HOT SALSA AND RAMPANT PRICKS: My Salon--So Far-by Ian Whitcomb.
Ian Whitcomb is a highly respected performer,
composer, and music historian. You can find all of his CD's, DVD's, Books, and
Songbooks by clicking here,
or by going to ianwhitcomb.com
The great point to remember, I tell myself, is to keep busy, to keep moving. That's the only way to sweep out depression. Black dog night will vanish howling in the blinding white light of unthinking action.
So The Salon, my Salon, is a therapeutic thing. Lots of people coming and going, interrupting, speeches, jump-cutting from topic to topic, and heavily drinking. Usually I'm uplifted, but the other night there were too many people, the mixture was too rich and I needed an emetic.
It wasn't called a salon when we started. That title was the contribution of my fine arts friend, Paul K, who runs the West Coast branch of The Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. When we started it was just Jim and me. Jim is a tall, bespectacled pornographer and an expert on American roots music. What am I? God knows--I could go on all day. Anyway, we used to meet at a common-or-garden Mexican restaurant called "La Fiesta Grande" in Pasadena, near my mountain foothills home. Also near the radio station where, on Wednesday nights, I'd broadcast "'The Ian Whitcomb Show". Jim would bring suitcases full of obscure rhythm & blues records to flesh out the long radio hours--for I'd worn silly my George Formbys and Al Bowllys.
He'd often bring guests such as Big Jay McNeely, ebony hero of the 1940s, king of the honking sax; and Jack McVea, a black minstrel famous for his smash hit "Open The Door, Richard". On other nights, when we were featuring street corner doo-wop groups, there'd be lots of Spanish-speaking aficionados in the studio with us, finger-popping along, answering the phones. It was a jolly crowd. Sometimes too jolly and I felt I was losing control, felt this was democracy run riot. You can have too much of a good thing.
In those days I used to drink two grande margaritas (mainly tequila, a lovely and lethal cactus-based liquor) at La Fiesta before going on the air, thus continuing the free-wheeling atmosphere of our dinner. And so I developed a trick of asking my legendary guests a question nodding off during the answer, and then returning to life during the sometimes-long silence that followed their speech. Like all good things this had to end: the station replaced me with a format called "Intelligent Talk & Alternative(Adult) Rock".
But Jim and I, determined not to be outdone by the authorities, continued to meet at La Fiesta with selected guests from the roots music world, and to imagine we were all going on afterwards to the radio station. In fact, we'd stand in the street, when the restaurant had closed and do the show a capella.
We were always short on women. My wife Regina occasionally put in an appearance but she didn't care much for the company and now she doesn't come at all. "Boys' night out", she says and leaves it at that. Once we snared a 1950s fashion model but she objected to the body odor of one of our doo-wop experts and has never been seen again. Mind you, we do have Gloria and she more than makes up for our sex imbalance what with her no-nonsense approach to life ("I tell it as I see it, like it is") and her severe business suit with the stiff shirt and high collar topped by the wide, fruit-laden hat stuck with ostrich feathers.
Gloria is black and of a certain age. She recently retired from an important government job ("racked in secrecy, you know what I'm sayin'") and she must have done all right because she turns up in a long and wide late-model Cadillac with no licence plates. A handicap sign is prominent on the dashboard. She walks so straight and true I had to ask her, at our first meeting, what exactly was her handicap. Quick as a vaudeville star she replied: "Being an African-American female in the United States Of America!". Then she gently rubbed my knee and that really won me to her. Little touchie things like that mean a lot over here.
She and Jim were born in the same town in West Virginia, years apart and from different sides of the railroad tracks. While Jim is full of facts about old black music and culture, Gloria shuns all that: "For a person of colour such as I, the past is pain and there's no use regurgitatin'!" Jim brings the earthy folk to our salon--rockabillies, security guards, doo-woppers. His new book, which he waved at us the other night, is called "Who Cut The Cheese?", a history of farting. You can't catch him on that subject: "The Miller's Tale" is old hat to him. He can tell you how, in ancient times, a Roman soldier in Jerusalem lifted his tunic and broke wind on a devout group of early Christians thus raising a riot that left thousands dead. Jim's down there with the demotics.
Whereas all I can produce are high art people, via my friend Paul K. I met him at The Huntington Art Gallery where I have a basement desk. He works for The Smithsonian, as I mentioned earlier. He brings conceptualists, performance artists, Chicano cartoonists, de-constructionists, to the meetings. He told us that a salon used to refer to "a large and lofty reception room in a palace or other great house" but that we qualified as a fin de-ciecle neo-salon. "You mean a cheap burrito joint," said Jim.
"La Fiesta Grande" is in a currently unfashionable part of Pasadena, nestling second-hand bookshops and a live theatre. We're over a mile from trendy "Old Town" with its shells of historic buildings now occupied by up-market chain stores and chic bistros, and its street corners guarded by knots of surly Latino gang-bangers in black baggy uniforms. Next to them sit their low-slung black vans shuddering as they blast out the thudding hip-hop beat, putting the fear of God into the yuppies waiting in line for the restaurant table of their choice.
There's no wait at "La Fiesta". Our long and curvy booth is always free for us. Some nights there's only me and Jim, other nights there's more than a dozen--and that's too many, as we shall see. But no matter--it's my salon, and my saviour. The waiters are fair, treating us with the same indifference they treat any gringo, keeping the chip and salsa bowls full to the brim, lively with the bill, and always following briskly--since we're the last customers--with the raucous advance of the cleaning machinery and disinfectant blasters.
Then it's out onto the pavement for the long goodnights, the vows to meet again next week, the understanding that the art business--both high and low--is controlled by cliques and conspiracies. And off I roar home to shoot some final salvoes against the world at my wife as she lies in bed trying to watch a late-night reality cop show.
But the other night--the night in question--was a terrible discordance: too many of us (plus a few strangers) cramped together in the booth, so that I could feel and smell them and I don't care for that; and what I usually care for--the conversation--now seemingly oppressive, what with Ray, a retired king of rockabilly, banging on about UFOs and how Clinton has a 13 year-old black love child-he heard this on his radio--and Gloria, dressed-down in a white T-shirt and baseball cap on backwards, telling us there should be mandatory reparations for the descendants of slaves, and me--worst of all--butting in to inform Michael McMillan, the world-famous installationist that, yes, I visited the room he created at the L.A. County Museum of Art and admired his virtual 1930s old man's garage complete with oil pools, period radio playing period music, and stacks of period paper ephemera-in fact, I was so impressed, so excited, that I contributed to the work by dropping a crushed Kleenex full of a recent sneeze. McMillan smiled but some strangers didn't. One hissed: "Philistine!" I knew I'd done wrong, but it's my party and I'll do what I like.
Then Zorthian arrived and everybody was all over him and I was off the hook. Good old Zorthian, that Armenian runt with the satyr smile and the bedraggled but loyal wife in tow, he who has lived in the mountains above us for fifty years, building a ranch of unfinished houses, studded with broken glass and female breasts fashioned from hub caps and dustbin lids, and encouraging people to come tip their garbage into the surrounding canyons so as to eventually create a plateau of pure garbology, and welcoming one and all into the gloom of his adobe hacienda to take a chance perhaps on a dirt-encrusted bottle of 1949 California champagne, part of a consignment given to him by Charlie Parker, the legendary jazz sax man, in return for the time Zorthian rescued him from a boring party on the plain below, took him to the ranch and persuaded the gangster-suited artist to join his host in a mad horse ride, in the nude, up and down the canyons that were still free of garbage. Afterwards, as a red dawn broke, they sat in the studio and admired the Armenian's gynecologically-accurate oil paintings of voluptuous female nudes. "Man!", exclaimed Parker, "This is T & A and it's legit!"
We all hush for Zorthian. A chair is pulled out for him-suddenly there's ample room at the table-and, mysteriously, a glass of fine wine is set in front of him. Paul K, the Smithsonian man, produces a sheet of paper and a Pentel Rolling Riter and spreads the work tools in front of the artist. Zorthian takes a sip of wine, rolls it around in his mouth, spits it into a glass provided by his wife, and knuckles down to work. His line goes for a fast, snaky walk leaving a trail describing a young woman with ripe melon breasts and headquarters in a dark triangular forest. "Hola!", he shouts and everyone applauds. Then, for some unknown reason, I seize the pen and impose upon the forest a snub-nosed rocket of a penis. Nobody finds this clever and the party breaks up.
Outside, in a doorway, our party-the pop people-try to calm me down. Jim takes the lead. He's clever that way, he understands life. He explains: "You were pissed off with those artsy-fartsy types". Right. "And so you made a statement". Right again. "It seems to me", I say-getting into the spirit of bile-"That these creatures, unlike us working stiffs, contribute nothing to the joy of mankind." "Right on", says Jim, "Why, an epileptic having a fit is a real performance artist." "Exactly-these people sow not, neither do they reap." "Well, they sure couldn't fill a night club or sell a magazine". "Where did they vanish to, that motley bunch of conceptualists, constructionists, post-modernists, and installationists?" "Round the corner to the back bar for absinthe margaritas. They're talking of creating a happening or rave".
After our people-the rockabillies, doo-woppers, bluesmen, and off-duty security guards-have sauntered off (with many a "goodnight!") Jim sits me on the hood of my Honda and says: "What you need is a good clean break. You know I'm a pornographer by trade-well, I get lots of invites to attend hard-core movie shoots. There's one coming up next week that I think will be just what the doctor ordered". He hands me a pamphlet printed on creamy art paper, blazing with colour: "Be our guest at 'THINGS CHANGE (The More They Change, The More They Get Fucked Up)'-A Michael Zen Production for Cal Vista, starring Misty Rain & Nikki Sinn. Got wood? Got a camera! Be there!"
* * *
With only a week to go before the big day, I got genned up a little about the movie by studying the pamphlet: this production will be shot on proper film not video and will boast multi-partner matings, a 5-way all-girl orgy, "and, of course, plenty of anal . . . or customers have told us over and over: "Keep the Mona Lisa's smile-just let me see her butt". Our director, Michael Zen, is a UCLA teacher specializing in the work of Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Welles. He has "learned to love the human element, exploring the motivations, desires and hypocracies of the human psyche." In short, a sort of porno Proust. Has the business changed this essentially contemplative artist? Says Zen: "Well, now I don't recognize people with their clothes on". Next, I turned to facts about the hard-core porno business, a burgeoning one, to be sure: over 800 million videos rented and sold in 1997 and that's just the USA. Of course, in Britain the business is all under the counter, which is probably one of the reasons I live over here. Sex has always been a siren for me-fancy free and anonymous, out on the West Coast where the best-built pneumatic girls and boys are. No more macintoshes, no more cottaging, no more sitting on the old school bench! But now, in my late 50s, I live safely, cosily, respectfully up in Altadena in a cottage with my wife. So how can I live out the dream at my age, in my state? Through Michael Zen's magic perhaps!-The thrill factories are all, we're told, down in the San Fernando Valley, not far from home, in and around Chatsworth where once rode singing cowboys like Rex Allen and Jimmy Wakeley and now pump Titman and Buttman. I was getting into the spirit. Fantasies were leaping about like sparks from a boy scout bonfire. What if Mr. Zen asked me to take a small role? After all, I recently did a cameo in "Star Trek".
Jim and I had a decent breakfast before setting out for the location. I must admit I was nervous. Had we been properly cleared? Weren't gangsters involved in this business? As we approached the address, an old shack of a club called "Martini Lounge" off Hollywood Boulevard, he reassured me: "Times have changed. It's all legal so there's no shady guys. Nobody cares what you do, so long as kiddies aren't involved. I remember, in the old days, when an anonymous caller would tell me to be at a certain phone booth at a certain hour and when I got there the phone rang and another voice told me to look south-west for a fluttering handkerchief from a half-opened window in a warehouse."
Jim was right-times have changed. The front door to the club was wide open and the sunlight streaming inside revealed women in high leather boots chatting and smoking while men, mostly tattooed, rushed around with lighting stands, reflectors, walkie-talkies-the sort of workaday equipment one associates with the mundanity of movie-making. I did catch a twinkle, activated by the sun, from off the ringed nipple of one of the women, reminding me that sex was the business being conducted today on these premises and that it was now an important part of the economy of California. Pedestrians, bent on other matters, passed by the open door without turning their heads for a peep. In such conditions I began to feel schoolboy-smutty. For, unlike the times, I haven't changed.
"Look", said Jim as we parked in a side street, "There one of the male studs, adjusting his dress in preparation for work". He pointed to a nondescript young man making his way towards the building's back door, an awkward progress for, as Jim pointed out, he seemed to be having trouble with his crotch, constantly twitching one or other of his legs and then, finally and with exasperation, pushing the recalcitrant equipment of his trade firmly against the left thigh. "I wouldn't lose too much sleep over him", said Jim. "The studs are the lowest on the totem pole-mere functionaries, no more than hired guns". Still, I was very interested in their place on the scene.
We followed the now-adjusted young man through the back door. But, like Alice's rabbit, he'd disappeared, gobbled up by an intense blackness tasting acrid and slightly foul (and, therefore, promising sexual excitement for me). Eventually, a little light came to our eyes and we had started to make our way down a narrow corridor lined with bubbling hot snacks (constant food on hand is a staple of popular entertainment) when we bumped into a man of our own age, immaculately turned-out in blazer and striped tie and bearing a big clipboard. "Ha, ha!", he greeted us. "The gentlemen of the press! I'm Cal Vista's publicist and my name is Peter Pecker". As he said this he raised a pen above his clipboard in a dramatic poise. Jim stepped in: "I'm from 'Slut' as you know. And this is Ian of 'The London Observer'". I interrupted Pecker's furious scribbling with a correction: "Actually, I write for 'The London Magazine'". Pecker lowered his pen, stared at me with piercing blue eyes. Coming close, so that I got whiffs of his honey breath, he said: "Even better-a magazine. Meaning glossy pages and pictures. I can provide you with any amount of pussy-close colour transparencies".
I let the matter rest and, thankfully, Jim steeped in to congratulate Pecker on the style of the Cal Vista pamphlet for "Things Change". Pecker bowed and revealed that he'd written every word and--brightened perhaps by the compliment--he led us in a brisk march to the very heart of the set, the dance floor and stage of the club and its snug little back bar. We were introduced to the screenwriter, Delysia Ravenscroft, a tiny woman in late middle age, armed with a large deaf-aid, and very personable (she immediately gave me her card). Pecker shouted: "I hope the next scene is sex action, Delysia. I love your lines and I'd like to let our guests see the core of our business". She assured us that in a few minutes there'd be enacted "full sex scene number 6" and that it would be "run to the pop".
This was another world, except for the outward gear of film-making-the camera on the crane, the arc lights, the recording desk-and I was burning with questions. Wait, for God's sake! Here we are at the eye of the coming storm, standing at the little back bar, about to meet the director, Michael Zen himself. A past master of high quality porn (and on proper film, not cheap video), as Jim told me earlier. And, as Pecker quickly advised, he refers to his work as "erotic fantasy" not hard-core porn. Careful now . . .
Michael Zen, seated with his back to us at the bar, swung slowly round in answer to Pecker's call. Dressed completely in black, from turtleneck to dress pants and patent leather shoes, his smiling saturnine face, framed by a monkish fringe, reminded me of someone. "Isn't he like Nero?" said Delysia and Pecker laughed automatically like it was an old and trusty joke. Zen pulled a smile, but his concentration was on my face as if dredging up some ancient memory. Then Pecker introduced me. Zen slapped his hand to his brow: "Of course! The radio show! How many times have I been saved by your civilized tones from going mad as I edited vibration, masturbation and penetration sequences . . . This is indeed well met my friends!"
Jim seemed a little left out so I quickly agreed when he suggested a visit to some of the female stars in their dressing rooms as they prepared for the coming action. "You must sit at my side!", shouted Zen as Pecker led us out of the dim bar and up some rickety stairs. In the make-up room Jim was in heaven because there he met an Asian girl in nothing but a G-string. He adores Asian girls, they're like delicate dolls. "She'll be in the lesbian orgy scene later this afternoon," said Pecker consulting his clipboard. "Now Ian, I want you to say hello to Misty Rain-who'll be visiting your country this Christmas, won't you dear?" Miss Rain, sitting in her make-up chair, to my relief seemed quite ordinary, almost spindly. "Petite", perhaps, is the word for her. She smiled at me with wide sunflower eyes and gushed girlishly about her upcoming European trip: "A few days in Amsterdam--on business, of course-and then we hit London. I'll bet you know all the great clubs there?" I recommended a visit to The Tower of London where my brother-in-law had connections. She thanked me with a little touch on my left side. But I felt no thrill. Next we were introduced to Misty's opposite number, Nikki Sinn, a big broad-shouldered (but beautifully proportioned) girl-woman wearing nothing but black leather boots.
Nikki advanced on me, her thick and sturdy thighs slotted into her hips and calf muscles-as if assembled from a heavenly construction kit. I almost didn't spot her huge twin breast turrets with their rivet nipples pointing. "Pleased to meet you, really", she rasped at me and I had to lean back athletically in order to shake her hand. She was offering me herbal tea and a dunking biscuit when the bell rang for action. Jim and I strolled back as casually as we could to the little bar while Pecker and Miss Ravenscroft gave us a quick resumé of the plot: "Diane and Ken are married . . . All he desires is a good orgasm, a bowl of ice cream, and Diane beside him as he watches Monday night football on a 50 inch screen with surround-sound . . . But she wants some spice and so off she goes to experiment with lipstick lesbians and even full bull-dykes . . . strap-on dildos, toys, lap-dancing, the whole shebang . . . But that's for later this afternoon . . . Right now we're gonna shoot a straight sex scene taking place on top of the bar between Diane and a fantasy man . . ."
The bar, so stygian before, was now lit by a concentrated battery of lights. Men and machinery were encamped in a circle around the bar-top. I was reminded of an illuminated Nativity tableau. Michael Zen sat back in the shadows, looking into a TV monitor, notes on his lap. He nodded his head to indicate that Jim and I should press forward for a good view when the action began. "My friends, all I ask of you is that you stay clear of JD and his very mobile camera. Mark my words, he and his crew will be on the move constantly . . ." Suddenly he grew serious, even somber.
"Action!" Just as in a regular film a clapper boy steps out to mark the scene. I stand on tip-toes to get a full view: Misty Rain, now completely nude and shaved in all the right places, is lying on the bar with one leg arched. Suddenly from out of the shadows appears a young man. He has clipped black hair and the classic bland face of a model. He is nude and is in tip-top shape--firm chest, firm legs, firm buttocks. The way American males used to look in the 40s and 50s-these days they're mostly butterballs. He vaults onto the bar-with not a wobble from his body (but with a graceful swinging from between his legs)-and joins Misty. He begins by licking up and down her legs. The camera, manned by a paunchy fellow in jungle fatigues, hovers above on a zig-zaggy crane operated by a young woman in baggy clothes, chewing gum. Misty starts to moan as the stud (he must be the man with the trouser trouble who we saw on the street) noses into her mid-region. I notice that her breasts, perfectly shaped balloons, have gleaming metal rings hanging from the nipples. There is silence from the watchers. Are any of them feeling trouser-strain? It's the last thing on my mind. I hear traffic going by in the street and that's a good thing.
Suddenly our silence is broken by orders from Michael Zen. "Move in close, JD, so we can see the desire". I didn't know that directors can talk through the action, I thought that went out with the coming of sound. "Bring in the pussy light!" A grey-bearded old man who had been crouching under the camera emerges with a tiny hand light and thrusts it towards where the stud's tongue was flicking before it disappeared inside Misty. "Let's have a close-up of the tongue as it goes in and out, in and out of the pussy! . . . Long tongue, long tongue!" Zen is the DW Griffith of erotic fantasy films-I must tell him later. "We're on you, dear-let me see that head go back-that's a good sport-now look into the bar as if Ken is there-pull on his hair . . . Good-now Billy, get some saliva down there-I want to see strings of saliva . . . JD! Pick up on the pubic hair . . . watch out you don't hit his balls . . . long licks . . . don't lose your energy, children . . . more sound, please . . . something different than "ummms" and "yeahs", Misty . . . I like your positions, Billy . . . Misty, keep your legs arched-we're still filming for cable audiences . . . Tell me when you need a break. We have all kinds of beverages for you--and, of course, baby wipes." Zen's directions are interrupted by a crash. The elaborate crane system, enabling the camera to snake around and peep into any nook or cranny or orifice of the couple, has collapsed. Dumbbells, vital to the crane balance, roll around the floor and have to be retrieved by the chewing gum woman. Billy and Misty fall about laughing. "Baby wipes, anybody?", asks Zen."Ian, come and sit at my side". He proceeds to talk to me about "Citizen Kane" and the film course he teaches, while the crew re-balance the dumbbells on the crane, and the camera is reloaded. Jim is looking at another Asian girl who has appeared, readying for this afternoon's lesbian orgy scene. The clapper boy is reading "The Los Angeles Times". Miss Ravenscroft is munching a bagel. I am supposed to be listening to Zen but I'm not: I'm transfixed by Billy, the stud.
He's standing by the bar, sideways, bottom clenched, hips stuck forward, and he's manipulating his penis in a workmanlike manner. Penis--too Latin, too dry dictionary. Dong -- too comic. Cock--a little better, but not much. No word can describe what I now see: a splendid, thick, ripe, banana-bent but reddish-brown shaft with a pulsing wide vein running up the side, leading to a beautiful mushroom head that is nodding, nodding like flowers do in romantic poems. Meanwhile, beneath the shaft are two delicious ripe plums gently swaying as if to say, "Easy now--we are all part of God's works and will perform our ancient magic in good time".
I realize that Billy is only doing his job, as a stoker on a ship might grease some rods or shovel coal into a boiler, but Billy's quivering rampant prick (to use a coarse word) is greater than a work tool. It is Life, it is Art--it is the Be-all and The End-all. If only one could own Billy's entire tackle and keep it safe and primed forever! I wouldn't want Billy, or any Billys or Jasons or Bruces or Zanes, because you can be sure they'd talk of rock or New Age or macrobiotic diets or the latest trends. All I want is the cock itself, to treasure forever. There'd be none of the complications that the other body parts bring.
"Right, children!", snaps Zen, waking me from my reverie. "Let's go for some internal probing--and then, with any luck, for the pop shot." Billy is now fully-primed and rampant-ready, a magnificent picture of soldierly sturdiness--the cock quivers and shines. So clean and well-maintained. As is Misty Rain. No obnoxious smells from them when they're working, only the reassuring smell of nursery unguents. What if Billy has a sudden attack of the squitters? Does he have a last name? "He's of little importance", says Zen. "In a straight show like this the men are merely servicers, functionaries. Billy does a workmanlike job and can pop to order--that's why he's always working. I use him in my gay movies too, because he performs without emotion--are we ready, children?--and doesn't seek romance like my gay actors do. My dear, it's a positive soap opera with some of those divas! I like your lighting, JD--reminds me of a forties film noir. Perhaps a little smoke, too . . ."
Now we reach the solid meat of the movie: on the word "action" Billy shoves his engine inside Misty's crotch and starts thrusting in a fast but regular motion. She gets into a series of gymnastic positions as if working out at a health club. Every now and then Billy retracts for some sucking from Misty. "Strands of saliva!" orders Zen. "Get in close, JD, for some hard-core!" He whispers to me: "No time for second takes when they get hard and horny. You must grab your shot fast . . ." Billy is back inside, thrusting for all he's worth. Oops! He stops and snaps his fingers: "Condom!" I never realized he'd been wearing a johnny all this time. Now, in the excitement of the action, it has torn. A youth in a baseball cap appears, carrying a long box which he opens and presents to Billy. As if selecting a cigar or a tea bag, Billy gets his new rubber. Then it's back into the fray, with Misty spreadeagled on the bar and Billy crouch-balanced over her in the military push-up position. "Work out! But if your knees hurt tell me!" shouts Zen. "Now assume the doggy position". This back-passage stuff I don't care for. Just as when child-birth is described to me, I feel I'm the victim. The pain is awful and can lead to fainting. "I think our man is coming to the pop!", calls out the chewing gum woman from the crane. "Then extract, extract!" orders Zen to Billy. Why it's necessary in straight porno to show the cock shooting is a mystery to me. I must question Zen about this important matter, later. It's all rather contradictory. Or does it prove what my gay friends claim--that all heteros are closet queens or, at least, interested in the homo-erotic?
Anyway, out comes the magnificent, now glistening and shuddering instrument, and off comes the rubber johnny. At this moment Delysia Ravenscroft approaches me with a tray of little chocolate madeleines. "Baked 'em myself--just look at the fluting", she instructs. "Dunk it in that coffee". Not wishing to upset my hosts I do so, but all the while I'm watching the cock. It appears to have grown bigger and brighter since I first saw it-- positively radiant and exuding an ancient godlike aura--and Billy is pumping away professionally with a red face full of grim determination.
Zen leans over to me: "Let us hope, my friend, that the goods can be produced swiftly so that we can proceed to the more enjoyable business of lunch". As Billy slaves, Zen decides on an artistic touch. Addressing the cameraman who has been whizzing about on his special cranes, he screams: "JD, let's utilize the photogenic possibilities of Misty's buttocks. Let's think John Ford--close in on Misty's buttocks and remain there till the first load falls . . . Yes, yes . . . Oh, that's so beautiful . . . like craters of the moon or the velvet hills of Oklahoma . . . alabastine . . . Misty! Undulate, dearie, undulate! This is a motion picture . . ." Misty slowly waggles her bottom as Billy wanks away. "Anyone for baby wipes or bottled water?"
Finally, after perhaps only a minute and with just the tiniest beads of sweat on his brow, Billy gives birth to the required pop. Zen heaves a sigh of relief. "Excellent work! Now rub your dick on her buttocks . . . Very good . . . Gentlemen, you may come in for still shots". Several cameramen surround the exhausted couple and coax them into poses re-creating their recent acts. "This is where the spinoff money is generated. Ancillary photo rights garner us revenue worldwide". Noticing my surprise at his having dropped the aesthetic mode he'd been using up till now, Zen quickly follows with: "Let us feast-- I can recommend the pasta pesto".
We ate lunch off a parking crate, Zen and me and a man called Zak (who had materialized from the darkness into which everyone else, including Jim, had disappeared). Zak looked older than me or Zen; he seemed to have been around the block several times and had the grids of facial lines to prove it. First off he produced a salt and pepper shaker set in the shape of elegant penises complete with golf ball-sized balls. Then, when we were well tucked into our lunch, he started, without any cue from me, a stream of information which he reeled off at such speed and with such precision that I more than suspected he'd dealt with people like me countless times before:
"Michael has many types of arrow in his quiver, you know. He has made lots of documentaries on all kinds of subjects. For example, his film on tattooing is considered a classic of its kind--he showed one man with Dante-like flames shooting from his ass. Another had butterflies round his balls. He is as much at home in the straight as in the gay scene. A dick is a dick is a dick, to paraphrase the poet. But as to the question of why there's so much erect dick in a hetero movie the answer is simple: the customers want to know that what we're shooting is for real. Now this afternoon we'll be concentrating on a bull-dyke orgy with plenty of toys involved and much lap-dancing. Michael will, of course, put an artistic spin on proceedings, because it's necessary to be several notches above the 75 other adult movie outfits in the San Fernando valley. Michael, you know, can talk Fellini or De Sica . . ." "Oh do shut up, Zak!" cut in Zen. "You're taking all the joy, all the fun, out of this business. Go and fetch me some more pesta and tell Billy he's finished for the day-I can see him still working desperately with his unit, poor devil".
The disgraced Zak was replaced by Delysia who wanted to remind Zen that this afternoon's scene would be in the club's show room and that although there'd be little dialogue beyond the usual "oohs" and "aaahs" she'd procured some really archetypal lesbians to act as audience "Straight from Fantasy Casting-berets and heavy tweed, riding britches, you name it. One of the dykes smokes a meerschaum pipe!" "You know," said Zen, tapping me on the knee, "At moments like this I feel like Judas on Resurrection morning-eternally grateful. Thank you, thank you, Delysia darling!". I was enjoying a blueberry danish pastry when Delysia started on about her philosophy of life: "All of us are only on loan from God and eventually we're returned to His storeroom. The restitution of all things . . ." Thank God that Zen suddenly got up, clapped his hands and shouted, "Come now, kiddies-let's get down to some solid sucking and fucking!"
And now into my head there sprung a magnificent epiphany: a headless well-built naked body offering me any cake, sausage, fried onion, beer or wine I desired; and any kind of sexual permutation, too. This perfect body having no head there was, therefore, no brain and thus no ideas, no theories, no rules of government to get in the way. The day with Zen and his porno people had brought about this wonderful image of Truth and the promise of Life.
This was the meaning of that great American motto: "The Pursuit Of Happiness". Washington had started it, Clinton was presently paying for it.
The rest of the afternoon at "Martini Lounge" was a daze of activity, of the slapping of titties and bottoms, of tongues flicking up orifices, of bull-dykes in berets egging on the Asian girls (directed by Zen with such questions as, "Wouldn't you just love to go Dutch and put your finger up a dyke?"), of Nikki Sinn resplendent in black boots over muscular thighs and with her whip at the ready and a giant dildo strapped to her waist ("Do you approve of this one, Michael?", "I've no opinion-all dildos terrify me"), of JD rushing around on his fluid camera crane, pushed by the chewing-gum woman (who was able to eat sandwiches at the same time), followed by the older man with the pussy light ("Get closer to the hole, JD!", "Any closer and I'll be right inside!" "Exactly, JD, exactly!"), of Zen nudging me to offer his headphones ("Listen to the slurping of saliva in hi-fi"), and then, as a six-way lesbian tangle was reaching its climax, of the sound of a sneeze followed by a fart. Everybody broke out into their own peculiar laughter. Except for me. "Experience the joy of our business", said Zen gently to me. Then he ordered a break.
"You see", he said to me, as we shared a toasted bagel, "you must realize that while we may enjoy a little laugh every now and then, our customers in the world at large take our work extremely seriously, sitting alone in their homes as we work up their fantasies. We bring solace to the physically-challenged. Why, my own doctor prescribes my films to help couples with marital problems. We are doing good work". And he pressed my hand gently. What I really wanted was a bit part in one of his films, but I said nothing.
At five o'clock Zak came up to tell Zen that Misty was "ready and lubed and prepped for DP". What was DP, I asked. "My dear boy", said Zen, "your ingenuousness is most attractive. Or is it disingenuousness?" Zak gave me a horrid look. "We are talking double penetration", he said, giving each syllable a different note. The announcement, DP, had the effect of producing people I'd thought were forever lost in the darkness: Pecker re-appeared, so did Jim. "This is what our lonely customers really enjoy", said Zen. "This is the icing on the cake".
But I took one look at the men involved-two British louts, built like bulls and equipped with genitals that hung too low and reminded me of things neanderthal, slimy and scarred, of the earth, of the mud-and I begged to leave, saying I had a pressing appointment. Was it because I was squeamish about what they were embarked upon? Or was it because they were British, and therefore anti-romantic and down-to-earth. I feared that, if we were introduced, they would be quickly onto my game. "But they're your fellow countrymen", protested Pecker. Jim said he'd see me next week at the salon. Zen added that he'd like to come, too. "Perhaps I'll bring some of my actors-and their families". Their families? "Yes, you see we have husbands and wives and children. Don't look surprised-we are an American business like any other business, and when we play I assure you we leave our work behind us . . ."
What a big salon it will be! But will I be there?
Ian Whitcomb is a highly respected performer,
composer, and music historian. You can find all of his CD's, DVD's, Books, and
Songbooks by clicking here,
or by going to ianwhitcomb.com