There's something for everyone in here," Bill assured me, placing his small treasure chest on the bar and opening it carefully. I was skeptical. Bill was an older gent, though it was hard to tell — he wore a black mask over his face, a pirate's skull-and-crossbones bandanna on his head, and a Scottish kilt on his hips. A leash hung from the collar around his neck, and various whips and paddles dangled from his wrists and arms. He fished around in the chest and pulled out a small packet of clothespins.
"These can be fastened to the body," he said in a grandfatherly, explanatory tone. "Sometimes, by the end of the night, ladies will have covered me in clothespins completely. I already have a few attached."
He gave a jovial laugh and nodded toward the leash in his hand, which seemed to be leading to something under the folds of his kilt. "Wanna see?"
Entrance: Club X-It is a dark, smoky, sex den full of freaks, fetishists, and the people who love them. I was greeted at the door by a billowing cloud of steam (presumably dry-ice-induced) and Joseph, the self-proclaimed "big boss" of the whole ElectroLust (the group that organizes the once-a-month fetish parties at Club X-It) party scene. With his tall, black top hat, ruffled shirt, shoulder-length black hair, and jacket, he was little reminiscent of an exotically alluring Jack the Ripper. That is, if Jack the Ripper served as a ringmaster for sexy theme parties at mysterious, vision-unfriendly nightclubs.
"Usually I'm in latex," Joseph said with a dismissive wave of the hand when I complimented his outfit. "Tonight, however, is Steampunk'd night."
"What the hell is 'steampunk,' anyway?" I asked, hoping to spin my vague notions into a more concrete understanding.
"Imagine that the combustion engine was never invented," Joseph said fancifully. "Everyone dresses like they're in the 1800s." Just then, a curvaceous lady clad in latex called him over, and he was whisked off deeper into the dark nightclub.
Ambiance: The walls were stone-colored and decorated with old-world accents, such as beautiful stained-glass-style paintings and clusters of mirrors. The bar was long, with gilded edges and carved lion's heads. Across from it, the dance floor sparkled with movement and red flashing lights. Electronica and industrial music pounded through the club, and the minimally clad dancers looked like ghostly apparitions as their bodies were illuminated by a sputtering strobe light. A girl with Technicolor pigtails, who was dressed in just a thong and black tape over her nipples, made out with another girl in a long dress. Three lean, toned young men whipped around glow sticks that left gleaming trails of light behind them as they soared through the inky darkness.
Women with both bare asses and full-length skirts whooped it up on the dance floor. Of the men in attendance, some wore what Joseph called "ruffley things"; others donned hot pants. Among both sexes, tattoos, fishnet stockings, chains, and facial piercings ruled the night. Basically, most people in attendance looked like they'd walked off the Suicide Girls homepage. Or had recently masturbated to it.
Characters: Leo, who was slight and dressed in street clothes, pointed at a tall, muscular guy wearing black angel wings, black boxer-briefs, and giant, fuzzy boots. "I call those dumb-bitch shoes," he said. "No offense to women, but it's Florida. Who needs those?"
"That's a man," I pointed out. "And he's not wearing much else."
"Well, I guess he can get away with it," Leo said, laughing. "They kind of go with his angel — or demon? — wings."
The visuals on display were so mesmerizing that people-watching could be considered a team sport. I caught sight of an elderly gentleman, tall and paunchy, being led through the crowd. "Who's that guy?" I asked. He was blindfolded, and his hands were bound behind his back. Somehow, a leash was connected to the front of his thong underwear, and a middle-aged woman was pulling him around by the balls.
"Oh, that guy," Leo said, laughing. "He's at every single one of these parties. Once, I talked to him; he's a pretty nice guy."
I asked if Leo knew his name. He smiled wryly and paused for effect. "James Bondage."
Patrons: I know you're dying to know, so... yes, Bill did show me his balls. At least, I think he did — the place was rather dark and smoky.
In any case, they were, as you might have guessed, adorned with clothespins, which were attached to the leash he was holding.
"Now," he said warmly, dropping his kilt and placing a hand on my shoulder. "Are you more submissive or dominant?"
"I—" I began, but suddenly became acutely aware of a pleasant, kneading feeling on my shoulder. "What the hell?"
"That's my massage glove," he said, lifting his black glove. "You should mention it in your article; it's rather amazing."
I did not disagree.
"Would you like to try some spankings?" he asked. "If you're uncomfortable with spankings, you might be a little more of a dominant person. Then, you can give spankings."
"I'll stick with the massage glove," I said. I liked Bill. He was rather up-front and impeccably polite for a bondage-treasure-chest-toting pirate.
"Well, let me know if you change your mind," he said. "There's something to be said for experimental journalism."
I popped into a room titled "The Tavern" to linger by a wooden booth and watch the band play — it was made up of a cast of freakish, clown-looking characters who actually seemed rather talented. Then I popped out, passed back across the dance floor, and watched a beautiful, bare-chested gentleman swing whips at a pigtailed dancer's ass. Pigtails' small, pert body was bent over something that looked like a medieval torture device, and she screamed as his whips hit her pale skin relentlessly. Then Joseph brought over the young man with the black angel wings, and Pigtails enthusiastically jumped up, grabbed the whips, and beckoned him. Equal-opportunity beatings!
Steampunk: Bella Skyy wore garish clown makeup but had the kind of face that could render it artistic and elegant. She had kinky hair and wore white tights and a skirt. She worked for ElectroLust as a talent coordinator, finding and hiring dancers willing to place electrical tape over their nips and shake their asses for a few hours.
"My eyelash is falling out," she complained. Her huge, false eyelashes weren't cooperating.
"Why do you dress like that?" I asked.
"To stand out," she said simply. "Though, I will say, New Times ran a calendar item and featured me, in my clown makeup, in the paper. One of my coworkers at Outback Steakhouse told me they saw it. It was more exposure than I'm used to but pretty cool."
I laughed. I asked if she could explain steampunk as she understood it.
She contemplated. "It has to do with the 1800s, and videogames..."
Suddenly, she stopped and pointed.
"That! She is steampunk. That girl." She was pointing to a slight, dark-haired young girl who wore a long dress, black leather boots, a top hat, and a gas mask. A pair of goggles sat perched on her forehead.
Well, good enough. I'd gotten some clarification, seen enough balls, boobs, and butts to last a lifetime, and hung with some of the freakiest — and most gorgeous — folks in South Florida.
On my way out to my car, a young man, casually dressed in jeans and a long T-shirt, approached me.
"I was driving by and saw this club," he said. "Is it cool?"
"Yeah," I said. "People are spanking each other, everyone's in latex, and a guy has clothespins on his balls."
"What?!" he stopped in his tracks. He seemed to think I was kidding.
"They're all really nice," I said. "It's not as scary as it sounds." And it was true — a few clothespins never really hurt anyone.