You can get away with so much as long as nudity is involved.
I recently attended the 30th annual Erotic Exotic Ball in San Francisco. Held at the cavernous Cow Palace, the event was one of those trainwrecks particular to the adult industry, meaning that it was a trainwreck whenever sex or simulated sex was not happening.
As soon as the clothes came back on and/or the whips got packed away, it was as if the attendees woke up and thought, “What am I doing in a place called the Cow Palace?”
Throughout the six-hour event, people wandered the halls in costume, picked through novelties in a dimly lit expo hall, and filtered in and out of the main stage area as emcee Paul Nathan introduced a series of sex-related acts including strippers Shay Lynn and Ancilla Tilia and a guy who stood behind a puppet window and contorted his tongue suggestively.
The evening was beset with delays and technical difficulties which Nathan handled with, if not aplomb, then with a lack of surprise that the evening was beset with delays and technical difficulties. “What did you expect?” he seemed to be saying. “Tits cure all ills.”
Nathan hosted the Ball as if it were a church supper and he alone had the bathroom key. Neither entertaining nor gracious, Nathan was, at least, jovial.
For example, guest eye candy Noname Jane has had her current nom de porn for more than a year since the writer Violet Blue sued her for the exclusive use of a name they once shared. Despite this, Nathan kept referring to Noname Jane as “Violet Blue” in the face of repeated reminders to the contrary.
While the writer Violet Blue emerged from the lawsuit looking, to many, petty, and while her “sex positive” street cred has taken a hit for her feuds within the sex industry, Nathan appeared neither populist nor sex positive himself when he suddenly remembered who was who.
“Oh right,” he said to a room of about 3,000 people, “Violet Blue is a cunt. This is Noname Jane.”
Remarks like that are neither exotic nor erotic.
Outside things were less amiable. A small but loud group of protesters had gathered with various religious placards. But instead of silently judging the parade of sluttily-dressed attendees, their leader was verbally abusive to everyone walking by. It had been a long time since I’d heard anything so hateful.
“Is eternity burning in Hell worth what you’re doing?” he said. “God will punish fornicators, faggots, and lesbians.”
To one woman he said, “You think you can take your fat girlfriend to Hell with you?”
I took comfort in Adrianna Nicole, Sinnamon Love, and Vannah Sterling, each in town to greet fans at the Ball’s accompanying Expo.
I also stuck my finger in the haptictastic RealTouch VOD sex simulator (because it’s not yet Mac compatible).
During the Expo, various porn stars complained they had not received their per diems for attending. Their tweets were harsh, and reported that some of the bands were also chasing money. My hotel room was changed a few times, but it was both free and had an excellent housekeeping staff. On the other hand, I thought for a moment that I might die on the minibus shuttle from the hotel to the Cow Palace.
One’s perceptions change when things are free, but I realize as America’s Beloved Porn Journalist that my expectations often need recalibrating and that I must, like Zeus to Baucis and Philemon, travel among the common people and solicit their opinions.
One such woman was about 5’10” and her boyfriend three inches shorter. They hailed from Fremont, CA. They were standing in the bleacher area far away from where Nathan was introducing the Asian Diva Girls to the stage.
“I can’t see anything,” the woman said.
“You gotta go down there,” I said, not wanting to offend her boyfriend who might misinterpret my intentions.
“Do they ever leave the stage?” she said.
“No,” I said, “but you might get to walk onstage and do something if you get closer,” I said.
“What are you talking about?” her boyfriend asked me (sometimes shorter people don’t trust me).
“No one is going to get off the stage and come up to the bleachers,” I said to the both of them. “If you want something exotic and erotic to happen, it’s more likely to happen down there unless the two of you make it happen up here.”
The boyfriend looked confused, and I think the girlfriend wanted him to leave. I felt this very strongly.
Trying one more time to help them make the most out of their admission fee, I reminded them that a couple of girls from the audience had just licked chocolate off Noname Jane’s naked body.
“She’s not a lesbo,” the boyfriend said of his partner.
The real party at the Exotic Erotic Ball was the hallway that ringed the auditorium. I hadn’t seen Coolio, Mini-Kiss, or Missing Persons (every time I peeked into the main hall I saw the tongue contorting guy or Danny Bonaduce), but the hallway scene was a lot of fun and I thought that that must be the monkey brain of the 30-year-old Ball. There were enough people checking each other out in the hall, young and old, hot and not-so-much, that I think the true attraction was freak-to-freak interaction.
I made my way backstage to watch the Miss Exotic Erotic Ball contest. Ten women, all attractive in their own way and wearing a mixture of angel or devil outfits, jiggled and flashed for the chance to win (I think) a weekend at one of the Hedonism resorts.
Behind me, a female fan of one of the more hardbodied women hissed and catcalled at the other contestants, calling them ugly or fat.
“Gross!” she shrieked. “Look at her cellulite!”
Wow, I thought. I would have hit that. And even if I’d have fallen in, the Cellulite Lady had the right attitude.
“Boo!” said the woman when the Cellulite Lady didn’t make the final round. “Ha ha!”
When the contestants were reduced to three, the shrieking woman’s favorite was eliminated. This woman was all hard curves and looked like a dancer. She descended the steps of the stage and I was there.
“Mind if I take your picture?” I said.
“I’m over it!” she hissed, and joined her harridan friend.
Hedonism doesn’t want you, I thought.
In a carnival-like VIP area I watched a couple of bondage shows and stripper acts. One of the former was excellent, with thin-shifted innocents being paraded and trained. But I was looking for the fabled Blue Room, where mattresses were alleged to have been laid and where swingers allegedly dwelt. Couldn’t find it.
But a pantsless man masturbated on the dance floor. That has to count for something.
I often think that the promise of boobs allows a blanket to be thrown over a mediocrity we wouldn’t expect from, say, Trader Joe’s or the Consumer Electronics Show. And the cool kids’ club of overt sexuality can be used as an excuse for some bad behavior.
On the shuttle ride back to the hotel a woman was rhapsodizing about her sexual adventurousness.
“You know, we’re all either voyeurs or exhibitionists,” she said. “And I’m just very sexually free. I’m a very sexual person.”
“Awesome!” I said. I’m a very sexual person always sends up warning flags for me.
“If we fucked,” she said to me, “it would be one moment in time that we’d always have, and we’d move on to our next partners with that little extra bit of positive energy.”
I found her powerfully unattractive but I was wondering if she was trying to convince me that that wasn’t the point.
“I’m not wearing any panties,” she said, and I had to admit that I wasn’t either. Still, it was hard to extricate myself tactfully.
“I’m very sorry,” I said, “but I’m not interested.”
“You’ve got a lot of hangups, dude,” she said. The next 15 minutes passed slowly.
[Last night I had dinner with some good and thoughtful porn biz friends, who’d said they’d attended an industry party at which they recognized very few people. They’d made the mistake of bringing a civilian acquaintance, who may or may not have been justified in the belief that he was attending an orgy. He got drunk and embarrassed himself and his wife. “No one said you get to be an idiot,” my friend said.]
The Ball was most effective when sex got to speak for itself. If I were running it, I’d use a smaller venue, fewer non-sex acts (How is Mini-Kiss erotic?), maximize the sightlines, and keep people in the same room while allowing space for random voyeurism and groping, just in case.
Because the public believes that these events are going to be wild, with sweaty vixens clamoring over each other to fuck tourists. Since that will never happen, at least they can be professional.
I am indebted to Chris Dahl who took the majority of these pictures, and all of the good ones.