Published Sep 01, 2001Now that Manhattan is a soulless hellhole with no discernible redeeming qualities filled with desperate, grasping people whose only raison d'etre is to make enough money so that they can brag about how successful they are to be able to live in New York because if you can make it there you can make it anywhere, I've gone back to my first mistress, Los Angeles, which of course never did have a soul, but at least she's never deigned to pretend otherwise, because dream factories really can't afford to have souls, otherwise they wouldn't be able to churn out with such fascistic precision the overblown spectaculars that most of us feel the need to cling to as a substitute for our own pathetic little lives. How's that for a sentence?
My pretext for jetting down to the capital of the Left Coast this time is to participate in a bizarre-even-by-my-standards event called "Platinum Oasis," a new adjunct to Outfest, the L.A. Fag Film Festival. This 18-hour performance spectacle has been masterminded by two of my oldest and dearest Los An friends, Ron Athey, the tattooed performance artist known for his ritualistic, quasi-religious staging of body modification and blood-letting, and Vaginal Davis, the six-foot-six black drag queen born under the shadow of the Tower of Watts. The idea is to take over a sleazy hotel called the Coral Sands on North Western between Hollywood and Franklyn for a weekend, giving each of its 40 rooms to a different artist to do whatever he or she desires under the umbrella theme of "Sexual Repulsive." The Coral Sands, which may be considered one step above (or perhaps below) a gay bathhouse, already has a reputation as being pretty sexually repulsive: once you've been buzzed in through the front reception area, you may witness be-towelled men wandering from room to room looking for cheap sex in the two-tiered interior while the smell of crack wafts from under closed doors. Naked men of questionable origin loll and gag in the courtyard sauna and pool.
I have a week in L.A. before the event to prepare for the show and to catch up with friends and avoid enemies. I'm staying at the Silverlake apartment of my friend Billy who has generously forked over his digs while he stays with his lovely girlfriend, Lisa Marie. The only catch is that he has a new foundling kitten named Porkchop with whom I must co-habitate, who happens to have a case of ringworm. Ringworm, of course, is not really a worm at all but a fungus, but it's still highly contagious and not very pleasant at all. Said kitty is likely past contagion, but there's still a minor risk. I decide to take the chance, informing Billy that he may be more concerned with what Porkchop could contract from me.
Billy, who drives a vintage El Camino, whisks me to Malibu so that we can catch up and I can watch him surf. As he paddles out to the point break, I can't help but nostalgically remember when he used to be my 17-year-old dyke production assistant, Emily. I have to admit, though, that Billy makes a handsome man, and he's one of the most stable people I know.
My friend D-J and I attend the premier and post-party of the new Larry Clark movie, Bully, which stars at least four acquaintances of mine: Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Leo Fitzpatrick, and Mike Pitt. When I approach Bijou, who is glued to her new boyfriend Sean Lennon, at the party, all she has to say to me is, "Where's Esthero?" referring to the ravishing red-headed Canadian chanteuse who introduced us. I'd just met up with Esthero the night before at Les Deux for a drink, but apparently tonight, without her, I'm nothing. So much for celebrity friends. D-J and I end up at the nearby Spotlight, the Hollywood hustler bar, watching the boys drive the old men crazy.
I spend much of the week consorting with Steve Hall, an art director I've worked with who is now toiling as a set designer in fashion for the likes of the Stevens Meisel and Klein. At 30 he's still the strapping San Diego surfer type, a bronzed beefcake whom everyone man, woman and child is constantly hitting on. His live-in boyfriend, Glen, has acquired a beer belly, venturing into bear territory, but they still make for one of the hottest couples in Silverlake. For my Platinum Oasis room I've decided to create a crime scene as if a snuff movie has just been shot there, with blood all over the walls and gore and guts spread hither and thither. As the room cannot be permanently damaged or stained, we have to come up with a way to dress it without altering it's lovely, high-class ambience of filth and decay. We head for Home Depot to buy the necessary supplies, to the butcher's for the gore intestines, brains, heart and lungs and to the supermarket for the ingredients for the blood, the recipe for which Steve has borrowed from Sam Raimi, director of Evil Dead, off the internet.
Two days before the event I contact a couple of porn agents, whose names I've been given by the editor of Unzipped magazine, a monthly male nudie, to find a victim for the snuff room. Steve and I head over to the West Hollywood home of the cheaper of the two agents, a middle-aged queen who represents some of the more mid-range porn stars. He leads us to his newly acquired computer to show us some of his talent, informing us that "you're going to cream" over this one or that one, or "this one's got a helluva cock." Gingerly perching on the corner of a couch, I scan the prospective models, finally deciding on one who is billed as the industry's only "Goth Porn Star." We figure that his black clothes and quasi-mohawk may make him more amenable to the rather gruesome scenario in which we will be expecting him to perform.
The following day, however, the agent calls to tell me that the Goth has cancelled owing to the fact that he's trying to get out of the business and has got himself a job as an extra on a movie. I have no choice but to contact the more high-end, more expensive agent, who represents the likes of Ryan Idol and other biggies. I explain to him the bloody concept, and that I've discussed with the editor of Unzipped the possibility of publishing the photos in their Halloween issue, so he directs me to his web site and suggests someone named Tiger who has stripes tattooed on his ribcage. Someone else catches my eye, however, a porn star named Jeremy Tucker, half black, half Puerto Rican, and all man. The agent says he'll have to get back to me, then calls and somewhat reluctantly informs me that I can hire Jeremy even though the agent personally loathes my concept. ("Can't you think of anything better?" he asks rudely.) He assures me Jeremy will arrive at the Coral Sands tomorrow at the specified time.
On the afternoon of the event Steve and I rush around taking care of last minute details like buying the beer and the E and then head to the Coral Sands to deck our halls. First we wallpaper the entire room with baby blue wallpaper; then we replace the sheets and lampshades with our own pre-bloodied ones; then we cover all the furniture with plastic. Finally Steve goes to work covering the room with bloody hand prints and Jackson Pollock-like drippings and pieces of gore. As a final touch he writes REDRUM in blood on the mirror. The final effect is chillingly authentic. The guests start to arrive at 4 p.m. and as they wander by our room, some are duly impressed, others duly horrified.
After calling to announce that he would be 20 minutes late, which in porn-speak means two hours, our porn star finally arrives. He's even more beautiful than his pictures, a muscular, handsome lad of 26. Steve covers him in blood as my camera assistant and I set up the lights, and we're ready to shoot the poor boy on the bed. Steve plays the perpetrator of snuff, wearing a Mighty Mouse mask pulled back tight with its ears pinned to the side of its head and alternately holding a machete and a shotgun. As the model gets hard and I start to snap the photos, bewildered attendees of the event begin to gather at the door and window to witness this sick spectacle. Nothing like a bloody crime scene to get people into party mode.
If you think our room is ill, you should get a load of some of the others. A couple of doors down from us is the "Plushie" room, in which people dressed in furry animal costumes put out for the public. It also doubles as the adult diaper room where guests can be diapered and powdered and wheeled around the hotel balcony in a baby carriage. I hear tell of another room in which a gay male and a heterosexual couple checked themselves into the hotel two weeks ago, logged onto the internet, and started inviting people over to have sex with them, which they videotaped. They took all comers, without discrimination, got them to sign release forms, and now on the night of the event are showing all the footage. Kembra Phahler is here with a female glory hole wall, and will be performing her "Wall of Vagina"; Vaginal Davis has the ultimate Bottom room in which boys lie face down on the bed in her room and play with their assholes while people watch from the window; there's even a room in which some cholo kids from South Central have built a jail cell to hold and torture their S & M captives. There really is something for the whole family.
Next month: Platinum Oasis rocks