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Dr. Susan Block
Sex Acts in Soho
with Heilman-C
     It was a wintry, windy New York evening, a good night to stay home by the fire, or perhaps rush from a well-heated taxi into a well-heated building. Yet here were some 3000 well-heeled, bejewelled and befurred New Yorkers gathered outside a tiny, though quite prestigious Soho art gallery, waving their tickets and waiting in the wind for hours.  What were they waiting to see?   Sex with a capital X. 

     Live pornographic sex acts, produced by the artist Heilman-C, were being performed in the distinguished environment of the famed Jack Tilton art gallery.  Very hoity-toity-horny.  Very exciting for the Soho-ites.  Pretty exciting for me too.  I was in the center of the cyclone, the eye of the human hurricane raging in the heart of New York art, smack in the middle of this preposterous, anti-art artwork of pure human sex. Tongues, penises, vulvas, asses, bellybuttons, sweat, sperm, astroglide; it was all there.  “Sex Acts” in Soho. 

SexActs in progress.      I was the “Sex Act Facilitator,” the go-between betwixt the Sex Actors (Anna Malle, Hank Armstrong, Missy and Mickey), who were having sex pretty continuously on a bed (with the sheets and pillows from our suite at the Plaza!) behind me, and the audience, 30 to 40 new people every five minutes, covered in winter coats and boots, tromping in from the cold to see what all the fuss was about.  I felt like a human zookeeper, though my perception as to which side the animals were on was continuously changing.   Since my audience had to come and go every five minutes, the image of a carnival barker also applies.  Or maybe a drill sergeant.  Getting each group to turn around and leave after just five minutes--once they realized that live Sex Acts were indeed being performed before their eyes and in the presence of their loved ones—had to be a military-style operation. 

    The really fun part of my job was inviting various people from the audience to step beyond the velvet rope and “direct’ the sex actors in a porn scene, as in “Anna, you go down on Hank, and Missy go down on Mickey,” or “Everybody make a daisy chain” or “Missy, you sit on Hank’s face while Missy fingers Anna’s ass and Anna tongues Mickey’s ear,” or whatever.  The actors had the option to say no to any direction, but for the most part, they did what they were asked to do, and they were asked to do some pretty acrobatic things, like Mickey standing on his head as Missy gave him head. Wow.  Sometimes I felt like I was coaching the American team for the new Sexual Olympics.  Tara may have wowed ‘em in Nagano with her triple axles, but Anna and Hank drove ‘em wild in New York with their standing upside-down 69’s. 

     We had several cameras documenting everything (tapes soon to be available). Filming the Sex Actors was our own Ben Schlaver in his glory, rolling around the gallery floor, jumping on the come-and-astroglide soaked bed, wiggling his ass crack at unsuspecting art patrons, a natural pornmeister.  Heilman-C herself (alias Gloria) was on the camera in the back, getting shots of the audience gawking, talking, directing, stripping, being shocked, being inspired and giggling, among other things. Another camera overhead got the whole room, the total exhibitionist-voyeuristic spectacle--sex actors, spectators, camerapeople and me--documenting the reactions of the art patrons to pornography, as well as the reactions of the porn actors to the art patrons. 

You can't even see this on 42nd Street.     But as I said, the gallery itself was only the eye of the hurricane. There was a virtual blizzard of art-horny humanity outside that I didn’t even see, being held prisoner within the pheromone-soaked inner sanctum.  But I did hear enough to be able to piece together what it might have been like to attend.  Assuming you didn’t get there really early, as you turned onto Green Street, you encountered the human tempest, a gigantic but amazingly well-behaved mob. A little pushing, but no fighting. Everyone was practicing what I call the Bonobo  Way, peace through pleasure. NYPD cruisers assessing the situation throughout the evening had nothing to do, thank Goddess! 

    As you pushed your way closer to the door, you discovered a large knot of people surrounding a huge blob of a man, the man being Al Goldstein, bon vivant, publisher of Screw and one of my dear friends, holding court among the creme de café society, posh art buyers with their designer overcoats, earnest art students with their bulging backpacks, and Big Al sitting his 400-pound self on some poor shmuck’s car hood.  You’d probably see some other sex celebrities in the crowd—maybe Betty Dodson or Candida Royalle—and if you were persistant enough to actually get into the gallery, you saw Norma Jean Almodovar, famed sex workers’ advocate, asking you your views on pornography and art.  Or you might have been questioned by Dutch fluxist artist Willem De Ridder, or Billy Name, ancient bearded Andy Warhol photographer. Next you’d see Heilman-C’s computer graphic artwork superimposing her friendly face on a variety of porn magazine covers, plus an imposing copy of The 10 Commandments of Porn, courtesy of First Amendment attorney Jeffrey Douglas. “Thou shalt not sell a dildo in Georgia,” “Thou shalt not sell a vibrator in Louisiana,” “Thou shalt not sell a penis pump in Texas,” and so on. 

    Then you’d be propelled into the main exhibition room, the Sex Act gallery.  Here you’d line up with about 35 other fellow art lovers who’d been waiting in the cold for over an hour, and you’d see Anna, Hank, Missy and Mickey engaged in some kind of X-rated sex act.  And you’d see me in my sexy ultrasheer Salome outfit, welcoming you into the human hothouse, and asking if you’d like to direct.  “You look like a director,” I’d propose suggestively, “Would you like to direct a sex act?” 

      Most people would say no, of course, looking suitably horrified.  But a sizeable minority jumped at the chance to direct porn in an art gallery, if only for a minute.  Some approached it like an art school assignment, others like the fulfillment of a fantasy, others used the opportunity to make a political point, get their rocks off, take their clothes off (several stripped, and some actually joined in), or just impress their friends.  Some were a bit sadistic.  “Do a double penetration!” or “Have anal sex!” they’d request insensitively, or maybe just ignorantly, not realizing how much preparation is involved for any kind of anal sex, since X-rated movies make it seem so easy.   By far the most common request was a daisy chain, though many people asked for simple things like kissing. 

     One “director” was nine months pregnant!  At my request (I often directed the directors), she lifted her sweater to reveal a perfect nude basketball of a tum-tum.  Then she and her beaming hubby team-directed a porn scene.  It was a bit surreal and kind of romantic. In many ways, “Sex Acts” was the ultimate Couples Night, with so many twosomes hugging each other and giggling intimately as they gaped at Missy and Mickey—a real-life married couple—and Anna and Hank—also a couple. And of course, Max and I are a couple, and the whole thing was produced by Heilman-C with her somewhat mysterious but very involved other half, D.C. 

    But some of the singles had a ball. A guy named Joe—definitely your average Joe--wound up in bed with the porn stars for almost an hour, having sex (with a condom, of course) with both Missy and Anna, living out what he called the “fantasy of a lifetime.” Several intrepid ladies from the audience also stripped down and got into the Sex Acts. Even our limo driver took off his clothes and jerked off  “for art!” 

    Our very own Blockette Lavonne was also there, half-undressed to perfection as usual.  Lavonne helped with the tough task of clearing the gallery floor every five minutes. She’d just be hanging around with her beautiful boobs hanging out, surrounded by a group of ogling art lovers, practically doing her own Sex Act sideshow.  Then, when the set was over, and no one was leaving—at least not fast enough—I’d beckon to Lavonne to get up, pull those bountiful boobies out a little more, walk toward the door, and the oglers would follow.  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a pair of breasts directing traffic!  But there they were.  Follow those boobies! 

     Meanwhile, Max was everywhere, doing security Bonobo-style, and chatting with Jack Tilton, the gallery owner, about how he’d never seen such a big turnout for any art opening in New York. To think that on the other side of town, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was closing down peep shows, and here we were performing sex acts you couldn’t even see in the most explicit joints in Times Square!  Maybe if the strippers called themselves “artists,” they wouldn’t be shut down. Art is about context and chutzpah. 

Me with the Mic     But is it art?  That is the question, the tiresomely obvious question that the television reporters asked me as the last come shots had dried, and the last spectators drifted out the door.    Don’t ask me, I replied.  Ask yourself.  Art is in the eye of the art appreciator, as subjective as beauty, love, tragedy—or pornography.  And just because the critics say that it is or isn’t art doesn’t mean that it is or isn’t art.  Some of the most celebrated artwork in history--the Impressionist paintings of the late 19th century, the Dada movement of the early 20th century--were considered “not art” when they first emerged on the scene. When early Renaissance painters depicted scantily clothed Greek-style gods and goddesses in the midst of sex acts with one another as well as various bulls, swans and sheep, rather than the usual Medieval crucifixion scenes, there was outrage.  The Christian clergy—the art critics of their day--screamed something to the effect of “That’s not art.  That’s pornography!”--even though the word “pornography” hadn’t been invented yet.  As Heilman-C herself said, “It’s in an art gallery; it must be art.” Context and chutzpah rule. 

    After the show, we all went to the Park Avenue Country Club and congratulated ourselves on having created the biggest art happening New York has seen in a long time. Whether it was art or not-art, we’d just turned on, shocked, exhilarated, amused and inspired multitudes of Manhattanites.  Next, we take “Sex Acts” to art galleries around the world—Europe, South America, Japan, maybe even to Texas! 

     By the time we got back to our marvelous Plaza suite, Max and I were ready for our own private Sex Acts.  Then we remembered that our sheets and pillows had been used in the performance and were now covered with sperm, come and astroglide—Yuck!  Max rang up room service, and in his most patrician voice proclaimed that we had had a little accident all over the sheets and pillows, and could we please get some fresh ones immediately? The Plaza butler obliged within moments, of course (Ivana wouldn’t have had it any other way), and then we proceeded to commit passionate uncensored Sex Acts until checkout time. 

Dr. Susan Block
Susan M. Block, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan Block is a practicing sex therapist, star of Radio Sex TV on HBO, author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure (St. Martin's Press), and director of The Dr. Susan Block Institute for the Erotic Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, California.  She can be reached at (213)749.1330.