Throwback to the Future: NYC’s Fetish TRIBE EXPERIENCE Revisited

It is true that large fetish and SM communities have been around for a very long time. There has been a great deal written about some of these communities: most of it utter nonsense, and fabricated solely in the minds of self-effacing, somewhat narcissistic folk who make grandiose and ridiculous claims of “having been trained within a European Great House” in some bizarre equivocal attempt to justify their experience and/or expertise levels (admit it, dear reader: you’ve met at least one such individual).

Some of these communities have even been featured – exaggerated and fictionalized extensively though they may be – within the pages of popular fetish and SM ‘modern’ literature. The most famous example of this would invariably be the Great Estates of Roissy and Samois, so central to the fictionalized, but based in absolute fact, account of Pauline Reage (pseudonym for the late French journalist Ann Desclos) in her taboo-shattering, epic erotic novel, Story of O – the work which will continue to be the benchmark by which all other SM-related works shall be forever weighted against.

Therefore the oldest Communities, and most respected and revered, are typically assumed to be found in some major European centres, most notably London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris (Note: Roissy actually existed at one point: the Chateau described in Story of O was demolished to make way for construction of Charles de Gaulle Airport in 1966, some twelve years after the publication of the novel). Others, such as The Society of Janus in San Francisco and The Eulenspiegel Society (TES) in New York, have been functioning relatively blissfully for decades in North America. While these larger, more matured social organizations still rely on a degree of extreme privacy and adhere to their rules – some very old rules – regarding acceptance of new members and observation of some very near Mason-style Code of Conduct and disclosure policies, the availability of information to the masses (and instantaneously) through the wonders of the Internet Age has forced some of these revered “institutions” to begrudgingly adapt to new recruitment and retaining methods

There are two distinct and large differences that are invariably considered in any discussion of “new wave” versus “old guard” variety Fetish Nation building: One, naturally, is how revered the somewhat secretive and private nature of our chosen life continues to be within the ranks of the people, contrasted with how open and readily available inclusion is to virtually anyone willing to pay entrance fees to events, or even in some cases membership dues. The vast majority of new Fetish/SM based Community groups actually don’t charge membership fees at all – which means the ‘screening’ process that used to be so integral for acceptance within a like-minded SM-focused peer group is, now, virtually non-existent. The discussion, therefore, centers on how “new wave” or “next generation” groups actively police themselves. In the “old days”, an enthusiastic potential new Community member literally was made to jump through a series of exasperating figurative hoops in order to just secure an interview with a Community representative, who would in turn take their membership nomination to a higher authority. That potential new member, almost universally, had best have a respected sponsor already within the Community, too – or their chances for acceptance and inclusion would become a whole lot more difficult. In essence, potentials had to “prove” that they were responsible, honest and generally upstanding people worthy of everyone else’s respect. It just wasn’t very easy to get in through the front door in those days: you were made to work hard to secure your inclusion. This process had several advantages, the most obvious being that those who had selfish agendas, or were shown to not have the temperament or emotional stability to complete the process just weren’t inevitably invited to join the collective – and this made for a near-harmonious social structure. Everyone knew, and loved, everybody else, in time: The issues of ego, unbalanced behavior and what we refer to today as “drama” rarely needed to be dealt with. When something came up that was considered a grave injury or disservice to the Community as a whole, the offender was generally ostracized completely, and not allowed further participation in Community events and functions. The fear of that severe a punishment alone was enough to generally keep those with agendas of their own quite “in line.” In the 1960’s and 1970’s especially, and to a lessening degree in the 1980’s and 1990’s, if you were ostracized from one Community, it was likely you weren’t going to find very many people to play with. Now, in the New Millennium, and thanks to the advent of instant access to any information via the World Wide Web, it is very easy for an “outcast” member of one community organization to latch onto another one – and without any kind of vetting process what so ever.

Second, and far more of an issue, is what can only be described as the “fracturing” of entire Communities into smaller, more “specialized” practitioners. For “old guard” SM folk, there was a sense of “we’re in this together”: It wasn’t (and still isn’t, in some old quarters) the leather crowd holding court over the latex crowd; who in turn cast a contemptuous but curious eye to the spandex or PVC people. There wasn’t so much a sense of superiority of the large tribal-influenced Body Modification contingent over the straight out-and-out whip-bottoms and pierced pure masochists. There was a sense of “your kink isn’t my kink, but we’re all in this together – and united we’re stronger.” I can personally attest, during the 1980’s in particular, to the strength of the Society of Janus in San Francisco as a prime example. Strangely, the Society of Janus started to come apart at the seams the moment a “younger element” voiced a desire to have more of an active say in how the Society conducted business. When the ‘old guard’ objected – cracks began to appear in the old Community’s framework, and eventually an inevitable series of splits occurred. Some of those now-decades long wounds have failed to completely heal, and some of the splinter groups have long since vanished. The Society of Janus has survived, though – and is currently regarded as the second-oldest, continuous communal SM Organization in the United States (The Eulenspiegal Society being the oldest – which has had “fracturing” issues of its own over the decades of its existence).

(Note the Second: It should be noted that “old guard” is used here as a metaphor, not as a de facto title. The reverence to “Old Guard”, those that paved the way the way for literally every one of us to be able to freely express our sadomasochistic tendencies and desires, is an entirely separate storyline, and is too intricate and glorious to do justice to within the paragraphs of this particular piece.)

It is a very old maxim that people are afraid of change. It is far more comfortable to live – sometimes blindly so – in a comfortable, familiar manner. In the case of the Society of Janus, an argument could be made that the community elders were, more or less, dragged kicking and screaming into the modern electronic age. Those organizations and businesses that embrace new methods of communication and technology are certain to continue to prosper and grow their ranks and loyalties. Those that resist change soon find, sadly, that they just don’t have a playground (or even playmates) around to explore the wonders and joys within this particular expressive lifestyle that we’ve collectively chosen. To the unending credit of both the Society of Janus and The Eulenspiegal Society, they have found ways to embrace the tools of the digital age (websites and social networking especially) and have figuratively weathered the thundering storms of lightning-quick change – and survived.

If there is a downside, though, it’s that the ‘storm weathering’ in both of these important, historically-significant large community groups in North America was (more or less) solely undertaken for the benefit of existing, long-term members, and as a potential ‘recruitment and contact tool’ in the same sense and manner that any aggregator in the modern age reaches out to potential new members (or customers). That is to say, the use of the Internet to educate the masses of the people about the existence and offerings of these large communal groups is both a bane and a boon: In the shotgun approach to recruitment, the “screening” or vetting process has virtually disappeared – and the contact information (which used to be so incredibly difficult to obtain, as mentioned above) is oh-too-easily available, right down to contact names, (Email) addresses and telephone numbers, with a simple click of a button. Shotgun approaches are sure to bring interest and new, enthusiastic members to respective communities – but that approach has absolutely zero positive effect upon weeding out the quality, community-minded people from the opportunistic, mercenary, narcissistic and potentially destructive poisonous types. Sadly, as ever-growing examples of aforementioned “drama” continue to populate our communal messaging systems and digitally megalithic gathering places (such as the popular website Fet Life, for example), the latter appears to be far more the “norm” than the “exception”.

Which is exactly why the New York City Fetish TRIBE is so incredibly, wonderfully unique.

The main movers and shakers of what is called the NYC Tribe Mike B., Kelley Dane and an amazingly engaging, alluring and supremely magnetic personality known locally as Powder – have managed to create, and promote, an exceptional, large new Community that is based on a perfect blending, or balance, of “old world” ideals with “new age” methods. In essence, what the troika has managed to deliver to the Fetish and SM world at large is a hybrid: they take the best of what made the “old world” groups (such as their distinguished older ‘cousins’ in New York, TES) perfected in the way of a true Community bond and “self-policing” system, and combined it with all the advantages and glamour that the positive exploitation of digital media can provide. Working in concert with a young, Mohawk-sporting, engaging and enthusiastic Education Coordinator who goes by the moniker of Rocky Horror, the foursome produced – and entirely succeeded – in bringing something quite new, and in the opinion of many in attendance, revolutionary weekend-long event to North America’s largest social stage.

The New York City Tribe Experience was held, for the first time, in early October, 2010. It ran for five, virtually full days – from October 7th to 11th, and by all accounts there simply wasn’t a down moment to be found during the entire time. “Tribesters” from all parts of North America – Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Florida, Arizona, Montreal and Toronto – gathered for several feverish days of unparalleled Fetish and sadomasochistic delights that, without a word of bias or favoritism, culminated in the absolute best (the majority of attendees agreed) experience in their lives.

Did it have the unending eye candy that a Montreal Fetish Weekend brings? No, not really. Was it as deliciously performance-laden and eye-popping as a Torture Garden event always is? Absolutely not! Was it as well-attended or as truly spectacular as either the huge annual Northbound Leather events or the Von Gutenberg Fetish Balls? Not even close! Neither, it must be said, was the NYC Tribe Experience designed to resemble as such. Naturally, there were four entire evenings of near-exhaustively paced parties – but there were other factors in play throughout the weekend that simply set what Mike, Kelley, Powder and Rocky were able to accomplish far above anything most of the attendees had experienced before.

What is even more impressive: they managed to accomplish four entire days of all-inclusive absolute revelry for an astonishing ticket price of only $75.00. That’s $75.00 for VIP access to all four large parties and all day-trips and excursions. The organizers also set up a billeting system for out-of-town guests, in order to defray the cost of attendance and spare visitors (who may not have been able to attend the Experience otherwise) the sting of having to pay somewhat ridiculous hotel room rates. This was an exceptionally welcome, and fantastic, idea: our little group spoke to a few people who took advantage of this billeting system (in which Tribe members volunteered a room, or a bed, or a couch even, for a night or more in their own homes) – and fast made new, solid long-term friendships from these arrangements. All in all, many precedents were established during this initial New York City Tribe Experience – and with few exceptions, the organizers managed to make it all click meticulously.

It wouldn’t do the Tribe organizers any justice to delve into deep, detailed and intricate dissections of each of the four main parties – three of which exist on their own merits as “separate but connected events” within the New York City fetish scene (Impact, Dress to {xcess and Suspension). The main distinguishing feature of all three of these “Main Events” is that they were held in three unique venues. Other weekend-long events tend to be limited to one, and in some cases (like the Fetish Weekend and Torture Garden, for instance), two, main locations. Having the three main evening gatherings in three separate, but relatively central locations enabled the organizers to present somewhat of a fresh atmosphere to each themed party. For instance, in order to get a sense of what is being described, some weekend long Fetish events will have two large-scale parties, on consecutive nights, at one appropriate club or event hall. What one of the criticisms of this format has been, is that in reality, the second-night’s gathering in the same locale tends to be a virtual ‘carbon copy’ of the previous night’s fun – even though the entertainment line-up will invariably differ. There was no sense of déjà vu at the Tribe Experience. Each party – while attended by the same people, featuring the same equipment to play on and featuring an inordinate amount of the same costuming – nevertheless felt like a “new”, and quite vibrant, titillating separate event. Whether this was done by accident, out of necessity or completely be design, it absolutely worked.

What also worked, and were themselves delightfully quirky and unique events, were each of the “sideline day trips” that the Tribe brain-trust organized. Ranging from an afternoon of Croquet in Central Park (wearing nothing but the finest knickers and lingerie, of course) to an awe-inspiring witnessing of the “dawn’s early light” (complete with bagels), on the walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge, each little day excursion was intended to – and succeeded in – recharging the metaphorical ‘batteries’ that had been drained from exhortations and excitations at one of the large parties the evening previous. These “day trips” were an exceptional and very welcome idea: it is without question that similar, somewhat gimmicky events will be planned for other Fetish weekends in other large centres heading into 2011. They were reported to be extraordinarily fun – and eminently succeeded in bringing new-found friends much closer together in so short a time span.

Which leads to a necessary few words in regard to the participation of other identifiable groups that collectively thrive under the translucent “Tribe umbrella”: It is rare – even unheard of – for so-called “competing organizations” to come together, let alone work together, to give the vast populace a truly encompassing, communal experience. The “day trips”, and several of the “official” functions connected with the NYC Tribe Experience were all encouraged to be, and actively were, sponsored by entirely outside and separate entities. For instance, the Kinky Jews group were responsible for hosting the early-morning Brooklyn Bridge sunrise breakfast excursion on Sunday morning, and the NYC TNG crowd were responsible for hosting the unforgettable Lingerie Croquet in Central Park (an event, I may add, that was featured on several morning NYC news magazine shows and prominently in at least two major New York daily newspapers – you can’t purchase that kind of free publicity in New York so readily). Without question, never since the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in San Francisco has there been such an immense and successful collaboration of large, Fetish and SM community-focused organizations joining forces, and resources, in an effort to just bring their New York City residents and respective guests such an undeniable good time.

I cannot go any further without mentioning the professionalism, dedication and indeed the pure class of Mike B. in particular. This in no way casts a dispersion on the other three organizers mentioned within the body of this piece, but something happened on Friday evening that was extraordinary, and should be held as an example of what the definition of a “responsible event organizer” can be.

At Friday night’s big event (the Impact play party), there were some glaring safety issues regarding the placement of equipment and monitoring staff that our little “entourage” immediately viewed as areas of extreme concern. Without going into exorbitant and unnecessary detail, it must be said that Mike B., when quietly informed of our concerns (he had just arrived a few moments before and therefore had not had even a chance to take his coat off, I might add – a bit of a social faux pas on my account admittedly) immediately leapt into action and within a few minutes had directed his staff to rectify the potential dangers. The rest of Friday’s festivities proceeded without incident – much to the happiness of the huge crowd. This is the mark of a dedicated man who obviously cares deeply for the quality of experience that he plans to present to each and every one of his guests.

By extension, the other organizers are equally worthy of laudability. In an area of our Fetish world where it is usually the work of a single person, or a duo at best, that reaps the praise of a grateful community for their event-running efforts, it is remarkable that four and more answerable individuals can work to create such an awe-inspiring great experience with such total comprehension, and so little tension, between them. Regardless of whatever issues, troubles or “drama” any of these organizers may have had to face prior to the commencement of the Tribe Experience weekend, they didn’t allow those issues to cloud their abilities to present to their people a world-class, and first-rate professional Fetish and SM affair.

It was a masterstroke of pure genius to host the weekend’s educational component – the Tribe Workshops – in the same venue in which the final soiree was going to be produced. Lady J, my beloved life mate, and I were guests of the irrepressible Mistress Lyn and sjoe for the entire week (a week in which saw Your Humble Narrator finally be able to pay respects to a childhood hero – Ulysses S. Grant – who lies within an immense, magnificent tomb at Riverside Park), and for most scheduled events our intrepid foursome made the long drive from Long Island into the City in order to partake in the festivities. I say “most”, sadly, because one of our troupe became quite ill with a serious infection and ended up missing all of Saturday’s fun (yes, it was me). But I digress slightly: Lady J and I were asked to conduct two basic single-tail whipping seminars on the Sunday afternoon, and I readily admit that in my weakened, sickened state, my first impression of the venue wasn’t entirely favorable.

It didn’t take us long to warm up to the place, though; this unassuming little edifice known as The Delancey. Skeptical first impressions quickly gave way to silent admiration as we realized this four-level nightclub was, in truth, the absolute perfect venue in which to host all of Sunday’s educational seminars. Our own two seminars were conducted with great joy and without a single hitch, and all of the classes were well-attended and enthusiastically participated in by the Tribesters who chose to come out. Because of the aforementioned illness, our foursome simply could not stay for the Suspension event that was held in the same venue later on that same evening – but reading the concerned and heartfelt notes left for me by many of our new Tribe friends the next morning, it was absolutely evident that we’d had to pass on a history-making occasion. At the time of this writing, over an entire month after the final doors closed on the Tribe Experience, there are still excited stories being swapped about the grandeur and hedonistic delight of Sunday evening’s Suspension – such so, that it is without question that the event is certain to become a long-running, essential ‘staple’ on the Fetish party circuit for New York City (and area) dwellers for years to come. I am still wondering how all four of the organizers pulled it off, and so amazingly well: Mike B., Powder and Rocky in particular were so obviously exhausted they collectively resembled something from a George Romero Zombie feature by Sunday afternoon. And yet, all of them (joined by Kelley) somehow managed to suck it up, and then pull off, a highlight worthy, signature event to cap an unbelievably sumptuous weekend of great fun and glorious decadence.

That, my friends, is what every event organizer in every major town should aspire to create. The New York City Fetish Tribe is a revolutionary concept. It is the evolution of the “old” perfectly enhanced with all the advantages of the “new”. It is a community of fantastic, joyful and dedicated, responsible people enraptured within breath-depriving, sensual experiments in ecstasy during some of the best-planned, and best executed, large-scale event gatherings on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. The Tribe is what many of the ‘old’ communities had aspired to be, and for reasons that limited those eras legally and socially, could never truly be.

The Tribe Experience is a hopeful gaze towards the future – and a shining example of what other large alternative-lifestyle communities should aspire to be.

(All photos courtesy of Aeric Meredith-Goujon Photography and NYC Fetish Tribe. All Rights Reserved.)

Throwback to the Future: NYC’s Fetish TRIBE EXPERIENCE Revisited

It is true that large fetish and SM communities have been around for a very long time. There has been a great deal written about some of these communities: most of it utter nonsense, and fabricated solely in the minds of self-effacing, somewhat narcissistic folk who make grandiose and ridiculous claims of “having been trained within a European Great House” in some bizarre equivocal attempt to justify their experience and/or expertise levels (admit it, dear reader: you’ve met at least one such individual).

Some of these communities have even been featured – exaggerated and fictionalized extensively though they may be – within the pages of popular fetish and SM ‘modern’ literature. The most famous example of this would invariably be the Great Estates of Roissy and Samois, so central to the fictionalized, but based in absolute fact, account of Pauline Reage (pseudonym for the late French journalist Ann Desclos) in her taboo-shattering, epic erotic novel, Story of O – the work which will continue to be the benchmark by which all other SM-related works shall be forever weighted against.

Therefore the oldest Communities, and most respected and revered, are typically assumed to be found in some major European centres, most notably London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris (Note: Roissy actually existed at one point: the Chateau described in Story of O was demolished to make way for construction of Charles de Gaulle Airport in 1966, some twelve years after the publication of the novel). Others, such as The Society of Janus in San Francisco and The Eulenspiegel Society (TES) in New York, have been functioning relatively blissfully for decades in North America. While these larger, more matured social organizations still rely on a degree of extreme privacy and adhere to their rules – some very old rules – regarding acceptance of new members and observation of some very near Mason-style Code of Conduct and disclosure policies, the availability of information to the masses (and instantaneously) through the wonders of the Internet Age has forced some of these revered “institutions” to begrudgingly adapt to new recruitment and retaining methods

There are two distinct and large differences that are invariably considered in any discussion of “new wave” versus “old guard” variety Fetish Nation building: One, naturally, is how revered the somewhat secretive and private nature of our chosen life continues to be within the ranks of the people, contrasted with how open and readily available inclusion is to virtually anyone willing to pay entrance fees to events, or even in some cases membership dues. The vast majority of new Fetish/SM based Community groups actually don’t charge membership fees at all – which means the ‘screening’ process that used to be so integral for acceptance within a like-minded SM-focused peer group is, now, virtually non-existent. The discussion, therefore, centers on how “new wave” or “next generation” groups actively police themselves. In the “old days”, an enthusiastic potential new Community member literally was made to jump through a series of exasperating figurative hoops in order to just secure an interview with a Community representative, who would in turn take their membership nomination to a higher authority. That potential new member, almost universally, had best have a respected sponsor already within the Community, too – or their chances for acceptance and inclusion would become a whole lot more difficult. In essence, potentials had to “prove” that they were responsible, honest and generally upstanding people worthy of everyone else’s respect. It just wasn’t very easy to get in through the front door in those days: you were made to work hard to secure your inclusion. This process had several advantages, the most obvious being that those who had selfish agendas, or were shown to not have the temperament or emotional stability to complete the process just weren’t inevitably invited to join the collective – and this made for a near-harmonious social structure. Everyone knew, and loved, everybody else, in time: The issues of ego, unbalanced behavior and what we refer to today as “drama” rarely needed to be dealt with. When something came up that was considered a grave injury or disservice to the Community as a whole, the offender was generally ostracized completely, and not allowed further participation in Community events and functions. The fear of that severe a punishment alone was enough to generally keep those with agendas of their own quite “in line.” In the 1960’s and 1970’s especially, and to a lessening degree in the 1980’s and 1990’s, if you were ostracized from one Community, it was likely you weren’t going to find very many people to play with. Now, in the New Millennium, and thanks to the advent of instant access to any information via the World Wide Web, it is very easy for an “outcast” member of one community organization to latch onto another one – and without any kind of vetting process what so ever.

Second, and far more of an issue, is what can only be described as the “fracturing” of entire Communities into smaller, more “specialized” practitioners. For “old guard” SM folk, there was a sense of “we’re in this together”: It wasn’t (and still isn’t, in some old quarters) the leather crowd holding court over the latex crowd; who in turn cast a contemptuous but curious eye to the spandex or PVC people. There wasn’t so much a sense of superiority of the large tribal-influenced Body Modification contingent over the straight out-and-out whip-bottoms and pierced pure masochists. There was a sense of “your kink isn’t my kink, but we’re all in this together – and united we’re stronger.” I can personally attest, during the 1980’s in particular, to the strength of the Society of Janus in San Francisco as a prime example. Strangely, the Society of Janus started to come apart at the seams the moment a “younger element” voiced a desire to have more of an active say in how the Society conducted business. When the ‘old guard’ objected – cracks began to appear in the old Community’s framework, and eventually an inevitable series of splits occurred. Some of those now-decades long wounds have failed to completely heal, and some of the splinter groups have long since vanished. The Society of Janus has survived, though – and is currently regarded as the second-oldest, continuous communal SM Organization in the United States (The Eulenspiegal Society being the oldest – which has had “fracturing” issues of its own over the decades of its existence).

(Note the Second: It should be noted that “old guard” is used here as a metaphor, not as a de facto title. The reverence to “Old Guard”, those that paved the way the way for literally every one of us to be able to freely express our sadomasochistic tendencies and desires, is an entirely separate storyline, and is too intricate and glorious to do justice to within the paragraphs of this particular piece.)

It is a very old maxim that people are afraid of change. It is far more comfortable to live – sometimes blindly so – in a comfortable, familiar manner. In the case of the Society of Janus, an argument could be made that the community elders were, more or less, dragged kicking and screaming into the modern electronic age. Those organizations and businesses that embrace new methods of communication and technology are certain to continue to prosper and grow their ranks and loyalties. Those that resist change soon find, sadly, that they just don’t have a playground (or even playmates) around to explore the wonders and joys within this particular expressive lifestyle that we’ve collectively chosen. To the unending credit of both the Society of Janus and The Eulenspiegal Society, they have found ways to embrace the tools of the digital age (websites and social networking especially) and have figuratively weathered the thundering storms of lightning-quick change – and survived.

If there is a downside, though, it’s that the ‘storm weathering’ in both of these important, historically-significant large community groups in North America was (more or less) solely undertaken for the benefit of existing, long-term members, and as a potential ‘recruitment and contact tool’ in the same sense and manner that any aggregator in the modern age reaches out to potential new members (or customers). That is to say, the use of the Internet to educate the masses of the people about the existence and offerings of these large communal groups is both a bane and a boon: In the shotgun approach to recruitment, the “screening” or vetting process has virtually disappeared – and the contact information (which used to be so incredibly difficult to obtain, as mentioned above) is oh-too-easily available, right down to contact names, (Email) addresses and telephone numbers, with a simple click of a button. Shotgun approaches are sure to bring interest and new, enthusiastic members to respective communities – but that approach has absolutely zero positive effect upon weeding out the quality, community-minded people from the opportunistic, mercenary, narcissistic and potentially destructive poisonous types. Sadly, as ever-growing examples of aforementioned “drama” continue to populate our communal messaging systems and digitally megalithic gathering places (such as the popular website Fet Life, for example), the latter appears to be far more the “norm” than the “exception”.

Which is exactly why the New York City Fetish TRIBE is so incredibly, wonderfully unique.

The main movers and shakers of what is called the NYC Tribe Mike B., Kelley Dane and an amazingly engaging, alluring and supremely magnetic personality known locally as Powder – have managed to create, and promote, an exceptional, large new Community that is based on a perfect blending, or balance, of “old world” ideals with “new age” methods. In essence, what the troika has managed to deliver to the Fetish and SM world at large is a hybrid: they take the best of what made the “old world” groups (such as their distinguished older ‘cousins’ in New York, TES) perfected in the way of a true Community bond and “self-policing” system, and combined it with all the advantages and glamour that the positive exploitation of digital media can provide. Working in concert with a young, Mohawk-sporting, engaging and enthusiastic Education Coordinator who goes by the moniker of Rocky Horror, the foursome produced – and entirely succeeded – in bringing something quite new, and in the opinion of many in attendance, revolutionary weekend-long event to North America’s largest social stage.

The New York City Tribe Experience was held, for the first time, in early October, 2010. It ran for five, virtually full days – from October 7th to 11th, and by all accounts there simply wasn’t a down moment to be found during the entire time. “Tribesters” from all parts of North America – Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Florida, Arizona, Montreal and Toronto – gathered for several feverish days of unparalleled Fetish and sadomasochistic delights that, without a word of bias or favoritism, culminated in the absolute best (the majority of attendees agreed) experience in their lives.

Did it have the unending eye candy that a Montreal Fetish Weekend brings? No, not really. Was it as deliciously performance-laden and eye-popping as a Torture Garden event always is? Absolutely not! Was it as well-attended or as truly spectacular as either the huge annual Northbound Leather events or the Von Gutenberg Fetish Balls? Not even close! Neither, it must be said, was the NYC Tribe Experience designed to resemble as such. Naturally, there were four entire evenings of near-exhaustively paced parties – but there were other factors in play throughout the weekend that simply set what Mike, Kelley, Powder and Rocky were able to accomplish far above anything most of the attendees had experienced before.

What is even more impressive: they managed to accomplish four entire days of all-inclusive absolute revelry for an astonishing ticket price of only $75.00. That’s $75.00 for VIP access to all four large parties and all day-trips and excursions. The organizers also set up a billeting system for out-of-town guests, in order to defray the cost of attendance and spare visitors (who may not have been able to attend the Experience otherwise) the sting of having to pay somewhat ridiculous hotel room rates. This was an exceptionally welcome, and fantastic, idea: our little group spoke to a few people who took advantage of this billeting system (in which Tribe members volunteered a room, or a bed, or a couch even, for a night or more in their own homes) – and fast made new, solid long-term friendships from these arrangements. All in all, many precedents were established during this initial New York City Tribe Experience – and with few exceptions, the organizers managed to make it all click meticulously.

It wouldn’t do the Tribe organizers any justice to delve into deep, detailed and intricate dissections of each of the four main parties – three of which exist on their own merits as “separate but connected events” within the New York City fetish scene (Impact, Dress to {xcess and Suspension). The main distinguishing feature of all three of these “Main Events” is that they were held in three unique venues. Other weekend-long events tend to be limited to one, and in some cases (like the Fetish Weekend and Torture Garden, for instance), two, main locations. Having the three main evening gatherings in three separate, but relatively central locations enabled the organizers to present somewhat of a fresh atmosphere to each themed party. For instance, in order to get a sense of what is being described, some weekend long Fetish events will have two large-scale parties, on consecutive nights, at one appropriate club or event hall. What one of the criticisms of this format has been, is that in reality, the second-night’s gathering in the same locale tends to be a virtual ‘carbon copy’ of the previous night’s fun – even though the entertainment line-up will invariably differ. There was no sense of déjà vu at the Tribe Experience. Each party – while attended by the same people, featuring the same equipment to play on and featuring an inordinate amount of the same costuming – nevertheless felt like a “new”, and quite vibrant, titillating separate event. Whether this was done by accident, out of necessity or completely be design, it absolutely worked.

What also worked, and were themselves delightfully quirky and unique events, were each of the “sideline day trips” that the Tribe brain-trust organized. Ranging from an afternoon of Croquet in Central Park (wearing nothing but the finest knickers and lingerie, of course) to an awe-inspiring witnessing of the “dawn’s early light” (complete with bagels), on the walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge, each little day excursion was intended to – and succeeded in – recharging the metaphorical ‘batteries’ that had been drained from exhortations and excitations at one of the large parties the evening previous. These “day trips” were an exceptional and very welcome idea: it is without question that similar, somewhat gimmicky events will be planned for other Fetish weekends in other large centres heading into 2011. They were reported to be extraordinarily fun – and eminently succeeded in bringing new-found friends much closer together in so short a time span.

Which leads to a necessary few words in regard to the participation of other identifiable groups that collectively thrive under the translucent “Tribe umbrella”: It is rare – even unheard of – for so-called “competing organizations” to come together, let alone work together, to give the vast populace a truly encompassing, communal experience. The “day trips”, and several of the “official” functions connected with the NYC Tribe Experience were all encouraged to be, and actively were, sponsored by entirely outside and separate entities. For instance, the Kinky Jews group were responsible for hosting the early-morning Brooklyn Bridge sunrise breakfast excursion on Sunday morning, and the NYC TNG crowd were responsible for hosting the unforgettable Lingerie Croquet in Central Park (an event, I may add, that was featured on several morning NYC news magazine shows and prominently in at least two major New York daily newspapers – you can’t purchase that kind of free publicity in New York so readily). Without question, never since the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in San Francisco has there been such an immense and successful collaboration of large, Fetish and SM community-focused organizations joining forces, and resources, in an effort to just bring their New York City residents and respective guests such an undeniable good time.

I cannot go any further without mentioning the professionalism, dedication and indeed the pure class of Mike B. in particular. This in no way casts a dispersion on the other three organizers mentioned within the body of this piece, but something happened on Friday evening that was extraordinary, and should be held as an example of what the definition of a “responsible event organizer” can be.

At Friday night’s big event (the Impact play party), there were some glaring safety issues regarding the placement of equipment and monitoring staff that our little “entourage” immediately viewed as areas of extreme concern. Without going into exorbitant and unnecessary detail, it must be said that Mike B., when quietly informed of our concerns (he had just arrived a few moments before and therefore had not had even a chance to take his coat off, I might add – a bit of a social faux pas on my account admittedly) immediately leapt into action and within a few minutes had directed his staff to rectify the potential dangers. The rest of Friday’s festivities proceeded without incident – much to the happiness of the huge crowd. This is the mark of a dedicated man who obviously cares deeply for the quality of experience that he plans to present to each and every one of his guests.

By extension, the other organizers are equally worthy of laudability. In an area of our Fetish world where it is usually the work of a single person, or a duo at best, that reaps the praise of a grateful community for their event-running efforts, it is remarkable that four and more answerable individuals can work to create such an awe-inspiring great experience with such total comprehension, and so little tension, between them. Regardless of whatever issues, troubles or “drama” any of these organizers may have had to face prior to the commencement of the Tribe Experience weekend, they didn’t allow those issues to cloud their abilities to present to their people a world-class, and first-rate professional Fetish and SM affair.

It was a masterstroke of pure genius to host the weekend’s educational component – the Tribe Workshops – in the same venue in which the final soiree was going to be produced. Lady J, my beloved life mate, and I were guests of the irrepressible Mistress Lyn and sjoe for the entire week (a week in which saw Your Humble Narrator finally be able to pay respects to a childhood hero – Ulysses S. Grant – who lies within an immense, magnificent tomb at Riverside Park), and for most scheduled events our intrepid foursome made the long drive from Long Island into the City in order to partake in the festivities. I say “most”, sadly, because one of our troupe became quite ill with a serious infection and ended up missing all of Saturday’s fun (yes, it was me). But I digress slightly: Lady J and I were asked to conduct two basic single-tail whipping seminars on the Sunday afternoon, and I readily admit that in my weakened, sickened state, my first impression of the venue wasn’t entirely favorable.

It didn’t take us long to warm up to the place, though; this unassuming little edifice known as The Delancey. Skeptical first impressions quickly gave way to silent admiration as we realized this four-level nightclub was, in truth, the absolute perfect venue in which to host all of Sunday’s educational seminars. Our own two seminars were conducted with great joy and without a single hitch, and all of the classes were well-attended and enthusiastically participated in by the Tribesters who chose to come out. Because of the aforementioned illness, our foursome simply could not stay for the Suspension event that was held in the same venue later on that same evening – but reading the concerned and heartfelt notes left for me by many of our new Tribe friends the next morning, it was absolutely evident that we’d had to pass on a history-making occasion. At the time of this writing, over an entire month after the final doors closed on the Tribe Experience, there are still excited stories being swapped about the grandeur and hedonistic delight of Sunday evening’s Suspension – such so, that it is without question that the event is certain to become a long-running, essential ‘staple’ on the Fetish party circuit for New York City (and area) dwellers for years to come. I am still wondering how all four of the organizers pulled it off, and so amazingly well: Mike B., Powder and Rocky in particular were so obviously exhausted they collectively resembled something from a George Romero Zombie feature by Sunday afternoon. And yet, all of them (joined by Kelley) somehow managed to suck it up, and then pull off, a highlight worthy, signature event to cap an unbelievably sumptuous weekend of great fun and glorious decadence.

That, my friends, is what every event organizer in every major town should aspire to create. The New York City Fetish Tribe is a revolutionary concept. It is the evolution of the “old” perfectly enhanced with all the advantages of the “new”. It is a community of fantastic, joyful and dedicated, responsible people enraptured within breath-depriving, sensual experiments in ecstasy during some of the best-planned, and best executed, large-scale event gatherings on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. The Tribe is what many of the ‘old’ communities had aspired to be, and for reasons that limited those eras legally and socially, could never truly be.

The Tribe Experience is a hopeful gaze towards the future – and a shining example of what other large alternative-lifestyle communities should aspire to be.

(All photos courtesy of Aeric Meredith-Goujon Photography and NYC Fetish Tribe. All Rights Reserved.)

Shifting Perceptions: The Morpheous Bondage Extravaganza at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

“All art is quite useless.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

There are those who, out of some bizarre, delusional and grandiose vision of self-importance, write books about their art form – and then loudly insist that (because they’ve written a book or two) that they be recognized as some sort of “expert in the field”. These “artists” in turn demand certain rights and concessions, especially if it means they’ll somehow be perceived as superior to their peers, within their very own Community at large. In short, the demand to be vetted and recognized as both an “artist” and an “authority”, while clamored for long and incessantly, usually results in one thing: the “artist” soon finds he doesn’t get invited along to many really fun parties.

I’m speaking of Oscar Wilde, of course, author of the above quote and written in a somewhat autobiographical way in his shocking, landmark gothic thriller, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde cleverly manages to insert himself into his narrative – and brutally criticize himself relentlessly – as one of the main antagonists in his timeless tale of extreme arrogance, and self-destructive vanity. In the end, of course, Dorian Gray is done in by his own hand – and as a result of his own narcissism.

The real Oscar Wilde wasn’t much different from the fictional representation he portrayed himself as within the pages of his book. He was, however, intelligent enough to realize his shortcomings and even to provide entertainment for his readers by mercilessly deprecating himself. It was Oscar Wilde’s belief, as reflected within the quote above, that the realm of Victorian-era “Artists and their Art” was nothing more than a breeding ground of rampant ego, over-indulgence, and violent, self-destructive behavior. The quote above is, within the context of The Picture of Dorian Gray, an expression of envy towards a very non-talented man (the Wilde character) and a painter who has been commissioned to produce a portrait of “a most extraordinary, beautiful young man”: the title character, Dorian Gray. Those familiar with the story know very well that Dorian Gray is so taken and in love with his own image in the mirror, that he cannot bear the thought of aging and becoming less beautiful. He makes a deal – ostensibly with the Devil himself – to remain in appearance forever young, and to have the painting age through the years.

Despite what you may think, this isn’t a story about Oscar Wilde or his creation, Dorian Gray. It is, however, important to use this masterwork as an analogy. For in truth, “art” hasn’t really changed much. It’s been said that Art is an imitation of Life. It’s truly refreshing, then, when someone comes along who is successful at turning Life … into Art.

The all-night, gigantic artistic installation known as Nuit Blanche (“White Night”) started in some great European cities (there is a heated dispute as to exactly which city started it: Paris, St. Petersburg or Berlin) in 1997 as a revolutionary idea to turn some of the world’s great cities into gargantuan art galleries. Since 1997, Nuit Blanche events have become an extremely anticipated and popular staple on the social calendars of several other world-class cities, including Lima, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Leeds, Atlanta, Los Angeles and, of course, Toronto. New York City played host to its first Nuit Blanche event (called Bring to Light) during the same night that Toronto held their annual event: October 2nd. The “movement” continues to grow – and the roster of talented artists wishing to participate continues to increase.

The Toronto Nuit Blanche event easily draws over 1 million people into the streets of downtown and West Toronto for one night. The event always begins at 7:00 pm and runs straight through until 7:00 am. Some of the installations – those that would have made Oscar Wilde himself cringe – are, as expected, over-the-top and self-indulgent in the extreme. The world of fine art, as per Wilde’s commentary in The Picture of Dorian Gray, rarely if ever takes advantage of collaborative efforts. Making “art” seems to be an exhaustive effort that ultimately will result in telling some deeply personal aspect of a story, or make an opinionated social commentary, based on the workings within the mind and the emotional investment of a single artist. It’s rare, really, to come across “art” where the credit for the success of the piece can be attributed to more than one man or woman.

This is where our story takes a sudden left turn. For the past three years, one man has been determined to educate and expose to the masses his art form during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche event. He is a man quite well known within his own Community, and he is quickly making a name for himself within the mainstream as both an author, and a self-proclaimed “Guerilla artist”. He is known by the moniker Morpheous – and whether you are irresistibly drawn to his work, or don’t care to understand it, there is one universal truth: what this man does, make no mistake, is “Art.” He is responsible for one of the most viewed art installations of Nuit Blanche, very simply called Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza. It’s an almost embarrassingly simple, non-pretentious and easy-to-remember title for a revolutionary (some say controversial) art installation. It’s also easy enough (as Oscar Wilde so brilliantly managed to allude to in Dorian Gray) to dismiss Morpheous’s efforts as nothing more than “people being tied up in public”, and to question whether what the present audience is witnessing or not can be categorized as “art” – or whether its straddling a very fine line between art and commercialized pornography. Considering that, in point of fact, and after conducting a little research, no other art installation during Toronto’s event had a line-up to get into the venue to view the pieces (the lineups for the Bondage Extravaganza reached about half a block long at several points during the evening), it would be very hard for the haughty, self-aggrandizing “art critics” to merely dismiss the installation as “mere smut.” Anyone who witnessed the Extravaganza knows, without question, what they were witnessing was true dedication to a most difficult-to-master visual medium.

Morpheous himself was active (pretty much) for the entire scheduled 12 hours of the event. He took a few moments to conduct interviews, drink some much needed water, and speak enthusiastically and engagingly with both old friends and new visitors alike. Morpheous is an gregarious man, and he is always approachable. He is rarely seen without a smile, and he is well-known for immediately putting nervous new models for his photographic sessions and apprehensive new contacts immediately at ease. One needs to spend only a few moments talking with Morpheous, and they immediately are made to feel comfortable, and welcome. The man just doesn’t have the rampant ego that needs to be satisfied in the way that many “artists” and “authors” do – and this clearly sets him apart from his peers (both in the fetish/SM world and in the artistic community).

By rights, and by virtue of his long good-standing within the Toronto alternative lifestyle community, Morpheous could have taken the route that most other “guerilla artists” take, and claimed the spotlight for himself during his Bondage Extravaganza. But this wouldn’t be compatible in keeping with what everyone knows about the man: while he is proud of his accomplishments over the years (an argument could be made that Midori, the world-famous sex educator and fetish world presenter, for instance, may not have achieved that status were it not for Morpheous’s tireless efforts to promote her during the early days of her career; especially in Canada), he is quick to credit his friends and family with being the true contributors to his success. “I wouldn’t be able to even apply to do a project like this,” he said while doing some rather gorgeous and wicked looking knot work on one of his favourite models, “if it wasn’t for the other people in this room. I owe a lot to some of the people behind me.”

Some of those people are, in their own right, fairly well-known in the Toronto alternative scene. There is a lovely and engaging young dance instructor who goes by the name of elle, for instance, and there is little question that she is as tirelessly devoted to Morpheous’s triumphs as she is to her own. On the night of Nuit Blanche, elle somehow managed to keep the “riggers” (those who performed the actual bondage) and the “bunnies” (the bondage models) within a tight schedule – no small feat when you consider the display space was, from start to finish, literally filled with dozens of mesmerized onlookers. When she wasn’t making sure things were running smoothly, like Morpheous, made sure the gathered media was well-informed, made sure the guests were comfortable, and all through the night did so with cheerfulness and an engaging spirit that simply defied the coming pull of exhaustion.

Then, there were the other performers. It is impossible to pay appropriate respect and attention to everyone who volunteered their time during Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza, but it isn’t too far outside the realm of over-used superlatives to say that each and every person who volunteered their skills, talents and time succeeded beyond words in helping to make the entire evening truly a mystical, awe-inspiring display of sensual expression. There wasn’t a single “rigger” or “bunny” present that complained about their use, misuse, or aches and pains: there was this almost ethereal, admiring sense of a true Community being displayed within a relatively tiny space. Sure, the rope work and each individual case of “boy or girl human mobile” (as coined by one of the enthusiastic and eminently beautiful models, Ohhh) was mind-stopping to behold: but the ballet that the viewing audience was deliciously subjected to for twelve straight hours was nothing short of incredible.

There are three others that briefly need to be described for their singular contributions in making the Extravaganza such a unique and collaborative success: the displays continuously exhibited by bondage artists Daddy Aslan (who did a wonderful plastic wrap piece in a lovely departure from the main, traditional ‘rope work’ of the evening),  Lotuslily and a man named Ruairidh from Toronto and an immensely promising young performer named Cannon from Michigan turned an already enjoyable night into an evening of pure visual ecstasy. Lotuslily is already well on her way to becoming an international star within the alternative lifestyle global community, and she certainly didn’t disappoint at Nuit Blanche. But watch, in the future, especially if rope bondage is “your thing”, for these two men Ruairidh and Cannon. They have two unique styles; two distinct stories to tell.

Ruairidh works with rope the way that Jackson Pollack worked with paint: you’re just not sure what it is he’s doing or where he’s “going” and you simply have to continue to watch him work until he’s finished. When he has completed his tying, and his model is turned slowly enticingly in a wide arc for the audience to see, it’s shockingly beautiful to behold. All the pieces suddenly come together to form a single, stunning bound creation: it isn’t a stretch to say that it’s very much like a flowering vine wrapping itself around a gorgeous, statuesque female form, creating a truly timeless and classic image.

Cannon is no less proficient – but his strength lies in how powerful his ability to perform is. He holds both his soon-to-be-restrained subject and the audience completely under his spell. His movements are subtle, but oh, so sensual. When he begins to apply the ropes to his weak-kneed model, it is like watching the Phantom of the Opera himself seducing and enticing the hapless Christine to succumb and completely give herself over to the pleasures soon to be tightly restrained within. This young man is a joy to watch: there are few who bring such delicious, jaw-dropping theatricality to his rope bondage performances.

The people mentioned above were all vital and necessary contributors to the success of the exhibit – but in truth, every single person who gave of their time surely must receive credit for making the Extravaganza such an enormous success. No truer example of a “Community coming together for a common cause” could be as well illustrated.

In a somewhat experimental atmosphere and in a potential-for-explosive-ego-clash environment, Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza succeeded far and away in proving one very important thing: When the goal is the collaborative and mutual success of an entire Community of performers and practitioners, and personal ambition and ego are left checked at the door, astounding things can transpire. This installation was one of the most popular of the entire Toronto Nuit Blanche evening, and for good reason: the people from Toronto were able to witness the artistic elegance and beauty that can be expressed using living models and mere rope as a breathing canvas. There can be no greater accolades for Morpheous, or his fellow artists, than knowing he managed to simply make people think. That is the aim of all artists – and for twelve amazing hours, the Extravaganza unquestionably made rope bondage somehow seem more “accessible” and less daunting and frightening to several people who, like the masses, tend to stereotype and associate sadomasochism and fetishism with simple violence.

Oscar Wilde wrote his scathing, personal critique of the art world and personal vanity in 1890. Over a hundred years later, human nature really hasn’t changed all that much. There are still people who create art, or write books, and then just expect that because they have done so, the world should come crawling to their feet to recognize and worship their “genius”. Within the fetish community, there are certain individuals who have written long (and boringly dry) “how to” volumes about bondage. Then, there are people such as Morpheous, Lotuslily, Ruairidh and Cannon who actually do raise the level of perception of intricate bondage (especially utilizing rope) from “sensual foreplay” to “High art”. It’s a wonderful evolution, really: one very high-profile adult magazine editor tried, in vain, to argue in the mainstream media that bondage was, indeed, truly an art when he allowed photos of a reigning beauty queen to be published within the pages of his periodical. Ultimately, his efforts were ridiculed – and the queen lost her crown. Thankfully for both, each went on to much bigger and better things.

The age is different, now: thanks in large part to the development of large-scale art installations such as Nuit Blanche in the world’s great cities, the beautiful “human mobiles” that are created when a talented man or woman lovingly applies rope to a beautiful, semi-clad or naked body – and then effortlessly makes that body appear to float, twist and turn comfortably, alluringly, seductively in the air – can finally take their place as “High Art” within the consciousness of those who earn their living within the creative world. This isn’t pornography: this is a loving, personal expression performed by people who have a true passion for the psyche, sensuality and desire that is associated with the very-human need to turn trust and control over and into the hands of someone else; even for just a few minutes.

For that reason, Morpheous and his fellow bondage practitioners are, without argument, respectable artists. Due to the popularity of the 2010 Nuit Blanche Bondage Extravaganza, Morpheous is already planning for 2011. “It will be three times larger”, he said with a slight mischievous smile. “If you think this year was really sensual and spectacular, just wait for what we get to show Toronto next year. We’ll have lasers and everything!”

(All photos courtesy of Morpheous and Toronto Nuit Blanche, Photographer: Jeff George)

Shifting Perceptions: The Morpheous Bondage Extravaganza at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

“All art is quite useless.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

There are those who, out of some bizarre, delusional and grandiose vision of self-importance, write books about their art form – and then loudly insist that (because they’ve written a book or two) that they be recognized as some sort of “expert in the field”. These “artists” in turn demand certain rights and concessions, especially if it means they’ll somehow be perceived as superior to their peers, within their very own Community at large. In short, the demand to be vetted and recognized as both an “artist” and an “authority”, while clamored for long and incessantly, usually results in one thing: the “artist” soon finds he doesn’t get invited along to many really fun parties.

I’m speaking of Oscar Wilde, of course, author of the above quote and written in a somewhat autobiographical way in his shocking, landmark gothic thriller, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde cleverly manages to insert himself into his narrative – and brutally criticize himself relentlessly – as one of the main antagonists in his timeless tale of extreme arrogance, and self-destructive vanity. In the end, of course, Dorian Gray is done in by his own hand – and as a result of his own narcissism.

The real Oscar Wilde wasn’t much different from the fictional representation he portrayed himself as within the pages of his book. He was, however, intelligent enough to realize his shortcomings and even to provide entertainment for his readers by mercilessly deprecating himself. It was Oscar Wilde’s belief, as reflected within the quote above, that the realm of Victorian-era “Artists and their Art” was nothing more than a breeding ground of rampant ego, over-indulgence, and violent, self-destructive behavior. The quote above is, within the context of The Picture of Dorian Gray, an expression of envy towards a very non-talented man (the Wilde character) and a painter who has been commissioned to produce a portrait of “a most extraordinary, beautiful young man”: the title character, Dorian Gray. Those familiar with the story know very well that Dorian Gray is so taken and in love with his own image in the mirror, that he cannot bear the thought of aging and becoming less beautiful. He makes a deal – ostensibly with the Devil himself – to remain in appearance forever young, and to have the painting age through the years.

Despite what you may think, this isn’t a story about Oscar Wilde or his creation, Dorian Gray. It is, however, important to use this masterwork as an analogy. For in truth, “art” hasn’t really changed much. It’s been said that Art is an imitation of Life. It’s truly refreshing, then, when someone comes along who is successful at turning Life … into Art.

The all-night, gigantic artistic installation known as Nuit Blanche (“White Night”) started in some great European cities (there is a heated dispute as to exactly which city started it: Paris, St. Petersburg or Berlin) in 1997 as a revolutionary idea to turn some of the world’s great cities into gargantuan art galleries. Since 1997, Nuit Blanche events have become an extremely anticipated and popular staple on the social calendars of several other world-class cities, including Lima, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Leeds, Atlanta, Los Angeles and, of course, Toronto. New York City played host to its first Nuit Blanche event (called Bring to Light) during the same night that Toronto held their annual event: October 2nd. The “movement” continues to grow – and the roster of talented artists wishing to participate continues to increase.

The Toronto Nuit Blanche event easily draws over 1 million people into the streets of downtown and West Toronto for one night. The event always begins at 7:00 pm and runs straight through until 7:00 am. Some of the installations – those that would have made Oscar Wilde himself cringe – are, as expected, over-the-top and self-indulgent in the extreme. The world of fine art, as per Wilde’s commentary in The Picture of Dorian Gray, rarely if ever takes advantage of collaborative efforts. Making “art” seems to be an exhaustive effort that ultimately will result in telling some deeply personal aspect of a story, or make an opinionated social commentary, based on the workings within the mind and the emotional investment of a single artist. It’s rare, really, to come across “art” where the credit for the success of the piece can be attributed to more than one man or woman.

This is where our story takes a sudden left turn. For the past three years, one man has been determined to educate and expose to the masses his art form during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche event. He is a man quite well known within his own Community, and he is quickly making a name for himself within the mainstream as both an author, and a self-proclaimed “Guerilla artist”. He is known by the moniker Morpheous – and whether you are irresistibly drawn to his work, or don’t care to understand it, there is one universal truth: what this man does, make no mistake, is “Art.” He is responsible for one of the most viewed art installations of Nuit Blanche, very simply called Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza. It’s an almost embarrassingly simple, non-pretentious and easy-to-remember title for a revolutionary (some say controversial) art installation. It’s also easy enough (as Oscar Wilde so brilliantly managed to allude to in Dorian Gray) to dismiss Morpheous’s efforts as nothing more than “people being tied up in public”, and to question whether what the present audience is witnessing or not can be categorized as “art” – or whether its straddling a very fine line between art and commercialized pornography. Considering that, in point of fact, and after conducting a little research, no other art installation during Toronto’s event had a line-up to get into the venue to view the pieces (the lineups for the Bondage Extravaganza reached about half a block long at several points during the evening), it would be very hard for the haughty, self-aggrandizing “art critics” to merely dismiss the installation as “mere smut.” Anyone who witnessed the Extravaganza knows, without question, what they were witnessing was true dedication to a most difficult-to-master visual medium.

Morpheous himself was active (pretty much) for the entire scheduled 12 hours of the event. He took a few moments to conduct interviews, drink some much needed water, and speak enthusiastically and engagingly with both old friends and new visitors alike. Morpheous is an gregarious man, and he is always approachable. He is rarely seen without a smile, and he is well-known for immediately putting nervous new models for his photographic sessions and apprehensive new contacts immediately at ease. One needs to spend only a few moments talking with Morpheous, and they immediately are made to feel comfortable, and welcome. The man just doesn’t have the rampant ego that needs to be satisfied in the way that many “artists” and “authors” do – and this clearly sets him apart from his peers (both in the fetish/SM world and in the artistic community).

By rights, and by virtue of his long good-standing within the Toronto alternative lifestyle community, Morpheous could have taken the route that most other “guerilla artists” take, and claimed the spotlight for himself during his Bondage Extravaganza. But this wouldn’t be compatible in keeping with what everyone knows about the man: while he is proud of his accomplishments over the years (an argument could be made that Midori, the world-famous sex educator and fetish world presenter, for instance, may not have achieved that status were it not for Morpheous’s tireless efforts to promote her during the early days of her career; especially in Canada), he is quick to credit his friends and family with being the true contributors to his success. “I wouldn’t be able to even apply to do a project like this,” he said while doing some rather gorgeous and wicked looking knot work on one of his favourite models, “if it wasn’t for the other people in this room. I owe a lot to some of the people behind me.”

Some of those people are, in their own right, fairly well-known in the Toronto alternative scene. There is a lovely and engaging young dance instructor who goes by the name of elle, for instance, and there is little question that she is as tirelessly devoted to Morpheous’s triumphs as she is to her own. On the night of Nuit Blanche, elle somehow managed to keep the “riggers” (those who performed the actual bondage) and the “bunnies” (the bondage models) within a tight schedule – no small feat when you consider the display space was, from start to finish, literally filled with dozens of mesmerized onlookers. When she wasn’t making sure things were running smoothly, like Morpheous, made sure the gathered media was well-informed, made sure the guests were comfortable, and all through the night did so with cheerfulness and an engaging spirit that simply defied the coming pull of exhaustion.

Then, there were the other performers. It is impossible to pay appropriate respect and attention to everyone who volunteered their time during Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza, but it isn’t too far outside the realm of over-used superlatives to say that each and every person who volunteered their skills, talents and time succeeded beyond words in helping to make the entire evening truly a mystical, awe-inspiring display of sensual expression. There wasn’t a single “rigger” or “bunny” present that complained about their use, misuse, or aches and pains: there was this almost ethereal, admiring sense of a true Community being displayed within a relatively tiny space. Sure, the rope work and each individual case of “boy or girl human mobile” (as coined by one of the enthusiastic and eminently beautiful models, Ohhh) was mind-stopping to behold: but the ballet that the viewing audience was deliciously subjected to for twelve straight hours was nothing short of incredible.

There are three others that briefly need to be described for their singular contributions in making the Extravaganza such a unique and collaborative success: the displays continuously exhibited by bondage artists Daddy Aslan (who did a wonderful plastic wrap piece in a lovely departure from the main, traditional ‘rope work’ of the evening),  Lotuslily and a man named Ruairidh from Toronto and an immensely promising young performer named Cannon from Michigan turned an already enjoyable night into an evening of pure visual ecstasy. Lotuslily is already well on her way to becoming an international star within the alternative lifestyle global community, and she certainly didn’t disappoint at Nuit Blanche. But watch, in the future, especially if rope bondage is “your thing”, for these two men Ruairidh and Cannon. They have two unique styles; two distinct stories to tell.

Ruairidh works with rope the way that Jackson Pollack worked with paint: you’re just not sure what it is he’s doing or where he’s “going” and you simply have to continue to watch him work until he’s finished. When he has completed his tying, and his model is turned slowly enticingly in a wide arc for the audience to see, it’s shockingly beautiful to behold. All the pieces suddenly come together to form a single, stunning bound creation: it isn’t a stretch to say that it’s very much like a flowering vine wrapping itself around a gorgeous, statuesque female form, creating a truly timeless and classic image.

Cannon is no less proficient – but his strength lies in how powerful his ability to perform is. He holds both his soon-to-be-restrained subject and the audience completely under his spell. His movements are subtle, but oh, so sensual. When he begins to apply the ropes to his weak-kneed model, it is like watching the Phantom of the Opera himself seducing and enticing the hapless Christine to succumb and completely give herself over to the pleasures soon to be tightly restrained within. This young man is a joy to watch: there are few who bring such delicious, jaw-dropping theatricality to his rope bondage performances.

The people mentioned above were all vital and necessary contributors to the success of the exhibit – but in truth, every single person who gave of their time surely must receive credit for making the Extravaganza such an enormous success. No truer example of a “Community coming together for a common cause” could be as well illustrated.

In a somewhat experimental atmosphere and in a potential-for-explosive-ego-clash environment, Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza succeeded far and away in proving one very important thing: When the goal is the collaborative and mutual success of an entire Community of performers and practitioners, and personal ambition and ego are left checked at the door, astounding things can transpire. This installation was one of the most popular of the entire Toronto Nuit Blanche evening, and for good reason: the people from Toronto were able to witness the artistic elegance and beauty that can be expressed using living models and mere rope as a breathing canvas. There can be no greater accolades for Morpheous, or his fellow artists, than knowing he managed to simply make people think. That is the aim of all artists – and for twelve amazing hours, the Extravaganza unquestionably made rope bondage somehow seem more “accessible” and less daunting and frightening to several people who, like the masses, tend to stereotype and associate sadomasochism and fetishism with simple violence.

Oscar Wilde wrote his scathing, personal critique of the art world and personal vanity in 1890. Over a hundred years later, human nature really hasn’t changed all that much. There are still people who create art, or write books, and then just expect that because they have done so, the world should come crawling to their feet to recognize and worship their “genius”. Within the fetish community, there are certain individuals who have written long (and boringly dry) “how to” volumes about bondage. Then, there are people such as Morpheous, Lotuslily, Ruairidh and Cannon who actually do raise the level of perception of intricate bondage (especially utilizing rope) from “sensual foreplay” to “High art”. It’s a wonderful evolution, really: one very high-profile adult magazine editor tried, in vain, to argue in the mainstream media that bondage was, indeed, truly an art when he allowed photos of a reigning beauty queen to be published within the pages of his periodical. Ultimately, his efforts were ridiculed – and the queen lost her crown. Thankfully for both, each went on to much bigger and better things.

The age is different, now: thanks in large part to the development of large-scale art installations such as Nuit Blanche in the world’s great cities, the beautiful “human mobiles” that are created when a talented man or woman lovingly applies rope to a beautiful, semi-clad or naked body – and then effortlessly makes that body appear to float, twist and turn comfortably, alluringly, seductively in the air – can finally take their place as “High Art” within the consciousness of those who earn their living within the creative world. This isn’t pornography: this is a loving, personal expression performed by people who have a true passion for the psyche, sensuality and desire that is associated with the very-human need to turn trust and control over and into the hands of someone else; even for just a few minutes.

For that reason, Morpheous and his fellow bondage practitioners are, without argument, respectable artists. Due to the popularity of the 2010 Nuit Blanche Bondage Extravaganza, Morpheous is already planning for 2011. “It will be three times larger”, he said with a slight mischievous smile. “If you think this year was really sensual and spectacular, just wait for what we get to show Toronto next year. We’ll have lasers and everything!”

(All photos courtesy of Morpheous and Toronto Nuit Blanche, Photographer: Jeff George)

Bang the Drums: New York City Fetish Tribe is Upon Us

So, another successful Fetish season comes to an end, with a fantastic finish provided in no small part by San Francisco’s Von Gutenberg Fetish Ball during the weekend of September 24th – 26th. If early reports are any indication, the SFVG Ball is going to be a “staple” on the party circuit for years to come. The timing probably couldn’t be better, for the West Coast “Fetish Mecca”. The perception has been, in recent years that the West Coast Fetish scene has been dying an unrelenting, agonizing death. There can be little question (and it has been noticed by many others) that Eric Von Gutenberg is slowly, and successfully, re-introducing and bringing back the old, ecstatic latex, leather and PVC party atmosphere that the Bay Area used to be so eponymous with. The image that San Francisco itself is a world-class fetish party town is certainly being polished.

Perhaps in part, the success of large-scale events in Tampa, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal, have been responsible for re-energizing the public’s interest in larger fetish parties on the West Coast. As another successful summer season of revelry comes to a close, it is time to turn our focus back once again to the East Coast, and the anticipation of the autumn events. This was a good, if not great summer, and hopefully the various party planners from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and all parts in-between, will find a way to keep that momentum rolling.

Tis is the season, after all, and in late September that can only mean one thing: Hallowe’en! The penultimate reason for letting loose and dressing up! Let the fall decadence thusly commence!

Naturally, whether you live in Denver, Des Moines or Dover, there are bound to be larger several excellent, scale events within your area to patron, and enthusiastically even become a part of (as a performer or organizer). Regardless of how tired a fetish practitioner may claim to be after any number of events this summer, if you happen to be anywhere near the East Coast of the United States between October 6th and October 11th, you certainly should seriously consider taking in a bit of the NYC Fetish Tribe Weekend Experience. Even the seasoned latex and leather veteran should take in a breath of “fresh air”; experience the exciting atmosphere of something exciting, and quite new.

For New York City is a very special place. There is just something about that city in autumn that sets it apart from all others. A more perfect location for a fetish event, at this time of year doesn’t exist. The weather is near perfect: those wanting to proudly parade about for their peers in leather, latex or PVC will find the elements (barring the dampness should there be any) most conducive to having a damn fine time. The boot lovers especially – of which Your Humble Narrator counts amongst that passionate legion – are going to find NYC in Autumn to be akin to being granted the keys to their own private adult theme park.

The organizers of NYC Fetish Tribe – Kelley Dane and Mike B. – are no strangers to the Fetish Scene, in NYC and across the United States. They are responsible for organizing the New York “delegation” for The Burning Man festival that takes place every year at Black Rock, Nevada and they are also the movers and shakers behind the Las Vegas Ultimate After-Party, a gargantuan gathering of deviants representing all walks of alternative life from Sadomasochists to Swingers. While Kelley and Mike most certainly are the main “movers and shakers” behind these efforts, both are quite quick (and emphatically) point out that “nothing would have been accomplished without the aid of a lot of very good and dedicated people.”

As strange as this may sound, that makes their events somewhat unique: most of the larger-scale Fetish events are organized and implemented by a very small central core of those who shoulder responsibility for the event’s overall success – and survival. NYC Fetish Tribe is slightly different, and slightly more revolutionary. “Fetish Tribe is NOT an organization or entity per say. It is a movement within the fetish community that has resonated strongly with thousands of people,” Kelley said. “Collectively those who feel the Tribe Vibe live by it and it is contagious. I first introduce the concept to (local Fetish personality) Nikki the Kink Queen over burgers in NYC, and with her resounding support Mike B. and I took off with it with the help of many supporters.”

Whether by design or circumstance, the “Tribe” is a somewhat of a throwback to the tight SM Community that existed in San Francisco in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Many urban centers have attempted similar undertakings – a collective truly of the people, by the people and for the people – but few have come close to establishing and maintaining the “familial” atmosphere that seems to permeate and define them. “The Tribe is a movement within the Fetish community that has resonated strongly with thousands of people,” Kelley and Mike said. “Although we’ve been referred to as “the Godfathers” of the movement, neither of us are really the acknowledged ‘leader’, ‘owner’, or even ‘President.’”

They refer to it as “The Tribe Vibe”. The New York City Fetish Tribe Experience is the culmination of many favorable factors and has been made a reality “only through the positive support of the New York City community at large.” On several occasions, Kelley and Mike insisted on mentioning the efforts of behind-the-scenes volunteers that are giving their free time, their particular expertise and talents, and their enthusiasm in the drive to really create something special.  “We’re very confident that those who haven’t experienced “The Tribe Vibe” – whether they’re coming from within New York or visiting – will both impress, and ‘infect’, all newcomers.

“The moment people walk through the door, they feel welcome. We don’t host a party to entertain you, necessarily, but instead our aim was to create a space in which people can meet, perform, be completely open, express and feel freedom. Upon entering a Tribe event you quickly feel included, and encouraged to share. It’s all about community and collective collaboration.”

The New York City Fetish Tribe experience promises to be unique in several different ways. For one, they have resisted the temptation to have “formalized” stage performances that can interrupt the flow of those wishing to engage in some “play” – and stage shows do tend to be immediate conversation killers. “The entire experience is a circus, and anyone can ‘perform’ at anytime,” Kelley and Mike said. “Our guest designers and our models parade on the floor and intermingle with all the people. Think more ‘Theatre in the Round’.” Another aspect that, to a great many attendees, is going to be a positive factor is the distinct absence of thumping, blaring loud music in any of the venues and play spaces. “We believe strongly that the best play comes only from first stimulating the mind and to do so you need to be able to talk.  It is a very simple concept that remains a corner stone of all Tribe events.

The Fetish Tribe will also actively encourage interaction amongst the guests. It’s one of the “trademarks” of their particular brand: they make a concerted effort, through the assistance of several enthusiastic, appropriately-clad and personable “Fetish Ambassadors”, to try and introduce all attendees to each other. Kelley and Mike firmly believe this “mingling” helps to strengthen the sense of family within the greater “Tribe” itself. They believe that everyone has value, no-one should feel intimidated, and in this reporter’s experience, no event has gone to such lengths to make people feel accommodated, welcome and “connected”. The entire experience is purposely designed to encourage people, from the Greater New York City area assuredly but also for visitors to the Big Apple alike, to meet and make new friends and truly feel connected with, and strengthen, those new relationships in the long-term.

Another extremely unique aspect of the Fetish Tribe Experience is the “Day Excursions” they have planned. While other event organizers have attempted (and utterly failed) to include their attendees in some “daylight” events, the Fetish Tribe Experience has offered a number of “New York Experiences” that are designed to not only help foster the aforementioned bonds of friendship during the evening festivities, but continue building those foundations during the day – and all with prominent New York landmarks as an inviting and awe-inspiring backdrop. Some of those “Day Tripper” events include a Croquet Tournament on Governor’s Island (with a twist: it’s an Undergarment Tournament); an excursion to the top of the Empire State Building (those that have never been before simply cannot miss this – it’s awe-inspiring), and a Sunrise Bondage and Bagel Breakfast on the Brooklyn Bridge.

“Those that decide to join us (whether they’re in New York City or not) will not be disappointed”, Kelley and Mike said. “This is an ‘experience’ to be had like never before!” Even the seasoned New Yorker, strolling in fetish wear alongside the New York City first-time visitor, is sure to experience something very unique and memorable: this kind of gathering of like minds, and the dedicated encouragement of those like minds to interact and “get to know” one another, has never happened before: especially in a town the size of New York. Compared to other large-scale events, the price of a ticket is ludicrously reasonable: total event VIP tickets are only $75.00 if you purchase your ticket in advance (through the Fet Life website events listings) or by going straight to the New York City Fetish Tribe website itself. Those that wish to purchase their VIP tickets “at the door” may do so at a cost of $85.00.

“It will be a good sized event. We already have confirmations from ‘Tribesmen’ in California, Toronto, Montreal, Florida, Las Vegas, Texas and Arizona,” Kelley and Mike said. “Everyone who attends is going to come away extremely pleased with the efforts of our army of New York Tribe volunteers. And, everyone who attends is sure to make a new, lasting friendship or two. That’s what the New York Fetish Tribe is all about: bringing people together, and forming life-long relationships.”

The New York City Fetish Experience runs from October 7th to 11th, 2010 (Columbus Day Weekend, Thanksgiving Day Weekend in Canada). The ‘experience’ is simply a weekend event that should be on every fetish enthusiast’s calendar, and for years to come. Those that live in the New York City area, and haven’t quite made up their minds whether they wish to join the Tribe that weekend, will probably be quite sorry they chose to skip it. For those that may still wish to travel to New York City for the Experience weekend, there is only this to be said: What are you waiting for? Your spot within the Tribe awaits.

The New York Fetish Tribe Experience Itinerary:

Thursday, October 7, at 9:00 pm:
NOctoberurne. Tribe mixer and Cabaret Show with Weimar punk band, Amour Obscur

The Chandelier Room Downstairs at 249 West 30th St. NYC

Friday, October 8, at 600 pm:
Organized Fetish Shopping (“I Just Love What You’re Not Wearing”)

Meet at Purple Passion, 211 West 20th St. New York City

Friday, October 8, at 9:00 pm:
Impact Play Party and Rubber/Latex Showcase

Club Rebel Upstairs at 251 West 30th St. New York City

Saturday, October 9, at 11:00 am:
Spa Break! You Deserve This!

Spa 88 at 88 Fulton St. New York City

Saturday, October 9, at 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm:
Croquet in Your Undergarments

Great Lawn of Central Park. Meet at 86th St. and Central Park West at 2:00 pm. New York City ~ Agents will be standing by. Hosted by NYC TNG.

Saturday, October 9, at 9:00 pm to 3:00 am:
Dress to {xcess Costume Ball

Element 225 East Houston St., New York City ~ This is an amazing venue in which you can express your individuality. Awesome!

Sunday, October 10 from 5:00 am to 7:00 am
Sunrise Bondage and Bagels on da Brooklyn Bridge

Meet at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. ~ Hosted by KinkyJews. Enter on Center Street adjacent to City Hall. Bring comfy shoes and sweater.

Sunday, October 10, at 1:00 pm:
Be on TOP of the Empire State Building

350 5th Ave, New York City at 34th St. See New York City like never before. Be Kink Kong! 

Sunday, October 10, at 4:30 pm:
Classes For Beginners and Experts

The Delancey, 168 Delancey St. New York City

Sunday, October, 10 at 9:00 pm to 3:00 am:
Suspension: ‘A Play Soiree’

 The Delancey, 168 Delancey St. New York City

VIP Ticket All-Inclusive Package: $75 advanced internet or $85 at the door.

Individual tickets per event purchased at the door only.

Please Note: There is an extra charge for ESP and Spa excursion paid directly to vendor

(Photo of Mistress Alex of New York courtesy Mike B. of Fetish Tribe)

Von Gutenberg Fetish Ball Night #1 TONIGHT – Suspension, Belly Dancing & Play

First Night for the VON GUTENBERG Fetish Ball Tonight; Meet, Greet & Play at 111 Minna Gallery.
 
A great night to dress up for Performances, Dance & Play with DJ Shatter and DJ Makita from Bondage a GoGo
 
Suspension Performance by Mike West
Belly Dancing with Black Hoody Grrl
Live Model Casting for the Von Gutenberg Magazine
Dance & Play all night long with DM Rubber Jeff
 
Door open at 9pm!
 
Location: 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Dress Code Strictly Enforced
 
Tickets are available for purchase here and will be hold at WILL CALL:
 
Or simply buy tickets at the door at 111 Minna Gallery tonight! $35 at door!
 
For complete event updates and details about the program for the whole weekend visit www.vongutenbergblog.com/event-updates-vg-fetish-ball-march-2010