(FRIENDS - I did my best not to go overboard, but let's all agree to assume that most of these links are at least *technically* NSFW, ok?)
"Hi, um, is this where I get the tickets for the Masquerade?"
The girl across the counter gave me a bored look, raising her eyebrows as she approached. "You mean for the Midsummer Night's Dream," she said by way of correction. "Yep."
For some reason or another, the only place I could purchase tickets for this event was at a sex shop, which made things awkward. It's not like I was in any way a novice at being in porn shops -- and this happened to be an exceptionally upscale sex shop at that. But I wasn't in the custom of making conversation with the people who worked in them, much less asking for their assistance of any kind.
However, she was far more comfortable with the situation than I was, in her cat's eye glasses, retro sailor tats and ill-fitting pistachio-green tee-shirt, all of which screamed, "too cool for you scenester".
"One?" she assumed.
"Yup," I said, feeling smaller by the second.
The printer spat the tickets out, I handed over my $35 (!!!!!), and out the door I went, not even bothering to check out any other merchandise in the store.
(Within maybe 5 minutes, I felt the need to correct this, so I pulled the rental car up to one of Atlanta's never-ending choices of low-brow adult boutiques to check things out. Immediately, some little old creep approached me, and apropos to nothing at all, blurts out, "Fuckin' women. Ole O.J. had the right idea all along."
I turned slightly, looked over him for a split second, and forced an empathetic smirk that made me feel a little queasy. Taking this as an invitation to converse more freely, this little weirdo asks me if I'd ever been to the lingerie shop next door. "They won't let ya touch em, but they sure will get close to ya."
No matter how curious this statement was -- and it's a doozy, for sure -- I declined to inquire. Instead, I put down whatever it was I'd been considering buying and got the hell out of the store, wondering the entire time exactly WHAT IS IT with this weird town.)
The hours passed and I'm sure I wasted each of them in anticipation of my porno star party that night. Eventually, I trucked on down to the neighborhood where the club was at to see if I could maybe find the Varsity for a quick bite, then try and be there when the doors opened. (Such a rookie move).
But when I hit the neighborhood, I freaked. There was a line of maybe 50 men already formed, and the place wasn't scheduled to open for another half hour. This was crazy! In desperate fear of missing something, I threw all common sense to the wind, parked the car in the first paid lot I could find and rushed on over to the gate so I could stand in line in the Atlanta summer heat with a whole bunch of other dudes.
This was utterly nonsensical.
Mind you, this was a few years before the wide availability of Internet porn...a time when the concept of porn was slightly more stigmatizing and sleazier, and when the porn-consuming community truly was a cult collection of misfits, freaks and losers. And here I was, sweating my butt cheeks together with them all.
The absurdity of it all became even more clear when one of the starlets scheduled to appear that evening briefly came out of the club to deliver water to the crowd control employees. A cheer of hoots and whistles arose, immediately followed by the chant of "Ron! Ron! Ron!" - an ultimately futile evocation of the nights emcee, Mr. Ron Jeremy.
(I overheard one particularly self-aware enthusiast asking his friends, "Y'all think its weird that we're 20 feet from Coral Sands, but the only person we're excited about is Ron Jeremy?" I pondered this for the rest of the evening, and even occasionally to this day).
Impressively enough, the doors opened shortly thereafter, and the party got rolling on schedule.
First up on the agenda was a band which was unfortunately hired to warm up the crowd, then to play in between "sets" of Mr. Jeremy's emcee/comedy duties, and the obligatory parading of porn stars onto the stage to tease the crowd.
They were talented for sure, but they played a long-winded set of mathy, vaguely Rush-style rock which only made the crowd surly and impatient. Towards the end of their first set, a young, muscular African American man behind me bellowed out "GET THE FUCK OFF THE STAGE!" He and the people around him grinned mischievously, but they clearly spoke for the crowd, which was growing more hostile by the moment.
Finally, the Hedgehog took the stage to a wild, cheering ovation. I can't remember much of his material, but I do recall being impressed with his jokes, his improv, and his timing. What can you say....the guy's a legend.
He did four or five minutes of material, then brought out a few starlets at a time to get the crowd rowdy. After another five or ten minutes of teasing the boys with half-hearted boob flashes, Jeremy would come back and introduce the band again. After another excruciating set (for the crowd as well as the performers, I surmise), Ron Jeremy would waddle back on stage and repeat the process.
I'm not saying that it wasn't fun or exciting, because it was. But the evening was also a shit show of the highest degree.
Sure I got to see Shane's precious butt crack when she crouched down while dancing on stage. From the back of the club I thought I saw the diminutive Rebecca Lord pull up her skirt for the masses. Later, a bloated and rather unattractive Kaitlyn Ashley stumbled onto the stage and made a whole lot of gestures to the crowd that were, frankly, kind of gross (only men in KISS are supposed to have tongues that freakishly long).
Then, some African American performer with extreme breast implants attempted to perform her soon-to-be-released "hit single" only to have to restart twice when her dance routine forced her to miss her cue. After that, a lanky Christi Lake took the stage to solicit applications for new talent for her upcoming ame-pro video concept.
the night was kind of going nowhere, and maybe an hour into the show the cops showed up and issued a warning about the nudity (...of which there really wasn't much, but the rules are the rules, I guess).
Things were tamer for much of the rest of the night, and the crowd thinned just slightly. In fact, at some point during one of Ron Jeremy's sets, I'd found enough room to get myself up near the front of the stage. Surveying the crowd around me, I noticed that I somehow was standing directly next to 1980's legend P.J. Sparxx...whom I'd been told by no less of an authority than PornMaster-T, had "the greatest ass in the entire adult entertainment industry."
This was an odd twist, as the vast majority of the performers this evening were not really socializing with the crowd. But there she was next to me. She might have smelled like a mixture of perfume and cigarettes, and she might have been sporting a brand new set of fake breasts, and she might have been shorter and more broad-shouldered than I'd expected her to be, but in her conservative green sweater-shirt and floor-length black skirt the women was something of a vision. I believe that she was probably the only woman all night who I would call beautiful.
I smiled to her. To my surprise, she smiled back at me.
This was unexpected.
I asked myself what was happening. Was I connecting with a porn star? Where could this go? Was the impossible about to happen? Would we talk? Would I go home with her? And had I just found the crucial professional connection who could help get me out of the Yellow Pages business and into a career field more suited to what I considered to be my natural talents and God-given gifts?
These thoughts had little time to materialize, as she looked directly past me and flashed a huge Cheshire cat smile. Still grinning, I turned around to follow her gaze, only to notice a split second later that she was posing for a professional photographer who had been covering the event.
There I was, standing close enough to a porn star that I could feel her breath on my shoulder (...ew), grinning like an idiot, and getting my picture taken by "industry media". No doubt, the editors at AVN News couldn't be bothered to crop out my goofy-ass mug, and somewhere in a back issue from 1997 there's a picture of P.J. with my dumb scarecrow face looming above her.
I prefer not to give this much thought.
It really didn't take long for the party to wrap up. Ron Jeremy said good night, the stars waved good night, and the band declined to play a final set. The place was emptying out, and most everyone had lost interest in the novelty of the evening some time ago. Like the rest of the trip, this evening had been a great disappointment.
I spotted the skinny, bespectacled guitar player of the band dragging his amp off the stage and I moved forward to offer a word of encouragement, from one musician to another. I was in a mathy-rock band of my own, called the Queegs, and I thought that perhaps if he ever toured the D.C. area we could work together for a gig.
"Hey man, you sounded good tonight."
"Thanks," he said smiling in a kind of shell shocked way.
"Listen, do you think you'll ever play D.C.? Cuz I'm actually in this band, and...."
"Or L.A.??? Are you gonna play L.A.? You guys need to play L.A.!!!"
I had been interrupted by one of the performers from that evening, an attractive, petite blond who had exposed her bolt-on breasts earlier in the evening (Despite my troubling, nearly encyclopedic knowledge of 90's porn, I have no idea who this young woman was).
"Actually, we are playing L.A. in October," the guitar player said, brightening up but still dazed by the circumstances of the evening.
"Can I help you with your stuff?" she asked him, gesturing to the mountain of equipment that his band was loading out.
"Sure," he said, shrugging at me in a way that dictated that our conversation would have to end now. It seemed like a fitting end to the night, and to the trip.
Defeatedly trudging back to the bar, I settled my tab and headed to the doors.
And that is exactly when I ran into Ron Jeremy, who was headed to the bar I was leaving.
I didn't want the night to be a total bust. I wanted to have a story - any story - about something awesome that had happened in Atlanta. And so I approached him and said the very first thing that popped into my head.
Extending my hand, I smiled and announced, "Sir, I just wanted to say that I love your work."
He stared at me for a very long time, saying nothing. It gave me a chance to really look the guy over. He was impossibly short and overweight. He was unshaven, and his porn-stache needed a trim, as did his hair. He was dressed in brown corduroy pants and a Hawaiian shirt, and he was carrying....of all things....a crocheted hand bag.
He was a legend of adult film, and he looked like nothing quite so much as a wino.
We held our stare for another second and he smiled slightly as he shook my hand. (He has very soft hands.....).
He said nothing, but his weary smile told the story of a tired man who would thank me if he could. But he would prefer if I would get out of his way.
Defeated once more, I found my rental car and headed back to my hotel room, disgusted with how I'd spent my vacation, and wondering if a stop at the Tattle-Tail would make things better, or make them worse.
The answer, if you're curious, is not "better."