Sex With Strangers: David Rakoff on the Exotic Erotic Ball

The Exotic Erotic Ball hoped to bring raunchy fun back to New York nightlife. But suppose they gave a fetish party and nobody came?

Evan Seinfeld and Co. at the 2006 Exotic Erotic Ball / Photo by Louis Dollagaray/WireImage
Evan Seinfeld and Co. at the 2006 Exotic Erotic Ball / Photo by Louis Dollagaray/WireImage
WRITTEN BY
David Rakoff

I posit that that might be a fairly unique narrative in this environment. She knows what I'm driving at: People go into porn because of lives of abuse and pain, because of family neglect, or worse. It's presumptuous of me, and she lets me know this gently, by saying, "I don't really know. I don't usually ask people how they get along with their parents." What? More than any of the proudly posted photographs in which she welcomes erect penises into her various orifices for all to see, it is this that strikes me as unutterably bizarre. This is my moment of true alienation. Not ask people how they get along with their parents? I need no clearer proof that she is from out of town.


MY YOUNG ASIAN friend—whose face has been a mask of almost reverential disbelief at his good fortune from the moment he breached the portals of Pier 94—is eventually joined by about 1,500 folks, men mostly, including the 40-odd-year-old who, despite the heat of the weekend, wears a navy nylon windbreaker and holds a Puma shoulder bag as protectively as if he were transporting a human liver for transplant. He exhibits the casual relationship to personal grooming—greasy hair under a baseball cap, a smear on his pants that may or may not be food—of someone with, say, an encyclopedic knowledge of the nation's zip codes. There is a randy old retiree who continually tries to cop a feel when posing for pictures with the porn stars. Blonde, buxom Brooke Haven (whom I immediately dub Belle Laboratories) smacks his hand lightly as it creeps toward her huge, architectonic breast with a good-natured "Oh, you." But mostly, the crowd is made up of groups of thick-necked guys. Imagine the young men of Entourage minus the famous meal ticket, still stuck on Long Island or in New Jersey.

Perhaps it's the name that was so misleading: Exotic Erotic; a gathering meant to be a no-holds-barred display of our richly colored tapestry of human libido, with maybe even a homophilic nod or two to Gay Pride Day, which looms just a week away. And yet, it's all pretty strictly about the male gaze on depilated female flesh here. There is, for example, only one gay exhibitor: Lucas Entertainment, the porn studio owned and operated by Russian impresario Michael Lucas, known for films of high production values and impossibly perfect men. Richard Munguia, Lucas' sales director, had been told there would be five other gay studios present. He has been made fun of since his arrival and even called faggot. "I almost jumped over the table to kick somebody's ass," he says. Still, he finds it amusing that, when seated at the table he is kryptonite, but when he has walked the floor, he has been stopped by numerous men wanting information on how to break into the business. As he packs up his booth, he tells me he will not be attending the following night's Ball. If the Expo is any indication, there is no place there for the likes of him—or me, for that matter. The vibe in here is overwhelmingly and unrelievedly white, exurban, and very straight. In short, almost nothing like New York City.


IMAGINE THAT PIER 94 is a huge uppercase T. The Expo these last two days took place along the horizontal transept of the letter. The vertical of the T, extending west, presumably all the way to the Hudson River, is a space equally as large. It had been curtained off until this evening but has been opened up for the Ball. It is now air-plane-hangar-cavernous in old Pier 94. Bless their hearts, the organizers have tried their best to make it festive. The ceiling has been hung with large, black-and-white-striped inflatable shapes: crescents, gourds, teardrops. They are lit from within and dangle like brilliant jewels in the darkened air of the rafters; beautiful and playful and elegant. And only seven in number. There would need to be, at minimum, five times as many for them to even register. Similarly, the acrobats, a woman flanked by two shirtless men in jeans who sit on swings, are as inconsequential as strips of flypaper.

But it is early yet, not even 10 p.m. when I arrive. Maybe they're just warming up. A party that is scheduled to go until 3 a.m. really doesn't start cooking until midnight. I walk around the now doubled space. Where once there were mere yards of air between people, there are now acres. The air conditioning, cranked blessedly high in hopeful prophylaxis against what was no doubt envisioned as the blast of BTUs radiating off the many carnally heated bodies, has made Pier 94 very chilly indeed. Still, there is the adult movie theater behind those curtains, playing an explicit flick to an audience of two. And behold the dungeon, with its painted backdrop of a vaulted gothic cellar. The dungeon-master is leaning against the restraining device, a simple wooden structure of two X's propped up on one another, attached like a sawhorse at the top. He is eating some take-out from a clear plastic clamshell, but when he's done, look out!

On the main stage, Violet Blue is performing a slinky dance in a black dress and feather boa to an all-brass version of the old Peggy Lee hit "Why Don't You Do Right?" She strips down to the boa and panties and garters, briefly flashing her small, natural-looking breasts. There are some fairly stringent laws in New York proscribing public nudity, but I don't understand why people who have seen Violet Blue perform the most unbridled of sexual deeds settle for this Vegas-style all-you-can-eat-prime-rib floor show. Perhaps the thrill lies in the very incongruity of Violet Blue herself. She doesn't exude even the faintest whiff of sluttiness, even as she gyrates the twin kidney beans of her tiny ass. The MC appears onstage and turns to the crowd: "Now comes the time in the evening that we call Lesbian First Kiss. Is there a girl in the audience who's never kissed a girl?"

Ah yes, the "lesbian kiss," one of the building blocks of straight porn. Three women from the audience volunteer. One is a Yale scholar in bioethics, another is a botanist studying the rapidly disappearing Belizean rain forest, and the third works for an NGO trying to bring potable water to sub-Saharan Africa. Just kidding. There is a Goth Girl in torn black hose, a Belly Dancer in a gold brocade bra and harem pants, and a Platinum Blonde in a revealing white satin... Can one call it a dress? The kisses are, not surprisingly, gestural and disingenuous, all open-mouthed fluttering of tongue against tongue.

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