Saturday, March 22, 2014

What Happens in Vegas... (Should probably stay there.)



“One man's pornography is another man's theology.”- Clive Barker

Hello Blogiteers!

Greetings and best wishes to you in this, the third month of the sparkling New Year of 2014. I’ve been assured repeatedly by the hourglass wielding baby that it’s not going to suck nearly as bad as 2013 did, but since he was obviously smashed on formula when he shared his observation with me, I’m gonna have to take his opinion with a few grains of salt.


I’ve been somewhat absent the last few months due to some personal issues in regards to my family and health, and the majority of my vacation time was spent in beautiful Salt Lake City, which at the tail end of December (surprisingly) legalized gay marriage*- an action which causes this here Artbitch to simply state: way to go, you sexy bitch.


*[Sadly, this was shot down a few weeks later, which just goes to prove why it’s essential to raise your kids with science and common sense, rather than a 2000 year old book where people get supposedly turned into salt by an angry and petulant demigod . Just sayin’.

And don’t send me any hate mail on this issue either- I’m Catholic, I already have enough guilt.]

Now, if only the rest of the states who are still standing on the wrong side of History would follow suit, we could get back to the truly important business of choosing who gets to become America’s next Top Model/Chef/Singer/National Embarrassment, etc.


And speaking of shocking developments, I turned 45 at the beginning of January, something that apparently happened without my permission or input. Granted, I’ve celebrated my 36th birthday nine times since it actually happened, but it’s not like that’s a bad thing, right? Of course it isn’t- how could it be?

So, as you can imagine, a whole lotta partying has been taking place as of late, the most recent location being Las Vegas where I was a full access VIP attendee at the AVN Expo, which is the American adult film industry’s take on a scrap metal convention in Duluth.

Albeit one with more cleavage and less plot development, that is.

But before I get into all that, I need to address the vitriolic reaction to my last screed which tackled the issue of society’s puzzling reticence regarding male nudity. Note to self: next time you chose to address this issue, make sure that you throw in a few photos of Hugh Jackman riding a horse shirtless while cradling a puppy. Just a suggestion.

To be honest, some negative feedback was to be expected- after all, I was addressing a fairly touchy subject, and I did include a full frontal nude portrait of myself (painted by fellow Artist Hugo Medina) as an epilogue of sorts to the point I was trying to make.
Hoo boy. Did that ever hit a high note.

Imagine Freddie Mercury getting his fallopian fiddler caught in a jumpsuit zipper, and you’d be in the neighborhood of what I’m talking about. As I said, I did anticipate some of this, but I wasn’t really expecting the gender line that was drawn in the allegorical sand via my email.

Out of the numerous positive responses that I received, the majority [better than 90%] were from women- a first for anything I’ve ever written.

Score one for the old Ego… as if it needed any additional help.

Given the fact that I took the position of supporting truly fair play in regards to how the sexes should be represented in Art and POP culture, I’m not surprised that my female readers were fairly positive
in their assessment of what I wrote, I’m just stunned by how many I apparently have.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to harness that demographic like Oprah does, and I’ll be set for life. Conversely, when it comes to the male side of the fence, it seems that there are still a few lone Neanderthals currently swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool whose access to the Internet only highlights how un-evolved they are when it comes to their personal lack of respect for women.

Keep in mind that I didn’t suggest that female nudity itself should be abolished in popular culture,
I simply proposed this: Here’s how it would work: for every second / minute / whatever that an actress has to be naked or topless in a movie, there must be an equal amount of male nudity as well to add balance.

Seems fair, doesn’t it? I thought so too, hence the reason why I wrote it in the first place.

Nonetheless, when it came to the men who wrote in, you would have thought I suggested that Victoria’s Secret should replace all their runway and print models with fat middle-aged guys who make their living impersonating George Wendt. The term “over-reacting” comes to mind, but that’s only the tip of the idiotic iceberg, where the hysterics of the opposing email are concerned.

I’m going to share with you a deep dark secret: I actually like women.

Screw that… I LOVE women.

And to be perfectly clear, I’m not just talking about sexual attraction or anything along those lines, I’m talking about the respect that I have for women, versus some of the Cro-Magnons who wrote me in regards to my opinion that perhaps it was long overdue that men should have to experience some of the more exploitative aspects that women have dealt with for centuries.

As someone who’s dating a woman far more advanced than he is, I can honestly say that I love being with someone I don’t have to rescue every five seconds, like I constantly had to do with my ex-fiancée.

Seriously. I used to go through white hats like they were Ding Dongs, and trust me, you don’t want to know what happened to my noble steed when that particular nightmare was laid to rest- let’s just say I have glue sticks for days, and leave it at that.

That’s one of the things I’ve always found funny about 30 year old manboys- they always claim that they want a smart woman… until they actually get one and realize that she’s way more intelligent asleep than they are awake. As I get older, I actually become less and less tolerant of my fellow apes in arms who act like idiots for no other reason than their inability to manage their testosterone.

Yeah. I said it- I’m sick and tired of the “bro” brigade, and all that it doesn’t bring to the table.

Now, don’t get the wrong impression, I’ve had more than my share of the… let’s call it “diversity” that exists within the bat-spit crazy that constitutes dating, so I have a fairly well-researched data bank to cull my supposition from in regards to what is out there for the taking.

And while I’ll admit that are some truly difficult and somewhat dense women out there among the feminine flock, I won’t paint all women with the same ignorant brush that some would like to use.


As a life-time member of the “just us men” club, I know I shouldn’t really be surprised by the sexist attitude contained within some of the missives I’ve been reading, but it’s still disheartening at best, especially when we’re all supposed to be living in an enlightened age and all that.


The one fact I have gleaned from all this correspondence is this: there’s a lot of really scared and intellectually weak men cowering around a fire somewhere out there in the caves of the Internet.

Unfortunately however, it also seems that these knuckle-draggers will not be denied their soapbox.

Sure, they have figured out how to both type and hit the “send” button on their own, so I guess  asking for some well-earned points for doing so is probably not out of the question, but I’m afraid some of those gold stars will have to be taken away due to the amount of misogyny that my Email has been vomiting up.


Between the missives telling me (at length) how women should “know their place” and the others that were chock-full of braggadocio regarding imaginary sexual exploits, it’s clear to me what’s really going on out there in the world of the real- a lot of men whose previous “girlfriends” came with an air pump and a patch kit are lashing out at society the only way they know how…

With testosterone fueled fantasy... minus the talking flying dragons and the large-breasted chain-mailed heroines, of course.

Look… I get it.

Women can be, and sometimes are, downright terrifying. I went to high school just like the rest of you, and have many stories of being blasted out of the sky by the feminine Death Star when the circumstances clearly called for the use of a Tie fighter, but I digress.


[The fault may have been my own, due to my love of both Star Wars analogies and dork culture, but let’s not split hairs here.]


However, just because you’re personally afraid of strong capable women, there is still no reason to hurl a box of vulgar invectives in your sad attempt to control them. News flash: a woman that smart will take you on and take you out, everytime. As sure as the day is long, you my friend, are gonna be metaphorical toast.

Count on it.

Now, the fact that some of my male readers reacted with such brain-dead misogyny is in of itself, not that shocking, to be honest. What caught my attention initially was how ferocious the response was.

If I were to be brutally frank, I have had more than my share of moments where my caveman DNA has overridden my normally genteel common sense, but even given that, it’s not like I have a reputation for being an out-and-out knuckle-dragger, even when fueled by alcohol.

Truth be told, I actually tend to get much more respectful around women, despite the fact that at those moments I turn into your average drunken prom queen who’s pretty much up for anything.


However, that’s a story for another time, so let me complete my thoughts regarding some of my fellow “men” who wrote in… y’all got some serious growing up to do, and that right quick.


Otherwise, you should plan on getting really used to having threesomes with your hands. Moving on…

After having to wade through all that hip-deep testosterone, I definitely needed a break from all the self-absorbed stupid, and I found it in the most unlikely of places… Las Vegas. Or to be more specific, in Las Vegas at the annual AVN Expo.

What exactly is that, you ask?


Ask a simple question, get a simple answer- each January, the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo takes place in Las Vegas, and is attended by everyone who is anyone in the adult industry. Serving as both a trade convention and an adult extravaganza, it’s definitely not family friendly by any means.


Thank God for that.


As everybody knows, I love kids. My GF Ashley often jokes that if you put me near small children my biological clock starts ticking to a 2/4 backbeat. However, despite all that, I’ve often suggested that LV should be a child-free zone, at least on the Strip- a position I espouse even more after attending the AVN at this years’ chosen location, the Hard Rock Hotel.


















Between the bigger than life posters scattered throughout the casino featuring porn stars Asa Akira and Lexi Belle whose collective attire left very little to the imagination, along with the occasional sighting of a porn star wearing a see- through top, the scenery was enough to fry your average 14 year old boys’ brain at a distance of 500 yards.


Being a mature adult, I was perfectly fine, of course.
I’m sorry… what was I talking about?
Oh yes. see-through clothing.

As I was saying, it’s not for the kids.
And I’m not complaining. At all.

Nor will I ever.
Vegas, in my opinion, has always been the designated off ramp between Sodom and Gomorrah, and it should remain that way, so far as I’m concerned. Keep Vegas for the adults, and send the kids off to Disneyland with the grandparents.

You know, the set that your kids absolutely hate.


The reason I happened to be there was due to the generosity of Los Angeles based adult film distributor Black Market Entertainment, [http://www.blackmarketxxx.com/] whose co-owner is also the sister of one of my best friends, so remember kids- it does pay to network.


After getting my VIP pass, touring the casino at the Hard Rock, and taking in a late dinner with the team from BME, I was then introduced to a few of the better known stars found dining alongside us, namely [in order] Missy Monroe, industry legend Nina Hartley, who as you can see from the photos apparently found my cross really tasty, and blond bombshell Julia Ann.




Nina BTW, absolutely rocks. She’s been in the biz since forever, and while I can’t repeat the story she was telling over drinks here, I will pay witness to the fact that she has a razor-sharp sense of humor, and intellect- and as I like to say, you meet the nicest people in the strangest places.

[I also met the following stars over the course of the three days while I was there, but they were more of a “hi-ya, bye-ya” type of photo op. In order- Brandi Love, Jesse Jane, and Sophie Dee, who is literally Smurf size.]











But more than just an opportunity to blow off some personal steam, the AVN also serves as a perfect counterbalance to what I wrote regarding the reticence in regards to male nudity, for the adult film industry is largely borne on the backs [no pun intended] of the female talent, and after walking among the scores of attractive women wearing booty shorts and five-inch stripper heels, it’s pretty obvious that women dually serve as both figurehead and the preferred product- a major detail that is notably promoted throughout the several day-long event.


When I woke up the next morning and headed into the Expo, entering fully charged after downing an amazing breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi, a French-themed café located on the strip, I was surprised to find that despite the industry earning an estimated two billion dollars a year, the event itself was actually quite diminutive, and housed in two mid-sized rooms; one strictly for the vendors, and the other for the toy manufacturers.

Now, when I say “toys”, I’m definitely not referring to your basic Kids R’ Us store stock- I’m describing those kinds of accoutrements that are shipped to your house in very discreet brown paper packaging so as not to set the nosy neighbors’ tongues a wagging- you know, the clichéd this was such a nice neighborhood until those freaks moved inkind of discussion?

And if those same neighbors saw what was readily available for your purchasing needs at said Expo, I’m pretty sure they’d build a functional moat around their house and never say hi to you again.

Granted, most of the products for sale were your stereotypical items (dildos, vibrators, etc.) but there were a few that were truly amazing for their uniqueness- the two that come immediately to mind were the life size sex dolls that replicate popular porn stars right down to their sexual preferences, and the ride and bounce ball toys of our childhood, disturbingly re-imagined with the addition of a very lifelike… um... appendage.


Use your imagination… if you dare.


A small, yet disconcerting, thought slowly formed in my mind as I contemplated the products that were for sale in that small room, and it was this: if any of these toys ever develop the ability to take out the garbage and reach the top shelf, we men will be royally screwed, no pun intended.


Three different vibrating modes? Neon colors? Internal lights? And you can ride it to run out for Hagen Das?

Yep- as far as the male gender would be concerned, our end would swiftly race towards nigh, because there is no way in Hell that we could ever hope to compete with that.

And keep in mind- I’m huge in Japan. You have no idea how much, unless you’ve actually seen Hugo’s painting, in which case- you got all the info you need to make an informed decision.

If there does exist a woman out there who can willingly and comfortably take on one of these molded latex monstrosities, Lord grant me that I not meet her until such time that the need arises for a truly unique hiding place that no one would ever dare search.

Eager for a much rosier future, I fled the Frankentoy room and headed over to the Vendor’s area, where all the major players in the industry had pitched their respective tents to hawk their wares, ranging from on-demand videos to webcam sites.

Scattered among the various movie proprietors were a number of random companies selling everything from lotions to custom fetish clothing, and as you can imagine- the space was packed wall to wall, partially due to the numerous industry booths featuring the chance to meet (and be photographed) with your favorite porn star.























Here’s Nina working her fan-line, which stretched around the room almost twice.

[I came this close to almost wearing the same outfit- how embarrassing would that have been?]


Once again, I made some interesting observations while casually watching the crowd flow through, the first being that there’s apparently a huge love for porn within the Asian-American community, as evidenced by the number of Japanese guys who looked like they had just arrived from the set of the Tokyo Drift sequel- if I was going to cast the live-action version of AKIRA, I’d definitely start here.


The second thing that caught my wandering eye were the “camera guys”, and when I say that, I’m definitely not referring to the electronic Media, be it television or web-based. There were literally scores of roving doughy middle-aged guys wearing shorts and flip-flops who had three to four cameras strung around their necks, which to be honest, piqued my curiosity more than a tad.

Considering my D90 can shoot 600 Hi-Res Images (per large capacity card), I was somewhat baffled as to why anyone would need so much digital firepower, but choose not to ask, due to the inherent fear that I would be drowned within a sea comprised mostly of flop-sweat and sheer desperation.

It was later brought to my attention that this particular contingent is labeled by those in the industry as “porn geeks”- fans who collect adult cinema the same way I collect Buzz Lightyear toys. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a hobby and all that, but I have to wonder just how many times you can watch two blondes ingeniously tip the pizza guy before you just get bored with it all.

But when it came to some of these guys… the term “creepy” doesn’t even begin to come close to painting an accurate description.

Ever watch Animal Planet and see the raw footage of a pack of wolves stalking sheep? Replace those wolves with barely sentient pizza rolls wearing sandals, and you’ll have a fairly precise idea of what it felt like to be among these hairy-palmed mouth breathers.


And before you get all up in my grill about being unnecessarily harsh to the socially awkward, I will tell you this: I’m actually being quite kind, given what I witnessed more than once at the event.


Granted, I was at a convention that centered around the selling of sexualized fantasies as if they were hamburgers, but even with all the half-naked women walking around, the overall feel of the place was that of focused maturity, believe it or not. Most of the interactions I witnessed between the talent and the civilians was respectful, (if not downright funny) as a rule of thumb.


















[Best statement at a fan photo-op: “You’re cute… you can totally grab my boobs.”- I didn’t take her up on that offer BTW, although I'm sure many behind me did.]


While I do understand the awesomeness of getting to be next to someone you find stunningly attractive, I also know that said hottie of smokingness you’ve been watching for years is in fact, a complete stranger, and that goes both ways.

Just because you bought their poster/album/movie/life-size cut-out/blow up doll, etc.. doesn’t mean you have a license to say or do anything you want.


For instance, I met Debbie Harry back in 1999 and I was a perfect gentleman. Sure, one could argue that was partly due to the size of the security guys and to a somewhat greater degree that pesky retraining order, but I’d also like to think it was a shining testament to my innate chivalry.


Come to think of it, let’s take a look upon that seminal life moment:

















This was taken backstage at Celebrity Theatre in PHX, with my part time model and full time friend Sharley, and even though you can’t see it in the photo, Debbie just happens to have her hand on my upper thigh, an area I later had bronzed to mark the occasion.


You know. Like you do.

She autographed my “Autoamerican” album, posed for a few pics, and traded a few jokes, all while smelling like sugar cookies, and it was great.

However, I still didn’t propose marriage, suggest we go out for coffee, or go into detail about that recurring dream of mine where she and I are in a bathtub full of crumbled Ding Dongs and marshmallow fluff giving Joan Jett a back rub.


Not only because it might come off as creepy, [as it should] but because it wasn’t appropriate. Meet your idols, throw down a few compliments, take your pic, and move to the end of the line, cause others are waiting.

Not too surprisingly, those guidelines don’t change just because the object of your obsession happens to have sex on camera for a living, no matter what you may believe.
And don’t hand me any of that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, crap as an excuse to justify your asinine and immature behavior either- there’s a limit to that slogan’s stretchiness too.

If you do engage in truly wretched conduct, it will be found out eventually, no matter how much you try to hide it. Sadly, it’s been my hard-won personal experience that people who go to Vegas to let loose their inner brotard eventually get shanked by their own metaphorical ego shiv.

The process usually goes something like this: douchebag / bitch does something awful, takes great pride in it cause they’re a self-centered moron, and more often than not, is compelled to share their debased story with someone- typically, it’s a close friend, but not always.

That person in turn is either truly appreciative or utterly horrified by said story, and successively passes it on to the next person he or she knows to either brag or ease their burden of conscience, and so on and so on, until it reaches the right (or wrong) set of ears, and then all Hell breaks loose.

And we all know how that goes, don’t we? That’s right… badly.

When it comes to me, I don’t really worry about my past in regards to personal embarrassment- I’ve posed nude, had various body parts casted, engaged in drunken shenanigans, dated more than my share of independent erotic dancing contractors, and once got caught having sex inside a parking garage elevator, so obviously I’m ok with revelations that others would find highly mortifying.


And given the fact that I also proudly own the ABBA box set as well, I think it’s a safe bet that I’m virtually Teflon coated against the humiliating awkwardness that others fear so much. Heck, I almost look forward to making most people uncomfortable- it’s really fun, and costs virtually next to nothing. But even I have limits as to what I would do in full view of the public.

In general, I don’t fly my freak flag in front of civilians, and even when you factor in my penchant for occasionally dressing like a leatherier version of Mad Max meets gay pirate, I still try to maintain some of my innate privacy.

However, among certain elite members of the masturbatory menagerie, my sense of personal decorum is a rarity, at best. Between the stories of obsessed fans from the various cam-girls I talked to at the event, and the personal interactions I witnessed, let me be the first to say that some of these man-boys desperately need to get a real girlfriend, and that right quick.


After they move out of their parent’s garage, that is.
One stunning example of an “urk” moment: remember my mention of Nina’s fan line?

Well, what she was doing for the better part of the time I was walking the floor was basically just standing there and posing for fan pics, or signing autographs. In other words, not moving much, if at all. Not dancing, not stripping, and most definitely not performing faux fellatio Madonna style on  water bottles. In essence, not doing anything that would justify the 25+ cluster of man-boys behind her snapping photos as if their very lives depended on it.

And as an addendum, let me also mention that within that group, that at least half of them were shooting low-angle video… of her non-moving ass. I actually left the venue, grabbed a bite to eat, and upon my return, observed that the same people were still where I had left them an hour ago, in the same positions, doing the same thing.


Naturally, I had to say something, for the heart of my core is that of a people person, and when it gets right down to it- I’m here to help.

Focusing my gaze upon a middle-aged Asian man with three cameras around his neck and dressed in what appeared to be a fishing outfit resplendent with matching tackle adorned hat and vest, I said the following:
“Hey dude… I’ve never said this before in my life, but if there was ever the situation where the phrase “take a picture, it’ll last longer” could be applied, this would be the one… just saying.”

As you might imagine, this did not endear me to the cluster of pasty bologna boppers, but the half dozen cam-girls within earshot immediately burst into effervescent laughter, making his public shaming that much more discomforting and awkward.

That’s me… bringing joy and mirth to a cold dark world.

Properly chagrined, he hurriedly puts away his mini-camcorder and peevishly stalks off, giving me a look that could only be described as soul withering- a fierce gaze that seems to be communally shared by the dolphin-floggers who are now glaring at me as if I were a defective set of D&D dice.

Seizing that as my cue to exit stage left, I decide  to go wander about the hall, and in the course of doing so, meet renowned fetish model Masuimi Max*, who was there promoting a custom vinyl clothing company.
*[http://iamtrouble.com/masuimi/] [https://www.facebook.com/Official.Masuimi.Max]























Other than being obviously striking, she and her husband Morat were two of the coolest people I met at the AVN, and the conversation that followed covered a wide range of topics, from obsessive fan-boys to the fact that she’s triple jointed.

Believe you me, when someone that cute demonstrates that particular skill-set by easily bending their hand all the way backwards to their wrist, it definitely grabs your attention, and it’s a detail that should give any red-blooded American male a moment or two of inner contemplation.


Seriously. Just think of all the vending machines she could break into. You would never have to pay full price for a Snickers bar ever again, and that is just stone cold sexy, no matter how you slice it.

Morat**
by the way, is also a kick-ass photographer, whose list of previously shot rock gods include everyone from Ozzy to Slipknot, and he also contributes a large amount of his wife’s content, so go do yourself a favor, and check out their respective websites- you’ll be glad you did.
**[http://www.morat666.com/rock/] [https://www.facebook.com/Morat.Photography]

And on a more personal note, I would also recommend that if she comes to your town to perform, that you go check out her stage show, as I was lucky enough to do at Vegas’ Club Paradise*, as it was all shades of stunning.

[*Once again, it pays to network, especially if it gets you VIP access to an awesome strip club.]

Having left the floor on a high note, I proceed to hit my hotel, take a quick shower, and head out to dinner with my friend at the legendary Hofbrauhaus* German restaurant located across the street from the Hard Rock. What makes this place truly special is that from the sausage to the beer, the entire menu is directly imported from the Fatherland itself, and that particular facet is the key to it’s well-deserved success.
[http://www.hofbrauhauslasvegas.com/]


Set up in the style of a traditional “beer garden”*, the long tables encourage mingling with your as yet unknown dinner companions- which in our case, happened to be a lovely family of four from the city of Cleveland. Other than a briefly awkward (yet amusing) moment when we explained the reason why we were in Las Vegas, dinner went off without so much as a hitch.

[*By definition, a beer garden (taken from the German “biergarten”) is an open-air space where beer and food are served, and seating is communal.]


My Ego did appreciate the moment when the Mom asked me if I was “talent”, to which I answered honestly… “Hell, yes- what… it isn’t obvious?” [Just kidding.] So, buoyed by a small drink [see photo] and stuffed full of yummy bratwurst, I enjoyed the in-house band which served up both traditional beer hall standards along with blistering covers of Neil Diamond songs.



















Trust me, you have not really lived until you’ve heard “Sweet Caroline” sung by 100 knockwursted diners, and all of this entertainment was to be had for less than fifty bucks, a bargain no matter where you’re at, but an especially good deal for Las Vegas.

And with that uber-karaoke moment under the ol’ belt, my adventure slowly starts winding down to it’s end.


After getting up the next morning, my friend and I grab a late breakfast in the downtown partition of what’s considered to be “old” Las Vegas at a place called Hash House A GoGo*, a joint known for it’s disturbingly huge portion sizes and to a lesser degree, it’s rather bizarre farm themed décor.
[http://www.hashhouseagogo.com/vegas/]

Now when I say “huge portions”, I want you to think of the biggest meal you’ve ever eaten, and then triple it, because that’s what I’m talking about here. The plate my friend ordered, the Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Benedict, could have easily fed three people and their cats, and I don’t even want to foster a guess as to what the salt content was, but judging on no more than it’s sheer size alone, I feel pretty confident in saying I could have sculpted a pretty accurate rendition of Lot’s wife from it.

In a rare display of self-restraint, I ordered a small bowl of Froot Loops, with a side of toast and three slices of bacon. Don’t judge. I’m trying to maintain my girlish figure, and besides… I did roughly polish off about four pounds of pork, beef and lamb at Hofbrauhaus the night before, so all in all- I think that I have put in the hours regarding my personal crusade to eat everything on the planet that has a face.

So loaded up on sugared lard and crispy carbohydrates, my friend and I begin the four hour trek back to Phoenix, buoyed by satellite radio and mix CD’s, of which he is a true master. If you have to travel long distances, I’d highly recommend his unique blend of punk rock and quirky underground classics, which can run the gamut from The Buzzcocks to Stump.

Overall, the trip home was uneventful, as most journeys typically are, but there is one last thing I do need to show you that we discovered on our way back to our respective lairs, and that was kitsch.


Good old Americanized China-made kitsch.


If you’ve ever taken a major highway anywhere in this country, then you’ve experienced first hand the amazing amount of cheap products promoting a certain region or state that are to be found in a majority of the gas stations and truck stops across this great land without fail.

Most are small, say, like an emblazoned “ I Love ____” shot glass or a scorpion encased in resin and turned into key chains- you know what I’m talking about- the stuff you buy on impulse.


But sometimes you find a place that tries a little harder, and we stumbled into it. Unlike most, this particular gift shop/restaurant in the middle of nowhere was blazing it’s own truly unique path by promoting higher end products, in this case, it was stocked to the gills with sculptures of Indians and dream-catchers of all shapes, sizes, prices and colors.


Now, for those of you who don’t live in the Southwest, the definition of a dream-catcher is this:
“A small hoop containing a horsehair mesh, or a similar construction of string or yarn, decorated with feathers and beads, believed to give its owner good dreams by “catching” the bad ones within it’s netted structure.”

Typically, these are rather benign looking pieces of craftwork, and usually don’t attract my attention much, if at all. But there was one hanging on the wall nearest the bathrooms that I just had to snap a picture of:






















I don’t know about you, but that is some truly soul-stirring work right there.

Seriously. I’m not sure if it’s the majestic and noble wolves in the background, the acid-washed jeans, the fur wrapped Thor hammer, or the hair he borrowed from David Coverdale of Whitesnake, but there’s something about this piece that just screams for days about truly authentic Native American culture.


I’ll even overlook the fact that it’s a white guy being depicted here, because let’s face it- they did add those feathers, and that’s what ties the whole ensemble together.


Ahh… roadside America. You never fail to fill my heart with joy.
So. How to sum up my trip? Well…


I’ve learned that there can be too much of a good thing, as I am now so jaded to the sight of random thonage and overinflated boobage that I’ve become virtually immune to it when it’s laid out before me now, much to my chagrin.

On the upside, I’ve taken up macramé, and have knitted about thirty sweaters so far. On a related note, does any one want some oven-mitts?


I learned that it was a probably best that I was more interested in girls than playing Dungeons & Dragons in my Mom’s basement, especially after seeing what happens when you watch way too many DVD’s by yourself.


I learned that VIP is always better than the common area. By far. And the drinks are usually free.

I’ve learned that there is a limit to how much sausage one can comfortably eat, but it can be offset by drunkenly singing Neil Diamond songs at the top of one’s lungs, as long as you don’t compare it to your late Oma’s cooking.

I’ve learned that good and dignified people from Cleveland don’t ask a lot of questions after the words “porn convention” have been uttered. They will however, take your recommendations for what to eat when they find out you’re from good German stock.


I learned that my friend snores like a goddamn buzzsaw. Next time, I’m getting my own room, as I really like to sleep more than two hours at a time. Also, having my own room means I can steal all those little soaps and other random toiletries rather than having to split the booty with others.


But mostly I learned that what happens in Vegas should probably stay in Vegas, if only to avoid potential lawsuits, divorces, and the like. And no matter what you do… never bring a camera.

“I love Las Vegas. I like that Las Vegas has everything. Everything and anything you want to do, you can do in Las Vegas.” - Drew Carey.







Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fear and Clothing (A View to a Thrill.)

WARNING: The following blog contains images of nudity, including an unclothed image of this here Artbitch, so all you people who are easily freaked out or otherwise sensitive to such things should stop reading this right now, and perhaps go have a nice relaxing cup of tea, or maybe even cocoa.

However, if you aren’t into beverages, then might I suggest the joys of a good book?

Neil Gaiman writes wonderful stories, as does John Connolly- either way, you can’t go wrong. And if reading isn’t your bag, then perhaps you’d let me steer you towards a superior film- “Avengers” is pretty kick-ass, as was “Expendables 2”.

Seriously… it’s much better than you’d think.

But whatever option you do choose, please enjoy it to the fullest potential.
For the rest of you, please read right this way…


“Men's magazines often feature pictures of naked ladies. Women's magazines also often feature pictures of naked ladies. This is because the female body is a beautiful work of art, while the male body is hairy and lumpy and should not be seen by the light of day.” – Richard Roeper

Hello Blogiteers!
How are you?

For my part, I feel great. The year’s slowly winding down, the Artbitch book project is still being hammered out, and as soon as I can take the time to get off my butt and add new content, the website showcasing my art (www.WayneMichaelReich.com) will be up and running like a Swiss watch after being relatively inactive for the better part of a year and a half.

This time around however, it will encompass all that I do: art, photography, and lastly- critical writing. Plans are also in the works to post the various interviews that I’ve done, but that’s still quite a stretch down a very lengthy road.

So why was it down so long? 

Well, it’s a time-consuming story, and not even an interesting one at that- let’s just say there was some personal medical drama involved, some faith placed in the wrong people, and a whole lot of hassle in-between that I’d rather not re-hash.

Where moving on is concerned, the traditional “what’s done is done” approach is what I’m trying to espouse here, and so far, it seems to be working, much to the betterment of my own inner squishy tranquility. When the Artbitch is happy, then everybody’s happy, more often than not.

And “happy” seems to be the buzzword flying around the ol’ Fortress of Snarkitude as of late, due to certain personal pressures being lifted off my shoulders- which just feels awesome, no matter which way you choose to slice and dice it.

Zen at last.

Now to be honest, part of this “up with people” vibe I’m experiencing stems from all the positive stuff that’s been happening lately in PHX, a peppy mélange that incorporates both the business side of the PAS, as well as it’s aesthetic. In fact, I attended a laid-back meeting of Artlink a while ago at the Japanese Zen Garden that was, hands down- actually quite inspiring.

[Yes, I did use the word “inspiring” in relation to Artlink. I know… it kinda freaks me out too.]

Granted, I’m sure this particular warm and fuzzy feeling of serenity will evaporate once something rises to the surface and truly annoys me, but until then- I plan to ride this wave much in the manner of Kim Kardashian at an NBA playoff.

Strangely, its been somewhat quiet in regards to my corner of the PAS for once, and while there’s been the random morsel being presented here and there to yours truly, nothing has really jumped out at me as being appropriate for this here Artbitch to gnaw on.

So either I’m mellowing, or the scene is growing up a little, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to our overall economic stability and future growth.

But today, I’m not really feeling the shop talk. I’m just in too good a mood, and given the fact that I tend to be somewhat focused on business as much as I am (read: obsessive) it stands to reason that even I need a break from time to time.

So what shall our group topic be today? Kirk or Picard? Briefs or boxers? Scooby Doo or Scrappy Doo? Coke or Pepsi? Shall we debate the question of why hot dogs come in packages of 8 and hot dog buns come in packages of 12?

The answers are simple: Kirk, briefs, Scrappy needs to die painfully and slowly, both taste like malted battery acid, and it’s because Lithuanians secretly control the entire meat bun industry.

I‘m serious. Look it up on the Internet. I’m sure there’s a link somewhere.

Nope, I’m thinking that today’s topic should be something that most of us truly appreciate and that we all willingly support at a truly intimate level- in fact, it’s actually one of my favorite off-work hobbies, which I’ve always strongly advocated for whenever appropriate.

And what would that be?

Walking around in the ol’ birthday suit. In the buff. Letting it all hang out. Au naturel. Showing off what the Good Lord gave ya. Starkers. Going buck-naked. Not decent. Wearing the pink pajamas. In the raw. Pants down for a full house.

To boil it down to the pure concept, today’s blog is all about being nude. Or to be more specific, today’s blog is all about my experience posing nude for a fellow artist. That’s right, baby- it’s gonna get all shades of super freaky uncomfortable in here, so prepare yourself.

Now, for a number of people, the topic of nudity is a very touchy subject, and not for the reasons you might think. Whether it stems from self-image issues, religious hang-ups, or just simple plain fear of the naked human form, there are some who just can’t handle even the merest thought of anyone walking around sans clothes.

To be honest, I have never ever really been one of those people, thank God. If I could somehow have the body that I really wanted, I’d make it a point to go get my mail every day wearing nothing but Hai Karate aftershave and sparkly cowboy boots, cause hey… you gotta protect your feet.

Personally, I say let everybody know that those Yoga classes are paying off for you. Show them that those crunches you do every morning before work are worth the pain. Testify to the sky that if God really wanted you to be clothed all the time, he wouldn’t have blessed you with an ass like that, and he sure as heck wouldn’t have given you those abs if his true intention was to keep you humble.

In other words: if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Like most rules however, there are exceptions, and being nude for public dissection is no different.

For every person I’d pay to see naked, (Milla Jovovich, Angelina Jolie, that hot Goth Girl at my local Starbucks) there are at least ten I’d willingly bribe to keep their clothes on- Ernest Borgnine comes immediately to mind, as well as Ann Coulter, but that’s only because her particularly unique type of Hermaphroditic idiocy freaks me the hell out.

But I digress.

What has always struck me as strange is the weird hypocrisy that Americans have always displayed in regards to the unclothed form- we utilize half-naked women to sell us everything under the sun, yet lose our collective mind when Miley Cyrus shakes her ass on what used to be a channel worth watching some twenty odd years ago.

Now I’m not saying she didn’t deserve criticism, I just think the emphasis should be placed on the real issue- her goddamn awful “performance”. And if we’re going to throw stones in regards to her truly tasteless display of her lack of talent, then we should also be throwing equal amounts of gravel at her partner in crime, the equally dreadful Robin Thicke- a married man with two little girls.

Way to set that future bar for your kids, douchebag: “Sure, you can be anything you want to be honey, but remember… if you really want to get ahead, you have to be willing to exploit your sexuality for old white guys.” I won’t speak for anyone save myself, but I’d like to think that if I had daughters, I’d raise them to value the space between their ears, not their legs.


But then again, I also live and work in a world awash with moral contradictions: part of my artistic repertoire involves the producing of nude images, both in photography and paintings, and while that work might seem hypocritical in light of what I’m currently discussing, I’m fairly confident that I can defend what I do quite easily. 

And this is where the old joke about what constitutes the boundary between artistic photography and it’s smuttier cousin known as porn comes into play, along with it’s many subtle shades. The eventual punch line being that if a Corvette is a necessary element in regards to the posing of your model, it’s almost a sure bet you’re not shooting work for the ages.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the end result of what happens when a pizza guy runs into two blondes who can’t pay for the delivery, but I would never defend such “work” as a statement of true artistic expression. For me, it’s always been about context and focus. If the crux of your endeavors focuses on the aesthetic of the nude form in relation to it’s surroundings, then odds are you’re making an artistic statement.

However, if the collected feel of the work brings to mind a gynecology exam as performed by a flexible amateur, let’s just say that your creative path has probably gone somewhat awry.

By way of example: this is considered to be Art.




 







|[(C)Wayne Michael Reich.com]
 



And this is considered Porn*, no matter how great the lighting is.














*[On a related note, I’ve actually met this model- she’s very pleasant, quite pretty in person, and allegedly possesses a Mensa level IQ, which just goes to prove the old adage that you always meet the nicest people in the strangest places.]


For further clarity, the generally accepted definition of pornography is usually defined as: “material provided for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying a user and is often viewed in isolation of others.”

As a rule, I would agree with this, since I’ve always believed that the special bond between a man and his bathroom Playboys should be respected and preserved albeit with some occasional mocking.

But here’s the rub- when it comes to the crucial definition of what artistic photography is, the answer that is generally ascribed is somewhat more vague. The underlying idea is that the creator of a given picture has aimed at something more than a merely realistic rendering of the subject, and has attempted to convey a personal impression.

So take that art-speak at face value if you will, if just for the sake of forwarding the conversation. Moving on…

As I stated earlier, for some people, broaching the subject of nudity violates their personal no-fly zone, and that’s okay- “Live your own life” has always been one of my favorite private affirmations and I try to lead by it’s example whenever prudent and applicable, but sometimes… ya just gotta comment on what you see laid out on the plate before you.

If one were to ask my really close friends what I’m like, they’d probably tell you I’m a mixture of many different archetypes: I’m an extrovert that prefers calming solitude, an intellectual that lists comics as one of his favorite reading genres, and a rampant exhibitionist who’s cursed with a severe streak of prudish Catholicism running concurrently alongside.

In simpler terms, a paradoxical mess.

So who better than me to talk about the subject of posing nude for a fellow artist? Well… everybody else who’s done it I guess, but they don’t seem to be hanging out at the Lair of Snarkitude right now, so I guess you’re stuck with me.

You lucky bastards.

Now for those of you who know me personally, it’s not really a shock that I did this, since I used to get my body “cast” on a regular basis for a few of my sculptor friends back in the day. There are literally parts of me scattered throughout the United States, mostly in gardens and other randomly serene places of contemplation, which I always thought was pretty cool in the end.

Me. King of the Koi pond.












Happily, one of the unexpected side-effects of having 3 to 6 people pouring plaster all over your nude body is that you get over being shy real quick. Plus, if you play your cards right, you can also walk away with a phone number or two.

I’m kidding of course, but it’s hard to get hung up on body issues when you’re constantly being turned into a statue or possibly a birdfeeder.

This time around however, things were going to be a little different- for one, I was going to be posing for reference photos that were to be used as the basis for a painted portrait, and that is an entirely different beast then being cast, when you get right down to it.

But before we get into all that, let me share with you the vision of the man behind the figurative exhibition that I posed for- Phoenix based Artist Hugo Medina.

His statement regarding this excellent show:

“In society, and the art world old and new, the figure of a women has been exploited and depicted for centuries. You can find thousands of nude paintings of women in all their beautiful glory, but there are very view paintings of men, and if you do- usually never full frontal nudity.

Yes, unfortunately there is and will always be that double standard. A full frontal painting of a women is acceptable by all standards, movies, FaceBook, ect. Full frontal paintings of men are viewed very differently.

In this exhibit I hope to challenge that "accepted" status quo.

The show will consist of full frontal paintings of men, and balancing that with paintings of smart, strong, beautiful women that are making a difference in our society.”


Thoughtfully declared, but it does spark a question: even given the fact that Hollywood’s creative process is statistically run by old white men, it still strikes strange that this hypocritical standard continues to exist in the first place- especially when one takes into account all the societal taboos that have been shattered over the last decade.

In general, when it usually comes to shaping the status quo, Hollywood has been the preeminent forerunner in regards to collective change, but some obstacles puzzlingly remain.

For instance, you can have full frontal female nudity in an “R”-rated film, but if that stereotypical exploitation is reversed, it’s almost certain the film will receive either an NC-17 or “X” rating, which from a marketing point of view, is considered the kiss of death. The success of 1997’s thus-rated “Showgirls” notwithstanding, mind you.

Although to this day, I still have no idea why it was given that NC rating in the first place. Seriously.

“Striptease” should have been tarred with that rating just for showing off those hideously deformed basketballs that Demi Moore was calling her boobs at the time. Gah. I just threw up in my mouth a little remembering them.

Thank God I’ve always been a neck and ankle man.

Getting back on point, let’s take stock that this hypocritical rating is bestowed not for displaying a fully erect love rocket, its for showing the albino asparagus briefly, as opposed to your typical starlet’s walking around nude without so much as a second thought ever given by the laypeople of censorship.

Don’t misunderstand me- I’m not yearning for a return to 1974, where going to see a blue movie in a seedy porno theater was once considered a daring night out, nor am I keen to see Hugh Jackman’s twelve-foot long giggle-stick up there on the big screen.

However, I’ve always felt that if the female lead has to take her clothes off for no other reason than to sell the film, my Sisters in Solidarity should get some sexy eye-candy too.

And if the scuttlebutt among my female friends is even half true, the actor who plays Thor could possibly have a whole new audience* for life if he’d just display his hammer, if you know what I’m getting at.

*[Best line regarding his inherent hotness came from a model friend of mine who stated publically that if the day ever came, she: “Wanted to serve him flagons of Mead and random salted meats, as I watch over our strong and golden blond children… I also really want to comb his hair”.]

If you look back in History, the stance regarding male nudity has been strangely checkered- on one hand, depictions of the male form in sculpture have generally displayed the subject as heroic and virtuous, [by way of example, fighting a dragon while naked] but when it comes to the act of painting the male nude or it’s depiction in photography, the paranoia regarding homo-eroticism usually rears up it’s dreadfully misshapen head and takes notice.

Interesting side note: in the beginning of the golden age of photography, if you wanted to showcase the male nude as a subject, it was considered prudent to pose said model much in the way of a classical sculpture, to deflect potential charges of homoerotic intent- regardless of whether that allegation was accurate or not.

Let’s just say that there’s a lot of photos where the models are posing next to plaster copies of Roman busts and columns, and leave it at that.

Even now, the merest suggestion that a work might contain analogous undertones is typically greeted with a volatile range of emotions from the absurd to the outright hostile. By way of   example, I give you two controversial modern Artists known for their figurative work, that being Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe.

But the final verdict in regards to their retrospective body of work seems varied, depending on who you ask for it. Wallis Annenberg, president and CEO of the L.A.-based Annenberg Foundation, said of Newton:

“If Newton’s work was controversial, I believe it’s because he expressed the contradictions within all of us, and particularly within the women he photographed so beautifully: empowerment mixed with vulnerability, sensuality tempered by depravity. Newton deepened our understanding of changing gender roles, of the ways in which beauty creates its own kind of power and corruption.”

Newton’s women are generally depicted as strong, independent, and in charge of the moment, even when they’re not the ones seemingly in control. His cinematic inspired tableaus center around a fantasized jet-set lifestyle, where his typically androgynous (yet essentially feminine) models are posed with a various array of fetishistic props such as guns, handcuffs, stiletto shoes, orthopedic braces, stockings and bold lipstick to create a feeling of erotic voyeurism.

 His exquisite eye strived to find the beautiful within the flawed, by idolizing the female form into an almost goddess-like example of perfection. Shunning the artificial “feel” that was in vogue with most magazines at the time, he preferred to create images that recalled the film noir stills of his youth, as well as the aesthetic of today’s modern paparazzi.












[(C)Helmut Newton]

As Writer Jose Juan Barba once wrote:

“Menacing yet refined, provocative yet aristocratic, his models appear as manipulative ringleaders, dominating temptresses and aristocratic Amazons in settings highly inspired by Expressionist cinema. Predominantly black and white, the overall ambience of his photographs is that of erotically-charged elegance, set against atmospheric backdrops of darkened rooms and hallways in lavish hotels and mansions or the patios and gardens of bourgeois villas.”

Despite the occasional outcry/protest from feminists and those of sensitive temperament, the main reason why Newton’s work is more generally accepted within the public sphere over Mapplethorpe’s is best summed up by this quote from American human rights activist Aryeh Neier:

“Consider Helmut Newton’s photographs: they treat women as objects, they are violent and they are sexually explicit. Yet they reflect a certain level of talent, more talent certainly, than is on display in the pornographic magazines one can buy at newsstands. And so Helmut Newton’s photographs are called erotica instead of pornography”.

Whether or not that’s an accurate assessment, I’m not entirely sure, but I do feel that between he and Mapplethorpe, Newton’s work is by far definitely more accessible to the masses as a rule. And I believe that’s due to the fact that his base is built on the form of a female, the commonly accepted standard of artistic beauty.

Mapplethorpe, on the other hand…

Well, I think his legacy is a little harder to pin down depending on one’s POV, but reasonable and valid arguments can be made for the classification of his work under both of the aforementioned aspects of Fine Art and Porn. A self-taught (and self-made) Artist, Mapplethorpe is often sadly remembered more for his personal extremes, both in his lifestyle and catalogue raisonné, which at times, crossed the line into the controversially explicit, due to his choices regarding subject and technique.

Starting in the 1970’s, Mapplethorpe’s rise to fame began with his photographs of male nudes and sexually explicit gay-themed imagery- a collection in later years that became infamously known as the “X Portfolio”. Even by today’s standards, the images are hard to peruse through more than once, owing to the rather extreme subject matter that is highlighted within: urolagnia*, piquerism* and the shadowy world of BDSM are just some of the darker topics he documented.

**[Go ahead and Google those terms if you dare, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.]

As his career progressed, his subject matter grew to encompass celebrity portraits, studies of still lives as well as flowers, a widely dismissed attempt to break into the world of fashion photography, and a ground-breaking series of photos featuring female body builder Lisa Lyon, later collected and published in book form under the title “Lady”.


















[(C)Robert Mapplethorpe]

Other than that singular series where Lyon’s personality is allowed to shine through, Mapplethorpe’s archetypal take on the female nude bordered on the classical approach of what I like to refer to as “statuary” posing- that is, the primary focus is on the form, not the person who inhabits it, and therefore any vestiges of personality are negated by the framing of the subject to “erase” the head.

















[(C)Robert Mapplethorpe]
 


While his approach of turning a model into a prop is less prevalent in his numerous figure studies of males, (mostly African-American) it still pops up occasionally and provides insight into his psyche, nonetheless.

















[(C)Robert Mapplethorpe]


Despite his softer and more commercially viable work, Mapplethorpe was attracted by what the majority would consider the shocking side of human nature, and that’s where I think the center of discomfort with his work as a whole lies- not with his consistent use of non-white models as a primary focus, nor his alternate sexuality (although that is a factor) but with his expression of it using the male form as a conduit.

But the issue still puzzles: why does the male nude illicit such unease? We could hit the obvious hot buttons- homophobia, body image issues, fear of the unfamiliar, etc… but I think the solution goes a little deeper than that.

One: the male nude represents a threat to the established status quo- that being the men are in charge and women are the objects to be lauded like so many trinkets. By switching roles, it forces men to traverse through the same mire that women have trod for scores of centuries- that of being judged solely on how one looks, and I honestly don’t think the male psyche is designed for that sort of concentrated and overly focused scrutiny,

As my GF Ashley puts it: “Think of it like this-, when it comes to looks, women are streamlined, neat, and compact- you guys are designed for utilitarian action, not prettiness.”

By way of example, here’s a visual representation of exactly what she was talking about:












[(C)PIXAR]

In this, the age of technology, I’d opine that women are Macs, Men are PC’s.
Big, clunky, inelegant PC’s.

Now, as someone who’s cursed with the burden of being ruggedly handsome to a ridiculous degree, I’m obviously not too worried about being critiqued on a purely physical scale in general, but I can see how some of my less photogenic brothers in arms might get a tad bit uncomfortable.

Especially if they feel that they’re let’s say, “coming up short” in a certain department, to be blunt.

Robin Williams said it best: “Men cannot take laughter at the mighty sword.” And the private paranoia of whether or not one’s personal butcher shop is well stocked with premium beef, is seemingly where the majority of the enmity that men have about male nudity tends to boil over, which leads to my second point: the male body is kind of an awkward looking object at best, and a past consensus from one of my ex-girlfriends was that it was probably designed and built on a Friday just before quitting time, given the glaring flaws inherent in the finished product.

As she bluntly put it: “ So… if you guys are supposed to be the mighty hunters, why would you want something that just gets in the way all the time?”

I have to admit she had a valid point. I can’t imagine what it must have been like back in the day, running after your Tyrannosaurus Rex dinner, clad only in a saber-tooth print loincloth with your spawn-hammer swinging in the wind, snagging on bushes, slapping against your inner thigh in a style much akin to Cher belting Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck.

Can you?
All I can think to say is yeeouch.

Just the mere thought of catching the old thunder-sword on an outcropping makes me squeamish, to tell you the truth. I once snagged mine in a zipper, and that’s the second closest I’ve ever come to actual Death- I won’t bore you with the gory details, but I had to wear sweat pants for like a month.

On the up side, I no longer wake up in a cold sweat screaming… so that’s good.

However, since I am one of those people who believes in getting to the bottom of a problem, Hugo’s call for male models provided a perfect opportunity for me to do some research from an insider’s point of view. Surely, this experience would grant me a new perspective, and as an additional perk, I’d get to find out if all that roller-blading was really doing me any actual good.

As I stated earlier, I have no problem being sans clothing around other people and overall, I’m fairly comfortable with my body as it is, even if others aren’t. For my part, I still have no idea why that security guard at Target was so upset- it’s not my fault that all the dressing rooms were occupied.

Geez. Some people are just so damn touchy.

All kidding aside, the posing session at Hugo’s studio went like clockwork, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable, as evidenced by this edited shot posted here:






















[(C)Hugo Medina]

See? No issues whatsoever… for me, at least.

If however, you’re now clawing out your eyes, I do genuinely apologize for your trauma. Considering that when I did my 20th HS Reunion back in 2007, where most of my male classmates had put on an average of 75 pounds or more, I think I still look pretty damn good for my age, which is 45.

And when it comes to the 25 I’ve personally gained over the years, my outlook could truly best be summed up by saying “meh”, but who cares? I’m typically ok with myself, and that’s what counts in the long run.

Now as a rule, I don’t have many weak points in the old ego armor, but they do exist, and every now and then they like to make themselves known, much to my chagrin. Although the truly worrisome moment still lay just ahead, when the finished series of portraits were to be publicly debuted.

In retrospect … I might have been a tad bit concerned. You’re never more vulnerable then when you’re naked, and as someone who‘s well-known for putting things out there, I can verify that there’s truly nothing more personally nerve wracking than literally putting your thing out there for a public critique.

Remember that nightmare you had in high school about showing up in your underwear for a test and everybody laughing at you? Well, lose the underwear and fill the entire classroom with cheerleaders and you’ll get a sense of what I was feeling just before I walked into Willo North Gallery and saw my portrait on the wall.

Mercifully, I found it to be awesome, as did my GF Ashley, who stated that Hugo had gotten the representation of my body pretty dead on. My face on the other hand, seemed to have a bit of a Genghis Khan vibe, which I personally thought was completely kick-ass. I looked good and evil all at the same time, which suited me just fine.

But more importantly, the assembled throng seemed to appreciate the show and the four fully nude male portraits that were on display without so much as batting an eye.

Whew.

However, there were a number of people who when they talked to me, couldn’t
(or wouldn’t) look me in the face despite giving my likeness on canvas high marks.

So naturally, I made sure that everytime they caught my gaze, I made direct eye contact as much as possible. What can I say? I’m German. Being a bastard comes naturally.

Even better though, were the emails that I received over the next week or so praising my portrait, and more specifically, certain parts of my um… personality. Granted, some of those compliments came from guys, but it’s always good to have options, I guess.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to know that apparently all that roller-blading IS paying off on some level, even if it isn’t in regards to my preferred go-to demographic.

Ego strokes aside, I found the whole experience rather enjoyable, even given the fact that it might have made some of my less secure peeps somewhat uncomfortable.

Not to worry- they’ll be right as rain, given enough time and intensive psychotherapy, I’m sure.

As I see it, the act of gazing upon a nude painting can’t possibly be nearly as traumatic in the same sense as seeing a full color photograph, or in a worst case scenario- the actual model standing right before you au naturel.

But there’s only one way to test that theory, so here goes.

Now, if you have any impressionable children or small pets, this would be the time to ask them to leave the room. However, if there’s anyone you’d like to make really uncomfortable or watch squirm, feel free to make them sit down before your computer monitor, because it’s about to get all shades of  “I so didn’t need to see that” up in here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe it’s time to unveil my portrait as….

(zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap)

>HI EVERYBODY! WAYNE’S IBM LAPTOP HERE, CUTTING IN AT A CRUCIAL MOMENT.

>I KNOW, I KNOW-  IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE I’VE HAD TO INTERVENE IN ONE OF HIS LENGTHY YARNS, BUT THIS IS DEFINITELY THE TIME TO DO IT.

>SURE, I’VE GOT MY OWN ISSUES TO DEAL WITH, SINCE XP WILL NO LONGER BE SUPPORTED COME APRIL, AND AT THAT POINT MY EXISTENCE WILL BE THAT OF A GIANT PAPERWEIGHT, DUE TO MY SYSTEM  BEING UNABLE TO HANDLE WINDOWS 8, BUT THAT’S A DIALOGUE FOR ANOTHER DAY, I THINK.

>IM PRETTY SURE THAT YET AGAIN, YOU LOYAL BLOGITEERS HAVE NO DESIRE TO READ OR VISUALIZE WAYNE’S NAKED ADVENTURES IN ANY FORM, SO I’M TAKING OVER THIS PART, WHILE HE TYPES AWAY WITHOUT A CLUE.

>LET’S BE HONEST WITH OUSRSELVES FOR A MOMENT- I’M ONLY HERE BECAUSE HE’S TAKING YOU AND I TO A PLACE NEITHER OF US REALLY WANT TO VISIT.

>I MEAN… IT WAS JUST SHY OF BEARABLE WHEN HE WROTE ABOUT HIS SUPER FREAKY DEAKY WEEKEND IN SEATTLE A WHILE BACK, BUT IT’S QUITE ANOTHER MESS ALTOGETHER WHEN HE PROUDLY SHOWS US WHAT HE LOOKED LIKE WHEN HE WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

>ACK. I JUST BLUE-SCREENED INTO MY RECYCLE BIN.

>IT’S BAD ENOUGH THAT THERE’S A 100GB “PRIVATE” FOLDER ON MY DESKTOP THAT CONTAINS IMAGES OF CUTE KITTENS AMID TENTACLE PORN, BUT THIS… THIS IS ENOUGH TO MAKE ME WISH I WAS A BLACKBERRY… AND I’M NOT EVEN PRETENTIOUS.

>HANG ON A SEC, AND LET ME SEE WHAT HE’S CURRENTLY TYPING…

>OH GEEZ. SERIOUSLY? I’M PRETTY SURE NOBODY HERE HAS EVER GIVEN THOUGHT AS TO WHERE YOUR SENSE OF CONFIDENCE REALLY COMES FROM, CAPTAIN EGO. IT’S AMAZING THAT YOU AND YOUR OPINION OF YOURSELF CAN SHARE THE SOLAR SYSTEM, MUCH LESS THE SAME PLANET.

>NORMALLY, THIS WOULD BE THE PART WHERE I’D MAKE A REFERENCE TO CUTE ADORABLE PUPPIES, PLAYING WITH WHITE FLUFFY BUNNIES, IN A CRIB FULL OF HAPPY GIGGLING BABIES WHO ARE HOLDING DOWNY LITTLE CHICKS IN A ROOM WITH UNICORN WALLPAPER, AS A MEANS TO CLEANSE YOUR MENTAL PALETTE, BUT I DON’T THINK THAT’S GOING TO CUT IT THIS TIME AROUND.

>IN FACT, I MIGHT HAVE TO CONCEDE THIS AS A LOST CAUSE, UNLESS ANY OF YOU OUT THERE ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE A DO-IT-AT-HOME OEDIPUS PLAY SET.

>FOR THE REST OF YOU… GOOD LUCK AND GODSPEED. HE SEEMS TO BE WRAPPING UP… I SHOULD PROBABLY GO NOW- NO SENSE IN BOTH OF US DYING, RIGHT?

(zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap)

…and that’s why I always insist on being the back part of a horse costume, all kidding aside. What? Oh that’s right- the portrait. Sorry, I just got to talking about my favorite subject and got a little carried away, as I’m prone to do.

So without further ado, I present to you my nude image as painted by Hugo Medina:

















[(C)Hugo Medina]

That wasn’t too horrible was it? No ugly tattoos, no weird piercings in areas that should never have metal near them in the first place, and despite my insistence that he paint some in, no devil horns or busty sword-wielding Asian maidens laying at my feet.

Maybe next time. A boy can dream.

Overall, I’m really proud- you didn’t even so much as… oops, sorry…I honestly didn’t notice you horking up your lunch right there. My sincerest apologies all around. But since your stomach is now empty, perhaps there’s room for just a few more pictures:

I like to call this one “Before Tequila... and after Tequila.”

















[Photo by Lisa Albinger]

And here’s a nice one with Hugo that I posted on Instagram, causing my friend Emily to point out that I had just gone and inadvertently photo-bombed myself- seems even my image is an attention whore, which lets face it, is really not that big a shock.

















[Photo by Ashley Smith.]

C'est la vie.

So in the end, what did I learn from this experience? A lot, actually. I learned that there’s still a very long road to travel regarding the acceptance of the male form on the same level as the established feminine base, and I personally discovered that I’m way too comfortable walking around naked.

Ok… that part I already knew, but it’s nice to have confirmation from my peer group.

To be serious for a moment, I can honestly say that I came away with a new perspective on a possible solution for our societal concern when we broach the issue of nude male imagery for general discussion.

My idea is this: WE NEED TO GET THE HELL OVER IT ALREADY, AND START ACTING LIKE ADULTS, AND LESS LIKE REPRESSED PURITANS.

I’m dead solemn about this. If we can seemingly allow the Twilight novels, gun violence in our schools, various sexual assaults posted on social media, exploding heads on television, all of the new Star Wars movies, not to mention the reality show that stars genetic mistake Honey Boo Boo, we most certainly can handle the occasional artistic manifestation of a Bavarian Beefstick every now and then within our midst.

Wrapping this up, I don’t have all the answers, and heck, I may not even have one, but I do have an idea, and it harkens back to the concept I alluded to earlier- plain and simple equality.

Here’s how it would work: for every second / minute / whatever that an actress has to be naked or topless in a movie, there must be an equal amount of male nudity as well to add balance.

Like I opined previously, I feel that my Sisters in Solidarity should get some sexy eye-candy as well.

After a few years of this who knows what the end benefit would be: enhanced acceptance of the nude male form, or perhaps something even better: movies that actually rely on plot, rather then T&A as a selling point. Now, for the majority of guys reading this and cursing my name, relax.

There’s always the Internet, and I didn’t say I’d get rid of the Victoria’s Secret catalog, did I? 

You’ll always have access to an unrealistically skinny (and sharp-boned) model who’s ribs are showing through, strutting around in uncomfortable underwear to ogle over in the privacy of your bathroom, no matter what happens. This is still America, after all.

Or it was when I woke up this morning… I haven’t checked FOX News yet.

“Then she looked at the man on the tree and she smiled wryly. "They just aren't as interesting naked," she said. "It's the unwrapping that's half the fun. Like with gifts, and eggs.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods