraction doesnt quite do it for me. So no.
But I dont really feel like explaining this to my new friend. I must give him credit, though, for being the only man in this bar to approach me with a question that, judging by the looks Im getting, he isnt the only one wondering. You learn a few things after a while when youre the only woman in a gay leather bar.
Sipping my drink, I feel like some sort of socio-anthropological experiment, or more precisely, like a toy gorilla in a room full of real gorillas. Lone gay men eye me up and down from a distance. A few circle and then retreat to their barstools.
The bartender wearing nothing but two tea towels pinned together pours me a drink but wont take my money, shooing away my bills with my tumbler of Cuervo on the rocks.
Another thing: They dont call em blowjobs for nothing. After more than an hour of mantastic videos, the work of giving head for the camera is starting to look about as exciting as pile driving. My fave involves a bodybuilder, a swimming pool and, for some reason, scrambled eggs.
Tonight wasnt supposed to turn out like this. The plan my idea seemed like the perfect way to get together with friends I hadnt seen in ages. Id meet them at 5 p.m., catch up on their lives while quaffing a couple adult beverages at a leather bar (where we knew we wouldnt be bothered) and still be home in time to read bedtime stories to my 3-year-old. My friends agreed to the sheer brilliance of my plan.
So where are they? Adriana and Pam are rarely late. I was surprised they werent already inside the bar when I arrived a few minutes after 5.
Then I realize that I had told Adriana and Pam to meet me at "the Gauntlet" while meaning "the Faultline." My friends were no doubt sitting at the Gauntlet wondering where I was. Im not a cell-phone person, so I get some quarters from Mr. Tea Towel, who gingerly drops the coins in my hand without touching me. I call the Gauntlet on the pay phone and get David, who assures me there are no women in the place and promises that if he sees my friends, hell tell them to come over to the Faultline.
I knew I shouldnt have trusted David.
As I would learn at about 6:15 p.m., stupid, flaky David finally saw Adriana and Pam and told them I was at the Faultline but coming over to the Gauntlet, probably because Adriana is a big tipper.
There are worse ways of killing time than watching man-on-man action while thumbing through the pages of Frontiers, but after a while even the tequila cant make up for the fact that mens anuses are ugly things. Ugly, ugly, ugly.
What else did I learn on Saturday night? It looks like I wont be getting the Mother of the Year Award yet again.
"Would either of you like to be interviewed for the Playboy Channel?" asks a woman holding a clipboard. She and her camera crew are snaking their way around the Erotic Museums First Anniversary Party, conducting interviews with patrons gathered to gaze at art that depending on whom you ask may or may not be erotic enough.
The room has been divided into three sections. One end is devoted to a collection of pen-and-ink drawings by graffiti/tattoo artist Mike Giant. The other offers a mini-exhibition titled "Hollywood Sex Gods," the highlights of which include a three-dimensional, wool-on-canvas reproduction of Farrah Fawcetts red-bikini poster and a mosaic of diet and sex products that, when viewed in the ceiling mirror, reveals the face of Richard Simmons eating a banana.
In between these two exhibits hangs the homoerotic art of photographer and gay rights advocate Mel Roberts, best-known for LAPD raids on his home in the late 70s and infamous affairs with many of his (often underage) models.
Tonight, Roberts, wearing a black sweater, his long, white hair pulled back in a ponytail, looks not at all notorious as he smiles and shakes hands with the requisite art-opening mix of hipsters wearing lots of eyeliner, lingerie and platform boots. Several of the Russians who own the Hollywood museum mill about in dark suits. One, acting as the events official photographer, occasionally asks Roberts to pose with other Russian family members.
Even though the 81-year-old California native has been retired since the early 80s, his influence has most prominently shown up in Calvin Klein ad campaigns and Bruce Webber photo spreads. Since the release of two books on his work The Wild Ones and California Boys a few years ago, the photographer has had a run of retrospective shows. But despite the renewed interest, Roberts has no plans on coming out of retirement.
"Its different now," he says, shaking his head. "The attitudes are different. The models are different. Im lucky I got out when I did." He points out that he "hung it up just before the AIDS crisis," then gestures to the wall of photos and says matter-of-fact: "Many of these people are dead."
Another reason? "I realized my work was too tame," he says. "I mean, I didnt mind an occasional picture of an erection, but my publisher wanted me to get more pornographic. I didnt want to."
Seems a photo of a naked guy can still stress some people out, though. While surveying the wall of seductive male nudes, one man laughs uncomfortably: "Well, this definitely isnt what youd see at a Westside gallery." Another guy in a red shirt, drink in hand, stops short when he enters the exhibit. Exaggerating a look of confusion, he grunts, then makes a beeline for the heterosexual safety of Giants tattoo art.
For every squeamish patron, however, there is a newly minted fan.
"Are you Mel Roberts?" A woman wearing a patchwork hat asks. "I love your work." She sits down next to him, introduces herself and says she wants to buy one of his photos. She plays in the country band Extreme Steakhouse, she explains, and wants the one of the cowboy in the black hat and tight jeans, staring out over a Mulholland Drive vista.
As soon as she leaves, another woman asks Roberts to sign her copy of California Boys. She is also a photographer and asks if he has ever seen Terry Richardsons book Terryworld. Roberts shakes his head. "Check it out," she says. "Hes totally ripping you off." Then she hands him the book to sign. "You could write Keep it up and then say shooting pictures, that is. Thats good, huh?" With a smile, Roberts takes out a pen and obliges.
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