Down to (Show) Business
Monday morning, we began our merry go Ďround of interviews, photoshoots, tapings and (mostly lost) taxis. We morphed into morning people.
Some of the photoshoots were quite sexy. Nothing too tasteless or wild. Just a bit of good old-fashioned titillation.
In one shoot, with famed British glamour photographer Jeff Kaine, I dropped my panties (or knickers, as the Brits say), and covered myself with nothing but my hands.
But most were quite demure. "Itís a family magazine, Maíam," the photogs would say as they made motions to cover my cleavage, copping a little feely (Iím not complaining, just reporting) in the process.
Are You Normal?
highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves
and to become absurd, and thus to be normal.
Most of the interviewers, all of whom were unfailingly polite, asked the same question, which was: "What is the most common question you get on your television show and in your private sex therapy practice?" And the answer is: "Am I normal?"
Everyone wants to know if theyíre "normal," if theyíre okay, or if theyíre "abnormal," "weird," "strange," ie., not okay. This question comes not only from the poor blokes who canít get aroused without being given an enema of enough fizzy water to fill the English Channel, or crown princes who yearn to be tampons inside their girlfriendís vagina. This question comes from people who do nothing more odd than masturbate in the shower or fantasize about their next-door-neighbors.
I usually try to reassure them. Most people are normal. Even the fizzy water guy. In the 21st century, we are releasing the concept of normalcy from its constrictive little cage, forged in the long cold war between organized religion and human sexuality, so that it may include individuality, fetish, fantasy, and the sometimes-peculiar reality of our lives.
Travel Turns Strange Into Normal
Traveling always expands our concept of "normal." When you travel, you see firsthand that in one culture what is normal will appear weird to another culture. This goes for everything from language to food to what side of the road you drive on to what sex practices you consider cool versus perverted. For instance, most British might find American exhibitionists a bit weird, but they almost allóto a Britófind spanking sexy and fun. Every time I mentioned spanking to an Englishman or woman, no matter how conservative, he or she laughed or at least smiled knowingly, whereas many Americans find the idea of erotic corporeal "punishment" or treating an adult lover like a "baby" to be quite shocking.
"Has Anything Ever Shocked You?" Thatís the other most common question of the English interviewers. And the answer is: Yes. When a man told me he couldnít understand why women didnít want to date him after he told them that heíd been in prison for 15 years for murdering his mother, I must admit I was shocked. I told him I wouldn't date him either.
Panties in Bulk
A whole different set of questions was put forth by Victor Davis of the London Mail on Sunday. all of which had to do with money. In much the same way that I delve into peopleís sexual fantasies, Victor plumbed my financial fetishes. When he asked "Whatís your meanness?" I said, "Excuse me? You mean when am I a bitch?"
"No, no, itís a British expression. Like stinginess. The Queen switches off lights. Thatís her meanness. Whatís yours?" After considering the image of Queen Elizabeth wandering around Buckingham Palace, going from room to room, turning off the lamps, I replied, "I buy my knickers in bulk."
One of the more surreal afternoons was our train ride to Manchester. Manchester is to London what Bakersfield is to LA, except with a lot more wind and rain, as well as much more interesting architecture. It also has a fairly large, popular national TV station called the Granada Breeze. I was a guest on "Six Talk," Britainís answer to "Politically Incorrect," or what they call "Totally Opinionated TV."
Not that their opinions ran much deeper than "Why should I dress up for my lover if I donít want to be bothered?" and "Why should I give my lover gifts if I donít feel like it?" Maybe because of all that rain and wind, theyíre a bit lazy about love in Manchester. Well, at least they listened patiently while I spent a good five minutes of their precious TV time talking about the bonobos. Hats off to "Six Talk" for that.
Bonobos in Salon
Speaking of the bonobos, while we were traipsing around England, Deirdre Guthrie wrote a brilliant article about me for Salon Magazine entitled The Erin Brockovich of the Bonobos. It inspired me to do my best to insert our kissiní cousins into every interview, even if the interviewer didnít know a bonobo from a bonbon.
The ride to and from Manchester would have been extremely dull, but we enjoyed the company of a perky young German couple, Petra and Stephan, who want to franchise 10 Commandments of Pleasure seminars. Petra and Stephan have been very successful with other seminars, particularly a "Stop Smoking" seminar inspired by an Englishman named Alan Carr. Worried that he might offend their ex-smoker sensibilities, Max snuck off to smoke in the smoking car while we sat in a non-smoker.
But Petra and Stephan were no dummies. "Do you smoke?" Petra finally asked.
"Smoke?" Max stalled, "Well, ah, Iíd have to say, um, er, yes. I do. I smoke."
"So, why donít you smoke then? We donít mind." So he did. Petra and Stephan turned out to be the nicest, most smoke-tolerant ex-smokers weíve ever encountered. Or maybe they were just being politeÖ
Most people smoke in Europe. So why isnít there more lung cancer? Weíre not sure, but we do smoke European cigarettes (though most Euros prefer Marlboro). Usually we like Dunhill Blues (Extra Mild), but Maxís former stepmother introduced us to the whisper-light pleasures of Cartier. Cartier VendŰme Ultra Lights, to be precise.
Maxís former stepmother, Ingrid, is a connoisseur of all the gentle vices, good food, good wine and plenty of cigarettes, though youíd never know it to look at her. At 60, she looks 45 with a trim athletic build, gorgeous, slightly sad eyes and glowing skin. Itís one of the many great injustices of nature, but good genes often mitigate bad habits. Ingrid had married Maxís father, Prince Peter Leblovic di Lobkowicz of Bohemia or Czechoslovakia, when she was about 21. Photos of them from the 1950s show her looking like a young Claudia Schiffer. In those days, she was compared to Brigitte Bardot. Max remembers their pillow fights vividly. With a stepmom like that, how couldnít you?
After a bottle of excellent Heidzik Champagne at Ingridís airy art-filled flat, we walked to her favorite local eatery: Fairuz Lebanese Cuisine on 3 Blandford Street. We could tell the staff knew her well when they greeted her with "Good evening, Princess." We devoured an assortment of delectable Middle Eastern dishes, and had so much good red wine that I canít recall the names of any of them.