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The Agony & the Ecstasy

Charlotte's fetish underground



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But soon the couple tired of traveling, and decided to do something on their own in Charlotte. They started Singlecell Entertainment, and launched the first Purgatory event on April 5, 2002. "We had about 150 people at the first one," Autumn says. "People seemed to like it, so we did one again."

Over the years, Purgatory grew into the largest BDSM event in Charlotte, and celebrates its three-year anniversary this weekend at Amos' Southend. In case you've never been, Purgatory is an adults-only, free-for-all celebration with fetish performers, go-go dancers, fire, blood and plenty of dominatrices on hand to punish all the bad boys and girls in attendance.

"There's a very hard, erotic, sexual undercurrent to it," Autumn says. "Sometimes it gets a little scary, but I think it's hot." The whole scene is fueled by plenty of booze and thundering, dark, industrial/Goth music. Torch and Autumn stress that all are welcome.

"We're not snobs," Autumn says. "There's no dress code. You should never be ostracized for what you're wearing — even if it's khakis and a polo shirt. We want all kinds to participate. It's open to exploration."

Friendly Neighborhood Dominatrix

Mistress LunaSea of the FFP events arrived in Charlotte from Ft. Lauderdale about 25 years ago. At the time she was married, and her husband worked for the now defunct Jim Bakker/Tammy Faye outfit PTL, and they were planning on opening a Bible college together. However, there was a slight change in plans.

"I left him for a woman," she explains.

Not only did Mistress LunaSea embark on a new lifestyle with her new partner, together they raised her two sons. However, the relationship didn't last. "We just didn't have the same interests," she says. "I like all kinds of creative, artistic things, and she was very conservative and just not into it."

LunaSea started frequenting some of Charlotte's gay bars like the Brass Rail and Scorpio's, and began getting more involved in the BDSM lifestyle, particularly her dominatrix persona. "I've always been very dominant and kinky in nature," she says.

She was a natural, and soon had a full-time submissive named boyscout, who now lives with her. "It's not a romantic relationship, just a total dominant/submissive relationship," she explains. "It makes him happy and me happy."

As Mistress LunaSea's full-time submissive, boyscout runs errands, does chores around the house, and whatever else it takes to make sure she's happy. "When she's happy it makes me feel like my life is good," says boyscout, 31, a diminutive, elfin-like man who, when not serving LunaSea, works as a software engineer. "She's helping me learn and focus on a number of aspects of my life that I need help with like organization and motivation. I've met a wonderful community of people because of her, and I have a constant companion."

Shortly after meeting boyscout, LunaSea started a group for artistic, creative people, which evolved into the Fun, Freaky People (FFP) events. LunaSea explains that in addition to a good time, the FFP events serve as great networking opportunities for Charlotte's "alternative types."

"I always tell people to bring their business cards, band flyers, or CDs," she says. "Everyone from music producers, filmmakers, strippers, witches, psychics, and writers attend."

It was through an FFP party that Mistress Sapphire — the dominatrix wearing the gas mask — was introduced to Charlotte's BDSM community. She arrived in Charlotte a little over a year ago, and was coming out of a bad relationship, and feeling a bit lonely and depressed. But then a friend took her to an FFP event. "Everyone just welcomed me," she says. "That night I was asked to perform at Purgatory."

Mistress Sapphire lives in a small, one-bedroom apartment in a dilapidated south Charlotte complex. Dominating her living room is a homemade, seven-foot tall wooden rack, to which she ties her slaves and clients. In one corner of the living room is a saggy couch with a blanket thrown over it, and in the other corner is an old chair and small stereo. Scattered about the room are various floggers, paddles and other instruments. Other than the seven-foot rack and various fetish toys, the living space has the same dingy look as a college apartment that's hosted one party too many.

She and her neighbors barely tolerate each other. Recently one of them showed up drunk, and started banging on her door shouting obscenities. When the cops arrived and saw Sapphire's whipping rack, they started giving her a hard time. During a recent trip to the complex's laundry room, a young mother walking with her child yelled out "El Diablo" when she caught a glimpse of Sapphire in her full-on dominatrix gear, and hustled her kid away. It's far from an ideal living situation, but hey, money is tight and it will have to do for now.

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