Together five years, Annie Sprinkle, prostitute/porn-star-turned-PhD-sexologist, performer and educator, and Elizabeth Stephens, chair of the University of Santa Cruz's art department, experimental artist, sculptor and photographer, are lovely - giddy and intelligent. They make each other laugh wildly.
Cuddled on a huge red heart rug on the cover of Buddies in Bad Times' Pride Guide, their affection seems genuine, transcending the Valentine aesthetic.
The couple is engaged in a seven-year project exploring love as art. Exposed: Love, Sex, Death And Art, their full-scale show at Buddies Wednesday and Thursday (June 20 and 21), complete with on-stage sex, is part of that project.
Your show details a lot of your personal and intimate life. What do you keep private? What won't you do on stage?
Beth: We'll do anything for art. Privacy is an illusion nowadays.
You have both worked in a lot of artistic forms. Does anything remain consistent in your work?
Annie: All of our work is about enjoyment and sexuality, about finding deep meaning in love.
Beth: I just read an interview with Kevin Costner where he said, "With no love there's no meaning."
Annie: We're reclaiming love from Hallmark and New Age. We're creating work about love that's not schmaltzy.
Beth: Really, it's about refusing the commercialization of love.
This is the first Canadian date for your show, which is anti-war and pro-gay marriage. Do you expect anything different from a Canadian audience?
Annie: Canadians are sexier.
Beth: They'll understand how idiotic the American laws are.
If you were going to do something completely out of the ordinary for you, something not about love or sex, what would it be?
Beth: I'd make a film about the joys of bellies. A big-belly revolution based on Gertrude Stein's Lifting Belly. We spent the day drawing each other's bellies. We love them.
Annie: I'd probably do a cooking show.
Beth: It all comes back to big bellies!
Does anything scare you?
Beth: I'm more afraid of one of us dying than of us breaking up.
Annie: If we get into "what ifs" it can get scary.
Any role models?
Annie: John and Yoko, Sonny and Cher... who broke up. All of our role models have broken up!
Beth: No, Gertrude and Alice.
Annie: Siegfried and Roy, they broke up.
Beth: No, they didn't.
You're trying to spread love? Are you also trying to piss anyone off?
Beth: We love conservatives, too. We think conservatives need a lot of love.