We drove back into Amsterdam proper to stay at the house of the "Happy Hooker," our friend Xaviera Hollander. Before Babydoll, before Heidi Fleiss, before the Mayflower Madam, before Dennis Hoff of the Moonlight Bunnyranch Bordello, there was the Happy Hooker. Xavieraís book of that name, the classic tale of a successful, high-end professional sex worker, sold over 16 million copies since itís publication back in 1971. It turned Xaviera into an international star, with a "Happy Hooker" movie starring another Eurofriend of ours, Lynn Redgrave, playing the hooker herself.
A lady of immense passion, compassion, humor, and sensuality, one of the most popular and durable leaders of the Sexual Revolution of the 1970s, Xaviera is now more of a Happy Hostess than a Happy Hooker. She has turned her large house into a bustling Bed & Breakfast, filled with art (mostly portraits of Xaviera at various intervals in her life), artists, gigolos, travelers, raconteurs, seductresses and horny dogs.
Anyone who wants to stay in a comfortable, colorful, reasonably priced place close to the center of Amsterdam with a little "something extra," would do very well to check into Chez Xaviera. For more information on staying there, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 213.749.1330.
Our first "something extra" was a party, which Xaviera is famous for. "Iím going to have a party in your honor," Xaviera declared, and who were we, strangers in a strange land that we were, to argue? After giving us our room (with a nice big European King-Sized Bed! Yay! Finally, we could have sex without holding our breath!), a drink and a smoke (Xaviera, like many Dutch, grows her own marijuana in flowerpots on her windowsill; itís all perfectly legal), she sat down at her "communications center" and proceeded to call people on the phone as she sent out e-mails on her computer. I overhead my name being spoken in between avalanches of inscrutable Dutch (now thereís an abnormal language), and I knew the party was underway.
But first things first: a nap. It was, as usual on this trip, all too brief. Still bleary-eyed, we put on our raincoats (well, I put on mine; Max loves to get wet), and went with Onie, Willem and his lovely, precocious daughter Aida.
We decided to eat Indonesian food (one of Amsterdamís foreign cuisine favorites) at Bali, a nicely decorated (more half-naked statues!) establishment in the heart of the city. Another banquet of multiple tasty little dishes was arrayed before us. It wasnít the best Indonesian cuisine weíve ever had, but it wasnít the worst, and I did manage to keep my face out of my food.
But we couldnít keep our eyes open, though we desperately wanted to explore the city, so we went back to Xavieraís to find her and her friends gathered around the TV watching the original Dutch "Big Brother" (they had invited Xaviera to do a guest appearance), that puts cameras all over a house where a bunch of people arenít allowed to leave until the others vote them out, leaving one to win a big bucket of guilders. Itís another ultimate in exhibitionism and voyeurism, and was transferred to American TV between the time I saw it and the time I wrote this.
In Amsterdam, we had the best time and the worst weather. Amsterdam is WET, and not in the hot, sensuous sense of the word. More like cold and damp sense. Not to mention fierce winds and chilling rain.
But every other hour or so, the rain stopped and the sun stepped out. In those bright moments, wonderful street scenes erupted, people meeting, shouting, embracing everywhere, but especially on the bridges that overlook the canals. Amsterdam folks pride themselves on the fact that their city has all the seasons of the year in one day. I just kept putting my raincoat on and tearing it off. Rain or shine, with its picturesque crooked buildings, fairy tale castles and winding canals, Amsterdam is always surreally beautiful, like a Hieronymous Bosch painting, especially after youíd been to a coffeeshop.
Our first stop with Willem on Thursday morning wasnít a coffeeshop, at least not in the Dutch sense. It actually served coffee (Amsterdam coffeeshops may or may not serve coffee, but they definitely serve hash). We had coffee and the most delicious herring weíd ever tasted at Restaurant De Roode Leeuw, Damrak 93-94 1012 LP. Previously, Iíd only eaten herring from jars, herring soaked in wine or vinegar or sour cream. After a bit of the fish at De Roode Leeuw, I suddenly realized that what Iíd had before was as much like herring as those greasy little oysters in a can are like real fresh-from-the-sea oysters. This was real, fresh, unadulterated, utterly succulent herring. I didnít come to Amsterdam to get high on herring, but this was a revelation. Willem looked at us with joy and pity as we sucked the stuff down like starved sea otters.
So as I could properly convey my appreciation to our waiter, Willem taught me the Dutch word for thank you, "Dankyevel." Yah, sounds like "thank you well." If you listen to Dutch long enough, it starts to sound like English, that is, almost normal.
Red Light District & Green Light District
Thus fortified, we were off to the Red Light District. Whores of every shape, size, race and personality, dressed in bright skimpy lingerie, beckoned to us from their picture windows. Here it was: sex for pay, a guilder earned for a job well-done, the essence of capitalism, the free market. Why isnít prostitution legal in every enlightened city? Alas, most cities are not so enlightened.
The most fascinating thing was the children. No silly, Iím not talking about child prostitutes (thatís illegal here). Iím talking about scout troops, busloads of kids on field trips and educational tours, some as young as ten or eleven, strolling down streets filled with hookers, looking in the windows, even talking with some of the sex workers, giggling sometimes, teasing each other, or listening solemnly as their teachers explained the history and nature of the area. "Yah, yah," said Willem, "Itís very normal here. Thereís nothing bad about it. Most of the kids find it boring is all."
Next: the Green Light District. Well, I call it the Green Light District because, just as the Red Light District of Amsterdam legally permits the sale of sex, the Green Light District permits the sale of the green stuff, grass, hash, smokable hemp. In Amsterdam, what we Americans call "VICE"Ėvictimless crime involving sex or drugs--has been decriminalized with mostly positive results. That is, with decriminalization has come less crime, less violence, with about the same level of addiction.
Willem took us to the oldest, most successful coffeeshop in Amsterdam, The Bulldog. Why the Dutch call hemp cafťs "coffeeshops" still eludes me, especially since they call the grass itself "tea." But who cares! The fact is that this is a city in which an adult can freely purchase a joint and smoke it in public without harassment. A simple miracle. Max couldnít believe it. He kept looking over his shoulder, as if someone was going to tap him and haul him off to jail.
I puffed on our dark chunk of hash (we were too excited and nervous to know what kind we were getting this first time) and contemplated Americaís War at Home, our New Age Civil War, the War on Drugs. And drugs are only a part of this crazy, hazy war. Self-proclaimed gurus with troubled pasts ascend their pulpits to tell us that we must--at any cost--break our addictions, sever our alliances, squash our dependencies on substances, people, sex, work, exercise, love, day trading. They seem to be trying to purge America of addictions like Stalin purged the dissidents. And no, our accused arenít executed so frequently as those under Uncle Joe (except in Texas under Uncle Dubya). But thereís no lack of them in our prisons, being punished for their sins of addiction right alongside the murderers, rapists and thieves.
I took another puff. I was getting high not just on the cannabis, but on the fact that here I was, smoking in public! Iím such an exhibitionist, another one of my sensuous addictions.