Unless you live in a catacomb, you must have noticed that Halloween took on a distinctly adult tenor this year. Orlando's schedule of holiday parties and performances featured so many Bimbo Witches, dominatrices and Vampire Stripper Sluts from Hell that it appeared a vast conspiracy had been undertaken to turn an innocent, kid-friendly observance into something base and sordid.
And not a minute too soon, I say. Like theme parks, puppet shows and manslaughter, Halloween is a good idea that just loses something when children are allowed to play a central role.
Whiny, demanding trick-or-treaters were nowhere in sight last Saturday at Club La Vela, the multiroom complex that sits in the old Embassy/JJ Whispers spot on Adanson Road. When I arrived at 8 p.m., a tattooed barmaid in a black leather thong was headed inside, and two early-bird customers -- one a close-cropped punk with fake scabs all over his face, the other a stoner type who ingested beer and cigarettes through a full-head mask -- traded stories of their respective stays in the 33rd Street jail. Bad boys, to be sure; they hadn't even bothered to wear reflective clothing.
The club's doors were more than an hour late in opening, giving us all plenty of time to gossip. The best story maintained that the Electric Hellfire Club, who were scheduled to warm up the crowd for Florida's own Genitorturers, would not appear. They were behind bars in New Orleans, it was said, where they had been arrested earlier in the week on a drunk-and-disorderly charge. I'm not sure what you have to do to be pronounced disorderly in New Orleans, of all places, but I was pretty disappointed I wasn't going to see for myself.
The bail comes due
Once we were inside, the disenchantment vanished. A friend who was working the show told me that the Hellfire Club had indeed made it; it was the local NC-17 that had dropped out. In their place, 1st Degree took the stage to emit some churning rock, led by a guitarist who augmented his surfer-boy looks with a little black bra, panties and stockings for the occasion. A lone female voice called for him to take them off, but he ignored her and kept on playing.
While the music pumped, I checked out the numerous S&M booths set up around the club, wherein members of the AntiBabe fashion/performance troupe offered such indulgences as oil twisters and simulated golden showers for the low price of a buck or two per session. Near the back bar, a fellow with his shirt hiked up around his shoulders received a miniflaying from a mistress who wielded a cat o' nine tails. You know a party's going well when everyone can find a date.Upstairs in the Pussy Kat Lounge, hostesses in leopard-print outfits danced together erotically and poured hot wax on each other's bodies. Walking from scene to suggestive scene while silently taking it all in, I felt like Tom Cruise in "Eyes Wide Shut," except that no one was blocking my view and I wasn't worried that my wife was off somewhere having a better time.
Maybe their hoosegow stay had mellowed them a bit, but the Hellfire Club largely avoided theatrics, relying only on a pentagram backdrop and their jagged-edged sound to whip the audience into a frenzy. The real action was in front of me, as a woman of my acquaintance became so incensed with the moshing fans' encroachments on her personal space that she cleared her table of its contents and wielded a beer bottle against a security guard whom she felt was ignoring her complaints. Her friend calmed her down before our pleasantly Kubrickian evening turned into an outtake from "Fight Club."
In contrast, the Genitorturers were pretty tame. They ran through a few light-bondage routines, twice bringing out a female "slave" for some tentative heinie-slapping. Singer Gen was outfitted in a strap-on dildo whose illuminated tip blinked on and off, a stunt I presumed was keyed to the band's forthcoming CD, "Machine Love."
The most shocking display was a crucifixion scene in which an actor dressed as Jesus was festooned with red balloons, which the sadistic Gen popped one by one. It was the only sight of the night that crossed the line from good-natured naughtiness into plain poor taste. The way I see it, once you've been nailed to two pieces of wood, you deserve a break for at least the next couple of millennia.
Then again, part of the fun of being an adult -- on Halloween or at any time -- is making bad choices when you should know better. That may not seem to raise us far above the level of children, but there's a difference: We have attorneys.
On the way out, I put my own judgment on hold and bought a bumper sticker. "Genitorturers sodomized my honor student," it read. That ought to show the little monsters who's boss until next year. Now all I need is a car.