For years I'd dreaded every trip Iever had to make to Los Angeles. Of course, context is everything. I'd rarely gone simply for fun, mostly to work. Everything that everyone says to me there I translate into droll dialogue from a Dashiell Hammett novel. It's how I see the sexuality there. The appetite for power and beauty is compelling yet caustic, and definitely implied in all that is done and seen. On this particular trip, I'm up for some play time, so I've engaged my dear chum Barnes to come crawling around with me to catch the energy of the gay bar scene. Barnes is a fellow Canadian who's been living here for over six years and has become quite well known in L.A. circles as the gay it-boy singer. On our first night out, it's pissing rain. Long car rides through deserted streets end nowhere exciting. Feels like foreplay, waiting for something to happen -- but what?
But the next night I find the kind of energy that starts to do something to me. The kind of foreplay that makes my skin come alive and my heart race.
We go to a leather bar in Silver Lake where Barnes is playing. The late-night event is called Freak Show, and tonight they're celebrating the letter "B." All performers and performances have a "B" in them. The outside smoking area is jammed even though it's a chilly night by their standards. There I bump into into an acquaintance who tells me he's doing his first fist-fucking demonstration, and he's a little nervous. Yeah, well, that's certainly something to have performance anxiety about. He reminds me not to tell anyone -- as if I'd go around the bar telling strangers that the butt-fucking demonstrator is in fact a novice.
I bump into more friends of Barnes I met on an earlier trip -- two very smart and witty artists, one of them a writer for the series Will & Grace. He's got a line for everything. We're surrounded by people in costumes all portraying characters starting with the letter "B." Behind us is Buddha, a beautiful bald bellyful of a man sitting sweetly in a yoga position, accepting the kisses and attentions of all the men who come to pay homage to his illustrious cock.
In front of me in a plastic see-through tent by the beer fridge is a performance artist going by the moniker Backdoor Barbie. She's wearing pink pasties on her nipples and a slim matching pink thong. Black hair in ponytails and a beautifully placed fake beauty mark, à la Marilyn. Not even gay, I'm sure, but here everything feels like an illusion or a scene left on the editing-room floor from the film Eyes Wide Shut.
In Backdoor Barbie's performance, a customer slips a dollar bill into a slot by the tent and Barbie mimes sexual advances by rubbing her breasts and slipping her hand in between her legs. She's compelling to watch, but she's not getting much action since we're surrounded by men who aren't turned on by the curves of a woman's body. I convince myself that I should support this peculiar brand of performance art. After all, I appreciate art, right? So I slide my dollar through the opening ($1.56 Canadian a dance). This better be good. I'd considered sliding in a loonie, but decided I couldn't bear the humiliation of being ignored by Backdoor Barbie if by chance she considered it insufficient.
She makes direct eye contact with me and does her Barbie mime thing. In the middle of something quite suggestive, her motions stop and she signals me to drop another dollar in. OK. I realize I'm hooked. This isn't performance art, it's the art of seduction. How far will Backdoor Barbie go, I wonder? How far will I go? Is it the money that binds us in this unbreakable moment? I notice she has not broken eye contact with me for a second.
The boys are starting to squirm in the intensity of watching. I can feel them getting caught in the spell. It's a very voyeuristic moment for all of us -- we're riveted by her snakelike belly-dancing movements. Meantime, the Will & Grace writer is doing sideline commentary as the boys stand ringside.
All of a sudden, her hand dances up to her face and she calls me closer to her with her finger. "Come closer to the plastic," sez her slender dancing digit. OK. So I notice my heart is kind of beating. This is a good sign. It still works. We're caught in a slow-moving current of electricity and desire. Toward the plastic I travel, held by the hypnotic bond of our locked gaze. The seconds become hours, and the motion of coming together is exquisitely pleasurable.
The boys are caught in the spell she's woven around us all. Her beautiful full painted lips land on the plastic at the same time as mine, and we kiss. There's no barrier between us except the plastic tent. It's so hot. The whole seduction has lasted less than a minute. Oh, my god, I think. I just kissed a girl in a plastic tent. Barbie in a bubble.
Of course, the kiss completes the act. I thank her for her performance and she smiles gratefully, knowing I took it all in. The foreplay, baby. It's all in the foreplay. Even the boys are breathing hard. Right at that moment our friend Barnesy hits the stage and ignites the house with his own raw in-your-face sexuality and his beautiful voice. The crowd goes crazy, and I'm still smiling from my kiss with Backdoor Barbie. The gig is a great success, and I hang around while he signs CDs, but I leave five minutes into the butt-fucking demo. I couldn't stop thinking how nervous my chum Joe looked.