Night of the living dominatrixes

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Oct. 31, 2002

Dear Patty,

The invitation arrived on a piece of paper that looked scorched and ancient. "My Dearest Ghouls," it began. "It has been almost a year since I last tasted the heady delights and pleasures of your company! I've grown weak and weary and need an infusion of my kind. It's time to gather you creatures of the night! ... Deeply, Master Charles."

Each Halloween our friend Charlie invites wild things to the cavernous former church he owns. The church is old, dimly lit and furnished in Charlie's own tastefully curious style: Sort of Fred Sanford meets Salvador Dali.

Charlie doesn't have to do a lot of decorating for Halloween. He brought in spider webbing, a casket and a palm reader who actually divines from dried chicken claws. Tables were laden with food and tubs were filled with drinks. But all you really need for a Halloween party are ghouls and princesses and dominatrixes and fairies and the couple from "Pulp Fiction" all dancing with each other.

Where I lived in Northern California, an artist named Hobart Brown was better known for his parties than for his metal sculptures. He lived and worked in a monstrous Victorian house in an odd little Victorian village called Ferndale. The house was creepy anyway and reportedly had a ghost. Little old ladies came to his gallery just to meet Hobart Brown, the bowler-topped, mustachioed, suspendered sculptor who was glad to turn off his blow torch to greet them and do some merchandising. He loved the attention.

But each Oct. 31, the house was closed to tourists and transformed into Brown's Halloween vision of the year.

I attended a party where couples were split up on entering. Men dressed like Arab royalty led the women away. Two women in harem costumes escorted each man to a room where they plied us with affection. Nothing untoward mind you, just a squeeze here, a peck there and sweet talk. You knew your girlfriend was getting similar treatment, though probably more manhandling, in her room.

The harem girls had questions. They even wanted to know what my favorite fantasy was.

Then each of us was blindfolded and led in what might have been circles. It was disorienting. Finally we were helped to lie down on something soft. Someone soft and warm was next to me. When the blindfold was removed I realized my girlfriend and I had been reunited.

It was as if we were in a psychedelic womb. All we could see of the dark room was gauzy material that shimmered with swirling lights. The harem girls returned and began dancing next to us, and the small mattress we were on began moving very slowly through more dark and diaphanous surroundings.

Suddenly the mattress speeded up. In a blink we both hurtled down a chute into a brightly lit room filled with bizarrely costumed people partying and watching the chute while an emcee with a microphone gleefully announced to everyone this couple's favorite fantasies.

The art to giving a good party is the art of making people feel comfortable in your home. Some of the best party givers -- Jay Gatsby, for example -- do that while remaining at the periphery of their own party. Charlie hasn't perfected Hobart Brown's knack for big entrances but he has Gatsby's habit of disappearing from his own party. Charlie knows how to make everyone else the center of attention.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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