Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seriously In Need Of Some Kittens In Cups

Last weekend I volunteered at the Skin Two Expo, handing out flyers for the Night of the Senses ball that is coming up this Friday in Brixton. The ceremony for the 2008 Erotic Awards which will comprise the first part of the evening, and then the party will start. The ball has been an annual thing for the last twenty years, and usually attracts about nine hundred people. The exhibition was a fetish/alternative fashion exhibition in the Students’ Union of UCL, and I was helping out with a lovely gentleman by the name of Bob.

Over three floors, the exhibition was large and varied. There was clothing (primarily leather, latex and lace), toys, swings, whips. Photography. Things that buzzed and whirred, crackled and hummed. People selling cakes shaped like naughty things and naughty things shaped like cakes. A woman dressed as a dog, curled up in a cage, waiting for her master (sporting jodhpurs and a frilly shirt) to take her out for walks around the exhibition.

Our stand was next to the doggy-cage, just opposite the bar. Posters for the ball were laid out on our red, crushed velvet table cloth, along with information booklets for Outsiders, the charity for which the Night of the Senses raises money, and a trophy shaped like a large golden penis with wings. The trophy is an example of those awarded to the winners of the Erotic Awards, one of which my friend Lily won a few years ago for her burlesque performance (she is now on the organising committee). Bob fetched some drinks and we sat around chatting for a while. I learned that he had been helping organise the ball for the last twenty years, and that it has gained a reputation for being a very welcoming event, open to all. Not arrogant, not posey, just a place where people can go to explore their alternative, true selves. The more I heard about it the more appealing it sounded and the happier I was to be helping out. As we chatted I sipped my gin and tonic and looked around. Music poured out of a nearby speaker. At the tables in the bar all sorts of people congregated, laughing and talking, soaking up the energetic atmosphere.

Bob and I decided it would be best for me to walk around, exploring and flyering.
I wore black skinny jeans, a corset and gold accessories (make-up, shoes, belt, and necklace). I wandered around, handing out flyers and chattering to people about the ball, about the event, about life, the weather and everything. People were dressed up and down and everything in between: masked, costumed or casual. On the first day I watched the fashion show in the main hall. Cameras flashed like strobe as the models walked on stage in their weird finery. Dresses that looked like they were vacuum-packed, hooped corsets, wings and zips and chains. A man with a mohawk bent a woman across a chair and flogged her with a ten-foot long whip. Things were decorated with buckles, feathers and fur. The models writhed and pouted, sometimes enacting a fetish fantasy and at others standing, hands on hips, smouldering at the crowds.

As the afternoon continued I was asked over and over if I was planning to attend the Rubber Ball that evening, in the SE1 club near London Bridge. I was informed that this was much more of a hardcore event than the Night of the Senses next Friday. The sort of night where people go to show off their rubber finery, in all its forms. I hadn’t heard about it, but was offered a free ticket (a considerable mark-down from the usual £35) and, in the interests of new experience, accepted.

Once home, though, the excitement dissipated. Tired and aching from the day, I made some dinner and ate it, thoughtfully. The prospect of leaving my warm house at nearly midnight, to make my way in the dark rain to the cavernous arches of London Bridge and the SE1 club, filled me with a weary dread. No, I decided. I wouldn’t go. I would watch some television, drink some tea and get a good night’s sleep before the next day of flyering. It was the sensible thing to do, and I was exhausted as it was. I moved to the sofa and started to flick through the TV guide.
My phone beeped.
“Hey Léonie. We’re getting to the club for midnight. Can you come? It’ll be cool. See you there!”
I stared at the message for a bit. Standing up, I sighed. I had two hours to get ready and get there.

Made up of some the arches that crouch underneath London Bridge station, SE1 is cavernous. The rooms continuously branch out from each other, leading you through a brickwork labyrinth of enormous, dark spaces.

A seven foot being encased in rubber strode past, with only eyes and mouth visible. It was difficult to tell whether it was male, female or indeed even human. People were naked. Others were strapped and chained. As I walked around submissives fell at my feet, begging me to be the dominatrix. I stepped over them, no desire to play that game. There were performances and dungeons, although it was difficult to tell one from the other at times. I hung out with the people I had met during the day, and some I met there. Some had been on “the scene” for ages and others, like me, had never been to anything like this before. At times I clung to those people. To be in such a charged atmosphere whilst being completely unavailable was at times difficult. Never in my life have I received so much male (and at times female) attention. I was very glad to be able to tell people that I had a boyfriend, that, no, he wasn’t there but that it made no difference. Smile, walk away.

I got to bed at about eight o’clock the following morning. The party, the after-party, the Sunday morning tube journey.

By four o’clock the same day I was rushing down Tottenham Court Road. Late for my flyering duties, back in my corset.

Breathlessly I rushed up to the stall, and upon seeing me Bob leapt from his seat.
“I’m so sorry...” I began, but was cut off.

“They need someone for the fashion show today! I said you might do it? Do you want to?”

Images from the previous day’s show flashed through my mind. The cameras, the posing. I inwardly shrugged. It was, I supposed, a weekend of new experiences.

“Yeah, ok! Where do I go?”

I was dressed by a blonde woman with sparkly lipstick. A corset with purple trim, a short, leather skirt and a fascinator in my hair. I would be modelling for a company called B Barbarella.

Without even having a chance to look in the mirror I was rushed backstage, where the models for all the different designers were waiting on the stairs. Lounging in their wild outfits, I was put next to a sullen-looking Asian girl with immaculate hair and tattoos all over her shoulders. The feathers began to slip through my messy mane even as I roughly pushed the grips back in place. The girl was to be going on stage with me, just the two of us.

“So what do we do?” I asked, urgently, as my corset strings were being tightened.
She shrugged. “You know. Walk on, then to the front. Pose. Then walk round and, like, pose, sexily, on the chair shaped like a shoe.”

I took as much breath as the corset would allow.

“Right. How long do we have?” Please say thirty seconds. Please.

“Oh, not long. Only about, like, four minutes.”

Resisting the urge to laugh hysterically I turned to look at the rest of the models in the queue. I watched one girl run the four flights of stairs from the dressing rooms to the stage whilst encased in a knee-length rubber dress. Another was telling her friend how she gets a rash on her upper lip from wiping away the sweat that comes from wearing leather and latex under stage lights. The man with the mohawk was there, his whip coiled around his arm like a giant, tapered snake.

Suddenly it was our turn. The other girl sashayed onto the stage as I stood and waited, shoving the fascinator desperately into my hair.

I walked into the lights and to the front. Posing, pouting. Copying. Staring into all the lenses of all the cameras and trying to suppress the feeling that I was a twelve year old imitating the glamourous ladies from Vogue. The seconds ticked slowly as the feathers slid down my head and over my face.

Hold your nerve, I told myself. Don’t show the fear. Keep going. Relax. Resist the urge to roll your eyes. Resist the urge to run.

“B Barbarella!” exclaimed the hostess after what felt like years, giving us our cue to leave the stage. In the wings I turned to my sullen partner, but she had disappeared. I walked backstage to a mirror and stared at my reflection and, looking at the feathers jutting out the side of my head like some kind of vision-impaired exotic bird, burst into peals of laughter. I did an impression of myself posing like an idiot and laughed until my sides hurt. People, I thought, just took pictures of that.

Off-stage I walked back to Bob, who took some pictures of me in the outfit and told me I had looked great. I laughed, not at all believing him but appreciating the comment anyway. Modelling, I think, is not my thing.

I retrieved a gin and tonic from the bar and sat down. I went to the toilets to change back into my own clothes. There were some other women in there and I chatted to them about the fashion show, telling them about it laughingly, until one of the other models came in and I was silent, not wanting to show my amateurish status. Although, I reflected, it was probably fairly obvious from the fear in my eyes.

The hours trickled on and before I knew it I was back home on my sofa, sipping tea and waiting for Monday. Relieved to be out of my corset, out of the shoes that crunched at my feet, but holding onto the exhilaration of new experience. Shutting my eyes and revelling in the thrill of adrenaline sparking still.

(Bob's take on things and some pictures...)

Bob has sent me over some pictures. Here I am in my fashion show outfit (I think the fascinator grew wings and flew off):

20 Comments:

Blogger justme said...

Wow! What an adventure.....I want to see the pictures! Bet you looked fantastic.

4:46 pm

 
Blogger Peach said...

certainly beats temping?

5:34 pm

 
Blogger Badass Geek said...

You + Corset + Blog Entry About Wearing One = No Pictures?

Me = Sadface.

=(


Joking of course. I bet you looked stunning.

7:00 pm

 
Blogger Jaywalker said...

Wow. Just, you know, wow. Waaaaay better than kittens in cups.

I think I want a golden penis trophy now.

10:34 am

 
Blogger Curly said...

That sounds like an incredible time. Only in London, huh? I'm sure similar things happen here but it's probably a couple of plumbers and their wives in their living room wearing bubble wrap. Latex is too expensive.

11:31 am

 
Blogger Léonie said...

Just me - It certainly was an adventure. An adventure that has resulted in sore feet (despite the foot-fetishists offers of foot massages...with their mouths) but a damn good story. If you go to Bob's website there are some pictures.

Peach - oh yes. But then being chased down the road by an angry ten-foot squirrel who thinks I'm a nut would be better than temping.

BG - Go to Bob's website! And, thanks. x

Jaywalker - You too can win a trophy! All you need to do is win an Erotic Award. I will suggest that they start a Suggestive Vegetables section and you will be in there, no problem.

There was no place for kittens in cips this weekend, really. Perhaps if they had been rubber-clad kittens in leather cups (something I really would very much like to see).

Curly - When you say "plumbers and their wives" you really mean you and Sud, don't you? I'm sure this sort of thing goes on everywhere. One in every five people wears a gimp mask to bed. Fact.

1:32 pm

 
Blogger Léonie said...

I don't look at my comments before I post. Dammit.

I meant "foot fetishists'" and then "cups".

1:33 pm

 
Blogger justme said...

One in five???????? NO! where do they get these statistics from?!

2:11 pm

 
Blogger Ys said...

Sounds like a great time :) You looked terrified on the stage; you're very brave; modelling just looks too scary for me. I'd rather have grabbed a whip and got involved that way instead ;)

2:18 pm

 
Blogger Léonie said...

Just me - I might have made that up.

Ys - Yeah, well, I was terrified. I think I would have preferred to do that as well - at least it's better than standing around doing nothing. Modelling is not for me. I love being on stage but I do like to have something to do once I'm there..!

3:12 pm

 
Blogger greavsie said...

Just....how do you manage it? ;-)

4:01 pm

 
Blogger Jo Divine said...

Wow, looking good. Tried contacting you about some kittens in cups, please reply!

9:14 am

 
Blogger Jaywalker said...

Léonie you look seriously amazing in that outfit. And your pins aren't skinny, they are fucking amazing. That's a technical term for very long and slim and gorgeous btw.

I thought "cips" were something I was too sheletered to know about.

10:18 am

 
Blogger Curly said...

I hate to imagine who would be the plumber and who would be the wife. Unfortunately we couldn't even afford bubble-wrap, it'd have to be Co-op carrier bags.

x

11:06 am

 
Blogger justme said...

Saw the pics! Wow! You look seriously fabulous! Well done you!

11:40 am

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Modelling may not be for you ...

but..


well...

for want of a better phrase....

I think you pulled it off !

8:15 pm

 
Blogger Clare Sudbery said...

Some friends of mine have been involved in running fetish nights in Manchester, and they are much as your describe, although smaller. Very weird and slightly discomfiting if you're not on the scene yourself (I'm not - I don't have any particular objections, it just doesn't turn me on), but fascinating if you're a people-watcher. The world is a wonderful place.

3:56 pm

 
Anonymous Latex Clothing said...

Its a great post..well done..i really like it..

5:53 am

 
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