The Book Review: How to Be Kinky – A Beginner's Guide to BDSM

It used to be, not all that long ago, that trying to purchase good resource books directly related to bondage, discipline and all things sadomasochistic was very nearly impossible. Unless you “knew a guy”, had some other kind of “connection”, or were fortunate enough to live in a large enough city where so-called underground publications were considered somewhat plentiful, in the days prior to Amazon trying to find reference materials relating to our lovely lifestyle could prove to be immensely problematic – and even potentially embarrassing. “Those kind” of books were usually only available at Adult shops (colloquially still referred to in some circles as “Adult Book Stores”) – and depending on what US state or Canadian province you lived in, tended to be made at hand to those who desired them only through an awkward and stammering specific under-the-counter request for product.

Thankfully, for those of us who revere our chosen alternative life expressions, the advent of the Internet has made it very easy to get our hands on virtually anything (within legality) we want. That has proven to be both an absolute blessing, by and large, and an abject curse in certain circles. For instance, in relation to the “curse”, some so-called expert materials have been published in the past whose content was either too dry and clinical, or nauseatingly ego centric (and we’ve all read those books, I’m quite sure) to be really only of value as a visible potential conversation piece on a bookshelf in someone’s dungeon or playroom.

For every Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns (which in the opinion of several fetishists and SM practitioners, Your Humble Narrator included, is one of the worst books related to BDSM ever foisted on us), there seemed to be at least a dozen more similar volumes that were considered only marginally better. In the past, folks used to purchase SM-related books, I suspect, mostly to make a very visible pseudo-credibility statement to their peers. Many of these really, really bad books were purchased by really good people – and I know for certain most of them were never even read, let alone had their spines cracked. As time has gone on, we’ve been far more fortunate: the demand for good, solid, experienced reference material hasn’t died at all – it has, it seems, only escalated – and the quality of materials available to us has also thankfully increased. Part of that may very well be a simple matter of numbers, as more and more books over the past decade have found their way onto more mainstream bookstore shelves.

One of those exceptional books – in my opinion an absolute “must have” for every serious BDSM enthusiast – is How to Be Kinky: A Beginner’s Guide to BDSM by noted Canadian lifestyle educator Lord Morpheous. Do yourselves a favour and buy this book. It won’t just sit and look impressive sitting on your bookshelf: you’ll actually learn a thing or two, and you won’t be able to simply put it down.

What separates this book from similar works? To start with, it’s damned fun to read. I don’t want to give anything away, really – but as an example, early on in the book there is a very well-written narrative, relating an early experience, of Lord Morpheous and his efforts to try and explain to his parents why his dishwasher was filled with sex toys after he’d had a gathering while they were away. Drawing on the anecdotes and vast experiences of his friends and colleagues throughout the book, Lord Morpheous has ingeniously managed to capture the true essence of sadomasochism (it’s grand fun, damnit!) all the while providing witty and expert advice along the way. It’s a clever format: the reader expects or assumes the book to be, perhaps, another somewhat vapid and plodding “connect the dots of BDSM” instruction manual, but in fact its structured very much like a collection of topical (and extremely entertaining) short stories about people and their gut-wrenchingly and often gut-bustingly honest experiences. Naturally, if you happen to learn a thing or two along the way – and you will – that’s an appreciated bonus. Lord Morpheous is regarded as one of the very best rope bondage artists and educators within our realm today, but How to Be Kinky is so very much more than a mere ‘bondage manual’. There is a taste of fetishes from “A” to “Z” within its pages: there’s is sure to be something that everyone can relate to. Other “how to” books have tended to generally disregard entire legions of particular kinks (Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns for instance contains virtually nothing but a somewhat contemptuous and dismissive reference to cross-dressing), but Lord Morpheous has adeptly managed to give respect and creedence to (almost) every fashion of popular fetishy sensual expression – and he’s managed to do it in a concise but wildly amusing manner.

It’s a brilliant, effective and natural way to introduce anyone (with even so much as a passing interest in kink) to all the positive aspects of what it is we love to do. That makes this book unique – and truly a “must have” for excited newcomer and experienced hard player alike. The novice will learn, in their own vernacular and at their own “level” because the anecdotes are all written in a way to be so appealling and interesting, and the experienced will just love the collection of stories. In short, Lord Morpheous has managed to author the much-desired and nearly impossible-to-reproduce “win-win” scenario; the happy balance in which his efforts truly will appeal to anyone and everyone, from the rookie to the seasoned veteran.

It’s a formula that has found much success in other genres: more specifically, in sports books and even more specifically, in baseball books. I do not know if Lord Morpheous is much of a sports fan: but the man knows how to write, edit and convey tales so well, that I am confident in saying if he wanted to write the definitive work on playing water polo, it would be the world’s best and more informative seller on that topic in history.

Personally, I’d much prefer to wait for his sure-to-follow “Volume Two” efforts on How to Be Kinky. I’m sure Lord Morpheous could explain it perfectly – but I’d rather read about his experiences and lessons in BDSM than just how the hell those water polo guys manage to get snorkels and masks on their damned horses.

Dance of the Afflicted: Five Days of Torture Garden Toronto

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~ Seneca

Great undertakings are often brought to completion in one of only two ways: They are either enormously successful, or they result in dismal collapse and failure. More often than not, especially due to outside influence, unforeseen situations and destructive occurrences beyond one’s control, grand visions and ideas can soon become nothing more than ill-fated, poorly-advised, badly executed, and dismally-failed shattered dreams.

What was a triumphant, exciting new entrant into the major fetish event scene in North America a scant nine months ago had all the potential to follow along the train-wreck rails of so many promising, preceding ventures. To wit, this particular event could very well have been of the “one and done” variety, were it not for the solid efforts of its main motivating force, and organizational master.

It is with great pleasure and a huge, satisfactory sigh that Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend can confidently and righteously say that the second (and most ambitious) iteration of Toronto’s eagerly-anticipated Torture Garden Fetish Event was very much the former, and very little of the latter. It is safe to say, right here and right now, that as of May 2010, the longer-established “lifestyle” conventions, events and weekends have some serious competition for Fetish Festival attendee dollars in North America.

It is doubtful that anyone could have predicted that a single evening’s debauchery a little under a year ago (Torture Garden was initially welcomed to Toronto in August 2009) would have a meteoric evolution into an unbelievable five-night celebration of sinful excess. Anyone, that is, with the notable exception of the event’s organizational workhorse, Craig Galbreath. Even the two founders of the Torture Garden “franchise movement”, David Wood and Allen Pelling, were initially skeptical two full evenings of Toronto back-to-back fetish nights bearing the iconic Torture Garden masthead would be well-attended and wildly popular – let alone stretching the festivities into a five-day affair. “What Craig has done here is unmatched. It’s astounding, really,” a somewhat visibly subdued DJ David Wood remarked during a break between his sets on the Opera House stage. “When he told us he wanted to do a whole holiday weekend of Torture Garden (in Toronto), we weren’t really thinking he was serious at first. We had counted on another, successful one-night show: Craig gave us more. Hat’s are off to him. He’s worked very hard. He’s gained our confidence, for certain.”

Since Torture Garden Toronto said farewell to honoured guests, featured performers and satisfied delegates during a wonderful (if somewhat unseasonably warm) outdoor Wine and Cheese party on Victoria Day (May 24th, a national holiday in Canada), Your Humble Narrator has been inundated with queries – and demands – regarding when a full assessment and commentary regarding the near week-long festival would be produced, and made available for discerning eyes and ears. After taking some time to speak with several involved participants and excited attendees alike, a top to bottom review of the diabolically delicious pageantry that was Torture Garden Toronto 2010 is what follows.

Torture Garden, the Good:

The Music: Where does one start? There were truly so many superlatives about Torture Garden Toronto that it’s truly impossible to pick out a single, exceptional and definitive moment to call “The Best of Show”. What can be said as an appropriate beginning, however, is the quality exhibited by the event’s founders and chief musicologists, David TG and Allen TG (yes, the very same twosome mentioned above). During the two main event nights at Toronto’s old and oddly appropriate venue known as The Opera House, the rave reviews for the selection and expert transitioning of music by the disc jockeys inhabiting the stage were virtually universal.

In fact, “quality of music” has always been somewhat of a complaint regarding Toronto’s nightclub scene: more often than not, revelers are disappointed that Toronto DJ’s tend to exhaustively spin the recordings that they (the DJ’s) think their public should enjoy dancing to – whether their public likes what they are spinning, or not. Dance junkies don’t usually care if they’re force-fed repeated volumes of the same aural fare, of course. However, the consistent and exceptional quality of music that was offered to the writing masses at Torture Garden Toronto is worth noting. David and Allen know their business, of that there is no question, and it is I believe a significant reason as to why the Torture Garden franchise has been so successful for the past twenty-odd years.

Give the people great music, and professionally presented, and the “eye candy” aspect becomes somewhat incidental. All through Saturday and Sunday evening’s main events at The Opera House, the dance floors – hell, the upper level dungeon/play spaces and media balcony even – were a happy, roiling mass of fervently delirious feet and expressively ecstatic, feverish bodies. People had wondered (last year and this year both) why David and Allen would come all the way to Toronto and “work” their own franchise party. The answer, now, we definitely know. It’s because they’re the best at what they do. They keep the people excited, happy, and most importantly, moving. It is here, without question, that the winning formula has been forged by the founding fathers of TG: Combine great music with exceptional atmosphere and top it all off with the most delicious aforementioned eye candy assembled, and you have the recipe for the perfect party.

The Performances: Almost all of the performances during Saturday and Sunday evening’s main events were quite spectacular. More will be said about RubberDoll a little further on, but her two performances definitely thrilled those who hadn’t been exposed to her act before. Those that had seen her previously, well … suffice to say it would appear from comments in the crowd that her act really hasn’t changed much in the past year (or more). That being said, RubberDoll is a seasoned, professional fetish performer and she certainly didn’t disappoint. She wasn’t appearing to be “simply going through the motions”, as she gave a high-octane, savagely energetic showpiece that titillated and teased the assembled crowd gasping at the contortions and machinations taking place on the stage above.

In addition to the excellent standard set by RubberDoll, the Fire Dance set and the Aerial Performanceswere both awe-inspiring and mind-altering. There is a genuine sense of great enjoyment when one is able to bear witness to the circus-like precision exhibited by those that dance with fire, and those that twist, turn and (sometimes) twirl high above the ground floor with nothing between them and oblivion but a simple, sturdy hoop or a seemingly thin and suspiciously fragile-looking long length of cloth. No-one who saw these performances went away feeling like they’d been somehow denied their money’s worth.

Highly effective and somewhat discomfort-level causing flesh hook suspension artists I Was Cured returned to the Torture Garden stage after a shockingly triumphant “debut” at last year’s event, and once again judging by the amount of gasps, groans and excited whispers in the crowd they were once more enthusiastically embraced and cheered by an adoring, entranced and spellbound viewing public. Sunday evening featured a fun and definitely “Beach Blanket Kinko” campy demonstration performance from Toronto’s own Kink Engineering, who managed to convey to an (at first) somewhat puzzled crowd exactly what it is about “Vac Beds” that is so damned appealing and ultimately desirable. Mad Scientist and Archean, the undeniably brilliant brains and frenetically enthusiastic minds behind Kink Engineering, unveiled their (sure to be) revolutionary Vac Cube and Vac Tower designs to the very enthusiastic onlookers. In essence, the Vac Cube and the Vac Tower are “three-dimensional” Vac Beds: instead of a dual top and bottom only, decidedly flat-surface bondage effect (what those in the ‘know’ have come to regard as ‘traditional vacuum table technology’), these brand-new product offerings actually encase the imbedded subject within six separate, converging latex pieces. While the crowd enthusiastically whooted and whooped as Archean herself became immobilized by her own latex creation (which was beautifully adorned with a blue and white Japanese wave motif – more on that later), Mad Scientist was joined onstage by a gas-masked unidentified female, who promptly climbed inside the Vac Tower and for all intents and purposes, “disappeared”. The reason for the gas mask soon became absolutely apparent: as the Vac Tower was raised above the stage, and the air was removed by a small canister vacuum cleaner on the floor below, the six-sided latex cube quickly revealed the young lady literally suspended in mid-air (or, in this case, mid-rope) within. The gas mask was revealed to be attached to a breathing hose that was connected to the outside world – ensuring that the bound beauty within wasn’t about be locked in a life and death struggle for precious oxygen. When the Vac Tower was finally lowered to the stage, and the masked female was “released” from her rubber bindings, it was (of course) the incomparable rope and suspension artist Lotuslily who was revealed to have been the masked “victim” of the imposing Vac Tower. Sure, it was ‘camp couture’ at its best: but it was also an extremely effective (and fun!) demonstration of the capabilities of the units designed and manufactured by Kink Engineering. In that regard, the performance was a resounding, and much appreciated, success.

Some other established performers were given prime spots in the performance line-up, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Satomi, The Tokyo Love Doll and Vivid Angel in particular both stunned and thrilled the crowd with displays that certainly broke many of the bonds of convention. There was even a playful bit of intentional controversy (which won’t be discussed here) that was surely designed to send the crowd into whispered frenzies of shock and amazement. Suffice to say that if you do have an opportunity to see Satomi and Vivid Angel in particular, don’t miss it: those two ladies put on one hell of a performance.

The Fashion Shows:  With the addition of Northbound Leather, the fetish fashion ensembles were extremely fresh and generated a huge amount of over-the-top excitement. Northbound Leather’s designs, when the models took to the stage, were described immediately by one American visitor (from Michigan) as “completely sick” and definitely in the “I must have that” categories. Northbound was joined onstage in short order by exceptional, delicious ensembles from design houses Futurstate, Plastik Wrap and Artifice – each one with their own unique signature and style, and each one enthusiastically endorsed by an adoring public in the gathered audience below.

However, as good as Northbound Leather, Futurstate, Plastik Wrap and Artifice was, it was Toronto’s Ego Assassin that literally brought the house down. In what was the best choreographed and well-performed set of the entire Torture Garden experience, James and Slinka of Ego Assassin managed to combine an aquatic theme with an industrial edge, and gave their viewers truly a visually explosive treat. The audience was treated to another instance of the blue and white Japanese wave – this time as a smaller scale artistic treatment featured on the front of a corset adorning the bodice of a slender, lithe latex-blue female “shark”. The motifs are a trademark of Ego Assassin’s work: and there simply isn’t anything in the known fetish world that compares. Their process is unique and revolutionary (and no, I won’t give it away here, although even James and Slinka say it’s surprisingly straight-forward), and the final product is truly amazing. It is one thing to see these intricate latex designs and motifs static and unmoving on a production table, or within staged photographs. It is quite another to see those designs literally come to life, on stage, when worn by exotically-moving models and dancers. By the end of their fashion segment, the crowd below the stage was screaming in unrequited approval and amazement when two black latex “sea insectoids,” each with misshapen glowing eyes, entered and accosted one of the aquatically finned lithe females. The entire segment, truly, had to be seen to be believed. As Ego Assassin continues to develop and evolve their product lines, their designs are sure to be regarded as highly in demand by latex enthusiasts world-wide.

The Seminars: In somewhat of a risky move, Torture Garden Toronto sponsored a series of seminars that were simply expertly organized and executed by Toronto’s own Lord Morpheous. I venture to say, with extreme confidence, that there are few (if any) more engaging, knowledgeable and exceptional rope work educators within our realm. Three of the seminars were held at the host hotel (Sheraton Centre) on the Saturday afternoon, and two others were held at another, less central location on the Sunday.

One of those seminars – one which Your Humble Narrator had witnessed before, in Montreal during the Fetish Weekend – was conducted by a man named Dunter and focused on the finer aspects of controlling someone using Pressure Points on the human body. Due to a scheduling conflict, our little entourage (which included the lovely Mistress Lyn, her devoted, talented husband and “personal photographer” SJoe from New York, and a fresh young female acolyte new to our Community known as Severne) arrived at the very end of Dunter’s allotted time – but judging by the rave reviews expressed by all present, there was no question that, once again, this impressive and extremely talented educator from Montreal had held his audience (you’ll pardon the phrase, of course) “captive”. He made a new cabal of devotees in Toronto with his effectual and effusive, genial and extremely effective teaching style.

A rising star on the “Kinky Lecture Circuit” appeared in the form of a young gentleman who goes by the simple moniker of Cub Dan, and his engaging and delightful seminar on how to use regular household items (and some eyebrow raising “irregular” household items) as sensation implements for SM play was both incredibly insightful – and extremely entertaining at the same time. Watch for this man: he’s truly something special as an educator. Just don’t let him anywhere near you with a ring of steel wool, electrode attachments, a vibrating wood sander or a bottle of Hot Sauce if you can help it. He’s impressively adept at perverting (pretty much) anything – and safely – he can get his hands on.

Lord Morpheous himself ended a near-perfect and enjoyable afternoon with a fantastic talk, demonstration and audience participation lecture on Sex Bondage. He was joined, with perfect fluidity, by a beautiful and completely engaging young lady by the name of elle who served as the subject for the various ties Lord Morpheous was teaching. She wasn’t just a model: during the seminar she gave some extremely valuable and much-appreciated insight, from a bottom’s perspective, about what she was experiencing as she was being restrained. There is a reason why Lord Morpheous, in my opinion, is one of the most sought-after facilitators in North America: not only is he an experienced and truly fantastic rope artist, but he’s enjoyable and engaging to watch and listen to.

What was most impressive, about all three of these presenters, was how well their audience retained the knowledge they had just obtained. Being able to walk out of a room and be able to perform, safely and with complete confidence, a pressure point takedown; a ‘shocking’ Karaoke performance (sorry, you’ll just have to take one of Cub Dan’s classes to truly want to know what I’m talking about – but it involves electrodes, a microphone and steel wool if you must know); or a chicken-wing tie, is assuredly the mark of a true professional. All three men could be thusly, and accurately, described. Unfortunately, time and distance did not allow our little group to review the other two seminars scheduled that weekend – but if the three we were exposed to are any indication, I’m sure they were every bit as informative, fun and superb.

The Atmosphere: Choose an adjective, and chances are it applies to the over-all mood, feel and attitude of Torture Garden party-goers. Electric? Mysterious? Adrenaline-laced? Frenetic? Vibrant? All of the above? If there was one single word to be used as a definitive summary of the Torture Garden Toronto experience, it would without question have to be: “Alive” There can be little doubt; those who bid adieu to the ceremonies in 2010 have already started making plans to be in attendance at the 2011 event.

Torture Garden, the Bad:

Torture Garden Toronto officially got underway with a welcoming event on Friday evening. There isn’t much to say about the venue, unfortunately: our entourage spent almost the entirety of the evening outdoors, on the sidewalk near the front door. So did many, many others who ventured out that night. At one point, it truly was a toss-up as to which had the greater numbers: the party going on inside the venue, or the party happening outside.

Not that it mattered. This must be stressed: there were very, very few complaints regarding the unfortunate lack of space this particular venue provided indoors. People who showed up, dressed in all their fabulousness in respective latex, leather, satin, PVC and even canvas, to a person had a most enjoyable time meeting with old friends, and perhaps making new ones. However, there were certainly issues with this particular venue (regarding the understanding of rules at the outset of the evening) that did put quite a damper on the hopes of those whom had hoped to spend Opening Night comfortably dancing and cavorting indoors.

In simple terms, the venue was just too small – and the House Rules of this particular club simply too incompatible – to completely, comfortably accommodate the mass of Torture Garden attendees that did manage to make it down for the night. Undoubtedly, there had to be certain numbers of patrons who had purchased a VIP or a weekend pass that may have felt disappointment regarding Friday night and the fact that they (most likely) spent most of the evening outdoors instead of within the venue. But here’s the caveat, and the wondrous thing: the majority of people (including our own entourage) really didn’t seem to mind. It wasn’t the venue that made the party on Friday night: it was the people. Everyone was ecstatic to be there, amongst their peers – and it showed.

Torture Garden, the Ugly:

Last year, it was somewhat jokingly suggested that the only glaring thing wrong with Torture Garden’s main event … was the condition of the stairs on the upper levels. The owners of The Opera House should have heeded those somewhat tongue in cheek comments, because this year, those stairs actually continued to be a problem. Thankfully, the extent of the issue with the upper level stairs at The Opera House (and the grumbles were constrained, it must be said, to the upper levels only) really could only be considered minor in scope. Every organizer, though, that is contemplating mounting a major fetish event should consider that their guests will be adorned in very high-priced fetish haute couture that includes very expensive outerwear and footwear. It would be in their best interests if the interiors of the venue they were providing (for said finery) actually didn’t contribute in any way to the destruction of these delicious ensembles. In complete fairness to Craig Galbraith, the main mover and shaker of Torture Garden Toronto, there simply wasn’t anything he could have done better to guarantee the safety and security of his guests – the entire event, from the three nights of parties, to the seminars and to the farewell dinner afterwards, were meticulously organized and exceptionally managed. This writer can attest to the fact that Mr. Galbraith did absolutely everything within his limited power to try and address the (relatively simply) issue of those damned stairs – but obviously was ultimately thwarted. Maybe next year, Craig?

Speaking of next year: Torture Garden 2011 should be very interesting. It will certainly be hard for Craig (and David and Allen, for that matter) to top the five days of twisted and feverish consensual torment that was this year’s fantastic fetish festival. Torture Garden continues to evolve and evoke wondrous new beginnings. People will come – because Torture Garden simply gives the masses want they want: a fabulous time, a memorable experience, and a chance to express themselves without repercussion amongst their peers.

Really, to quote the immortal George and Ira Gershwin: ‘Who could ask for anything more?’

(All Photographs by SJoe, Lady Morganna and Kardynyl SynysTyr – Courtesy of Torture Garden Toronto 2010) (Images may not be reproduced without express written permission)

(Note: Photographs do not necessarily correspond with accompanying text)

Slipping into An Alien Skin: The Magic of Ego Assassin

“Always be yourself… unless you suck.” ~ Joss Whedon

Great ideas – along with great people – are born of strong personal beliefs and convictions. The quote above isn’t exactly the kind of “corporate rallying cry” one might expect to see printed in 10-foot tall letters on billboards, let alone trumpeted loudly via mass-media marketing vehicles such as radio, television and even the Internet. Yet, there is simplicity in the statement; one that must surely resonate with most of us who have any kind of self-importance.

Be honest: we all have an ego to satisfy. Some of us (quite obviously) need to be vetted and fussed over more than others. For instance, Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend is quite comfortable and secure in the knowledge that you all love me.

Perhaps it is appropriate, then, that our focus for this episode of “Kardynyl SynysTyr’s Fabulous Fetish Fancies” features an up-and-coming design studio whose very name just so happens to literally refer to the cold, hard death of one’s smug self-assuredness.

You may have heard of them. You may already love them. There is no question, if you’re even the slightest admirer of all things ‘latex’ you’ll be wanting a piece from them at some point. They’re known in latex enthusiast circles as Ego Assassin, and all tongue-in-cheek references to anyone’s sense of “self-importance” aside, what they do is nothing short of astounding.

Their friends know them as James and Slinka. Both of them are the brains, the passion and indeed the very industriousness behind what (I believe) is sure to be a revolution within the latex fashion world. Sure, there are certainly other designers out there who are (for now) far more known, publicized and patronized. Your Humble Narrator says this in all solemnity: I have been around latex fashions and latex wear for a very, very long time. These eyes have never beheld the artistry and the workmanship that is so expertly exhibited in the work of the Ego Assassin duo.

So, what’s in a name, anyway?

“Our name and our concept come out a personal belief that our personalities are not fixed,” James told me during a visit to their studio recently. “We all have the ability to adjust and change, if we want to. Anyone can set their ‘ego’ aside and go completely into a different head space.”

“Basically, when you wear one of our pieces, we want you to feel like you’re literally slipping into another skin. You can be anything you want to be; an entirely different character,” James said. “If you believe you’re a goddess or an alien creature (wearing one of our creations), then you’re a goddess or an alien. The medium and the philosophy can fit together really nicely.”

In essence, then, the combined words “ego assassin” are meant to emulate a personal attitude: to wit, a positive, sensual transformation as opposed to any negative, assumed verbal evisceration usually associated with the haughty and self-indulgent club crowd.

In point of fact, James and Slinka are somewhat “obsessive”, if we’re telling the whole truth. They’re both absolute perfectionists when it comes to their work. Simply put, the hand-crafted, painstaking detail that is put into each one of their creations ensures that each and every customer is going to get a truly, unique and exceptional piece – regardless of whether that particular piece is part of their design inventory or not. It is this industrious dedication to quality (very much like their good friends and symbiotic partners, Elastica Engineering, who supply Ego Assassin with a superior quality of high-tensile sheet latex) that somewhat sets Ego Assassin apart from any other latex garment design studio.

I say “somewhat” for good reason, here. There is another aspect of James and Slinka’s work that puts their craftsmanship on a whole other plateau when compared to their peers in the industry.

While James is very clear in stating that “they really don’t have any trade secrets” that he feels needs protecting, it would be a serious disservice to describe in detail the one area of perfection in which Ego Assassin has definitely developed a loyal and dedicated clientele. Friends and customers who have been fortunate enough to have been offered a “sneak peek” at the line-up being currently constructed for Toronto’s Torture Garden Weekend (May 21 – 24) have been amazed at the quality of the images printed onto the rubber material as a signature feature of their collection for the Fashion Show. One such piece, which has been photographed and posted on a few fetish-related websites already, features a near-flawless, ‘color-favorable’ copy of The Great Wave by legendary Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) across the front bodice of a latex corset. It is but a small and yet staggering taste of the artistry that is so integral to the reputation of James and Slinka as truly formidable garment designers.

Naturally, there are dozens of other printed patterns and designs that have been produced by Ego Assassin over the past several months (“Through a hell of a lot of trial, error, anger and heartache,” James recounts with a half-smile). Once the process and procedure for creating the designs, images and patterns on the latex had been perfected, naturally the rapid interest in their product lines began to grow. The one thing James and Slinka refuse to compromise on is the commitment to quality through patient design, printing and construction processes. “We don’t hide our process, and while it’s really pretty simple it’s also very labor intensive,” Slinka said. “We have no interest in mass production. We’re in an industry where customers are extremely passionate about their clothes. We want them to know that we’re equally as passionate about making them as they are about wearing them. ”

There are certainly other successful latex garment designers throughout North America – and Europe, for that matter. Some entities (specifically in the New York and Montreal areas) have been in business for years, if not decades. However, the universal truth here is that many of those companies tend to produce product that has become somewhat “standardized”. In short, the variance in artistic style, and even quality, has varied little from company to company. Many of those “more established” design houses rely on repeat business from loyal customers merely due to the simple, convenient fact that competition for “name brand” product isn’t exactly fierce. Very few latex garment enthusiasts are 100% completely loyal to one particular brand, for instance.

It is exactly the very uniqueness of the Ego Assassin product that sets distinguishes them from the competition. While they too will build garments for “everyone from hardcore fetishists to soccer moms”, it is their momentous decision to commit to the superior formula being produced exclusively by Elastica Engineering combined with their own without-peer design and artistic skills that truly will make them (if they aren’t regarded as already) the absolute best in the business. That’s quite an accomplishment in such a relatively short period of time.

Their personal story, about how they came to be as a couple, couldn’t be exactly billed as “typical”. As it happened, they met while doing some modeling work. “My first thought of him was, ‘that boy spends way too much time on his hair.” Slinka said of James with a smile. “I mean, boys don’t wear make-up, right? I wasn’t sure I wanted to date a boy who might spend more time in front of a mirror than I did.” A chance meeting at a fetish event a short time later, some shared beverages and a mutually enjoyable conversation led to the discovery of a mutual interest in fetish wear – and specifically, latex. James, who had for years been employed as a professional artist in some capacity, was given the task of making his new lady-love a “one of a kind rubber dress” in the way of a somewhat playful challenge from Slinka herself. Little at that time did either of them realize that a white latex one-piece dress that featured a large “handcuffs” motif across the chest area would quickly lead them both toward the design adventure of their young lives. “It was really quite crude compared to what we’re doing now,” Slinka laughed. “But I wore that dress until it was eventually no longer recognizable as ‘white’, and it was falling apart.”

The white “Handcuff Dress”, as they called it, garnered a tremendous amount of attention at the huge annual Northbound Leather fetish extravaganza that year. “So many people were asking us ‘wherever did we find that dress,” James said. When fellow revelers were informed that James had, in fact, crafted the dress himself, the requests for product started coming immediately. “We even took a couple of orders while out on the dance floor,” he said. That fateful Northbound Leather event (titled, somewhat appropriately ‘Climax’) was five years ago. Ego Assassin, for all intents and purposes, has therefore been “in business” for a little less than five years.

Both James and Slinka credit the immensely popular and respected “Fetish Diva” Midori and Toronto promoter extraordinaire Craig Galbraith of Subspace and Torture Garden fame with being amongst their first true champions of their work. “In the first few years, there wasn’t a real lot of interest in us, especially in our own back yard,” James said. “But thanks to word of mouth from Midori and Craig especially, we really started to develop a loyal following and customer base.”

The quality of their product line has obviously and dramatically improved. Some of their more popular pieces – printed tops, their in-demand “Reverend” Bondage Skirts and a variety of mind-boggling dresses – have garnered attention in some very high profile camps. Their designs have been featured prominently in the Japanese edition of Vogue (Vogue Homme) magazine, and thanks to the enthusiastic endorsements of an admired and in-demand fashion stylist named Nicola Formichetti and the highly-respected fashion photographer Stephen Klein, orders have been placed for no less a talent than Lady Gaga for product that was to be seen in one of her over-the-top popular music videos (Bad Romance). Some of the Ego Assassin pieces were even targeted for use in some of Lady Gaga’s live stage performances.

Good stories about good, talented people usually end with a typically cliché commentary about the past. It cannot be said, though, that “the rest is history” in this particular instance: Ego Assassin is still revolutionizing the latex fashion industry and have started making history. You’ll be hearing about them for a long, long time to come.

Kardynyl SynysTyr

(All Photographs courtesy of Ego Assassin)

Slipping into An Alien Skin: The Magic of Ego Assassin

“Always be yourself… unless you suck.” ~ Joss Whedon

Great ideas – along with great people – are born of strong personal beliefs and convictions. The quote above isn’t exactly the kind of “corporate rallying cry” one might expect to see printed in 10-foot tall letters on billboards, let alone trumpeted loudly via mass-media marketing vehicles such as radio, television and even the Internet. Yet, there is simplicity in the statement; one that must surely resonate with most of us who have any kind of self-importance.

Be honest: we all have an ego to satisfy. Some of us (quite obviously) need to be vetted and fussed over more than others. For instance, Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend is quite comfortable and secure in the knowledge that you all love me.

Perhaps it is appropriate, then, that our focus for this episode of “Kardynyl SynysTyr’s Fabulous Fetish Fancies” features an up-and-coming design studio whose very name just so happens to literally refer to the cold, hard death of one’s smug self-assuredness.

You may have heard of them. You may already love them. There is no question, if you’re even the slightest admirer of all things ‘latex’ you’ll be wanting a piece from them at some point. They’re known in latex enthusiast circles as Ego Assassin, and all tongue-in-cheek references to anyone’s sense of “self-importance” aside, what they do is nothing short of astounding.

Their friends know them as James and Slinka. Both of them are the brains, the passion and indeed the very industriousness behind what (I believe) is sure to be a revolution within the latex fashion world. Sure, there are certainly other designers out there who are (for now) far more known, publicized and patronized. Your Humble Narrator says this in all solemnity: I have been around latex fashions and latex wear for a very, very long time. These eyes have never beheld the artistry and the workmanship that is so expertly exhibited in the work of the Ego Assassin duo.

So, what’s in a name, anyway?

“Our name and our concept come out a personal belief that our personalities are not fixed,” James told me during a visit to their studio recently. “We all have the ability to adjust and change, if we want to. Anyone can set their ‘ego’ aside and go completely into a different head space.”

“Basically, when you wear one of our pieces, we want you to feel like you’re literally slipping into another skin. You can be anything you want to be; an entirely different character,” James said. “If you believe you’re a goddess or an alien creature (wearing one of our creations), then you’re a goddess or an alien. The medium and the philosophy can fit together really nicely.”

In essence, then, the combined words “ego assassin” are meant to emulate a personal attitude: to wit, a positive, sensual transformation as opposed to any negative, assumed verbal evisceration usually associated with the haughty and self-indulgent club crowd.

In point of fact, James and Slinka are somewhat “obsessive”, if we’re telling the whole truth. They’re both absolute perfectionists when it comes to their work. Simply put, the hand-crafted, painstaking detail that is put into each one of their creations ensures that each and every customer is going to get a truly, unique and exceptional piece – regardless of whether that particular piece is part of their design inventory or not. It is this industrious dedication to quality (very much like their good friends and symbiotic partners, Elastica Engineering, who supply Ego Assassin with a superior quality of high-tensile sheet latex) that somewhat sets Ego Assassin apart from any other latex garment design studio.

I say “somewhat” for good reason, here. There is another aspect of James and Slinka’s work that puts their craftsmanship on a whole other plateau when compared to their peers in the industry.

While James is very clear in stating that “they really don’t have any trade secrets” that he feels needs protecting, it would be a serious disservice to describe in detail the one area of perfection in which Ego Assassin has definitely developed a loyal and dedicated clientele. Friends and customers who have been fortunate enough to have been offered a “sneak peek” at the line-up being currently constructed for Toronto’s Torture Garden Weekend (May 21 – 24) have been amazed at the quality of the images printed onto the rubber material as a signature feature of their collection for the Fashion Show. One such piece, which has been photographed and posted on a few fetish-related websites already, features a near-flawless, ‘color-favorable’ copy of The Great Wave by legendary Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) across the front bodice of a latex corset. It is but a small and yet staggering taste of the artistry that is so integral to the reputation of James and Slinka as truly formidable garment designers.

Naturally, there are dozens of other printed patterns and designs that have been produced by Ego Assassin over the past several months (“Through a hell of a lot of trial, error, anger and heartache,” James recounts with a half-smile). Once the process and procedure for creating the designs, images and patterns on the latex had been perfected, naturally the rapid interest in their product lines began to grow. The one thing James and Slinka refuse to compromise on is the commitment to quality through patient design, printing and construction processes. “We don’t hide our process, and while it’s really pretty simple it’s also very labor intensive,” Slinka said. “We have no interest in mass production. We’re in an industry where customers are extremely passionate about their clothes. We want them to know that we’re equally as passionate about making them as they are about wearing them. ”

There are certainly other successful latex garment designers throughout North America – and Europe, for that matter. Some entities (specifically in the New York and Montreal areas) have been in business for years, if not decades. However, the universal truth here is that many of those companies tend to produce product that has become somewhat “standardized”. In short, the variance in artistic style, and even quality, has varied little from company to company. Many of those “more established” design houses rely on repeat business from loyal customers merely due to the simple, convenient fact that competition for “name brand” product isn’t exactly fierce. Very few latex garment enthusiasts are 100% completely loyal to one particular brand, for instance.

It is exactly the very uniqueness of the Ego Assassin product that sets distinguishes them from the competition. While they too will build garments for “everyone from hardcore fetishists to soccer moms”, it is their momentous decision to commit to the superior formula being produced exclusively by Elastica Engineering combined with their own without-peer design and artistic skills that truly will make them (if they aren’t regarded as already) the absolute best in the business. That’s quite an accomplishment in such a relatively short period of time.

Their personal story, about how they came to be as a couple, couldn’t be exactly billed as “typical”. As it happened, they met while doing some modeling work. “My first thought of him was, ‘that boy spends way too much time on his hair.” Slinka said of James with a smile. “I mean, boys don’t wear make-up, right? I wasn’t sure I wanted to date a boy who might spend more time in front of a mirror than I did.” A chance meeting at a fetish event a short time later, some shared beverages and a mutually enjoyable conversation led to the discovery of a mutual interest in fetish wear – and specifically, latex. James, who had for years been employed as a professional artist in some capacity, was given the task of making his new lady-love a “one of a kind rubber dress” in the way of a somewhat playful challenge from Slinka herself. Little at that time did either of them realize that a white latex one-piece dress that featured a large “handcuffs” motif across the chest area would quickly lead them both toward the design adventure of their young lives. “It was really quite crude compared to what we’re doing now,” Slinka laughed. “But I wore that dress until it was eventually no longer recognizable as ‘white’, and it was falling apart.”

The white “Handcuff Dress”, as they called it, garnered a tremendous amount of attention at the huge annual Northbound Leather fetish extravaganza that year. “So many people were asking us ‘wherever did we find that dress,” James said. When fellow revelers were informed that James had, in fact, crafted the dress himself, the requests for product started coming immediately. “We even took a couple of orders while out on the dance floor,” he said. That fateful Northbound Leather event (titled, somewhat appropriately ‘Climax’) was five years ago. Ego Assassin, for all intents and purposes, has therefore been “in business” for a little less than five years.

Both James and Slinka credit the immensely popular and respected “Fetish Diva” Midori and Toronto promoter extraordinaire Craig Galbraith of Subspace and Torture Garden fame with being amongst their first true champions of their work. “In the first few years, there wasn’t a real lot of interest in us, especially in our own back yard,” James said. “But thanks to word of mouth from Midori and Craig especially, we really started to develop a loyal following and customer base.”

The quality of their product line has obviously and dramatically improved. Some of their more popular pieces – printed tops, their in-demand “Reverend” Bondage Skirts and a variety of mind-boggling dresses – have garnered attention in some very high profile camps. Their designs have been featured prominently in the Japanese edition of Vogue (Vogue Homme) magazine, and thanks to the enthusiastic endorsements of an admired and in-demand fashion stylist named Nicola Formichetti and the highly-respected fashion photographer Stephen Klein, orders have been placed for no less a talent than Lady Gaga for product that was to be seen in one of her over-the-top popular music videos (Bad Romance). Some of the Ego Assassin pieces were even targeted for use in some of Lady Gaga’s live stage performances.

Good stories about good, talented people usually end with a typically cliché commentary about the past. It cannot be said, though, that “the rest is history” in this particular instance: Ego Assassin is still revolutionizing the latex fashion industry and have started making history. You’ll be hearing about them for a long, long time to come.

Kardynyl SynysTyr

(All Photographs courtesy of Ego Assassin)

Now and Forever, Everything is RENT

tn-0124In 1988, noted playwright Billy Aronson had an absurd idea. What if someone took the basic plot of the celebrated Giacomo Puccini opera, La Bohème, and updated it to a modern, hip new audience? About a year later, Aronson started putting out calls for collaborators. It wasn’t long before a good friend, new project developer extraordinaire Ira Weitzman, introduced him to an ambitious, relatively obscure young composer with somewhat wild eyes and an even wilder hairdo. That young composer’s name was Jonathan Larson. Incredibly, the young Mr. Larson had lived a “Bohemian life” himself in the legendary hipster area of New York City called SoHo – and he at first suggested, and eventually ended up pleading, with Billy Aronson to allow him to use the original La Bohème concept and truly make it his semi-autobiographical Magnum Opus. Billy Aronson agreed to step aside from the collaboration – but with the agreement that if the project ever actually did make it to the “Big Stage”, in any of the gargantuan New York Theatre wing’s legendary venues, they would equally share in the spoils of their success.

Jonathan Larson - RENTNothing is guaranteed in the world of live theatre, and especially so when any discussion of Musicals begin in earnest. Four years later, the work originated at the New York Theatre Workshop as a piece of Reader’s Theatre. From the initial read-through, the quirky, kinky little project had a limited three week run within the Workshop’s Studio Theatre system. For the next three years, Jonathan Larson and his production team cajoled, nurtured, beat, kicked and hammered out a modern take on Puccini’s masterpiece. Their efforts were finally rewarded with an agreement to produce “the new Bohemian musical” through the renowned Nederlander Group.

Little did anyone know that the twisted little musical – rife with open references to latex, cross-dressing, sadomasochism and (sadly) the scourge of the late last millennium: AIDS – would run for over twelve years and become the seventh longest-running show in Broadway history.

Speaking of tragedy, the show’s wonder kid composer, Jonathan Larson, was destined to never see a single Broadway performance of his magnificent show. Just before what would have surely been the most exciting time of his short life, Mr. Larson was making a tea in his modest kitchen at 3:00 am in the morning when he suddenly collapsed. He never regained consciousness, and died, early in the morning on a cold kitchen floor, on January 26th, 1996 – the very evening of the first preview performance of his musical. Jonathan Larson had succumbed to an aortic aneurysm, and he was just 36 years of age.

RENTHis show, however, continues to live on. What at first many thought would be a dated and era-constrained modern musical has become a rallying cry for an entire new generation of “new Bohemians”. In every major city in North America and in a good percentage of the ancient old cultural capitals of Europe, you are assured to see more than a few solid black or red T-Shirts proudly expounding the new Bohemian mantras: “No Day But Today” and “Forget Regret or Life is Yours to Miss.” Unless you’ve been living under a bridge somewhere for the past fourteen years, the name of Mr. Larson’s odd little ode to Puccini should, by now, be obvious. We are discussing the triumph that is Jonathan Larson’s RENT.

RENT ended its historic run at the Nederlander Theatre in New York City on September 7, 2008. The central “villain” of the piece – the AIDS pandemic of the early and mid 1990’s – isn’t quite viewed today with the same sense of panic, desperation and despair. The treatment for the disease has developed to the point where those infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS could theoretically live fairly lengthy, longer lives. Make no mistake however: while treatment has advanced leaps and bounds since Jonathan Larson’s late days,  AIDS is still very much a death sentence.

Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal RENTIn an off and ironic kind of way, the continued existence of RENT continues to breathe, thrive and induce appreciative hysteria in theatre-goers in several cities across the continent despite the sombre overtones of the show’s central malady. The Broadway Touring production – featuring original and revered cast members Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Gwen Stewart – has been performing in front of sold-out, rabid and excessively vocal “Rent-Heads” since the final performance at the original New York venue. Mr. Pascal, Mr. Rapp and Miss Stewart have all gone on to steady, enjoyable careers (within the show and apart from it), but there can be no denying the magic that begins the very moment the character of Mark (Anthony Rapp) walks across the stage, starting the proceedings to the strains of a guitar being tuned, is infectious and encompassing. For three-plus hours, audiences are able to turn back the clock to 1996 (none of the original cast appear to have aged a day) and join in the celebration that is a single year in the life of a small collective of down-on-their-luck friends, trying to eek out a living through illness, rampant drug abuse, urban development and shattered relationships in New York’s grungy Alphabet City.

Lexi Lawson RENTA film version of the show, featuring nearly all of the original Broadway cast, was premiered to luke-warm reviews in 2005 while the Broadway version was still rockin’ and rollin’ enthusiasts in any number of theatres in any number of cities. RENT made a star of the incomparable Idina Menzel (who originated the role of the rubber-catsuit clad Maureen before moving on to much greater acclaim as the misunderstood witch Elphaba in the musical Wicked). The show also spawned the successful careers of Jesse L. Martin (Law and Order) and the powerfully talented Taye Diggs (Chicago). The show’s most recognizable song – Seasons of Love – has been recorded by no less an empresario than Stevie Wonder and still remains the veritable anthem for the downtrodden whose sole asset during those individual darkest times appears to be “hope”.

RENT does, despite the opinions of some of the critics fourteen years ago, remain topical, and timeless. There is no question that a central part of the show’s appeal (beside the music, of course) has to be the underlying raw sensual tension created in the sets and, especially, in the costumery. Sure, there have been other stage productions before that utilized an element of fetish and/or SM as a by-product of the story. As far back as the mid-1960’s, an original production of  Oh! Calcutta! featured an entire scene that revolved around a bound and gagged servent girl about to tied to a whipping post and summarily flogged for an imaginary transgression; and simply because it suited the “curiosity” of the narrator of that particular show. A fantastic little piece written by the late Paul Bartel called Eating Raoul (based on his cult film of the same name) ran successfully “off Broadway” for a number of months. That show, starring the talented but sadly nearly forgotten Adrian Zmed (of television’s TJ Hooker fame), even featured a Dominatrix named Donna as a pivotal character in the show’s plot. A few years back, a show called Urinetown had a musical number that involved a trussed-up and securely gagged damsel in distress struggling against her restraints to the strains of an uncomfortable little tune simply called Snuff That Girl.

Justin Johnson RENTBut, none of those efforts compare in any way to RENT. The tragic moments of Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece feature a high-stepping and plucky little transvestite named Angel, who gamely struts, leaps, sings and incessanty thumps on a ten-gallon plastic pickle tub (her “drum”) at every opportunity. Those familiar with the show are well aware of Angel’s fate – but the moment her tragic destiny is revealed to the audience never fails to illicit torrents of tears from the appreciative crowds gathered to take in the ritual and fetish pageantry that is the pure embodiment of the entire piece itself. Fetishism – 1996 style to be sure but certainly more than relevant in 2010 – is the timeless glue that will forever be the lock-and-stock appeal of RENT as it heads into its fifteenth year of existence. It is worth the price of a ticket alone to see all of the costume designs: from Maureen’s (now) infamous latex catsuit, complete with latex kitty-kat ears, to Angel’s interpretation of “Pussy Galore”, complete with knee-high pink PVC platform Go-Go boots that are a perfect match for her PVC mini-dress. The show’s main female character, Mimi Marquez, early on in the show implores the tortured Roger (Adam Pascal) to “take her out” by stripping off a cumbersome housecoat to reveal what appears to be a painted-on, light-blue “latex” pair of pants accented with a lycra leopard print short tank top and matching high-heeled boots. Her dangerous-girl look is completed with a form-fitting black latex shrug that surely looks as if it will rip itself to pieces the moment she starts to dance, gyrate and “howl at the moon like a cat in heat” as she tries to entice and seduce the love-lorn Roger. The costumes are more than just provocative and sexy: they’re an integral representation of the very attitude that those living a Bohemian existence need to flaunt in order to give their fragile lives a sense of “belonging”, and indeed, a sense of “family”. Similar shows that tried to rely heavily on suggestive costumes, such as the prostitution musical The Life, have come and quickly gone. RENT  is, and forever shall be, regarded as simply timeless – and revolutionary.

RENT  is scheduled to end its current Broadway Tour run in Sacramento, California, in February, 2010. It is doubtful, however, that the show – by far the best marriage of modern musical theatre, fetishism and simple, pure human frailty ever written – will go quietly into the night, let alone the musical theatre history books. RENT  is, now and forever, timeless. The message will continue to resonant to audiences and fans years from now: Forget regret, or Life is yours to miss.

RENT Company Low RES(Photos courtesy of Joan Marcus and the Broadway Touring Production of RENT.) 

Now and Forever, Everything is RENT

tn-0124In 1988, noted playwright Billy Aronson had an absurd idea. What if someone took the basic plot of the celebrated Giacomo Puccini opera, La Bohème, and updated it to a modern, hip new audience? About a year later, Aronson started putting out calls for collaborators. It wasn’t long before a good friend, new project developer extraordinaire Ira Weitzman, introduced him to an ambitious, relatively obscure young composer with somewhat wild eyes and an even wilder hairdo. That young composer’s name was Jonathan Larson. Incredibly, the young Mr. Larson had lived a “Bohemian life” himself in the legendary hipster area of New York City called SoHo – and he at first suggested, and eventually ended up pleading, with Billy Aronson to allow him to use the original La Bohème concept and truly make it his semi-autobiographical Magnum Opus. Billy Aronson agreed to step aside from the collaboration – but with the agreement that if the project ever actually did make it to the “Big Stage”, in any of the gargantuan New York Theatre wing’s legendary venues, they would equally share in the spoils of their success.

Jonathan Larson - RENTNothing is guaranteed in the world of live theatre, and especially so when any discussion of Musicals begin in earnest. Four years later, the work originated at the New York Theatre Workshop as a piece of Reader’s Theatre. From the initial read-through, the quirky, kinky little project had a limited three week run within the Workshop’s Studio Theatre system. For the next three years, Jonathan Larson and his production team cajoled, nurtured, beat, kicked and hammered out a modern take on Puccini’s masterpiece. Their efforts were finally rewarded with an agreement to produce “the new Bohemian musical” through the renowned Nederlander Group.

Little did anyone know that the twisted little musical – rife with open references to latex, cross-dressing, sadomasochism and (sadly) the scourge of the late last millennium: AIDS – would run for over twelve years and become the seventh longest-running show in Broadway history.

Speaking of tragedy, the show’s wonder kid composer, Jonathan Larson, was destined to never see a single Broadway performance of his magnificent show. Just before what would have surely been the most exciting time of his short life, Mr. Larson was making a tea in his modest kitchen at 3:00 am in the morning when he suddenly collapsed. He never regained consciousness, and died, early in the morning on a cold kitchen floor, on January 26th, 1996 – the very evening of the first preview performance of his musical. Jonathan Larson had succumbed to an aortic aneurysm, and he was just 36 years of age.

RENTHis show, however, continues to live on. What at first many thought would be a dated and era-constrained modern musical has become a rallying cry for an entire new generation of “new Bohemians”. In every major city in North America and in a good percentage of the ancient old cultural capitals of Europe, you are assured to see more than a few solid black or red T-Shirts proudly expounding the new Bohemian mantras: “No Day But Today” and “Forget Regret or Life is Yours to Miss.” Unless you’ve been living under a bridge somewhere for the past fourteen years, the name of Mr. Larson’s odd little ode to Puccini should, by now, be obvious. We are discussing the triumph that is Jonathan Larson’s RENT.

RENT ended its historic run at the Nederlander Theatre in New York City on September 7, 2008. The central “villain” of the piece – the AIDS pandemic of the early and mid 1990’s – isn’t quite viewed today with the same sense of panic, desperation and despair. The treatment for the disease has developed to the point where those infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS could theoretically live fairly lengthy, longer lives. Make no mistake however: while treatment has advanced leaps and bounds since Jonathan Larson’s late days,  AIDS is still very much a death sentence.

Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal RENTIn an off and ironic kind of way, the continued existence of RENT continues to breathe, thrive and induce appreciative hysteria in theatre-goers in several cities across the continent despite the sombre overtones of the show’s central malady. The Broadway Touring production – featuring original and revered cast members Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Gwen Stewart – has been performing in front of sold-out, rabid and excessively vocal “Rent-Heads” since the final performance at the original New York venue. Mr. Pascal, Mr. Rapp and Miss Stewart have all gone on to steady, enjoyable careers (within the show and apart from it), but there can be no denying the magic that begins the very moment the character of Mark (Anthony Rapp) walks across the stage, starting the proceedings to the strains of a guitar being tuned, is infectious and encompassing. For three-plus hours, audiences are able to turn back the clock to 1996 (none of the original cast appear to have aged a day) and join in the celebration that is a single year in the life of a small collective of down-on-their-luck friends, trying to eek out a living through illness, rampant drug abuse, urban development and shattered relationships in New York’s grungy Alphabet City.

Lexi Lawson RENTA film version of the show, featuring nearly all of the original Broadway cast, was premiered to luke-warm reviews in 2005 while the Broadway version was still rockin’ and rollin’ enthusiasts in any number of theatres in any number of cities. RENT made a star of the incomparable Idina Menzel (who originated the role of the rubber-catsuit clad Maureen before moving on to much greater acclaim as the misunderstood witch Elphaba in the musical Wicked). The show also spawned the successful careers of Jesse L. Martin (Law and Order) and the powerfully talented Taye Diggs (Chicago). The show’s most recognizable song – Seasons of Love – has been recorded by no less an empresario than Stevie Wonder and still remains the veritable anthem for the downtrodden whose sole asset during those individual darkest times appears to be “hope”.

RENT does, despite the opinions of some of the critics fourteen years ago, remain topical, and timeless. There is no question that a central part of the show’s appeal (beside the music, of course) has to be the underlying raw sensual tension created in the sets and, especially, in the costumery. Sure, there have been other stage productions before that utilized an element of fetish and/or SM as a by-product of the story. As far back as the mid-1960’s, an original production of  Oh! Calcutta! featured an entire scene that revolved around a bound and gagged servent girl about to tied to a whipping post and summarily flogged for an imaginary transgression; and simply because it suited the “curiosity” of the narrator of that particular show. A fantastic little piece written by the late Paul Bartel called Eating Raoul (based on his cult film of the same name) ran successfully “off Broadway” for a number of months. That show, starring the talented but sadly nearly forgotten Adrian Zmed (of television’s TJ Hooker fame), even featured a Dominatrix named Donna as a pivotal character in the show’s plot. A few years back, a show called Urinetown had a musical number that involved a trussed-up and securely gagged damsel in distress struggling against her restraints to the strains of an uncomfortable little tune simply called Snuff That Girl.

Justin Johnson RENTBut, none of those efforts compare in any way to RENT. The tragic moments of Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece feature a high-stepping and plucky little transvestite named Angel, who gamely struts, leaps, sings and incessanty thumps on a ten-gallon plastic pickle tub (her “drum”) at every opportunity. Those familiar with the show are well aware of Angel’s fate – but the moment her tragic destiny is revealed to the audience never fails to illicit torrents of tears from the appreciative crowds gathered to take in the ritual and fetish pageantry that is the pure embodiment of the entire piece itself. Fetishism – 1996 style to be sure but certainly more than relevant in 2010 – is the timeless glue that will forever be the lock-and-stock appeal of RENT as it heads into its fifteenth year of existence. It is worth the price of a ticket alone to see all of the costume designs: from Maureen’s (now) infamous latex catsuit, complete with latex kitty-kat ears, to Angel’s interpretation of “Pussy Galore”, complete with knee-high pink PVC platform Go-Go boots that are a perfect match for her PVC mini-dress. The show’s main female character, Mimi Marquez, early on in the show implores the tortured Roger (Adam Pascal) to “take her out” by stripping off a cumbersome housecoat to reveal what appears to be a painted-on, light-blue “latex” pair of pants accented with a lycra leopard print short tank top and matching high-heeled boots. Her dangerous-girl look is completed with a form-fitting black latex shrug that surely looks as if it will rip itself to pieces the moment she starts to dance, gyrate and “howl at the moon like a cat in heat” as she tries to entice and seduce the love-lorn Roger. The costumes are more than just provocative and sexy: they’re an integral representation of the very attitude that those living a Bohemian existence need to flaunt in order to give their fragile lives a sense of “belonging”, and indeed, a sense of “family”. Similar shows that tried to rely heavily on suggestive costumes, such as the prostitution musical The Life, have come and quickly gone. RENT  is, and forever shall be, regarded as simply timeless – and revolutionary.

RENT  is scheduled to end its current Broadway Tour run in Sacramento, California, in February, 2010. It is doubtful, however, that the show – by far the best marriage of modern musical theatre, fetishism and simple, pure human frailty ever written – will go quietly into the night, let alone the musical theatre history books. RENT  is, now and forever, timeless. The message will continue to resonant to audiences and fans years from now: Forget regret, or Life is yours to miss.

RENT Company Low RES(Photos courtesy of Joan Marcus and the Broadway Touring Production of RENT.) 

5 fetishes to watch in 2010

Erik von Gutenberg recommends this article from Asylum.

There’s a new fetish every day, but only a few make it to the Bigs. For every plushy or WAM fetish that breaks from the pack, there’s a thousand formicophilias that never make the cut. Never fear — we’re going to show you the kinks to watch in 2010. The rules:

I. If there’s no Internet presence, it’s just fail. Is there such a thing as an explosion fetish? Of course there is. (See: Bay, Michael.) But until it has a video channel of its own on YouTube and some sexologist gives it a fancy name like explode-o-philia, don’t waste our time.

II. If it’s been featured on an episode of “CSI,” it’s not sex anymore. Your mom’s doing it with her book club.

III. Anything Japanese is automatically a fetish. Doesn’t matter what. Bullet trains? Fetish. Flower arranging? Fetish. Sarariman manga? Hello Kitty action figures? Super-tiny hotel rooms? Fetish, fetish, fetish. That country is just twisted.

tentacle-porn-wikipedia-294-12629782151. Tentacle Porn
Just what it sounds like, tentacle porn involves tentacled creatures — squids, octopi, the occasional E.T. — getting it on with human beings, usually women.

Coming from (where else?) Japan, where it’s been around literally for centuries, Shokushu hentai is perfect for anyone who wants a little Lovecraft in his love craft

estim-accessories-1862. E-Stim
No, it’s not getting NSFW email from that hookup you regret. It’s the use of electrodes to run current to various parts of your body.

The clunky E-stim appliances look like they were developed from ’80s technology and produce stimulations that range from a “light tingle to deep internal throbbing.” (Like Merlin says in “Excalibur”: “A dream to some. To others, a nightmare!”)

robotwoman-getty-1863. Agalmatophilia
The classiest — that is, the dullest — of fetishes, agalmatophilia is a sexual desire for mannequins, dolls or other inanimate representations of the human form. In some cases, it can cross over into robot fetishism, a subject we have covered extensively.

Agalmatophilia has not yet been officially recognized as a syndrome, but we’re banking on 2010 being a big year for this versatile kink.

puke-getty-1864. Emetophilia
Sexual fascination with vomit and vomiting. The act of actually vomiting on another person is called a Roman shower, which sounds so much less disgusting than it actually is.

But now that urine has gone mainstream, making it into seemingly every other Penthouse pictorial, this bodily function seems like the logical next step for a renaissance.

sleeping-girl-2945. Somnophilia
Either a genuine fetish or a cunning viral marketing campaign by Tempur-Pedic, somnophilia is a fetish “in which sexual arousal and/or orgasm are stimulated by intruding on and awakening a sleeping person with erotic caresses.”

Sometimes called “sleepy sex,” this fetish has scores of Web sites we can’t link to devoted to pictures and videos of “sleeping models” giving lackadaisical HJs.

“Sleeping Beauty” is the classic M/F example of this fetish; the reverse, “Napping Slob With Chips and Dip After Six Hours of Sunday ESPN,” isn’t nearly as popular

Source: http://www.asylum.com/2010/01/15/5-new-fetishes-tentacle-estim-agalmatophilia-emetophilia-somnophilia/

The Summer of (Some) Discontent … is Over. Welcome Autumn!!

tn-0124The incomparable Lady J and I are taking the rest of September to recharge the batteries. We are heading out this evening to Toronto’s long-running Fetish Masquerade in celebration, however: It is our dear friend Mistress Katina’s birthday, and we simply could not say “no” to our closest friend Ms. Marina Black for insisting that we help the lovely Katina usher in a new chapter into the wonderful tapestry that is her life. They are both amazing women and we would encourage everyone to pay them proper respects and admirations should you happen to cross their paths.

Tonight also marks the Grand Opening of Fetish Masquerade’s new location in Toronto, and by all “sneak peeks” provided to Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend, the venue, atmosphere and ambience is truly just that: “Grand”. Lady J and I, while exhausted beyond any measure of quantifiable belief, are really looking forward to just spending a relaxing evening with those that we truly love, admire, respect and cherish this evening. We are both hoping that we’ll have the chance to see Mistress Patricia Marsh this evening as well – we both miss her company and her sage guidance, and short of a fleeting moment spent in joyous watchfulness in Montréal a couple of weekends ago, we’ve not had much of a chance to share time with her, either. Mistress Patricia, you’ve been an inspiration and a good friend to us both: we’d really love to see you tonight if you happen to be venturing out …

This Fall, Lady J and I are both looking forward to a new slate of exceptional events. First and foremost on that list is, of course, Northbound Leather’s Tribe – the latest iteration of the largest Fetish/SM single-evening venue event in the world. George and Anna, the owners of Northbound Leather, have yet to fail to deliver a first class and top-tier event to the fetish affectionistas across this lovely globe – and we expect October 24th, 2009, to be no exception. There are several events in Canada and the United States to choose from, naturally, when considering traveling to and spending hard-earned cash at any number of fair-to-great events: but Northbound Leather’s annual shindig continues to be the standard by which every other large-scale gathering of fetish folk is duly judged.

Here is a Report Card of the major events that Lady J and I attended in person, Marquis America was instrumental in bringing you or at least had sponsorship concerns in, or even just ones where we got more than just a “tad” bit of feedback about:

marquisfetishballforwebMarquis America Fetish BallSan Francisco, California – July

Grade: A-

By all accounts, the inaugural Fetish Ball was a huge success. Our own Erik Von Gutenberg and the lovely Lady Suzanne Forbes did an amazing job organizing and pulling together an amazing event. This is quite hard to do in a town that has been literally saturated in years past with exceptional Fetish and SM-related events, but the Home Office Marquis American twosome pulled it off. The only reason this is an “A-” rather than an “A” is there were some folks that pointed out that the venue (The Supper Club) in San Francisco turned out to be a smidgen too small to accommodate the amount of people that wished to attend. This, as they say, is a “good problem” to have and bodes well for the future of the Fetish Ball going into a promising future. Well done, Erik and Suzanne: Lady J and I promise to try as hard as we can to join you both next year for Fetish Ball 2010 in the city that I love so very, very much!

Fetish Con 2009Fetish ConTampa Bay, Florida – August

Grade: A-

We have heard nothing but good things about the annual “Sizzlin’ Hot” Fetish gathering in central Florida this year. A few of our friends managed to make the trek to Tampa Bay in August (despite the heat), and came back with glowing reports. Everything from the parties to the iconic model participation was, from all accounts, first class and exceptional. The ever-present threat of dangerous weather in Florida did not manage to interrupt the party atmosphere of those in attendance – and Erik Von Gutenberg himself seemed to report back that it was an “incredible time” (if you haven’t had a chance to see his interview with Fetish Supermodel Jean Bardot on YouTube yet, it’s worth a look!). The only downside reported back to Yours Truly was the inordinate amount of “street clothed” participants wandering around and snapping unauthorized photos of some of the revelry – a common problem that faces each and every large-scale Fetish event. Apart from the lack of provided transportation (another common “problem theme”) and the gawkiness of hotel staff at the host hotel, though, everyone I spoke with that attended Fetish Con 2009 all had the same enthusiastic response: “We can’t wait for next year!”

Church Street FairChurch Street Fetish FairToronto, Ontario – August

Grade: B+

The day was long and the day was super-hot – even for August in Canada’s largest city. It made for an uncomfortable time for some of the street performers, vendors and volunteers. Apart from the heat, however, the Fetish Fair on Church Street this year was a very good event and, considering it was one of (if not the only) large scale event that didn’t charge an admission price, it was certainly well worth the visit to Toronto’s Rainbow Village. It was somewhat disappointing that the organizers somehow didn’t have the foresight to provide printed literature in the way of performance and show schedules, and some of the vendors did complain that the decibel level around where they were stationed (in an attempt to market their wares) sometimes reached eardrum breaking proportions. But the crowds were enthusiastic and the participants, from volunteers on down the line to performers and vendors alike all reported that they had an enjoyable day. What started as a small “craft fair” idea held in a small park-like setting has grown into one of the summer’s most eagerly anticipated events in Canada – and this year’s edition certainly didn’t disappoint. Perhaps for the 2010 event, the organizers may wish to pay a little more attention to having proper schedules for the myriad of events happening all day long. On the whole, however, the Church Street Fetish Fair is a fantastic and fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Toronto – and you certainly should have no complaints about the price.

Torture Garden Toronto PosterTorture Garden – Toronto, Ontario – August

Grade: A

Simply superb! There was no better event in Toronto – and I daresay on the East Coast – than Torture Garden Toronto. The event organizer, Random Craig, is an up-and coming-star promoter – and not only in Toronto. More established, large-scale Fetish event promoters (outside of Northbound Leather, who make an art of event organizing, in my opinion) should pay heed and perhaps learn a thing or two about catering to the desires and demands of their audience: and simply no-one does it better than Random Craig. Torture Garden was an ambitious gamble: the Montréal Fetish Weekend was to take place the following week, and Craig certainly had valid concerns about whether or not the event would be well attended. He needn’t have worried: scores of people showed up in some of the classiest, clever and exceptional Fetish wardrobes this writer has ever laid eyes on – and not a single soul Lady J and I spoke to had a negative thing to say about the event. Yes, it was really that good. The thing that separates Random Craig’s events – and especially Torture Garden – is that he actually listens to the wants and needs of those that attend his parties rather than plan everything around the glorification of his own ego. Simply put, people love attending his events because he works so very hard to try and make an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone that will be attending.

Case in point: One of the few complaints that Craig had heard about his massively-popular Subspace events in Toronto was that the “play area” was hard to access and far too small to be of any real use for the amount of people that wished to utilize it. He listened: the Dungeon area for Torture Garden Toronto was out of the way from the rest of the revellers, easily accessible – and just fun. In order to accommodate those that wished to use the large pieces of equipment, Craig and his staff took on the laborious task of hauling crosses, benches and posts up not one, but two sets of ridiculously old stairs and into an appropriately large enough room to house each and every piece. It goes without saying that not every event organizer would be caught dead struggling with large Dungeon equipment pieces (and working for hours on end getting his own hands dirty) – just in an effort to make sure his paying audience was happy. His efforts paid off, and clearly showed: Torture Garden Toronto is assuredly going to be a “can’t miss” event on every one’s calenders on the East Coast for years to come. It truly was just that good.

Montreal Fetish WeekendMontréal Fetish Weekend - Montréal, Quebec – September

Grade: D-

I hate to end this missive on a somewhat down note – but it really can’t be avoided. I have few very nice things to say about the Montréal Fetish Weekend. Drawing from the chorus of complaints I have heard since our return from the event in early September, it actually sounds like Lady J and I had a better time than a good portion of those who also made the journey to that beautiful, amazing French Canadian bastion that is the fantastic city of  Montréal. That is about where the superlatives end, however.

After five years of “maturing”, the event organizers, all two of them, should be ashamed of themselves.

One of the biggest complaints about the Montréal Fetish Weekend in years past has been that it’s really been a very expensive sojourn to a very wonderful city – for the abject benefit of a very select few people with egos that continuously need to be assuaged and massaged. While the posturing that has been reported in years past was somewhat less in evidence this year, overall the event was really nothing more than three packed-to-the rafters nightclub events that had but one purpose: turning a profit. Some of the usual Fetish icons were there, of course (we saw Jean Bardot in attendance on Friday evening, for instance). The first evening was held at a club location that was so inept and inadequately prepared to host such a large contingent of people – and the “event staff” seemed to have no issues with allowing a large throng of “street clothed” folk in without much of a second glance. This was to become a major source of contention for “veteran” Fetish Weekend party goers throughout the weekend. The lack of proper and adequately provided transportation (or available information about transportation) was also seen to be a major failing, and some of the “stage shows” presented were laughable at best and purely and simply obnoxious and objectionable at worst.

Yes, the Fetish Weekend – as expected – had a huge number of amazing costumes, fetish assemblages and uniforms to feast your eyes upon. This, however, simply isn’t enough of a reason to make the investment in attending all of the weekend’s events. There was very little that was “new” and “exciting” about this year’s efforts and a tremendous number of things that just seemed to be a poor rehash of previously-attempted activities. The amount of politics and hostility that seems to surround the event itself from the local professional community (!) was alarming, and certainly would tend to indicate why there is a competing “Fetish Weekend” event in Montréal being held in October that features almost all of the businesses and personalities within Le Belle Ville that noticeably stayed away from September’s annual, more “established” event. Of any event this summer, the Montréal Fetish Weekend was the one gathering I was personally looking so very forward to attending the most – and it was the one gathering that clearly disappointed. I wouldn’t accept another press junket to attend this event – nor would I certainly pay for an over-priced VIP Pass to attend this event  – anytime in the near future. If there is a next time, we’ll pay for the nights and events we want to see – and undoubtedly save a lot of money in the process.

As good as the previous events listed above honestly and truly were, the Montréal Fetish Weekend was clearly and just as truly that bad. I duly hope the organizing committee, both of them, learn from this year’s shortcomings – or at least take a lesson or two in “good event management” and “catering to your public rather than your own ego” from both Random Craig and Northbound Leather.

May the falling leaves bring us an amazing Autumn season of good friends, good times and greater prosperity!

Kardynyl SynysTyr

The Summer of (Some) Discontent … is Over. Welcome Autumn!!

tn-0124The incomparable Lady J and I are taking the rest of September to recharge the batteries. We are heading out this evening to Toronto’s long-running Fetish Masquerade in celebration, however: It is our dear friend Mistress Katina’s birthday, and we simply could not say “no” to our closest friend Ms. Marina Black for insisting that we help the lovely Katina usher in a new chapter into the wonderful tapestry that is her life. They are both amazing women and we would encourage everyone to pay them proper respects and admirations should you happen to cross their paths.

Tonight also marks the Grand Opening of Fetish Masquerade’s new location in Toronto, and by all “sneak peeks” provided to Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend, the venue, atmosphere and ambience is truly just that: “Grand”. Lady J and I, while exhausted beyond any measure of quantifiable belief, are really looking forward to just spending a relaxing evening with those that we truly love, admire, respect and cherish this evening. We are both hoping that we’ll have the chance to see Mistress Patricia Marsh this evening as well – we both miss her company and her sage guidance, and short of a fleeting moment spent in joyous watchfulness in Montréal a couple of weekends ago, we’ve not had much of a chance to share time with her, either. Mistress Patricia, you’ve been an inspiration and a good friend to us both: we’d really love to see you tonight if you happen to be venturing out …

This Fall, Lady J and I are both looking forward to a new slate of exceptional events. First and foremost on that list is, of course, Northbound Leather’s Tribe – the latest iteration of the largest Fetish/SM single-evening venue event in the world. George and Anna, the owners of Northbound Leather, have yet to fail to deliver a first class and top-tier event to the fetish affectionistas across this lovely globe – and we expect October 24th, 2009, to be no exception. There are several events in Canada and the United States to choose from, naturally, when considering traveling to and spending hard-earned cash at any number of fair-to-great events: but Northbound Leather’s annual shindig continues to be the standard by which every other large-scale gathering of fetish folk is duly judged.

Here is a Report Card of the major events that Lady J and I attended in person, Marquis America was instrumental in bringing you or at least had sponsorship concerns in, or even just ones where we got more than just a “tad” bit of feedback about:

marquisfetishballforwebMarquis America Fetish BallSan Francisco, California – July

Grade: A-

By all accounts, the inaugural Fetish Ball was a huge success. Our own Erik Von Gutenberg and the lovely Lady Suzanne Forbes did an amazing job organizing and pulling together an amazing event. This is quite hard to do in a town that has been literally saturated in years past with exceptional Fetish and SM-related events, but the Home Office Marquis American twosome pulled it off. The only reason this is an “A-” rather than an “A” is there were some folks that pointed out that the venue (The Supper Club) in San Francisco turned out to be a smidgen too small to accommodate the amount of people that wished to attend. This, as they say, is a “good problem” to have and bodes well for the future of the Fetish Ball going into a promising future. Well done, Erik and Suzanne: Lady J and I promise to try as hard as we can to join you both next year for Fetish Ball 2010 in the city that I love so very, very much!

Fetish Con 2009Fetish ConTampa Bay, Florida – August

Grade: A-

We have heard nothing but good things about the annual “Sizzlin’ Hot” Fetish gathering in central Florida this year. A few of our friends managed to make the trek to Tampa Bay in August (despite the heat), and came back with glowing reports. Everything from the parties to the iconic model participation was, from all accounts, first class and exceptional. The ever-present threat of dangerous weather in Florida did not manage to interrupt the party atmosphere of those in attendance – and Erik Von Gutenberg himself seemed to report back that it was an “incredible time” (if you haven’t had a chance to see his interview with Fetish Supermodel Jean Bardot on YouTube yet, it’s worth a look!). The only downside reported back to Yours Truly was the inordinate amount of “street clothed” participants wandering around and snapping unauthorized photos of some of the revelry – a common problem that faces each and every large-scale Fetish event. Apart from the lack of provided transportation (another common “problem theme”) and the gawkiness of hotel staff at the host hotel, though, everyone I spoke with that attended Fetish Con 2009 all had the same enthusiastic response: “We can’t wait for next year!”

Church Street FairChurch Street Fetish FairToronto, Ontario – August

Grade: B+

The day was long and the day was super-hot – even for August in Canada’s largest city. It made for an uncomfortable time for some of the street performers, vendors and volunteers. Apart from the heat, however, the Fetish Fair on Church Street this year was a very good event and, considering it was one of (if not the only) large scale event that didn’t charge an admission price, it was certainly well worth the visit to Toronto’s Rainbow Village. It was somewhat disappointing that the organizers somehow didn’t have the foresight to provide printed literature in the way of performance and show schedules, and some of the vendors did complain that the decibel level around where they were stationed (in an attempt to market their wares) sometimes reached eardrum breaking proportions. But the crowds were enthusiastic and the participants, from volunteers on down the line to performers and vendors alike all reported that they had an enjoyable day. What started as a small “craft fair” idea held in a small park-like setting has grown into one of the summer’s most eagerly anticipated events in Canada – and this year’s edition certainly didn’t disappoint. Perhaps for the 2010 event, the organizers may wish to pay a little more attention to having proper schedules for the myriad of events happening all day long. On the whole, however, the Church Street Fetish Fair is a fantastic and fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Toronto – and you certainly should have no complaints about the price.

Torture Garden Toronto PosterTorture Garden – Toronto, Ontario – August

Grade: A

Simply superb! There was no better event in Toronto – and I daresay on the East Coast – than Torture Garden Toronto. The event organizer, Random Craig, is an up-and coming-star promoter – and not only in Toronto. More established, large-scale Fetish event promoters (outside of Northbound Leather, who make an art of event organizing, in my opinion) should pay heed and perhaps learn a thing or two about catering to the desires and demands of their audience: and simply no-one does it better than Random Craig. Torture Garden was an ambitious gamble: the Montréal Fetish Weekend was to take place the following week, and Craig certainly had valid concerns about whether or not the event would be well attended. He needn’t have worried: scores of people showed up in some of the classiest, clever and exceptional Fetish wardrobes this writer has ever laid eyes on – and not a single soul Lady J and I spoke to had a negative thing to say about the event. Yes, it was really that good. The thing that separates Random Craig’s events – and especially Torture Garden – is that he actually listens to the wants and needs of those that attend his parties rather than plan everything around the glorification of his own ego. Simply put, people love attending his events because he works so very hard to try and make an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone that will be attending.

Case in point: One of the few complaints that Craig had heard about his massively-popular Subspace events in Toronto was that the “play area” was hard to access and far too small to be of any real use for the amount of people that wished to utilize it. He listened: the Dungeon area for Torture Garden Toronto was out of the way from the rest of the revellers, easily accessible – and just fun. In order to accommodate those that wished to use the large pieces of equipment, Craig and his staff took on the laborious task of hauling crosses, benches and posts up not one, but two sets of ridiculously old stairs and into an appropriately large enough room to house each and every piece. It goes without saying that not every event organizer would be caught dead struggling with large Dungeon equipment pieces (and working for hours on end getting his own hands dirty) – just in an effort to make sure his paying audience was happy. His efforts paid off, and clearly showed: Torture Garden Toronto is assuredly going to be a “can’t miss” event on every one’s calenders on the East Coast for years to come. It truly was just that good.

Montreal Fetish WeekendMontréal Fetish Weekend - Montréal, Quebec – September

Grade: D-

I hate to end this missive on a somewhat down note – but it really can’t be avoided. I have few very nice things to say about the Montréal Fetish Weekend. Drawing from the chorus of complaints I have heard since our return from the event in early September, it actually sounds like Lady J and I had a better time than a good portion of those who also made the journey to that beautiful, amazing French Canadian bastion that is the fantastic city of  Montréal. That is about where the superlatives end, however.

After five years of “maturing”, the event organizers, all two of them, should be ashamed of themselves.

One of the biggest complaints about the Montréal Fetish Weekend in years past has been that it’s really been a very expensive sojourn to a very wonderful city – for the abject benefit of a very select few people with egos that continuously need to be assuaged and massaged. While the posturing that has been reported in years past was somewhat less in evidence this year, overall the event was really nothing more than three packed-to-the rafters nightclub events that had but one purpose: turning a profit. Some of the usual Fetish icons were there, of course (we saw Jean Bardot in attendance on Friday evening, for instance). The first evening was held at a club location that was so inept and inadequately prepared to host such a large contingent of people – and the “event staff” seemed to have no issues with allowing a large throng of “street clothed” folk in without much of a second glance. This was to become a major source of contention for “veteran” Fetish Weekend party goers throughout the weekend. The lack of proper and adequately provided transportation (or available information about transportation) was also seen to be a major failing, and some of the “stage shows” presented were laughable at best and purely and simply obnoxious and objectionable at worst.

Yes, the Fetish Weekend – as expected – had a huge number of amazing costumes, fetish assemblages and uniforms to feast your eyes upon. This, however, simply isn’t enough of a reason to make the investment in attending all of the weekend’s events. There was very little that was “new” and “exciting” about this year’s efforts and a tremendous number of things that just seemed to be a poor rehash of previously-attempted activities. The amount of politics and hostility that seems to surround the event itself from the local professional community (!) was alarming, and certainly would tend to indicate why there is a competing “Fetish Weekend” event in Montréal being held in October that features almost all of the businesses and personalities within Le Belle Ville that noticeably stayed away from September’s annual, more “established” event. Of any event this summer, the Montréal Fetish Weekend was the one gathering I was personally looking so very forward to attending the most – and it was the one gathering that clearly disappointed. I wouldn’t accept another press junket to attend this event – nor would I certainly pay for an over-priced VIP Pass to attend this event  – anytime in the near future. If there is a next time, we’ll pay for the nights and events we want to see – and undoubtedly save a lot of money in the process.

As good as the previous events listed above honestly and truly were, the Montréal Fetish Weekend was clearly and just as truly that bad. I duly hope the organizing committee, both of them, learn from this year’s shortcomings – or at least take a lesson or two in “good event management” and “catering to your public rather than your own ego” from both Random Craig and Northbound Leather.

May the falling leaves bring us an amazing Autumn season of good friends, good times and greater prosperity!

Kardynyl SynysTyr