By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"If you've got tits like these, you've got to wear them out," Anne Dunn is saying. "With an E cup, they're always gonna be there." Dunn is wearing hers out, all right, milky white and cinched into a leather merry widow with upright steel stays. She's in town on a busman's holiday from Sydney, Australia, where she operates a fetish dance club called the Hellfire and goes by the ominous name of Mistress Sabine. Dunn and her husband/business partner, Craig Donarski, are making a Big Apple whirlwind tour, en route home to the antipodes. One of their first stops, naturally, is the Lure. "We're loving it," says Donarski, a/k/a Master Tom. "We came from this horrible place called Bar D'O, where the vibe was awful. This is like a breath of fresh air." Make that a freshly cracked vial of poppers.
If you've been living on Mars, you'll want to know that the Lure is a large and intentionally grungy leather and s/m bar in the meatpacking district with a permanently installed slave-training cage, handcuffs suspended from the ceiling, and a predominantly gay male demographic. Tonight's more various crowd stands as a kind of testament to millennial gender blur, and the signifying power of costume. There are, of course, the obligatory clanking leather daddies, members of a dwindling and now endangered race. There are also B-cupped gym boys and tattooed human inkpads and vinyl and rubber and PVC fetishists and a lot of regular-looking fellas in T-shirts and 501s.
Worked into the mix, however, are Dunn and Donarski, along with clusters of hip bulldaggers in Wookie fur jackets, and an old-school stripper called Dirty Martini, and a posse of go-go boys from the Latino Fan Club, and a bunch of performance artists from the Ron Athey School of No Pain, No Gain. There is also porn veteran Donnie Russo, a sweet-natured guy whose video specialty is trussing up eager bottoms and tanning their behinds. "I've been reigning for a long time," explains Russo, who made over 200 films in the past nine years, has his own Web site, and who started out posing for straight skin rags. Arranging the zipper on his leather jeans so it's opened to the trimmed pubic patch that in the business is called a Hitler mustache, he says, "I've really grown up in porn." He has.
It's Pork night at the Lure, a once-weekly theme evening celebrating the intersections of sex, culture, and community and everyone's inner sex pig. Tonight Pork plays host to a Strip-A-Thon benefit for Frost'd, a 13-year-old nonprofit that gives street hookers a helping hand. Frost'd's mission is, in some ways, as unconventional as the party setting: "A lot of harm-reduction agencies are focused on getting prostitutes off the street and into rehab and housing," explains the group's spokesman, Donald Suggs. "We figure they're out there for a reason, so we try to bring the service to them."
A cut of the $8 gate goes to Frost'd; so do the dancers' gratuities. The biggest haul in a night that raised $1200 for a scholarship fund to help ex-prostitutes may come from the tips bucket sitting outside a circular cage where Paco Cao is hung by his hands, wearing nothing but a loincloth and a crown of thorns. Oh, and several buckets of cow's blood. The red fluid tracing rivulets down Cao's bony frame was purchased at a nearby meat market. "They'd only sell it to him if he promised he wouldn't drink it," explains Cathay Che, a writer assisting the performer. Cow blood normally retails for $6 a quart, Che adds, but "they saw us coming and doubled the price."
The last Frost'd benefit Che worked on was a Christmas dinner for local whores. "You definitely find out someone's true colors when they're confronted with sex workers," she says. Fifteen minutes in the back seat of a car is the limit of most people's interest in the life circumstances of the average hooker. "That's what's so great about the Lure helping us out," says Suggs.
Standing near the "backstage" area where the male strippers are getting buck naked, Suggs and Che are sharing gatekeeper duties with comedian-MC Dr. Ducky Doolittle, who describes herself as "essentially a crackpot sociologist." Speaking across the cantilevered expanse of an impressive cleavage, she says, "I do a show called Auto Erotica about how handling car engines is sexy, and another show, with flip charts, called "Amazing Things Removed From Human Rectums."
There'll be some mighty unusual objects headed in rectal directions this evening, including an electric device called a Violet Wand. This novelty insertion, which occurs about 2 a.m., follows a series of $5 per person spankings by Russo; an inspired Sally Randstyle ostrich fan dance by Dirty Martini; a mummification demonstration; and feats of endurance by piercers Brian Murphy and Sherrie, who're chalked head to toe and hung from Therabands slipped through heavy steel rings in their backs. "It's a challenge to see what the limits are," explains half-naked choreographer Julie Tolentino, before climbing into a cage in a pair of bondage stilettos. "But doesn't it hurt?" a bystander winces. "Of course it hurts," says Tolentino. "It's supposed to."