The saying "All good things must come to an end" springs to mind as Single Cell Productions prepares for its final themed bondage and S&M event, Purgatory 43: Ragnarok. It will go down on Saturday, April 18, at Amos' Southend, the venue it's spent most of its existence occupying for six days out of the year. The popular party has been in action for seven years, since its start in April of 2002 at the small and long-demolished Hungry Duck.
Torch (who grew up around Charlotte) and Mistress Autumn Twilight -- who were then married and had just moved to Charlotte from Honolulu -- came up with the idea for Purgatory from an already strong interest in exotic entertaining, which had led to their travels to other cities for shows. "It started as a vehicle for us to do entertainment similar to what we were doing in other places and it grew into what it is today," says Torch, owner of Single Cell Productions.
As expected, the idea for an event like Purgatory -- with its BDSM influence and fetish performances -- in what is considered the Bible Belt wasn't relished in the beginning. As Torch notes, "Everybody told us we couldn't do it, which is a sentiment I'm used to hearing with everything I do. Everybody told us it was going to fail. Everybody told us nobody would come. Conservative people told us they would shut us down."
But as it turns out, during the seven years of the show's existence, it was only shut down once by police. "When they first started the rave ordinance, there was a big grey area where it did not give you a specific shutdown time. It just said, 'No late-night parties without a permit.' We attended a meeting with the ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement), where they said anything past 3:30 a.m. was considered a late-night party. So, we used to stop somewhere between 3 and 3:15 a.m."
In regards to the bondage-related activities at Purgatory, which can include whipping, spanking, candle wax burning and more (both in the VIP play stations upstairs and onstage during the shows), Torch explains that SCP hasn't crossed any lines. "I know exactly where that razor's edge of the law is and we dance all over it, but we never quite go across it," he states.
"I'm a theater dummy. I'm not a strip club. I'm not operating under a section or any business license. We have the same protection as Angels in America does or any other theater production. It seems like they will actually come close to reprimanding us for less than other people are doing, because they believe we're going to do far worse. But I'm not looking to be carried out in handcuffs and go to jail. It's a show. It's not a rebellious political movement."
Purgatory's final show sports the theme Ragnarok. For those unfamiliar with Norse mythology, this was the end, when a final battle occurred that resulted in the deaths of major figures, including the gods.
The final show will feature performances from fetish performers, in addition to DJs (including DJ End, DJ Spider and more) spinning industrial/goth/ebm music for the dance floor and an expanded outdoor music section. Fetish/alternative models will also be plentiful, as well as photographers, vendors, fire performers, and fetish play areas in the upstairs VIP area. Something that sets this final show aside from other shows is a special reunion appearance by the original Purgatory cast, including Torch, Autumn Twilight, Mystery Lane, Gabriel, Phoenix, Greyson Wolf, Nativedom and Dr. Spankenstein. Live music will also be provided by the local Viking metal act Iron Cordoba.
The end of Purgatory comes at a time when Single Cell Productions (which will continue to host events like Hazmat, Decadence, Nocturnal Frequencies and other events in the future) is busier than ever and in no way reaching its end.
"The honest truth is that we're too busy and we've been doing this for seven years and now it's No. 1 in its class," says Dave Harlequin, Promotions Director for Single Cell Productions.
Torch adds, "We're touring (for the Purgatory Road Show). I'm doing a major art show for Justin Kates [a photographer who works closely with SCP]. I'm writing a novel. And I have a lot of other film projects and documentaries to be finished this year, including Single Cell Democracy."
When the end of Purgatory was first announced, Torch wrote the following about the show on his MySpace page: "It's been the most fulfilling, yet heartbreaking time of my life."
He explains the sharp contrast. "It's catapulted me up. I'm on the celebrity list in a lot of places. It has opened a lot of doors for me to do creative projects with a lot of really good international and national artists. At the same time, it drove my marriage completely apart. The pressure, the spotlight, and the production tore me and Autumn apart and ripped my family apart. I've had to be away from home too much. My father died while I was doing this. There have been a lot of tradeoffs. Nothing I ever did came without sacrifice."
Harlequin also admits that being involved with SCP has been rewarding for him, as it led to his dream of being cast in a horror flick by Full Moon Features. But during his time in SCP, he also lost his father and experienced a handful of failed relationships. "You've got to love what you do, and we do. So is it all worth it? Yeah."
"Purgatory was originally designed to last six months," reveals Torch, "and we're on our seventh year and still selling out the venues. We've had some downtime during the recession where we didn't sell out, but we're still drawing 900-1,100 people in a recession."
He anticipates the final show will draw a crowd, as people are already going to the Web site to buy general admission tickets in advance.
Torch also sharply adds advice for those who attend. "Don't cry," he says. "This is a Viking funeral pyre. This is not a funeral. This is a wake. We're going to celebrate what we've done and we're not going to cry about the fact that it's ending. This is a celebration and it's going to be a bloody, violent, painful one."
Purgatory: Ragnarok will take place at Amos' Southend on Saturday, April 18. Tickets are $20-$25. The show starts at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.singlecell.us.