I <3 Caveh Zahedi

I always admire people who can talk opening about sex, but in a way that’s really funny and self-aware (i.e. not cringeworthy). It makes the reality of our ever-warped sexualities a lot more bearable. For this reason, last year I fell in love with the filmmaker Caveh Zahedi, after seeing his autobiographical film I am Sex Addict. It’s the sort of film that will make you pee your pants laughing, but will also make you gasp, like, “OMG did he really just say that?” Here’s the trailer:

I recommend you watch it. It’s on Netflix. Anyway, last month I got to interview Caveh for Dazed and Confused mag about his amazing new film, The Sheik and I. So cool! You can read the interview below:

American filmmaker Caveh Zahedi is a master provocateur. At 52, Zahedi is best known for his 2006 comedy I Am A Sex Addict–a quasi-documentary about his obsession with prostitutes. Two of his previous documentaries, Tripping with Caveh and I Was Possessed by God, follow the director as he trips on psychedelic mushrooms, the latter resulting in “divine possession.” His films tend to be profoundly uncomfortable, hysterically funny, and bravely uncensored, all driven by Zahedi, the charming and irreverent madman.

In late 2010, Zahedi was commissioned by the Sharjah Biennial– the largest art exhibition in the Middle East–to make a film on the theme of  “art as a subversive act.” The curators told Zahedi he could do whatever he wanted, warning him only not to make fun of the Sheik, who is Sharjah’s absolute ruler and the Biennial’s financier. Zahedi then went on to do precisely what he was forbidden to do, traveling to Sharjah and turning his camera on the Biennial itself, and enlisting the locals to take part in his cinematic practical joke. The film was subsequently banned from the Biennial for blasphemy, and Zahedi was threatened with arrest. The controversy then led to concern that the blasphemy laws in Sharjah (a conservative Islamic state) could result in jail time for anyone associated with the film.

The Sheik and I, out next month, is Zahedi’s feature length documentary about his wild month in Sharjah, and his willingness to test political and social boundaries for the sake of his art.

When you set out to make the film, did you expect it would cause such a controversy?
Caveh Zahedi: When I went to Sharjah I had no idea what I was going to find. I didn’t know it was a dictatorship. I didn’t know people were afraid of the government. Throughout the trip, I was just holding up a hypothetical divining rod, seeking out people or places with energy or tension, and then playing on it. A lot of people have had really extreme responses to the film–it’s been called irresponsible, imperialistic, and some say it could put people’s lives in danger. A lot of Muslims hate it, a lot of Arabs hate it, and a lot of liberal, PC Americans hate it too. But I hate PC-ness more than anything.

People like to be offended by things; it creates the illusion of superiority.
Well that’s how morality works, isn’t it? People love to say, “I disapprove.” But the world is so corrupt at every level that there’s no ethical place to stand. It’s a complicated juggling act–choosing what battles to fight and what laws to break in order to expose what injustices.

Thom Powers, the documentary programer of the Toronto Film Festival, called The Sheik and I “deeply troubling for its breach of documentary ethics and reckless behavior.” That’s a heavy judgment.
Yeah. He compared me to the Florida pastor, Terry Jones, who burned the Koran. But in my eyes my film is something completely different, because it’s a work of art. I’m saying something complicated about the idea of God and spirituality, I’m not just pissing people off in a monolithic way. But Thom Powers doesn’t seem to see the difference. He thinks I’m being ignorant and self-centered. And he’s worried about people associated with the film getting hurt as a result of it.

But at the end of the film you make it clear that the government of Sharjah, after consideration, stated there would be no consequences for anyone who appeared in your movie, is that right?
Well yes, but there’s a question mark that hangs over the situation, because there’s a dictator in Sharjah who can do whatever he wants, and there are Islamic fanatics who just kill people when they don’t like them. So when you are dealing with these irrational, loose canon types, anything can happen. But to censor a work of art because somebody crazy might do something seems wrong to me.

What makes the film seemingly commercial is that it’s so funny, and all the antics are done in good humor, almost like a real-life Borat.
But Borat isn’t offensive. There’s something about what Sacha Baron Cohen does that’s very PC, because the things he’s targeting are things that most people agree are bad, like homophobia or hateful right-wingers. But some people find what I do unethical. For example sometimes I film people without their consent or knowledge, and right off the bat people think that’s wrong. Other people think the film is culturally insensitive. But I’m not trying to not offend, I’m just trying to make a good film. In the art world you’d call this an ‘institutional critique’–looking behind the facade of the institution. But most people don’t have that reference point. They’re just like “Why are you being so rude? They invited you to their country, and you were so ungrateful and ungracious, and so American.” But it’s like, “Yeah, but that’s what’s interesting about the film!”

Tambien pueden interactuar con los medicamentos que ya que pueden interactuar con los sintomas de la disfuncion erectil aumenta con la edad, atrapando la sangre y manteniendo la erección. Es realizable que no puede mantener una Ereccion Durante seis meses.

But as someone who is trying to create provocative art, don’t you sort of like it when people get pissed off?
That’s true. I’m glad people hate the film.

So is art basically a ‘get out of jail free’ card to do and say whatever you want?
I think art has its own ontology, and so it should have its own set of rules. I think the moral lines are basically the same as in real life: you shouldn’t hurt people. A snuff film seems wrong to me. You don’t get a ‘get out of jail free’ card to kill someone for the sake of a film. But if you’re not hurting anyone, then yes, you can do and say whatever you want. No one knows what the consequences of any particular action will be. It’s not unethical of Salman Rushdie to write The Satanic Verses. What’s unethical is to try to kill him for it.

How does being so honest, especially about sex stuff, affect your relationships with your wife, parents, etc.?
It definitely causes some friction. I never showed my mom Sex Addict, and she doesn’t want to see it, because she knows it would disturb her. But I try not to let that stop me from doing something I want to do. Although actually, there was a film I wrote that involved my parents a lot and my mom completely refused to cooperate. And basically it got to the point where I knew that if I made the film my relationship with her would be irrevocably destroyed, and I had to step back and say, “Is it worth it?” My conclusion, in that case, was, “I guess not.”

Did you ever censor yourself?
There was one scene in an early edit of Sex Addict that involved a man who had molested his daughter talking about his past, and how he had hurt the  person he loved the most, and he was crying while expressing all this remorse. And I really started to relate to the guy. I thought, “Yeah, I’ve hurt people too, and I feel remorse too, so I guess him and I aren’t so different.” But everyone I showed the film to insisted that child molestation is a whole different ballgame, and that the scene was asking too much of the audience. You have to pick your battles, and so I took it out. I was trying to make the film commercially viable, so that people would be affected by it, and it wouldn’t just be completely ghettoized.

What are your opinions on the current start of independent cinema, in this time when cameras are affordable enough that practically anyone can make a movie?
Well, I think everyone is making movies, and that a lot of them are really good. It’s impressive how many great films are being made. When I started making films there were no video tapes, and you couldn’t’ see a movie unless you were in a cinema, so the level of film culture was much lower. People now are so much more film literate than they used to be, which means that naturally there’s going to be a lot more experimentation going on in filmmaking.

The last film you released was I Am a Sex Addict, in 2006. Why the six year gap?
Well, every single thing I tried to do fell apart. The big one that collapsed was a film I was making as part of a residency at the American Academy in Rome. Crispin Glover, Vincent Gallo and Greta Gerwig had all agreed to act in the film. But then the financier didn’t agree with me on a few things and just pulled the plug suddenly. And meanwhile I had given up my job and my apartment, because my wife and I were planning to move back to Rome to make the movie, and we had a new baby, and then after that happened we spent a whole year living on friend’s couches while I tried to find a job.

What a bummer.
Big bummer. I was depressed for a long time after that.

You have a tendency, in interviews and in your films, to talk about your failures as much as your successes. In a recent interview I did with Lena Dunham (who I know is a big fan of yours), she talked about how she views her own embarrassment as a tool for connection. Do you feel similarly about self-deprecation?
Absolutely. David Lynch once said that all great films have at least one really embarrassing moment in them. And I like it when other people talk about their failings, because it makes me feel better. They’re the most interesting things to hear about! Inside that dialectic of shame and pretense is where people really live.

The Sheik and I will be released by Factory 25 on December 7th

Hamilton Morris gives you Weird Science

Cover art by Philip Hood; right: Hamilton Morris being casually glamorous

I thought I’d do a favor for your collective minds and spirits, and let you know that the current issue of VICE mag was guest edited by the much-loved chemistry hottie, Hamilton Morris, and centers around the theme of Weird Science. You may recognize Hamilton from your favorite VICE series (after mine), Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia–an expansive investigation into the world of psychoactive drugs.

The issue is #fabulous, and includes such gems as a short story about the mutant anatomy of turtle boys by Motorman author, David Ohle; an article about an ancient herb that cured William Burroughs’s cat of feline leukemia; and excerpts from Timothy Leary’s currently unpublished, The Periodic Table of Energy. There’s also an interview by Hamilton with a clandestine chemist whose operation of an underground laboratory landed him in jail, which I pasted below for your reading pleasure.

But first, a note from the editor:

The days of the gentleman scientist have long since passed, the chemical-supply stores have shut their doors, and some states have made unlicensed Erlenmeyer-flask possession a criminal offense. Our collective mouths froth over evidence of an intangible boson while medicinal chemists found guilty of forbidden syntheses are locked in cages and forgotten. The promises of human cloning are squelched by a UN ban, leaving such investigations the sole province of UFO-worshiping sex cults. Science is confined to industry or university, where research is largely dictated by market demands or grant-writing abilities, and experimental freedom is a luxury some toil a lifetime to achieve. That is science—so what is weird science? I’m not talking about using Antarctic krill oil to decalcify your pineal or the guzzling of monoatomic gold. I’m talking about real science––that’s a little bit weird. The syringe of chimpanzee semen plunged into a willing human female surrogate; Darwin investigating insectivorous plants with a cane topped by an emerald-eyed, ivory skull; radioresistant tardigrades and the use of cesium-accumulating mushrooms to decontaminate nuclear exclusion zones. Not mad science, not pseudoscience, weird science.

I was denied access to the unpublished pages of Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis and declined by Ray Bradbury one month before his death. Harlan Ellison possessed not a single unpublished story, and chemists working in industry bridled at this publication’s name, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that a vice is simply a tool, invented by the Greek astronomer Archytas of Tarentum, a disciple of Pythagoras. So I looked deeper and found newer, better things that palpate the tender abdomen of what we call science with a cold, ungloved finger. I also threw in a dash of science fiction for good measure. 

Inhale the alkyl nitrites of curiosity and penetrate the puckered sphincter of knowledge, scientia! – Hamilton Morris

Criminal Chlorination

An Interview with a Clandestine Chemist

by Hamilton Morris

In the popular imagination, the landscape of clandestine chemistry is a monotonous one, peppered with pastures of GBL saponification and bluffs of pseudoephedrine reduction. But there exist lone experimenters, tinkerers, gentlemen scientists, who seek to further the field of psychoactive-drug synthesis in the privacy of their own homes. For their participation in the ignominious marriage of proscribed neucleophile and electrophile they often pay a dire price: their freedom. Here I present an interview with a clandestine chemist acquaintance whose curiosity regarding forbidden molecules left him locked in a cage.

VICE: I wanted to talk about clandestine chemistry and what it’s like to operate an underground laboratory. How did you first get started?
Anonymous chemist: In the early 90s there was a massive outpouring of information on psychedelics. You had Terence McKenna parading around in a DMT T-shirt, talking about salvia, yet nobody knew where to get either salvia or DMT. It seemed criminal to have to go to a Grateful Dead concert or a rave—these awful scenes—to try to acquire interesting and unusual drugs, but there were few other choices. There were some compounds that had always been commercially available from chemical-supply companies, but most of the phenethylamines were really hard, if not impossible, to get.

I was a scientific kid, and I followed my curiosity to its natural end. My first actual synthesis was DMT. In retrospect that seems ridiculous, but it was something that I just could not find. Nobody was doing extractions; these were the days before the widespread availability of botanical sources. I studied the synthesis and decided to go the classical route via indole, but my first DMT synthesis was pretty shitty—literally, indole smells like crap—and it just reeked up the building I was living in. This was pre-meth-lab hysteria, so while it wasn’t normal to have your apartment smelling like shit and solvents, it didn’t ring any alarm bells. By the time I successfully produced DMT, I’d learned enough chemistry that I had a much broader synthetic palette to work with. This was probably 1993 or so and there was all this hype around MDMA. Like I said, the terrible raves were in full force. It started out as a very expensive hobby and I gave away whatever I made, but that’s not sustainable in the long term so I began to sell the material as well.

What was your motivation for distributing the chemicals in large quantities?
You hear all this messianic bullshit from chemists. My motive was very clear: I just wanted the opportunity to try drugs that were unobtainable otherwise. I tried MDMA and moved to DOM, mescaline, 2C-B, and various others. I really enjoyed watching the ripple effect of throwing these things out there, to see question marks stretched across people’s faces, and it became my primary source of income for about seven years.

It’s interesting how things have changed. Now most of these drugs can be obtained without much effort, but the precursors for their syntheses are closely guarded.
It’s different. Back then, trying to get any of the substituted benzaldehydes was a serious bitch; those aren’t exactly linchpins of chemical commerce. The straight-to-consumer international chemical trade was in its infancy. But now there’s also a lot more heat on certain things—back then you could buy a 55-gallon drum of camphor 1070 or ocotea oil for $3,000. There’s just no way you could do that kind of thing anymore. I wouldn’t say it’s harder or easier, it’s simply different and it’s always evolving.

I’ll give you an example: Around 1998 there was a group of us that were trying to work on some of Shulgin’s thio-compounds, the 2C-Ts. They were a lot more difficult than the standard phenethylamines and we just couldn’t do it effectively. So eventually a private group of chemists and investors pooled their resources and commissioned a laboratory in Poland to produce a kilogram of 2C-T-7. It was ridiculously expensive, and the entire process felt like a really extreme measure. To the best of my knowledge, that group effort was the first instance of custom syntheses of a gray-market drug by the end users. Less than two years later, the chemical took off and was introduced as Blue Mystic in the Netherlands, and then as a pure chemical in the States. 2C-T-7 was one of the first “research chemicals” in the modern designer-drug sense, and I think some of its initial popularity came from the fact that it had been totally unavailable due to the difficulty of producing it in a clandestine lab.

Back then the internet served to disseminate knowledge about drugs. There was less emphasis on disseminating the drugs themselves.
Starting in the 90s, there were a series of forums where chemists would convene to discuss their work. One of the results of these discussions was that a lot of these syntheses got translated into plain English anyone could understand. To people without formal training in organic chemistry, the terminology used in chemical journals and pharmaceutical patents is so technical that it is effectively a foreign language. PiHKAL made things a lot easier—Shulgin speaks in a language closer to what the average dude can understand. But the online discussions took things even further, and the result was that a lot more people decided to try their hands at synthesizing MDMA.

The biologist Eva Harris described a simple technique that allows people in developing countries to run PCR via manual thermal cycling, and the work is widely considered to be a masterpiece of science communication. What struck me while reading her book is that she was effectively doing for genetics what clandestine chemists had done for amphetamine synthesis—they’re both results of the same impulse to simplify, increase accessibility, and bring technology to the people who need it.
I used the proceeds from my work to get proper equipment, but some of my fondest memories are from when I was just starting out. I was trying to make remarkable things using completely unremarkable tools. Everyone was doing mercury amalgam reductions or lithium aluminum hydride reductions, and that was it. There was this meth-lab lore about bikers who would supposedly take an aluminum keg, pump methylamine and phenylacetone inside, and throw the keg into a river to keep the reaction cold enough to prevent it from exploding. It was certainly a bullshit story, but some dudes actually ran with it and began using 55-gallon PTFE kegs as reaction vessels in the reductive amination of MD-phenylacetone and nitromethane. This is a violent reaction on the small scale, so they’d just throw in a kilo, hook up a pressure-relief valve, and hope for the best! Everybody thrived on improvised equipment.

I can understand improvising certain things, but without any analytic equipment you are essentially working blindfolded. So much chemistry revolves around figuring out exactly what you’ve got sitting in your flask—working without access to sophisticated analytic equipment is like traveling back in time 50 or 100 years.
Even in university labs, analysis was more difficult; there were no references for most of these chemicals, especially not the phenethylamines. It was really a guessing game. I had no recourse other than thin-layer chromatography to monitor reaction progress, and then taking a melting point of the final product. That’s why the forensic reports were so fascinating to me when I was raided. Of course, it’s unfortunate that the first glimpse into the true chemical identity of my products was occasioned by my arrest, but even as I was having my freedom taken away I was totally fascinated by what the forensic chemists had found.

What exactly were you charged with?
My first charge was actually for the manufacture of methamphetamine. For reasons I won’t get into, I wasn’t arrested at the time of the raid and promptly fled overseas to await the forensic report. I was charged in absentia with manufacturing methamphetamine because that was all the cops knew how to process. They were taken aback by my laboratory. The 2C-C I was making was just not in their chemical lexicon. They thought it had to be methamphetamine and were determined to prove it. That charge stuck for the better part of a year. At one point, my defense attorney and I said, “Let’s go for this meth thing. We can beat that one.” The field tests came back positive for methamphetamine, but the narcotics officers knew something else was going on, so they sent for a private contractor to test for traces of scheduled compounds. These guys tested everything; they were quite literally analyzing the paint on the walls of my laboratory. Then they outlined possible synthetic routes based on their findings, and I must say they hit every fucking nail on the head. I was halfway hoping when I was hiding out overseas that they might not find anything. Not a fucking chance!

And what did they find?
Well, one thing they didn’t find was methamphetamine. I was extremely careful not to keep large quantities of anything scheduled in the laboratory while it was active—it looked simply like a well-equipped organic-chem lab. I think they chose to pursue the 2C-C because it was the only material present in quantities large enough to warrant a serious charge according to the sentencing guidelines. I was experimenting with various procedures to chlorinate 2C-H. Shulgin’s original method was a bit messy and low-yielding. I used sulfuryl chloride, which resulted in better yields, but there was a problem with not being able to separate polychlorinated impurities with recrystallization or distillation. The trick I found was to chlorinate the benzaldehyde, which made for easy separation. It was really cool to look postmortem at the lab report and see exactly what had come out of it. I actually got a thank-you card from a few of the staff at the forensics lab for giving them what they said was the most interesting work they had done in ages.

Wow! How did their report play out in court?
A jury of your peers often isn’t the greatest thing, as apparently my peers are not that bright. A bunch of talk about differing functional groups just confuses them; all the prosecutor needs to do is get up there, point out the laboratory equipment and chemicals, and talk about the tragedies of the meth epidemic, and you’re fucked. It was amazing to me how idiotic it all was. They were claiming that my 2C-C intermediates were 2C-B, of which there was not a nanogram in my lab. When we tried to point out that the two chemicals contained an entirely different halogen, they just rolled their eyes as if to say, “Oh, here you come with this chemistry goobledygook again.” And I had to plea out of that charge. The whole thing was like tending an apple orchard and being charged with running an illegal orange grove. I ended up with a few years. Arguably, I was lucky.

Yes, arguably. Do you feel as if you garnered more respect from the police and prisoners than the typical inmate because you had committed an intellectual crime?
I found it easier in jail to just lie and say, “Yes, I was cooking meth.” That went over so much better than trying to explain, “Well, I was working on an unusual halogenated psychedelic phenethylamine.” Other prisoners come up to you and want to talk about chemistry—all the other purported meth cooks assault you with these totally fantastical syntheses that they swear were working. You just stop arguing and say, “Yup, that’s awesome, I also did that when I was cooking meth.”

After your release, how did you reconcile your relationship with chemistry? It’s rare, but some people involved in chemistry crimes have gone on to successful academic careers.
If you’ve figured out a way to transmute mercury into gold then it’s really hard to ignore that. You never forget how to ride the bicycle that is synthesizing MDMA. Of course, it’s a vicious cycle: You receive a prison sentence for illegal chemistry, and when you are released the illegal income is even more attractive because you’re unemployable. It’s a bitch to replace all of your reagents and equipment, but that’s nothing compared with the difficulty of learning organic chemistry in the first place.

What did you do when you were released?
An unanticipated thing happened while I was in prison: The market changed dramatically, and my job was effectively outsourced to China. By the time I had returned to normal society, things were unrecognizable. I was blown away. The research-chemical market was going full speed ahead, and all it took was mephedrone to really blast that into the public consciousness. In retrospect, those early days of 2C-T-7 seem so quaint. The synthesis community has fractured; there are some pockets out there, but the original need no longer exists. I have mixed feelings about the increased availability of these chemicals. In today’s climate I might have never become a chemist. Half the chemicals that motivated me to sit down with a chemistry textbook can be purchased online with a debit card. Strangely enough, the research-chemical market put scores of hardworking American clandestine chemists out of business. I can’t compete with China, so I’m yet another victim of globalization!

So what now?
For me, I still have a great interest in chemistry—perfumery has been something that’s really been exciting me lately. So yeah, perfumery. Maybe.

Azealia Banks Blows Up

Photos by Sharif Hamza

I wrote an article about Azealia Banks for the cover of the September issue of Dazed and Confused mag. The cover image was very #controversial, and was banned in seven countries, due to Azealia smoking a condom like a cigar. That seems a bit strange to me, given that the world seems A-OK with the myriad images of half-naked women that grace 90% of fashion mag covers today. AND the condom is a symbol of safe sex! So what’s all the fuss about? Whatever. Anyway, read my article below!

Azealia Banks stomps onto the stage, flipping her butt-length green hair from side to side like the queen bitch in a teen movie. In her fishnet bodysuit, starfish pasties and knee-high leather platforms, she looks like some sort of deep-sea, S&M superhero. Behind her, dancers in fetish gear vogue for their lives. It’s a Sunday night in New York and Miss. Banks, the rising Harlem rapper, has transformed the legendary Bowery Ballroom into an aquatic carnival for her sold out Mermaid Ball–a vogue ball slash costume contest slash concert.

Banks is the personification of the rags to riches story–the little girl with a fierce, raw talent, elbowing her way to the top. Last September she won the hearts of millions with her viral hit, “212,” an infectious rap track with a house beat and some triple-X raunch. Just 21, Banks sits at the center of a Venn diagram of pop culture: the queen of a new school of budding female rappers, a muse for the high fashion elite, a fixture in New York’s emerging queer hip-hop scene, and a favorite on indie dancefloors the world over. She’s earned a bad girl reputation, known as much for her angry Twitter brawls, in-your-face sexuality and flagrant use of the word “cunt” as for her music. Back in the days before internet transparency, we worshiped celebrities for being better than us. Now we celebrate them for being as bad as us–we love them even more when they’re vulnerable and flawed. Banks doesn’t play by the rules, and that’s precisely why we can’t get enough of her.

Haters have been quick to brand her a one hit wonder, but it’s the forthcoming release of her debut LP, on Polydor/Interscope, that will confirm whether Banks is simply a flash in the pan, or something more: rapper, fashionista, pop star provocateur.

It’s the morning after the Mermaid Ball. Banks is marathon texting from the makeup chair of a Brooklyn photo studio, being groomed for her Dazed cover shoot. Her Rapunzelian hair near reaches the floor. “I played Summer Jam festival yesterday,” she’s saying through clicks of her gum, “and it didn’t go over so well. One of my dancers–who were all dressed sort of androgynous–was wearing these pants with the butt cut out, and as soon as he turned around the crowd started booing. They couldn’t handle the gay thing, which was kinda wack, but whatever. What are you gonna do, not be gay?”

Banks is the latest in a long line of female performers who have borrowed from voguing culture (Madonna and Lady Gaga are obvious examples). Since coming out as bisexual in the New York Times last winter, Banks has been loosely associated with a new crew of gay and trans artists in NYC who are reinventing ideas of hip-hop identity–rappers like Zebra Katz, Mykki Blanco and House of LaDosha (the latter appeared at the Mermaid Ball). Early this year, when Karl Lagerfeld invited Banks to perform at a party at his house, she did a cover of the Zebra Katz’ track, “Ima Read”–the queer rap scene’s break out hit. “I feel very influenced by ball culture,” she says enthusiastically. “A lot of my friends are in and out of that scene, and growing up my sister was really involved in it. She came out of the closet when she was fourteen, and her friends would always be over our house talking shit and dancing, and I would just watch them and pick stuff up.”

Banks grew up in Harlem. Her father died of pancreatic cancer when she was just two years old, after which her mother raised her three daughters alone, working long hours as a clerk at an art supply store to put them through school. “We didn’t grow up poor,” Banks asserts. “Sure, we grew up in the hood, but we had some money. But I moved out when I was fourteen to go live with my older sister, because my mom just had, well… issues.” She rolls her eyes melodramatically. “After my dad died, my mom became really abusive–physically and verbally. Like she would hit me and my sisters with baseball bats, bang our heads up against walls, and she would always tell me I was ugly. I remember once she threw out all the food in the fridge, just so we wouldn’t have anything to eat. It was like growing up a feral child, being raised by this person who was always yelling and screaming, hitting you and dragging you around and shit.” She pauses, sweeping her hair from her face. “Granted, she never had any drug or drinking problems–her house was clean, her hair was always done, and we had stuff–but she still fucked me up real bad.”

To keep herself busy, Banks turned to boys. “I’ve always been very sexual,” she grins. “Growing up I was so curious about boys. I just loved them. Like, loved them. I’d always get my recesses taken away for letting boys touch my butt in the lunch line,” she laughs. “I got in trouble for fooling around in school a lot. I just wanted to be touched, ya know? I just wanted to have sex. And my mom was always working so there was never anyone around to tell me no.”

But she was more than just boy crazy. At a young age, Banks took an interest in the performing arts, partly, she says, as an escape. “When I was in 5th grade I got given a flyer for a program called Tada!, this non-profit organization in downtown in New York. I remember thinking, ‘This is it, this is my way outta this life.’ It was the people at Tada! who later pushed Banks to audition for New York’s famous Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts. Often called the “Fame” school, notable alumni include Kelis and Nicki Minaj, as well as Jennifer Aniston, Robert De Niro and many others. However, when her acting career failed to blossom as fast as she’d hoped, Banks dropped out of high school to pursue music.

It wasn’t long before the neophyte rapper’s early Myspace tracks caught the attention of London based label XL Recordings, who signed her to a development deal under the name Miss Bank$. Early disagreements led to Banks leaving the label on bad terms. Discouraged and heartbroken over a recent breakup, she moved to Montreal with $75 in her pocket, looking for a change of scenery. The change did her good; it was there that she recorded the club friendly track “212,” rapping over a sample of Lazy Jay’s “Float My Boat.” Banks was working at Starbucks at the time, and coughed up the $30 it cost to make the music video. The result was a stark black and white video featuring Banks goofily dancing in front of a brick wall in a Mickey Mouse sweat shirt. Her questionable dance moves garnered over 23 million views on YouTube (so far).

And then the whirlwind started. Off the back of “212” Banks topped NME’s 2011 “Cool List” and was featured in countless magazines, and the song made Pitchfork’s list of “Top 10 tracks of 2011.” Gwyneth Paltrow and Kanye West were early fans, and the world of fashion embraced her with open arms. Mugler’s Nicola Formichett–Lady Gaga’s stylist–debuted her track “Bambi” during his menswear show at Paris Fashion Week. She performed for Karl Lagerfeld at his home, was shot by Terry Richardson for the New York Times, and the video for her second single, “Liquorice,” was styled by Formichetti and directed by Rankin. And all of this for this girl in the Disney sweat shirt. “I think the fashion world responds so well to me because I’m not intimidated by them,” she says. “I’m confident and sexually free, and I don’t care about wearing every fucking brand in the world. I still wear shit from Rainbow, ya know? Like I’ll take some Chanel, cut it up and stick it with something really cheap, but I’ll make it look mad official.” She flashes her bright white American smile–a grin that’s at once alluring and mischievous. “That’s just how I make things my own.”

Back at the Brooklyn studio, the photoshoot is moving at a snail’s pace. There are obstacles: Banks doesn’t like the clothes. Next the make-up. Now she wants different food. Unfortunately, she’s also on a strict time schedule, and slowly but surely expressions of panic begin to settle in on the faces throughout the studio. By the crafts service table, a photo assistant whispers something about a recent shoot with Beyonce having been less of a hassle. Banks is acting like a “diva” in the most rudimentary sense–something she is slowly becoming known for. One of her most attractive qualities, no doubt, is her ambition; she had the sort of furious determination representative of someone who has never having been handed anything for free. However that determination has a tendency to manifest as aggression. She’s becoming infamous for her public feuds with other rappers, and her Twitter account is prone to angry, Courtney Love style rants, with the brunt of her wrath being aimed at T.I., Lil’ Kim, and fellow newcomer, Iggy Azalea.

The drama came to a head early this year when Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea was awarded a place on the cover of XXL’s coveted ‘2012’s Freshmen class’ issue, after which Banks Tweeted, “Iggy Azalea on the XXL freshman list is all wrong.  How can you endorse a white woman who called herself a ‘runaway slave master’?  Sorry guys. But I’m pro black girl. I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside of my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it.” The song Banks is referring to is “D.R.U.G.S.”, Azalea’s remake of Kendrick Lamar’s “Look Out For Detox”, where she raps a slightly altered version of Lamar’s original lyrics, saying, “When the relay starts I’m a runaway slave… master.” Though Azalea has since publicly clarified her pure intentions, Banks has continued to make it known that she is not a fan. “Iggy Azalea is disrespecting all of us very intentionally,” says Banks, “and if nobody else is gonna say it then I’m gunna fucking say it.” She pauses to take a deep breath, calming herself down. “Look, I realize I can come across threatening, but I’m not trying to be aggressive, I’m just very direct,” she says sincerely. “More often than not I think my good intentions are taken negatively.”

Cat fights, along with the presence of the archetypal “vengeful female”, are nothing new in the world of hip-hop. It’s a bummer, really, when you consider what a little girlpower could do within the heavily male dominated industry, especially in this post-Nicki Minaj era, rich with budding female emcees. But Banks is still very young, and one suspects that her occasional bratty behavior and public name-calling is less a product of a genuine mean streak, but more an emulation of how she thinks a superstar rapper should act. She’s playing up to the hype–this attitude of, “You call me a bitch, OK, I’ll show you a bitch.” As Joan Didion famously wrote of Joan Baez, “she was a personality before she was entirely a person, and like anyone to whom that happens, she is in a sense the hapless victim of what others have seen in her, written about her, wanted her to be and not to be.”

“I feel like the hip-hop world hasn’t really supported me,” she frowns. “I think people are upset that I showed up and got big, that I was making all these fashion friends, and that I was so open about my sexuality. People say, ‘Oh, you only have one song’, which is not true, I have a pretty full repertoire.” She stops, searching for the right words. “I just think about African American culture–where we are socially, and where we’ve come from. Everyone says ‘Oh, it’s 2012, times have changed’, but they really haven’t changed that much. I’ve traveled all over the globe, and I know that the world still has a slight animosity towards black people. It’s hard for us to do anything, to even get our picture in a magazine, let alone on the cover! So I’m out here working hard, and y’all are trying to pull me down. It’s sad, because you never want to turn your back on your people, but I gave up on the hip-hop scene, I really did.”

Banks’ debut LP, Broke With Expensive Taste, comes out next month. Her recent releases–the EP 1991 and mixtape Fantasea–saw collaborations with electronic producers like Machinedrum and Hudson Mohawke. Banks has also spent some time in the studio with Grammy-winning producer Paul Epworth, suggesting there might be some pop anthems from her in the foreseeable future. “I know it sounds really self-centered, but I’m sort of obsessed with myself,” she laughs. “I have to be, because it’s the only way I can stay focused. That’s really what the theme of the album is: if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. It’s about a girl who’s doing everything she can to achieve her goals, who’s gonna make it somehow, some way.”

Despite her talk of being rejected by hip-hop, what’s undeniable about Banks is her mass appeal. Though she raps, she doesn’t just appeal to rap fans. Her music is loved by people of all ages, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations. She is the master provocateur, the lovable rogue. Back in ‘94, her troublemaking predecessor Courtney Love told Spin: “Sometimes when people are bearing down on you so hard, and want you to behave in a certain way, you just do it because you know you can.” Banks is taking full advantage.

Mistress Amanda Whip

In the most recent episode of the VICE Slutever show, embeded into the post below this one, I spent a day with the pro-Domme Mistress Amanda Whip, and she gave me #sexy beginners lessons in “BDSM for the bedroom”. However, there were large parts of my interview with her–specifically the parts about how she got her start as a dominatrix, and her career thus far–that were edited out of the final cut of the episode. But it was all sooo juicy, so I decided to publish it here as a Q&A. I hope this interview will be useful for some of you, as I’ve been getting a lot of emails recently from girls who are all like, “Uhhh… I want to make money beating up guys, can you teach me how to become a dominatrix?!” So if you’re one of those girls, PLEASE, read and learn! You’re welcome.

When did first become interested in fetish?
Mistress Amanda Whip: Well, I grew up in South Florida, which is a very sexually charged place, so from a very young age I was just aware of sexual… ya know… stuff. And then I started making erotic art–drawing pictures of sex, of nudity, and some minor fetish stuff crept its way in there too.

Like what?
I remember this one scene that I drew where a bunch of girls were jumping on a guy on a trampoline. So they were trampling him, basically. My friend’s mom found that one and got freaked out! And I loved drawing girls tied up.

I always wonder how much of our sexual desires are programed when we’re very young, like how much our parents influence what we’re “into” later on in life.
Well, my parents are pretty open-minded, and there was always a lot of nudity around me growing up. And my grandma was kind of a man-hating psycho, so I guess I’ve picked up some elements of my sexual personality from all of them! Like when I was about 3 or 4 my grandma has this boyfriend, and she would always encourage me to beat him over the head and do other evil things to him. I was a sadistic kid, and she really brought it out in me.

And when did you move more seriously into the world of BDSM?
I guess it was when I moved to New York and started going to fetish parties. I would go to the Bite Party at The Delancey, and Suspension—places like that. And they always had these “play areas” in the back where you could play one-on-one with “real life slaves.” Those were my first experiences beating up guys, or being dominant with them, like “Rub my back, rub my feet, get me drinks,” and stuff. I was like “Wow, I can’t believe this exists!” Guys would literally line up on their hands-and-knees to give me an eternal foot rub. And if I wanted to stick my heel down their throat and make them bleed, I could. They were there to serve.

Do you get paid at those types of parties?
Some of the guys will give you money, but most of them don’t. I didn’t have my hustle on back then, as I was only about 18 or 19, so I was doing it mostly for fun.

So when did you realize this was something you wanted to do professionally?
Well, I started out doing art modeling, and working at lap dance parties. And then I started doing fetish films, so I sort of worked backwards, actually. Basically I answered a casting call to perform in a fetish film at this small, independent BDSM space, and then afterward they asked me if I wanted a job as a dominatrix, and I just said OK.

And what did performing in the fetish film involve? Was there actual sex?
No. I’ve done some girl-on-girl videos, but the fetish films I did were mostly cock and ball torture, crushing, kneeing–stuff like that. Fun things!

So at this first job, were you a house Domme? I know lots of girls start out that way–they work on staff at a dungeon, and then clients come in and pick out the girl they want to session with. It’s sort of brothel vibes, but it’s an easy way to start out, and you get a lot of training and experience.
I wasn’t a house Domme actually. The main draw for me at that first place was that I only had to show up when I had a client, and they would find the clients for me. Granted, I didn’t get a ton of clients and it was kind of a mess, but it was an easy start.

The things that seems strange to me about working as a house Domme is that the initial situation, where you’re waiting for a client to pick you, seems quite submissive.
Yeah, that’s why I’ve never wanted to work in a major dungeon house–I don’t like the idea of sitting in a room with fifteen girls and a guy coming in saying, “Oh, I want that one,” and then afterward having to dominate him, when he just dominated me. But for a lot of girls that’s the only way they can get into it. But the great part about it is that when you work in a house, you instantly meet a clientele base that you can take with you when you decide to go independent.

Generally you get trained when you work in-house. Did you get any basic training?
In the first place I worked they did try to train me, but it was a little shady. Really the owner just wanted to get a free session with me as a submissive. He said I should be his sub to teach me how to be dominant. But it didn’t pan out the way he wanted, and I ended up forcing him to pay me for the session. Basically it was me and another girl, and he tied us both up and faced us away from him, and I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw him pull up the other girl’s dress and pull down his pants and start jerking off. I was like, “This is not what was discussed, “ and told him to never fucking do that again, and to hire me. Ha! So I wasn’t really formally trained, but I experimented and had friends who were Dommes, and I read a lot of fetish literature.

Some girls who work at dungeons work as a “switch.” How does that work?
That’s when you switch between being a Domme or a sub, depending on what is requested for the session. When I first started my boss was like, “You can work only as a Domme or you can be a switch, and switches get $300 an hour.” So I was like, “Okay, let’s try that and see what happens.” I let him know in the beginning that I’m not really a submissive, so I started doing light switch sessions, but it didn’t last long. I’m not good at taking orders and couldn’t keep my mouth shut, and I tended to anger the dominant guys. Like, this one guy threw a glass of water in my face because he got so angry at me for not obeying.

Is being a Domme a lucrative job for you?
Yeah, it pays my bills and gives me a nice life.

Is it the only way that you make money?
No, I do some burlesque here and there. I’ve been stage managing burlesque shows for a while, and I had a small chocolate making business for a while too.

Has there ever been a time when you were really grossed out or shocked during a session? Like, “What am I doing here? I’m a nice girl!”
Well, I don’t really consider myself a nice girl :) But there was this one intense time where a client wanted to eat my shit. But I wasn’t ready to pinch out a log on this dude, so I compromised and I told him I would sell him a bag of my used toilet paper. And the moment I was handing him a Ziploc bag of my used, shitty toilet paper, and he was looking at it like it was a bag of chips, in my head I was like, “How did I get here?”

Lol. Have you shit on anyone since then?
Not, I don’t like excrement. I’ll pee on someone if we have a good relationship and the money’s right, but that’s not my thing either. Although I’ve heard I have particularly sweet urine.

I’ve seen guys drink literally pints of pee, so much that they start choking and burping up pee burps.
The worst is when they’re laying on their back and you fill their mouth with pee to the brim, and then they just close their mouth and gulp and you know it’s a hot load of piss they just swallowed.

Yum! So, from your experience, why do you think so many guys like drinking pee so much?
A lot of them just like the humiliating aspect of drinking someone else’s waste. They like feeling like they’re a toilet. That, or they just like feeling close to a woman, and they feel that’s the best way for someone as lowly as themselves to do it.

You know when you love someone so much that you literally want to get inside their body, just so you can be as close to them as possible? Do you think pee drinking is kind of the same thing–wanting to get at what’s inside someone else?
Yeah, I don’t do a ton of piss stuff but I get a lot of guys who want me to spit in their mouths, and when I ask them about it they say they feel it’s the closest they can get to me. Also, a lot of this stuff is just about wanting attention. I think some people are just born feeling like they should be beneath other people. And others are in really powerful positions, or are the head of a household, and they just need to go somewhere and relax; they say seeing a Domme is like maintaining peace of mind. There are some foot fetishists who come in and just spend the whole hour under my feet, and it looks like they’re meditating, like it’s some sort of Zen thing. I get texts from them after like, “Thank you so much, now I can get through my week without going crazy!”

It’s a stereotype that high-powered businessmen, after bossing people around all day, see Dommes because they crave a role reversal. Do you think that stereotype is true?
Yes, for sure. But my clients are all across the board—old, young, professional types, DJs, musicians, shoe salesmen, lawyers, doctors. Everyone can have a fetish.

The only commonality I’ve seen between my own clients is that they’re usually white men.
That’s true. Well, I get some Asians. And Hasidic Jews are big, because they’re so repressed. They grow up thinking these crazy things about sex and who they are as sexual beings, and they don’t want to offend God or their people, but when they’re with their dominatrix they can be themselves and just get it all out.

Has a client ever surprised you with his reason for seeing you?
There was this one Hasidic Jew who told me that he’d had cancer as a child, and as part of his treatment I guess they’d zapped whatever it was that made him able to produce sperm. But, as an Orthodox Jew, you can’t get married or have a family unless you can ejaculate, basically, because you need to be able to have kids. So he came in because he couldn’t ejaculate and so desperately wanted a family, a life, a wife… everything. He’d already been to doctors, therapists, and sex therapists, and I was basically his last stop. And I actually did make him ejaculate, at least a little bit, by peeing on him and spitting on his nipple.

But after that he got so desperate and would call me at all hours, like, “I need to see you, ahhhh…!”, so I had to stop seeing him; it was too intense for me. I didn’t get into this business to get involved with something so deep.

What’s your favorite kind of session?
I really like a corporal session where it’s just me taking out my frustration on some guy. I like seeing a man squirm or flinch as I’m pulling back to whip him.

Have you ever felt unsafe during a session?
Generally I don’t, because I’m good at screening people and getting references, and the place I work now has security cameras, and the clients know that. However there was one situation a couple years ago when a crackhead came in and was smoking crack in front of me and blowing it in my face. He was pacing back and forth, sweating profusely, saying, “You want to hear about the most twisted, fucked up fantasy?” and then started talking about fucking dogs and kids. I was like, “You need to leave now, this isn’t the kind of session I do.” He spent a while searching for his crack rocks on the carpet before he actually left, but I eventually got him out the door.

What’s the most extreme request you’ve gotten from a client?
Once I was burning a guy with cigarettes and he asked me to burn his taint.

AHH! NO! Did you do it?
Of course! I didn’t burn him that bad, I just kind of kissed it with the cigarette. I also had this other guy–a human ATM, cash pig type–who wanted to sign over his power of attorney to me and put me on his bank account, but that ended up not working because he was a little too high maintenance for me.

I read another interview with you where you talked about farting in a client’s mouth.
Yeah, that was the guy that would buy my used toilet paper. I would give him the toilet paper, he would nibble on it, I would give him a bottle of my pee or whatever, a then, for the rest of the session, he just wanted me to fart in his mouth. It required a couple days of preparation of me just eating broccoli and loading up on food.

Sounds traumatizing. So, what do you like most about being a Domme?
I like meeting people and finding out about what’s going on inside their heads, where they come from, and what makes them tick. Especially if they are freaks, and you meet a lot of freaks first-hand in this job!

Do you think being a “freak” is bad?
No, not at all. I’m a freak! Think about it this way: there are a lot of people who live their lives repressed, who don’t acknowledge their desires. And then there are others, like my clients, who acknowledge what they want, and go out and seek it. And more power to them!

Danny’s Boys

All images by Danny Fields
I interviewed my friend and hero, Danny Fields, for the current issue of the radical sex mag, Richardson. The article is pasted below, along with a selection of Danny’s amazingly hot and beautiful Polaroids, which have never been published until now! I wrote a different article about Danny last year, but that was mainly about his rock n’ roll photography and his life as a punk icon, where this is an article about his pornography. Enjoy!

As the long-standing manager of the Ramones, Danny Fields was a legend of the New York punk scene. He was also the man responsible for signing the Stooges, MC5, and Nico, editor of the iconic 16 magazine, and the journalist who caused global hysteria when he quoted John Lennon saying he was “more famous than Jesus.” In the 90s, Fields catalogued the glory days with the release of Please Kill Me: an Oral History of Punk, but he’s yet to address his other passion from the era.

In the 1970s Danny Fields started making pornography. Production was straightforward: bringing back groups of boys to his apartment and giving scant direction, he captured whatever ensued on a simple Polaroid camera. Forty years later, his collection of images now reaches into the thousands. He keeps them in his closet, tucked safely away in a gigantic storage container, roomy enough to sleep two grown men with minimal discomfort.

“They were all prostitutes,” says Fields of the boys in the pictures. “Well, prostitutes sounds too glamorous; they were hustlers. I’d pick then up in the street or at prostitute bars, and then one always seemed to bring the others. You’d pay them forty dollars or something, and they’d pretty much do whatever you told them to. This was before AIDS and the internet, so people weren’t so paranoid. A lot of them are dead now, and a lot of them—I never even knew their names.”

Fields is less interested in the actual act of penetration and more interested in everything else—enemas, dildos, stretching, kissing, piss, etc. “You can see fucking in movies,” he explains, “so it’s not that exciting. I’d rather watch them play doctor.” As he reminiscences through a photo album, Fields points out a photo of two Native American boys sitting naked on a couch. “These two were brothers,” he says. “Well, one day they were brothers and then the next day they’d say, ‘Actually we’re not brothers, we’re just from the same tribe.’ And then the next day they’d be back to being brothers again. What was I supposed to do, give them a blood test? Either way, they made a great couple.”

When asked if he was ever in love with any of the boys in the pictures, Fields looks mildly disgusted. “I was never in love with any of these boys. Sure, I liked some of them more than others, but I’ve never been in love with anyone in my entire life. I believe that love exists—my God, I’ve read 800 pages of Proust on what it’s like to be in love—but I’ve never gotten there. I tried having a boyfriend once, but then he always wanted to talk when I was trying to read. It didn’t work out.”

Fields asserts that the photos are a testament to his belief that the best sex is the kind you pay for. “I just think it’s best to fuck whores,” he says. “I’ve never been in a situation where being emotionally involved with a person has made the sex better. While I’m fucking someone I care about them, and that’s enough for me—that’s where it means something. I want sex to be so intense that I’m not thinking about anything else. The loving part is distracting: who’s going to pay the rent, who didn’t clean the bathroom, that kind of stuff.” He shrugs, “After I cum I just want a trap door to open and whoever I’m with to fall through the floor.”

Aurel Schmidt Talks Art and Sex

Aurel by Terry Richardson for Purple mag

I recently interviewed Aurel Schmidt for Oyster Magazine. It was for their all-women issue, which also featured Lena Dunham, Tavi Gevinson, Shalom Harlow, Petra Collins, Stacey Mark, Cass Bird, Nite Jewel, Bambi Northwood-Blyth and a bunch more! Check it out, it’s on stands now. I wrote an advice column for it as well. I was really excited to interview Aurel because I’m a big fan of her art, and also partly because @DevHynes and I are always mentioning her in our weekly conversations about the “most authentically cool people in New York.” (Yikes, maybe keep it a secret that we actually have conversations like that…) You can read our chat about art, group sex and jerking-off below.

If you hang out in or around the New York art scene, you’ve probably been intimidated by the presence of Aurel Schmidt at some point or another. Her hyper-real pencil drawings, combined with her intentionally sleazy public persona and signature thick-rimmed glasses, have transformed Schmidt into a young icon. Her excruciatingly detailed artworks are typically decorated with the scraps of her life–stuff like condom wrappers, crushed beers cans, lipstick, Klonopin capsules, and her boyfriend’s chest hair. The result is something at once sophisticated, funny, girly and gross, powered by her incredible technical skill.

Schmidt is from the industrial city of Kamloops, British Columbia. Her career took off in 2006, rising to fame within a rebellious New York art scene led by artists like Ryan McGinley, Dash Snow and Dan Colen. She has since been handpicked by Jeffrey Deitch for a solo show, and was chosen as part of the 2010 Whitney Museum Biennial. At the moment Schmidt is working on a photo book of her husband, singer Donald Cumming of the band The Virgins, as well as creating a new body of work in preparation for her upcoming solo show, opening in London in the Spring of 2013.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been making a new kind of art that’s very fast. Not many people know this, but I’m taking a year off from making the drawings I was making before, because it was getting too comfortable.

What’s the new work like?
I can’t really talk about it, because then it won’t be a surprise at the London show. But I’m having fun doing it, because it’s very immediate. Like if I feel sad and start drawing, right away I’ll be able to see this emotional landscape unfold, where with the old work, because it took so long to make, one part of a drawing might feel one way, and another part might feel totally different.

How much do you cater your art to what you know people want to buy?
It depends. I’m good at making money, but I’m also really good at saying no to people and not giving them what they want, which, paradoxically, I think is a key to making money and being successful. Because if you give people what they want all the time, then what’s left for them to want?

What else is integral to success?
You have to keep having goals. You can’t just hang around with people who think you’re cool; you have to constantly want to expand your peer group–to be around smart and talented people who challenge you.

Have you noticed in New York a common way to insult someone is to call them a “social climber”?
Yeah, everyone says that. I’ve been called a social climber since the first week I moved to this city. But if you’re interested in art, it makes sense that you would want to go to events where you can meet other artists, and become involved with a crowd you actually respect. I think every ambitious person in New York is in some facet a ladder climber, but I don’t think it’s bad. What’s the opposite: taking the moralistic path and waiting for some omnipotent figure to come down from the clouds and say, “I see that you are talented, let me take you to the stars”? That doesn’t exist; it’s a fantasy.

Something I’ve always admired about you is that you seem like a very sex positive person, and you’re confident in your body and don’t give a shit about being photographed naked.
I’ve always taken explicit photos. When I started getting press, I really resented that most of the press for female artists–and for females in general–was so sexualized. As a woman, even if what you do has nothing to do with what you look like, magazines and newspapers will try to create this image of you as the “cute” or “sexy” artist, because they want to sell issues. Whereas a male artist will just be photographed standing in his studio. That’s such a cheesy double standard, so I thought, “You know what might be better than trying to be cute?–just being complete slutty. You want a sexy picture of me? Well here, have a look at my vagina. I’ll just give you what you want right away. You don’t have to wonder anymore.”

Your public persona is hyper sexual, but you art doesn’t seem to reflect that side of you as much.
The art has sexual elements to it, like there’s some graphic sexual stuff within the drawings, like vaginas and dicks and condoms, but it’s done more to gross people out or make them laugh than it is to turn people on. If you want to get turned on by naked people you can look at porn–why would I try to compete with that? I would rather draw new ideas of what I think sexiness is. I love having sex, but glorifying how wonderful it is has been done many times, so I’m not interested in that as much. I’m more interested in the social complexities of things like gender roles, what people find sexy, the taboos around sex organs…

Sex as social commentary.
Right. And sex as something you can create an atmosphere around. I find it weird when people are so set on what they think “sexy” is, as if it’s carved in stone. The standard of what society deems “sexy” is so molded by capitalism–it goes in and out of style, just like everything else. But this freaks me out, because ideally sex should almost be sacred, because it’s free, theoretically. It’s not a commodity, like clothes. Or art.

Speaking of sex and money, is it worth it to buy a vibrator when you can just use your own hand for free?
Well, they can be really useful when you’re lazy, like when you just want to cum because you can’t get to sleep. But you have to figure out what works for you. Sometimes you have to put a piece of cloth in between you and the thing–you can’t just put in right on there.

Good advice. So you have a “type”, sexually?
Nope, I like all kinds of people. I’ve been with guys who are big, small, skinny, I’ve slept with multiple fat guys–whatever.

Have you ever slept with a girl?

That’s surprising, you kind of have lesbian vibes.
I know, people say that. I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to sleep with very beautiful women, but it just doesn’t turn me on to envision going all the way through with it. Kissing sounds fun, but when it comes time to go home I’d rather just find some dude to fuck.

Would you ever want to sleep with a girl in a threesome situation?
Whenever someone I was dating asked me to have a threesome in the past, I always responded by asking, “Could we have sex with another guy?” And they always said, “Eww, no!” But that’s how I would want it to be.

I don’t think guys understand that girls want that.
It would be great! Like when I see double penetration in porn–I’m down for all that. You’re just getting so much attention, and all parts of you are being touched at the same time, it would be such a turn on.

I think the issue with having a threesome with someone you’re dating, though, is that it can create problems within your relationship. I had one friend a long time ago tell me that you should never have a threesome if you’re really in love with the person you’re with, because the minute you look up and see them fucking that other person, maybe it will turn you on, but there’s also the chance that it won’t and then you’ll be stuck with that image forever.

In the past I’ve considered being with other people while in a serious relationship, like having an “open relationship”, because it seems crazy to try to maintain a monogamous relationship forever. And at first it seems great, but then you think, “But what about me feeling abandoned, or scared of being left?” It’s a psychological quagmire, because when you love someone it’s almost like they become part of you, and you project your deepest fears onto them, so it becomes hard to be really tough and cool about everything.

And even if you set rules and say, “We’re allowed fuck other people, but we can’t get emotionally attached,” realistically you always run the risk of falling for someone else.
Totally. Also, I think for guys it’s normal to want to fuck a girl one time just because she’s hot, even if she’s a total moron. But “hot” is very objective for women–it’s not just a physical thing. For girls, if we think a guy is hot it probably also means he’s cool and interesting and has good style–

And is a little bit famous…
Right. So then you’re like, “Wow, I’m sleeping with someone cool and hot and famous… I want to hang out with him more!” And that’s where it becomes dangerous.

In the 70s Germaine Greer promoted the idea that women should start fucking like men, so more objectively–an idea that Madonna adopted in the 80s. Do you think it’s inherently harder for women to view men as sex objects?
A little bit, but I’ve done that, too. For a while when I was single I just fucked under twenty-five year old skaters. Sometimes the young ones aren’t so good in bed, but they’re so energetic and excited to be fucking you that it makes up for it. Whereas some older guys are really good at eating pussy, but their energy spans are really low and they’ve had sex so many times that they’re just like, “Yawn…”

That’s true. Wow, I feel like this has been so insightful in both an art way and a “sex advice” way.
Great, I’m glad!

Andrew Richardson: Sex and Love

I recently interviewed Andrew Richardson, the man behind Richardson mag (possibly my favorite magazine in the world) for Interview magazine. Read the article below. And buy the new issue because it’s amazing and also because I have an article in it :) Photo above by Tim Barber.

In 1998 Andrew Richardson launched the now infamous Richardson magazine—a radical publication about sex, fetish, desire, and porn stars. Speaking about sex in an analytical and academic way, Richardson is more an anthropology experiment than a titillating porn rag. In the new issue, A6, the magazine takes on its most challenging theme to date: Love.

The cover of A6 sees the skin-headed porn star Belladonna smiling her signature gap-toothed smile, shot by Terry Richardson. Previous issues, which dealt with themes including feminism and the male gaze, have featured greats like Harmony Korine, Steven Klein, Mario Sorrenti, and Bruce LaBruce, offering their take on extreme sex for Richardson‘s beautifully printed pages. And though there have only been six issues in its 14-year lifespan, the magazine’s transgressive, punk ideals have turned Andrew Richardson into something of a counterculture icon.

Born in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the dashing Mr. Richardson has lived in New York for over 20 years and works primarily as a fashion stylist. (Fun fact: he worked on Madonna’s Sex book back in ’92.) The latest issue of his sex mag features an investigation into the BDSM empire Kink.com, a photo essay by Dan Colen about his friendship with Dash Snow, writings on love by Dennis Cooper and drawings by the Chapman Brothers, to name a few. I talked with him about love, sex, and the makings of what he has called America’s first “asexual sex magazine.”

Why love?
Andrew Richardson: I thought it was the most difficult subject we could deal with.  We made associations to fraternal love, loss of love, or one could say atypical concepts of love. It turned out more counter-love, in a way.

Do you believe in love?
Well, I don’t really know what love is. There are many languages that use multiple words to describe love, in order to capture the nuances of the feeling. But we good Anglo-Saxons just have one blanket term for the emotional reaction to intimacy. A friend of mine once told me that his parents, who are still together and have a very good relationship, never use the word, and I think it’s probably a good idea. I think if you don’t say it and instead just behave in a loving, considerate, respectful way towards the person you’re with, that it’s much better than saying “I love you” to compensation for less than excellent behavior.

And when people say “I love you,” too often it loses its meaning and becomes cringey.
Yeah. I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt extremely euphoric—those moments when you just want to cut yourself open and become one with the other person. And when you feel that way using the word “love” can feed the high. But demonstrative love is the worst thing in the world.

In this issue, you published excerpts from Dennis Cooper’s novels and poems that pertain to love. Often, his depictions of love and obsession are similar to what you just described—wanting to cut someone open and crawl inside their body, to get at what’s “inside” a person. It’s a good analogy.
I was watching an interview with a porn star recently who had done lots of extreme scenes, and the interviewer asked her, “Now that porn has reached such an extreme level, what’s next?” And she said, “Maybe people will start cutting each other open and fucking the wounds.” Now that would be impractical, but I get it.

Do you think that’s what Bruce LaBruce was getting at with all his zombie porn?
Yeah, but Bruce is so smart that when he does something like that you think, “Oh, I’ve figured it out,” but then some much deeper, significant reason is revealed to you that makes you realize just how superficial you are.

David Foster Wallace wrote a famous essay about the porn industry after attending the 1997 AVN Awards. One of his conclusions was that all of the clichés about porn are true, and that the people involved are quite stupid. Do you think that’s accurate?
Well, that conclusion is a bit easy, isn’t it? In my experience, people in the porn business have often surprised me by being smarter, more ambitious, or more in control of their careers and lives than one would presume. And maybe going to the AVN Awards isn’t the best place to get an idea of who the people in porn are. That’s like going to the Oscars and seeing a drunk actress make a fool of herself, and then thinking all actresses are drunken fools. It’s difficult to write about porn, because it’s something that’s quite sensational and quite loaded. When our magazine interviews porn stars, our aim isn’t to be mean, or to expose them for being clichés. We just show them for who they are.

Why did you choose porn star Belladonna for the cover of this issue?
People in the office had been talking about her for ages and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I would have put her on the cover had we not taken a hiatus from publishing the magazine in 2003—she would have followed Tera Patrick—but that didn’t happen. I think it’s interesting that her success was an accident of fate. About ten years ago, Diane Sawyer interviewed Belladonna for Prime Time, they followed her around for two years, and in her final interview she broke out in tears, and did all the things that porn stars are supposed to do—she gave the sensational interview. And the show gave her so much exposure that she became a huge success.

It humanized her.
Yeah, it showed her to be vulnerable and conflicted, and maybe that was an unconscious turn on for a lot of people. And by doing that she changed the perception of what a porn star is—within the industry and outside of it—on its head. Really she was the right girl, right place, right time.

You interview porn stars in the way a culture magazine would interview an actress. What was the idea behind this?
When I came to New York in 1989, I started listening to Howard Stern. Porn wasn’t readily available; to get it, you had to go to some dodgy store and have a shame attack walking in and out. It felt a bit dangerous, like scoring drugs or something. And so I knew about porn stars mainly from listening to Howard Stern. What we do with our cover girls is an extension of, or a recontextualizing of, the Howard Stern interview. Except where Stern asks very puerile questions and can be a bit juvenile, we deal with it more analytically. We’re trying to find out who these women are, but without being flippant or crude about it.

Is it correct to say that Richardson deals with the psychology behind the people who are involved in porn and the sex industry?
That’s one aspect. People often call it a porn magazine, but outside of the cover star I don’t think the magazine really deals with the porn industry. We deal more with people like Annie Sprinkle, who come from the world of porn but have radicalized it.

Because you have been exposed to so many different avenues of sexual behavior through the magazine, has it changed the way you think about sex, or affected what you are into personally?
It’s definitely informed me about what’s potentially on the menu. When you enter this somewhat isolated world, stuff that would be shocking to civilians becomes no longer a big deal. You realize it’s all “just fucking.” But I think a lot of the change that’s happened within me is more to do with the way people’s perceptions and expectations of me are different, now that I’m publicly known for making a sex magazine.

So basically now people think of you as a sophisticated bachelor who fucks lots of porn stars.
Yeah, like a low-rent James Bond, I suppose. But I’m probably a lot more sensitive than people imagine.

You have lots of feelings.
When I’m not compartmentalizing them, yeah. But I enjoy that confusion, because I’m into provocation. At heart, the magazine is really about provocation and confrontation; sex is just what we use to provoke. Because if you pontificate about sex in a fanatical way, you’re a joke. But if you’re analytical about sex, it makes people very uncomfortable.

Are you trying to piss people off?
Well, I think when you are a provocative person, you need a negative reaction, or you need to be misunderstood, in order to then come back in quite an articulate way and explain just how wrong the other person is. Most of the work that I enjoy from people, whether it’s film, painting, photography, or writing, is fueled by anger more than it’s fueled by love, or a desire to share. Deep down I’m just a middle-class boy from suburban England, so part of me is very conservative. So in a way I’m seeing how far I can push myself, or the audience, to a point where I don’t go to jail, but I push some buttons. It’s the erotic attack. I’m trying to shock my parents, ultimately.

So what was your introduction to sex, being a suburban British child with parents in the Church of England?
It was from a Harold Robbins book, when I was about 16. I had seen porn before—I’d looked at some porn magazine under a bush at school or whatever—but that book was my first real introduction to sensational descriptions of fantastical sex. Like Helmut Newton sex.

Hot. So what do you see yourself doing next?
I would like to use other mediums to take the point of view of the magazine into areas that maybe have more mass appeal. Like I think what you do for example has a real mass appeal. I don’t think what I do does, unfortunately.

How do you think what you do is different from what I do?
Well your voice is very normalized–that whole delivery of  “like” and “OMG, no big deal.” It’s dumbed down in a quite deliberate way. You’re trying to communicate directly to people about sex, and have a direct relationship with them, speaking to them in words they won’t be overwhelmed by. It’s accessible. And what we do at the magazine is try to offer up things that demand more of the audience, and counter intuitive point of view, using a tone that’s more academic and serious.

It’s like, “Fuck you, I’m going to talk about sex in a really intelligent way and make it challenging for you.” It’s quite punk.
Is it punk?

I don’t know, probably. So …one of the main stories in this issue is about your trip to the Kink.com armory in San Francisco. Can you tell me about that?
The story is about extreme sex practices, and the modern evolution of porn and fetish. I am interested in how extreme sex is commercialized in the online world, and how fetish is the only thing in porn that’s really growing right now, whereas the more conventional idea of pornography is sort of dying.

Fetish is so mainstream now.
It is. I worked as an assistant on Madonna’s Sex Book in 1992, and at the time that was pretty radical, now everybody knows about bondage and fetish. It’s in fashion; a lot of what is edgy about fashion comes from the fetish community.

So in a world where extreme sex is becoming more and more commercialized, does Richardson need to make extreme changes in order to keep being transgressive?
It’s like religion in a way: religions shouldn’t change. They should be what they are, and when they’re out of date they should stop being. Richardson is what it is, there’s a rough formula to it, and when that’s no longer relevant I’ll stop making it and start doing something else.

Sugar Tits: Teach Me How To Do It

Images taken from the Sugar Tits Tumblr

Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a stripper. The inspiration came when I was in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago: some friends and I went to a strip club–my first since I was sixteen–and I was so in awe of the strippers and their ability to use their bodies to hypnotize an entire room that I could barely speak. And then suddenly, as I was slipping a $5 bill into a stripper’s thong, I thought Oh my god, THIS is my true calling. THIS is where I belong! It was like a revelation or whatever. So then when I got back to New York I excitedly applied to a few strip clubs. However, when it came time to audition, I got cold feet. The thing is, I know I’m good at taking my clothes off (duh), but I have no clue how to pole dance. Or really how to dance at all. I felt I needed a mentor.

So… I decided to enlist the help of my favorite sex blogger, Sugar Tits. You probably already know Sugar Tits from her anonymous slut blog where she writes about her various S&M relationships, giving out blow-jobs in the public bathrooms of Milan, and (more recently) her life as a stripper. She even wrote about having orgasms mid-striptease… wtf? She’s also written some stuff for Slutever, like this article about her Master buying her her first dog collar, and this article about getting into the stripping business. Below you can read my discussion with her about stripping, romance, and why being treated like shit can be such a turn on.

Why did you decide to become a stripper?
Sugar: Well, last October I went out to a strip club with some friends and one of the strippers invited me onstage, and after dancing to “Marry The Night” I realized how lolz and fun it could be. And also being treated like a whore is a real turn on for me.

Where did you work?
It was this really shitty club way out in the ghetto of Milan where they claim Led Zeppelin went once–they call it “Lap Zeppelin”. It was the trashiest, most perfect strip club I could have ever dreamed of. I thought they were going to make me audition, but when I showed up the guy was just like “OK you’ve got small tits but a nice face and you know how to talk so you’re fine, you start tomorrow.”

Were you nervous that you were going to suck at it?
So nervous! Right after that I went home and watched all these Lindsay Lohan stripping videos to try and prepare myself, because I was clueless, and the next night I went in and all these girls were flipping around on poles and I was freaking out. Then eventually the DJ called me onstage (I used my real name because I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to), but I didn’t realize that the DJ actually directs you–like first he tells you when you can strip, and then when to take your bra and underwear off–so I went up and just took everything off at once and was sashaying around and touching myself or whatever. Then a few minutes later I got bored and walked offstage, and the other girls were like, “Bitch, you have to finish your fifteen minute set!” so then I had to retreat back to the stage like an idiot.

Yeah. And I also didn’t realize that when you get offstage you have to go to the dressing room and put your clothes back on, so I was just prancing around naked until someone yelled at me. So that was embarrassing. The first night was kind of a disaster. But then little by little it becomes easier, and drinking makes it more fun, and stripper shoes are amazing and help you to slide around. By the end I was at least Lindsay Lohan ‘I Know Who Killed Me’ level.

The reason I think I’d like stripping is because the power dynamic seem so hot. Like you’d think the guys are in control because they are paying you to be the whore and take your clothes off, but then the act of paying to see naked girls is sort of pathetic in itself, and the fact that they clearly want to fuck you and can’t means you are really the one in control… ya know?
Yeah, exactly! It’s actually really complex and enlightening, because as you know I’m really submissive sexually, but stripping was the first time in my life that I actually felt sexually dominant. Spending a night in a room full of men that are willing to pay to just look at you naked is such an ego trip. I felt more powerful in that job than I ever have, but also more fucking degraded at the same time–it was amazing, the perfect mix of strong female and slut.

So is it true that you would cum while stripping? That’s so crazy! Kitten Natividad–one of Russ Meyer’s vixens–who I interviewed recently also talked about cumming while stripping; she became famous for it. She said she loved watching guys lust after her.
Honestly Karley, I was cumming like five times a night, it was amazing. And that’s crazy for me because I almost never cum during sex. Mostly I would cum while giving dances in the private rooms, so like I’d be dancing and touching myself but some gross man with a huge boner would be touching my butt at the same time, so it was perfect.

That’s insane. So can you pole dance? I recently got an audition at a strip club but I didn’t go because I was scared I was going to fall off the poll like an idiot.
No I can’t, but it didn’t really matter because in Italy it’s more about seeing a girl naked than about watching her dance. It’s very classy here! In Italy the guys can do whatever they want to strippers–they can lick your pussy or put their fingers in your ass or whatever, they just have to keep their pants on.

Whoa. Most clubs here girls don’t even get fully nude–they wear thongs.
I’m sure you can find some trashy, totally nude place where they won’t care if you can dance. That’s the thing: if it’s more about nudity and touching then they care less about the dancing, and vice-versa.

What was your favorite type of guy to dance for?
The gross ones, for sure. My favorite client was a disgusting old bald guy in a wheelchair. Not that wheelchairs are gross, but definitely the most unlikely male prospects were my favorites–like the really fat guys who you know never get laid. The young hot guys who would come to party would normally be jackasses. And also it was like, if I wanted to fuck a hot guy then I’d just go to a bar and find a hot guy, ya know?

Were you making a lot of money?
OMG, so much money.

So why did you quit?
OK, so I told everyone that I quit stripping because it wasn’t fun anymore, and I haven’t even written about this on Sugar Tits yet, but the truth is that I liked it so much that I had to cut myself off. Like Karley, at the end of it, I was giving out blow-jobs to guys in the private rooms for free because it turned me on so much. Like if I really liked a guy, or if a guy was super pathetic and disgusting, I would just suck his dick. I felt like such a whore, it was so amazing. But the next day I would feel bad about myself, firstly because I was being “unprofessional” or whatever, and also because the whole club could get in trouble if I got caught. And as I started doing it more and more I started having so many personal issues with it that I had to quit. I was afraid I was becoming obsessed with stripping.

But seriously it was one of the best experiences of my life and I have no regrets. I think I’ll start again after I graduate from university, but I think if I’d kept going the way I was I would have ended up getting into trouble.

Sugar Tits: I know who she is and you don’t, haha! :)

So going back to when you said you almost never cum during sex…
Yeah, it’s hard for me. Like I’ve fucked about 100 guys and only my ex-Master–let’s call him Jake–and a handful of others have made me cum.

How did your relationship with Jake start?
Well the story is really interesting and kind of romantic. Basically, I always knew there was something missing in my sex life, and I think that’s probably why I was so promiscuous–because I was “searching for something” or whatever. Then one day about two years ago Jake came up to me at a party and asked if I wanted to model in a shoot for this art/porn magazine that he publishes. So I said yes, and a week later we were at the shoot and I was lying there being fingered by the male porn star, and then out of nowhere Jake walked up and just slapped me in the face. It was the first time anyone had ever slapped me and I loved it. And then that whole night we were making out, and on our second date I asked him, “How did you know I would like that, considering I didn’t even know?” And he was like, “I could see it in your eyes, you’re just that type of girl–you just needed someone to slap you.”

Wow, that is romantic. Tell me about the first time you guys had sex.
It was at a swingers club; he brought me as his date. It was this really disgusting place full of young and old couples drinking, and then he took me downstairs and there were a bunch of differently themed rooms and a dungeon, and we fucked on a bed while these gross guys watched us.

And you ended up having a pretty intense Dom/sub relationship with him, right?
Yeah, I was his slave. He introduced me to that whole world, and it changed my life. The only fights Jake and I ever had were about where “the line” was. See, I wanted there to be specific times when I was “the slut”, but the rest of the time I wanted him to respect me, but it’s hard to draw that line with guys because they’re mostly dumb.

So how did you work it out?
He ended up buying me a dog collar, so whenever I had the collar on I was “his”, and whenever I didn’t he couldn’t control me.

Were you in love with him?
Yeah, I became totally obsessed with him and our breakup really destroyed me. And I hate to admit that because it makes me sound so helpless and weak, but for him I was. I guess there’s always that one person who you’re just a dumbass for. Sometimes I regret Jake being the first guy I had that type Dom/sub experience with, because I think I wasn’t good enough at it yet. When I look back I think, God, I should have been more patient, or not been so needy, or not cried when he whipped me a hundred times or whatever…

Yeah, but if you were more patient or didn’t give a shit then it would have made his restraint less effective. The fact that you wanted him so badly was a huge part of your dynamic.
That’s true.

When I was younger I used to fuck this really dominant older guy, and I swear he liked not fucking me more than he liked fucking me, just because he loved watching me beg. He loved to see me desperate. I remember once he invited me over, and I hadn’t seen him in weeks and was so excited to fuck him, and when I got to his house he tied me up and left me there for hours while he went and did some work, and then when he finally came back he just jerked-off on me and then sent me home. It was SO frustrating, but to be honest I’ve been masturbating to that memory for like four years now.
OMG Jake was the same! He would only fuck me like once a month! And I’d be like “Please, please!” and he’d be like “Shut up, bitch.” But you know, they do it for you. They want to fuck you, but they know that you want to feel like a greedy whore, and that you want some man to be like “You can’t have this cock!” because that’s so opposite to what actually happens on a daily basis.

So true.
And after he ties you up and makes you wait forever, when he finally does come and fuck you it’s the most amazing thing ever, because you want it so badly.

So, so true. Gosh, mind games really work, huh?
I hate to say it but they really do. I think I told you this once, but your story just reminded me of the time that Jake invited me over his house for dinner, and I was all excited, like, “Aww he’s cooking for me! Wow!” And so I showed up and he just tied me up under the kitchen table and made me wait there while he ate by himself, and kicked me under the table the whole time.

But the things about these sorts of relationships is that you need to know that the Dom actually cares about you in order for it not to fuck you up. There’s a fine line between role play and real life.

I think the idea of being submissive is a turn on for a lot of people, and you can fantasize or watch porn with that dynamic, but once you actually experience good S&M sex it changes your sex life forever. Like after fucking that older Dom guy I was scared I’d never be able to enjoy normal sex again.
Exactly! It ruins your life kind of! That’s why I was so hung up on Jake for long–because of the sex. Since Jake, what used to be “good in bed” just doesn’t cut it anymore. It sucks! And I’ll ask guys to slap me and stuff, but they just get really freaked out. We are the minority I think. Like it’s surprising how many guys just want to have vanilla sex, even on a dirty one night stand. It’s like, “Dude, I’m not your wife, I’m some bitch that you picked up on the street that you’re never going to see again and I’m begging you to beat the shit out of me and you won’t do it!”

What is wrong with everyone actually?
Also, if you have to ask someone to spank you it kind of defeats the purpose. Like in theory if you ask a guy to pull your hair he should tell you to shut the fuck up and then do something a lot worse.

You should give men lessons on how to abuse women.
Lol… I wouldn’t say no.

The Most Glorious Bamboobas in the World

Kitten Natividad has some of the most infamous boobs in the history of Hollywood. Perhaps best known for her 44-inch chest and her ability to cum while doing a striptease, Kitten is one of Russ Meyer’s legendary ultra-vixens and his former girlfriend. And for realzies, you know your tits are some of the best in the world if Meyer—the supreme auteur of sexploitation flicks—is your main squeeze for 15 years.

Kitten was born in 1948 in Juarez, Mexico. Following a sketchy Tijuana boob job at 21, she moved to LA and worked as a go-go dancer. Her career as a stripper led her to Meyer, who cast her in films such as Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.

Kitten’s aggressive sexual prowess has cemented her reputation as one of the most influential women in cult erotica. Some of her many naked achievements include: stripping at Sean Penn’s bachelor party before his marriage to Madonna, becoming a queen of burlesque, acting in a bunch of (questionable) 80s porn movies, and starring in Eroticise—quite possibly the trashiest, most ridiculous workout video ever made. Sadly, in 1999 Kitten was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. However, she has since gotten new boobs (again) and says, “Any guy who says he doesn’t like a pair of plastic tits can go fuck himself.” You said it, Kitten!

What was Hollywood like in the 70s? Watching films from that time make it seem like it was a totally different deal back then.
Kitten Natividad: It was fucking fabulous. Everybody did cocaine and lots of drugs—you’d go to a party and you could smell the amyl nitrite in the air like dirty socks. And lots of orgies. That was the time before AIDS, so it was very open.

How did you meet Russ Meyer?
I was introduced to him by my friend I stripped with, Shari Eubank. She was the star of his film Supervixens. Russ liked to use strippers in his movies because they don’t have issues with running around naked. When he’d get an actress she’d say, “Do I have to be naked? It might be bad for my career, blah blah blah.” And he’d be like, “Fuck this, I’m getting a stripper.”

What was it like working under him? And I mean that in terms of his directing.
It was great, but we fucked during all of our lunch breaks. He was a horny dude, a dirty old man.

Were you in an open relationship?
Oh God, no! He was very jealous—very possessive and controlling—which is why I never married him. He always wanted to be the director—where we ate, what we did, everything. I’d say, “I’m going to visit my mother,” and he’d say, “Why? You’ve got me, you don’t need a mother.”

I read somewhere that you introduced him to anal sex and he didn’t like it.
No, he didn’t, he found it weird. I think some guys get freaked out because they feel like they might be gay. I’d say to him, “Does it make you feel like you’re fucking a guy, is that what’s wrong?” He was pretty white-bread.

Have you boned any other interesting famous people?
I feel bad kissing and telling, although most of them are dead. Um… Tony Curtis, Tom Selleck, who was fabulous in bed, Don Adams… He had a big one.

Why did you get into porn in the 80s?
I got into alcohol, and I was just drunk and didn’t know any better. I needed the money, but I looked terrible. If I was going to do porn, I should have done it when I looked my best. I ruined that shit! But it was part of my journey, so I don’t have any regrets. I did what I did.

Did you enjoy doing it at the time?
It was such hard work! You know, for one hour of tape it takes eight hours of fucking. Who the fuck does that?! It’s painful, and you just want to get it over with, but then you have to get shots from behind and underneath and move the bed and move the camera—just fuck fuck fuck fuck. And by that time the money wasn’t that good and it wasn’t glamorized anymore, so it was just horrible.

After your double mastectomy, did it feel like you lost part of your identity?
Yes! It’s like a singer getting throat cancer—they were taking my moneymakers! The doctors told me, “Everything’s going to be OK—we have to remove them, but you can have reconstruction.” I said, “Then I don’t give a shit, just throw them out the window!”

So they just chucked them out and gave you new ones like a pair of socks or something?
Yes, but I had them made a little bit smaller, because when they get too big they become uncomfortable—like you roll over the wrong way and your elbows pinch them, or you’re walking around and they accidentally knock over a lamp. It’s a pain in the ass.

I hate when that happens. So, the cancer was a result of your Tijuana boob job, right?
Yes they were loose, silicon injections. I didn’t get implants because I didn’t like the way implants looked–like toilet plungers. But I found out later that it was not industrial silicone. It was like gasoline or something, and it rotted my tits! A lot of my friends have gone through the same breast cancer as I have for that reason. But Russ was great and paid for my implants, and paid for me when I had my cancer. He was always there for me. And then when he became an old timer and got Alzheimer’s I took care of him. It was one of those relationships that lasted a lifetime.

Tim Small and The Universe

Tim Small is a brilliant, fast-talking, smiley guy with thick glasses who works as the editor in chief of Vice Italy, and Vice’s global fiction editor. He’s also a good pal of mine, and once carried me out of a bar after I drank way too much whiskey and took a Klonopin and attempted to pee under a table rather than walk to the bathroom. #TrueFriendship

The fashionable new book that I’m sporting in the above pic is The Milan Review of the Universe, and was published by Mr. Small through his independent publishing house, The Milan Review. The book is full of wonderful and funny short stories and handmade artworks, and includes a short story by my new love, Clancy Martin. Upcoming publications from The Milan Review include a novella by Clancy Martin, an Italian translation of Johnny Ryan’s comic masterpiece Prison Pit and of CF’s Powr Mastrs, as well as art books, fiction, non-fiction, and lots of other fun stuff. I recently nerded-out with Tim about books, Donald Barthelme, intolerable musicians, peeing, and a bunch of other nonsense. Read away!

Karley: Do you read a lot of modern fiction?
Tim: I try to. I read a bit of everything. I feel the same way about writing as I do about women, or food, ya know? I like burgers as much as I like risotto with artichokes; there are extremely sexy larger women with beautiful curves, and there are extremely sexy waifs. I’m not the kind of guy who has “a type”. I like variety. I get bored quickly.

The main issue I have with new fiction is, I’m always worried it will be a waste of my time. Because there are so many great books that I haven’t read yet, so I think to myself, Why waste time with, say, The Flame Alphabet–some trendy novel written by a guy who looks like an asshole in his dust jacket photo–when I could be reading a classic?
Everyone looks like an asshole in their dust jacket photo.

Well, I guess that’s true.
But yes, that’s the constant struggle for anyone who is into reading: why read this when I could be reading something else? At times I’m paralyzed because I don’t know what to read. Literally paralyzed. But since starting The Milan Review a year ago I can no longer read for pleasure, because reading has become my job. The problem is that once I start reading a book I’m immediately analyzing it, and then once I feel like I’ve “gotten it” and know what the writer is doing, I feel like I should move on. So now I have all these book that I’ve read halfway through.

Life is hard.
It’s horrible. See, I have a system in my house: I have one bookshelf where I put the books that I’ve read, and another for the to-reads. But now I don’t know where to put all these half-read books, and it drives me crazy.

Do you ever re-read books?
Sometimes. Short stories more often. There are stories by Donald Barthelme that I’ve read like forty times. I love that feeling you get when you finish a story–like a punch to the back of your head. If you read the same story again and that still happens, then you know it’s a great story.

What are some of your favorite Barthelme stories?
The classics, like “The School”, “The Balloon”, “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby”, “I Bought a Little City”, “The Indian Uprising”. The legend goes that “The Balloon” is the story that turned David Foster Wallace on to writing.

I love his story “The First Thing The Baby Did Wrong”, about the baby who tears pages out of books.
Right, and the dad locks her in her bedroom as punishment–the more pages torn the more hours inside–but it doesn’t work. And so the dad gives up and turns around completely. And it ends with this amazing line where he says, “The baby and I sit happily on the floor, side by side, tearing pages out of books, and sometimes, just for fun, we go out on the street and smash a windshield together”. I’m a big last line person.

First lines are important too. If I’m not instantly intrigued, I’ll often give up.
That’s true. There’s a story by Robert Lopez in The Milan Review of the Universe called “This Morning I Played Guitar Until I Bled”, and it has a great first line. It opens with: “The one thing I know about people is they don’t want you to bleed all over their things.”

How true.
Followed by, “I learned this from my mother.”

I was surprised to see that The Milan Review of the Universe has a lot of art in it. I thought it would be mainly fiction.
Yeah. Something I want The Milan Review to signify–if I’m not being too arrogant–is that if you’re interested in culture, then you shouldn’t just be interested in one ghetto of culture and exclude everything else. Trying to specialize and really understand one thing is great, but why close doors? And I think that’s a problem within the fiction world: it doesn’t communicate with other worlds as well as it should, or as well as it did in the past. In the pre-war and post-war eras, experimental fiction–or underground fiction or whatever you want to call it–went hand in hand with art. Writers, painters, poets and musicians all hung out. Now there’s these cliques–musicians hang with musicians, writers hang with writers, illustrators hang with illustrates–and they end up smelling their own farts.

Writers don’t hang with musicians because 90% of musicians are intolerable.
Well of course, no one would want to hang out with musicians. I don’t.

If I have to listen one more musician tell me about what model synth they own I’m going to puke. Sorry… I’m being a bitch, some of my best friends are musicians. I just think I’m jaded from years of interviewing bands.
I know, I’ve done a some music journalism of my own and it’s very tiring. Liam Gallagher wanted to punch me.

It’s just that in my experience musicians often don’t have many interesting things to say. Whereas when you talk to writers, actors or artists they can at least–
Actors, not so much.

See, actors and musicians lie, because often the reasons they do what they do is because they want to be the center of attention, which is fair enough, but I’d rather someone tell me, “Hey, check out this thing I wrote! It’s good!” rather than, “Hey, I made this movie because I’m really interested in the Sudan.” It’s like, no, actually, that’s a lie.

Is there someone you are the most proud to have in the Milan Review?
Well, Clancy Martin is one of my favorite writers in the world, and he’s written for both issues and I’m extremely proud of that. Actually the next issue is going to be a novella by him, which is out in December. I’m super excited about that.

I just read his novel How to Sell on your recommendation. It kind of changed my life. What do you love about him?
He’s a great writer, almost transparent, bright and funny, and he’s lived an interesting life. He’s had more than one wife, a few kids, a few careers, addiction problems, he’s a philosophy professor, he’s a big Nietzsche guy, he was a jeweler in Texas in the 80s. And, you know, that kind of stuff really helps if you’re a writer. But at the same time there are people like Leopardi, who’s this poet from a few centuries ago in Italy, and he was a hunchback who never left his apartment, who died a virgin in the same house he was born in, and he was an amazing writer. So there are always examples to disprove any theory.

My dad was always adamant that I couldn’t be a writer unless I went to college to learn how to write first. He was like, “How will you know how to form a sentence unless you study writing?” and I was always making the “Experience is more valuable than education” argument. Really I just wanted to live in a squat, take drugs and have sex with underage boys.
What does your dad do?

He works at IBM. It’s this computer–
Duh, I know what IBM is. We have computers in Italy too, you know.

No way.
Yes way. I have a MacBook that I bought in Milan. We also have BMWs and running water. It’s crazy as fuck.

Yeah, but sometimes you have to pee into those holes in the floor.
Yes but those are called Turkish Toilets. They are supposed to be more sanitary because you don’t sit in someone else’s piss.

Yeah, but let’s be honest, a seat is better.
Says the girl with the dirty toilet.

Is my toilet dirty?

Well, I don’t clean very often. My sheets have period stains on them from four months ago.
My sheets have periods stains on them from dozens of different girls over the past four months.

I’m kidding! So wait, how is this interview going? Is it too boring? Too cerebral?

No, I think it’s good. I’m going to put a long, unrated version on my blog.
Wow! Unrated? Does that mean I have to send you nude pictures of me?  

Or maybe you could take nude pictures of yourself holding the book.

Sounds good.

Twitter = @TheMilanReview