I knew I was in for a wild night when one of the most levelheaded people in the room was a beefy guy wearing a red wig, sleeveless pink top, padded bra, tight jeans, a dog collar and thigh-high black leather boots.
"Hi, my name is Lisa," he said in a husky voice when we shook hands. At the time, it all made perfect sense. It was Monday night and I was at Jeff's Bucket Shop off Park Road, where a four-person crew from Maxim magazine was shooting a photo spread for a story I was writing about a Charlotte dominatrix and her two sons. Maxim had shown up looking for a freak show, and the Queen City -- God bless her conflicted and attention-starved soul -- did not disappoint. Many of the city's alternative types made appearances, and they proceeded to eat glass, carve each other up, staple money to their foreheads, drink blood, trample crotches and perform other acts of media-fueled madness until the wee hours of the morning. And Maxim's photographers recorded every salacious and freakish minute.
Sure, we've got the Panthers and the Bobcats, but nothing in Charlotte gets national media attention like tragedy and freaky shit -- Rae Carruth and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker come to mind. Now we can add dominatrices and fetish performance artists to Charlotte's repertoire. Perhaps it's not the kind of attention the mayor or other well-scrubbed city boosters want, but we say this city's Bible Belt needs to be loosened a notch or two.
The Maxim story stems from (warning: shameless self-promotion alert) a CL cover story I wrote in August called "The Agony & the Ecstasy." While researching the story, I met Mistress LunaSea and her two sons, Matt and Jeremy. They're not exactly a conventional family. Matt often DJs at his mom's fetish parties, and Jeremy helped build his mom's dominatrix dungeon. I pitched the story to Maxim and, being the educational publication it is, the magazine's editors deemed it worthy. ("My Mom is a Dominatrix" will hit stands in January!)
Last week, Maxim dispatched New York-based creative producer Heather Robbins and three others to capture the magic on film. The shoot began Monday afternoon at LunaSea's house, in a generic suburb in the University area, where she and three of her dominatrix cohorts met to do their thing for the cams. But things got off to a rocky start when some of LunaSea's neighbors called the police, complaining that half-naked women were cavorting and performing strange acts in the front yard.
LunaSea was incensed. "Everybody was dressed and legal," she said. "The worst thing that happened was I held a hose between my legs like I was peeing on my friend's breasts. Kids do that in the summer every year, and no one makes a big deal about it. But because I do it, I'm immoral and bad." The cops backed off when Robbins explained they were doing a photo shoot for Maxim.
After more than six hours at LunaSea's house, the photo crew reconvened with her entourage at Jeff's Bucket Shop, where LunaSea hosts her weekly Fun, Freaky People parties. It didn't take long for all hell to break loose. It's amazing what people will do on camera.
First, magician Paul Moses took the stage and walked barefoot on shards of glass, then ate several pieces. Next, a guy named Sic Vic, emboldened by the cameras and crowd, stapled dollar bills to his forehead. In keeping with the self-mutilation theme, 28-year-old Ray White slapped a 10-inch piece of masking tape on his arm and stapled it about six times. He then ripped the tape from his arm, which pulled the staples back out again. The crowd cheered as blood flowed, and White looked triumphant.
"Yeah, it hurt, but at least I'm going to be in Maxim!" I heard him exclaim to a friend later.
Not to be outdone, a guy called Throwrug, who earned his nickname because he likes having women in spiked heels walk on him, organized a human carpet. He and two others lay on stage as LunaSea and a few dominatrices walked on top of them, grinding their heels into the men's crotches. A photographer and videoagrapher captured it all. (The video footage will be posted to Maxim.com.)
It was past midnight by the time the trampling was over, and I was ready to call it a night. But just as I was about to leave, a pale, delicate-looking guy named Jason walked in wearing black boots and assless panties, and holding four red roses. Mistress Autumn Twilight, a towering dominatrix who had her breasts strategically covered with black electrical tape, dragged him on to the stage. This, I had to see.
Jason, bowing in reverence, offered Autumn the roses. She bit the heads off, smacked Jason in the face, grabbed him by the neck, and threw him against wall, spread-eagled. Twilight then took a scalpel and made a series of vertical and horizontal slices across Jason's bare back. He moaned as blood trickled down his back. Twilight then turned to the crowd and suggestively licked the blood off the scalpel. "This is truly Charlotte's underground," LunaSea whispered to me.
Two days later, cops showed up at the house again, asking questions, as did a news team from the oh-so cutting-edge WBT. Both said they were responding to concerned calls from neighbors.
"I'm not a child molester, I don't do or sell drugs, and we're not making porn. I'm not hurting anyone," LunaSea exclaimed. "Charlotte just needs to lighten up."