Having just returned from a lost weekend in Amsterdam, I think it is my casual duty to remind everyone that we're virtually living in a police state here in the Americas. How strange and wonderful is it to walk down the street puffing on a fat joint as big as a cigarillo in front of a couple of innocuous cops who obviously have even less important things to worry about? How civilised is it to sit in a cafe called Belmondo, whose walls are covered with nothing but likenesses of the debonair French icon, and leaf lethargically through a marijuana menu, choosing your poison by virtue of colour and texture and smell? How deliberately decadent is it to be able to order balloon hits of nitrous oxide at a bar and float off into oblivion for a few seconds without anyone looking at you askance? No really, I'd much rather live in a locale like Toronto in which your only option is to drag your carcass a mile across town to buy an unreasonably tax-heavy bottle of liquor before the store closes at 6 p.m. What is this, prohibition? (You'll have to excuse my excessive use of irony, which I recently condemned in another publication, but when I get angry I feel I have no choice but to use it as a rhetorical device.)
Anyway, I'm being flown to Amsterdam to appear on a new British chat show produced by Channel 4 calledSweet Talk , dedicated entirely to the subjects of sex and pornography, two increasingly trendy and seemingly mutually exclusive enterprises. (I'm thinking, for example, ofThe Blair Witch Project , a piece of pornography - a snuff film, in fact - that contains absolutely no sex whatsoever.) As I can never turn down a free drink or a free airplane ticket - the latter doubly seductive since it also presupposes the former - I readily agree to the gig, providing they also cover the cost of three nights in a hotel. The producers put me up in a four star affair which, although located in a rather remote part of town, amply compensates for its inconvenience by offering a king-size water bed and Jacuzzi. I'm a sucker for the amenities.
After a brief, rollicking nap, I'm chauffeured with the other guests to a posh restaurant to meet with the host and producers of the show. Had I not had a conflict and been able to appear on the premier taping several weeks earlier, I understand I would have appeared on my segment with either Mother Theresa-bashing bad boy journalist Christopher Hitchens or the Happy Hooker herself, Xaviera Hollander, who actually now lives in Amsterdam and apparently weighs over three hundred pounds. The guests with whom I will now be appearing are somewhat more obscure, but interesting in their own right: one of them, Miriam Kruishoop, a stunning young Dutch woman, recently directed a film starring Udo Kier and Helmut Berger playing brothers; another is Diran Adebayo, a handsome Nigerian author living in London who recently published his second novel.
I end up sitting beside Diran and we strike up a conversation about race, one of my favourite topics, probably because it has come to supplant sex and religion as the most inappropriate of subjects suitable for genteel conversation. I immediately inform him that my latest movie is a gay porno about neo-Nazi skinheads that played in London several weeks ago amidst protest from certain members of the black community, particularly coming from a newspaper calledThe Voice . Diran tells me that as a former journalist he used to write forThe Voice , a fact that I find most extraordinary. What are the chances that a white filmmaker accused of racism would be seated next to a black journalist who once wrote for the very paper that has recently condemned him? How I love fate's fickle fingering. Diran seems rather dismissive of the paper's claims; he informs me that it has become a somewhat reactionary, tabloid-ish publication that doesn't often bother to stop and examine the real issues that it exploits for the sake of notoriety.
Soon the entire table of ten is embroiled in a discussion about race, as it must inevitably do when the whites outnumber the blacks ten to one. Despite the fact that London is renowned for its high percentage of mixed race marriages, endemic racism is, according to Diran, still the order of the day. He lives his life almost exclusively in the company of other blacks, and finds that there is much less social integration than one might expect. One of the producers pleads her case for the modern British white citizen who wants nothing more than to abolish all differences between the races and live as one big happy family, but Diran bristles. This type of integration does not generally involve the equal sacrifice of cultural difference, but rather the capitulation of the perceived minority to the cultural practices of the white majority.
It amazes me how carefully liberals frame any discussion about race, pussy-footing around the subject lest they be accosted by the dreaded epithet: racist. Whenever I'm accused of racism, I have to ask the question - which is probably totally spurious - how racist can someone be who has fucked (or more precisely, been fucked by) literally hundreds of black men? I've encountered many straight liberals who advocate the integration of the races, but who have never actually practised what they preach on a more practical level. These are the same bleeding hearts who argue long and hard against the notion that black men tend to be more generously endowed than white men without having absolutely any anecdotal information to back it up. They would probably also have you believe that whites can rap as well as blacks, and are equally adept at basketball. Technically, any acknowledgement of difference between the races, whether culturally or biologically determined, is racist, but it doesn't necessarily follow that such a belief is predicated on a prejudiced or hateful point of view.
Meanwhile, back at the meal, Diran makes the bold statement that not only does he believe that cultural difference and a certain amount of racial segregation should be preserved, but that the apprehension that some whites feel towards blacks - the fear of a black planet, as it were - isn't necessarily a bad thing. As someone whose publicist once referred to him as "coloured" in his own press release, he enthusiastically provides examples of how white, homogenised culture tends only to acknowledge cosmetic differences between the races and completely ignores the profound historical, philosophical and spiritual specificity of each African nation. (Interestingly, Diran is quite the African nationalist, evincing a healthy competitiveness with his Caribbean brothers.) I try to draw a parallel with gay culture, which has been so thoroughly co-opted by the mainstream only by diminishing those subtleties and nuances of difference that are completely untranslatable, and by denying altogether its still very visible and hardcore behavioural extremes. I, too, argue for the continued existence of segregation, and against the liberal acceptance of something that is far too rich and interesting to be watered down for popular consumption. Fear of a gay planet!
After the meal the producers plead poverty and announce that everyone has to "go Dutch" (ha ha, big laugh). If only I were a little more famous so that I might announce brazenly that I have no money on me and forgot my credit cards, like celebrities always do when it comes time to pay the bill.
Later, at the aforementioned Belmondo Cafe, we get heavily into the blond beer and the juicy joints. For some reason the producers are far more generous when it comes to springing for the pints and the pot, so we get ridiculously high. When everyone finally decides to leave, Dirgin and I, who have been continuing our conversation intensely, announce that we are going to stay for another joint. Suddenly everyone raises a collective eyebrow. It's at moments like these that I rue the day I ever came out of the closet. I suppose it doesn't help that my reputation as an international gay pornographer proceeds me, but I still find it annoying that it's automatically assumed that I'm trying to seduce the black man, whom everyone knows is straight. Of course I probably am, but why does everyone have to assume it?
Of course now, when we continue our conversation alone, stoned out of our minds, the tiny seed of paranoia has been planted - that they will all assume the next day that the co-racist, anti-liberal minorities ended up in bed together - so things become a little awkward, and we're too high to sort out the confusion. We ride in awkward silence in the cab on the way back to the hotel, but before we retire to our separate rooms, Diran points out, after a stiff hug, what a great short story this would all make. I hope he writes it.
The following day the show goes on. The host, a young woman named Rowan with a very posh British accent who edits some erotic literary revue, is more nervous than her guests, who aren't nervous at all, so we end up having to put her at ease. The topics range from Nicole Kidman's nude body, to the movies Deep Throat andRomance , to pornographic Japanese anime. It's all very civilised - a bit too civilised - although I do manage to throw in a few bone mots, such as a reference to the recent scientific study that claims that gay men's penises are larger than straight men's. Another thing that Diran and I probably have in common.