by Dr. Susan Block
The Lewinsky-Straus
An Insider Talks Candidly About Family Ties 
by David Steinberg
A Pornographer 
For Our Times
On the Immediate Aftermath of the Starr Report

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The Biggest, Hottest Pornography  
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Immaculate Conception
    STOP Ken Starr, 
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Starr Fucker by Robbie Conal
T H E   A W A R D
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Column Left 
Heard in the hills 
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Beatin' ain't Cheatin'



Founded 1991


Urban Camping, Erotic Art and

The New Morality for

The Next Millennium

by Dr. Susan Block

Suddenly, these rooms that were so recently filled with broken glass, cat hair, dust bunnies bigger than coyotes and a bunch of old rusty appliances, had metamorphosed into our Institute. My throat caught in a sharp spasm of wonder and amazement as I looked around me at this almost overnight transmutation from a scene of urban decay to one of elegant erotic revelry. My throat was also sore from the flu, which I had succumbed to in the midst of all the excitement, exertion, and lack of sleep and central heating. But here we were, at the semi-Grand Opening of our Downtown LA Paradise.-in-Progress It's remarkable what a little necessity, desire, a few delusions of grandeur, and a whole lot of elbow grease can do for an old brick building on a street called Hope.

We--that is Max and I and those members of the Bonobo Gang who could handle the shock of moving--found this old brick building on Hope that we now call The Dr. Susan Block Institute for the Erotic Arts and Sciences, or Dr. Suzy's Speakeasy, or just The Speakeasy, or The Institute, in a moment of real-estate truth. Thanks to a shady landlord who had put our monthly rent into his pocket instead of making payments to the bank, we were forced to evacuate our lovely, cushy Villa Piacere ("Pleasure House") in the Hollywood Hills. We decided that instead of moving farther out into the country, we'd head straight into the city and set up our Mom 'n' Pop Sex Shop in the metropolitan wilds of Downtown LA.

Power-play sex! Partisan politics! History-making hypocrisy! What more could a sex-obsessed history buff like me want?

Our move, traumatic as it was in and of itself, was further complicated by my beloved mother's triple bypass surgery which not only took me to Philly for two agonizing weeks, but preoccupied me (and still does) for at least a couple of hours each day. Simultaneously, messy love affairs and other personal problems plagued and debilitated several core members of our Bonobo Gang.

But the Revolution doesn't wait for personal problems, and we had to move. We searched and searched, and finally found this 7800 square-foot second floor of a stand-alone 1920s brick building, and when we saw the 30-foot bar that's been here since the building's beginnings as a genuine Prohibition Era speak-easy, we couldn't imagine being anywhere else. This was our place. Cold, filthy and in need of major construction work as it was, it was calling to us: "Move in now!" We packed up all our furniture, files, vibrators, dildos and other essential equipment, and started making the place livable, workable, and-most challengingly-sexable.

Our situation was further colored by my acute Washington Sex Addiction. Ever since I'd been moved to present Independent Prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr with that Boobie Award for Best National Pornography Production back in January of '98, I'd felt personally involved with this ridiculous yet sublime presidential sex scandal. Move or no move, I could not get enough news and views of Monica's stained dress and our Constitutional process. Power-play sex! Partisan politics! History-making hypocrisy! What more could a sex-obsessed history buff like me want? I was transfixed by the All-Impeachment All-the-Time channels for at least an hour each night, even while I was with Mom in Philly, and about four hours a night as we packed.

the pundits were wrong about Americans being "immoral"

Then we made the big move, and the first sense I had that we were truly in a wilderness was when I discovered that our little section of downtown wasn't wired for cable. What, no C-SPAN! No MSNBC talking heads! It took Max a few days to get us hooked up for satellite. But on one of those days, Starr was testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, and it was a good thing my friend Roy taped all six hours for me, or I would have gone nuttier than a crackhead without a hit.

Inquisitor Starr notwithstanding, the exigencies of urban camping superseded the pleasures of political voyeurism. Let's see: no hot water, no walls, no electrical outlets in some rooms, no heat during a rare-for-LA 40-degree cold snap, toilets a virtual block away from our bedroom area. Naturally, I caught the flu. Twice.

Max, despite his blue blood, not to mention daily half-pint-of-Jim and two-packs-of-Dunhills habit, is much hardier and, fortunately for me, much handier, than I am. He's my Handy Man, in oh-so-many ways. As I coughed and sniffled and trekked back and forth to the bathroom, he pulled together a crew of workers, professional artisans as well as some of the more able Hope Street locals, plus a little help from our friends at HBO, and started making the place livable, workable, and even quite sexable.

Then, Valentine's Eve, 1999, there I stood on opening night, perched upon my red velvet platform, praising the Glory and Power of Sex preacher-style, my throat raw, my heart pounding, my clit twitching and my soul soaring, as I looked around me at the art and the people and the lights of HBO, and I saw this old brick building transformed. It was our little Miracle on Hope Street.

Our opening became a Victory Party, a release from the internationally embarrassing absurdity of over a year's worth of government time tied up in scandal, and a celebration of the glory and the power of sex.

And it was more than an opening; it was our "Valentine's Eve Celebration of the New Morality for the Next Millennium: Ethical Hedonism." Having watched the puritans and the pundits struggle for over a year with the so-called "immorality" of the two-thirds majority of Americans who supported the President and loathed the bully-voyeuristic ways of Inspector Starr and the Gang of 13, I realized that I was actually more in touch with the morality of America than our so-called moral leaders, the Bill Bennetts, Jerry Falwells and Dr. Lauras. I knew the pundits were wrong about Americans being "immoral" or even amoral in supporting the President against the Puritans. Indeed, with our crime rate falling by one-third since the mid-1980s, Americans struck me as more moral than we've ever been in my lifetime.

But this is a new morality, a morality that supports greater tolerance for sexual diversity, just as it upholds racial and gender equality. American society's support for its pleasure-loving, hardworking, minority-promoting, budget-balancing, Baby Booming "Sex President" against the invasive, sanctimonious tactics of Starr and Hyde, et al, was evidence of this new morality. When the Senate voted to acquit the President on Friday, February 12, the day before Valentine's Eve, our opening became a Victory Party, a release from the internationally embarrassing absurdity of over a year's worth of government time tied up in scandal, and a celebration of the glory and the power of sex.

And thanks to my Handy Man, our new Institute was worthy of such a celebration. The dilapidated front room had been transformed into a whistle-clean, elegant art gallery, filled with all kinds of erotica (thanks to curator Kim Mendoza), sculptures of succulent vulvas and multi-colored breasts, exquisitely painted portraits of mannequins, an ornately carved chair with a large dildo protruding mid-seat, crystal sex toys that doubled as art pieces, sensuous little bed tables dubbed "One Night Stands," vibrant images of men and women in the act of seduction, the grip of desire and the throes of ecstasy.

I think any politician who addresses the CCC, that kinder, gentler version of the KKK, ought to eat a little African-American pussy

The next room, with the old Prohibition Era bar, where illegal alcohol, gambling and sex were most certainly enjoyed in this old building's beginnings, became the percolating center of our Speakeasy. Surrounding the bar was more art, including my own pride and joy: computer-manipulated photos of Starr and Hyde performing cunnilingus on me (!), plus Bob Barr giving head to Lavonne (I think any politician who addresses the CCC, that kinder, gentler version of the KKK, ought to eat a little African-American pussy).

Past my "Hungry Republicans" and through the burgundy velvet curtains, was what we call the Big Room: to the right, more art and a Dressing-for-Sex Fashion Show, to the left, a Prohibition Era stage that once featured Big Bands and burlesque shows. Further along, transplanted almost intact from all its previous homes: my notorious Broadcast Bed, with its giant vulva and penis pillows, ben-wa balls and bonobo photos, vibrator bowls and Dildo Garden, a huge tangle of assorted audio and video equipment (most of it donated to the Institute), and an extended lounge filled with commodious couches and more pillows, the better to investigate the more corporal aspects of ethical hedonism.

so many artists sharing their work with me, so many guests sharing their sex.

Through these transfigured rooms waltzed, strolled and staggered my guests, mingling with the art and each other, almost all of them honoring the dress code: "Lingerie, Pajamas, Formal Attire, Uniform, Naked in a Trenchcoat or Stylish Slutwear." Some went far beyond the requirements, sporting wearable sex art, pants with painted-on penises, sculpted thongs with animal tails placed lovingly around a lady's vulva and up her ass crack by the dashing sculptor (Ray Cirino) himself. A lovely young woman named Jeanie lifted up her plaid Catholic-school skirt and compared her flesh-and-blood vulva with artist Doug Johns' stunning display of paper maché pussies. Other guests nibbled shrimp, caviar, kiwi, strawberries and whipped cream, mangos, macadamia nuts, four kinds of chocolate and herbal Spanish Fly drops from our Aphrodisiac Buffet. Some danced as Lavonne sang love songs by the bar, opening up her caution-yellow trenchcoat to reveal her sensuous cinnamon nakedness. Authors and artists interfaced sociably with professors and porn stars. Beautiful models sniffed my Panties-in-a-Bottle and smiled cryptically, as exhibitionists flashed and swingers engaged in impromptu acts of public sex. A tall, aggressively unsexy journalist named Carol with what looked like a furball on her head scurried about like a mouse in a den of snakes. Nobody bit her, of course, or even touched her. It was kind of sad; she looked like she could use a little touching, but her irate expression and furious note-taking telegraphed "keep your distance." A blonde, rubenesque, corseted woman named Norma shoved a caviar-covered cracker between the quivering butt cheeks of Gary, a bent-over, fishnet-stocking-clad slaveboy, as the crowd gawked and gasped. Couples kissed and embraced beneath paintings of couples kissing and embracing. HBO filmed it all.

So much was on my mind that wild night…I felt exhilarated by the action, so many artists sharing their work with me, so many guests sharing their sex. But there were tensions. The fashion models fought backstage over whose designs were more original. The musicians pouted and screamed when we told them to turn their music down as HBO needed a clean sound track. Some guests came up to me, eyes shining, pronouncing this the "best night of their lives." But others were worried about their partners going off with someone else or bothered by the bright lights of HBO. One guy threw up on the stairs, then on the couch, then on the velvet curtains. Hedonism, washed down with a little too much beer, can get messy. That, of course, doesn't make it unethical. Just complex.

I kept thinking about Mom, struggling to survive. I was feeling guilty, of course, that here I was at my fabulous opening, instead of by her bedside. I'd spoken with her by phone earlier in the day, as I do every day, and her feelings seemed as conflicted as mine. A part of her wanted me to be with her in the hospital. But she also wanted to know all the details of preparation for the opening and, having been an artist herself, she delighted in hearing about the gallery. As a staunch Clintonite, she reveled in the idea of our Victory Party. "I want you to have a marvelous opening!" she commanded with all her strength as we said good-bye, "I want you to be my star tonight." So, despite my anxiety over her illness, I felt I had to shine for her, to honor her life, her politics and her art.

My guests helped me shine, especially the really brave ones, the ones that did things for the first time that night. "We've never had sex in an art gallery before!" declared Cassandra and Anthony as their Olympian bodies intertwined in the act of love, surrounded by sculptures and oglers. "I've never sung naked to an audience before!" exclaimed Lavonne, combining her extraordinary singing talent with her exhibitionist fantasies. "I've never put my sculptures on so many gorgeous women before!" marveled wearable art designer Ray Cirino. "I've never eaten caviar before!" cooed Hope Street resident Kimberly, between bites, as she looked at the Felliniesque frolickers around her.

we passed out cigars, inviting our guests to dip them into the orifices of their choice, Clinton-style

I looked around too, and I saw these broken-down rooms shaping up into the sexuality center of our dreams, a real institute for the erotic arts and sciences, where we could stimulate people's sexual talents, whether they be in music, art, literature, fashion, philosophy, computers, science, dance, bondage and discipline, or just good old-fashioned screwing. A place where we could encourage people to use their talents in the service of sex. A place where we could attempt to practice ethical hedonism, our own turn-of-the-21st-century, downtown LA version of the Epicurean campus of ancient downtown Athens, exploring and cultivating the pleasures of life, while keeping the peace as civilized, considerate ladies and gentlemen.

If I may be so bold, my darling reader, may I say that on this sexy, artful, emotional, multi-orgasmic, breakthrough-making, somewhat fluish, sometimes unsettling, always eye-popping Valentine's Eve, 1999, we helped to usher in the New Morality for the Next Millennium, the morality that has confounded both the puritans and the pundits (but that my 80-year-old Mom understands perfectly); the morality that has enabled our President to get a blowjob without losing his day job; the morality that opens us up to the power and glory of sex; the morality that values love above war, sex above violence, dildos and vibrators above guns and ammo, the Bonobo Way above acting like a baboon; the morality that is ethical hedonism.

At around midnight, we passed out cigars, inviting our guests to dip them into the orifices of their choice, Clinton-style, lit our fires, and smoked ourselves into the future. .

Click here to see more images from the Valentine's Eve Party

Open Letter to Carol Lloyd of Salon Magazine


PUBLISHED: February 24, 1999