While many folks at L.A. Weekly probably prefer the swankier confines of the paper’s current Sunset Boulevard digs, I have a soft spot for the ramshackle, drafty warehouse in Silver Lake where our offices used to be. So imagine my double take when Melinda Mara, the “scrap girl” at JT’s Stockroom bondage-a-torium, gave me her work address. Yes, the freakin’ old Weekly is now an enormous supply center for the S&M/B&D/fetish set the world over.
They used to say that we crits at the Weekly could dish it out but not take it; the new occupants of the space can handle both. The first thing that hits you when you walk into JT’s is the smell of solvents and cowhide. KROQ blasts over the airwaves, as it did back in the day, and at the same decibel level — one tradition lives on, I guess. Tour guides Lisa Drucker and Jason Alejos are as clinical as medical-supply salesmen when they point out the racks of pain-inducing/pleasure-enhancing goodies. “Chastity Row” has devices to spike an overeager slave’s erection, stacks of nipple clamps, artificial penises, butt plugs, and their current best-seller (at 6 bucks a strand), Thai Anal Love Beads, which Lisa thinks are “so cute, I love the baby-blue color!”
The medical-supply theme continues as we view boxes of speculums, catheters and shiny metal enema gear. “The electronic stuff is the best,” says Jason, as he plugs in a purple “velvet wand,” which emits a low-level electric shock. Not too bad on the palm, but murder on more sensitive body parts, one imagines. There’s a “rejects row” of manufacturers’ samples that JT’s decided not to carry: dildos, tapes and blowup dolls with vibrating vaginas. The rejects will be sold on eBay. “We got kicked off eBay for a while because we used the word cock in one of the descriptions,” sighs Jason. “We should be allowed back on again soon.” Faulty products sit in the “returns” section, awaiting destruction or repair. “You can imagine where some of that stuff has been,” says Lisa, and we grimace accordingly.
The JT’s crew appear cheery as they sew straitjackets and glue wrist cuffs together. Both Lisa and Jason say that working at JT’s has been a life-enhancing experience. “You meet the greatest people through the Web site and at trade shows,” bubbles Jason.
Business is booming. “A lot of it, we think, is fear that Bush and Ashcroft will shut everything down,” says Jason. “So people are stocking up now . . . Repression brings out a lot of hidden urges, don’t you think?” And if repression is not enough to drive a sale, JT’s throws in a little something special with every order: a free Tootsie Pop.
A Portrait of Today’s Woman
The radio ad said: “Women’s Expo. Products and Services for Today’s Woman.”
“Who are they talking about when they say ‘Today’s Woman’?” I wondered. So I headed to the Pasadena Hilton recently to partake of this feminine wonderland and compile a current portrait. Here is what I learned:
Today’s Woman is very concerned about her health. But her IQ is questionable. For example, she is willing to consider harebrained solutions to the complex problems of Today’s World: emu oil for her psoriasis, arthritis, heart disease, hemorrhoids or hair-care needs; or an Angelite hair dryer to prevent leukemia and breast cancer. If she has chronic or computer-related headaches, or if she needs to drain her sinuses while also lifting her depression, perhaps a nice magnet hat will do the trick. At $99.95, it practically pays for itself!
Because Today’s Woman is concerned with performing at her optimum best, $270 isn’t too much to spend for a bottle of 30 Takisonic health beads, which, when placed on her pressure points, can help her tap into the river of energy that runs through the universe while simultaneously breaking up large water clusters in her body.
Although nutrition is important to Today’s Woman, she is very conflicted about soybeans. First she hears Brendak Oswalt, “National Soy Authority,” discuss the beans’ “multifaceted chronic-disease-protection” properties, and then, minutes later at the SOY ALERT booth, she reviews pamphlets telling her how soybeans cause breast cancer, kidney disease, pancreatic disorders, and stunted growth in children. To aid her decision, Today’s Woman can sample soy-based chocolate pudding, sandwich spreads and cookies at other nearby booths to see if she feels more or less diseased.
Today’s Woman cultivates her spiritual consciousness and relishes the opportunity to consult with the “level 3 licensed aura soma practitioner” seated in front of a large display of bottles containing different-colored oil-and-water combinations. “One of these will speak to you,” says a well-groomed woman offering a $50 consultation for a “non-intrusive, self-selective soul-development system.”
It’s not clear which level of soul development is the one most desired by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Recruitment Unit, which offers Today’s Woman pamphlets and free specially printed fortune cookies.
I advise Today’s Woman to grab some Kleenex before stopping at the Love Boutique Booth to try the latex penis masturbation sleeve. “Put your fingers in here,” the saleswoman will insist, squirting in some lubricant, and then jerking it up and down to demonstrate how good it will make that special man feel, before turning Today’s Woman back into the cold Expo, alone, with no way to wipe the goo from her hand.
But Today’s Woman isn’t a total fool. It turns out she won’t waste her hard-earned money on assorted aura enhancers without proof her aura exists. So when she is offered a free aura photograph, and is told that hers is a very rare, magical blue/violet aura which allows her to manifest anything she wants, she knows what to do. She manifests her exit from the Woman’s Expo.
Is It Live or Is It . . . Memorex?
MOCA’s controversial promotional campaign, currently showing in a print, TV, bus-card or billboard ad near you, appropriates familiar ironic tropes from conceptual art to present urban streetscapes and activities as museum pieces. But months before the million-dollar TBWAChiatDay Los Angeles–designed campaign debuted, BritArt.com, an online art gallery, launched a similar irony-laden street-sticker campaign in London. Coincidink? ChiatDay account director Mary Anderson says designers were unaware of the award-winning campaign by London heavyweight agency Mother when they “concepted” the MOCA ads last May (TBWA has an office in London). “It’s not a huge surprise there’s a similar campaign, because we were inspired by something ubiquitous: the walls of the museum and museum vernacular,” Anderson says.