"Many people consider fetish to be wearing leather, latex and rubber outfits, or something basic like that--but fetish is much more than a costume," says Jamie Goldberg, one of the men behind "Whip It II: The Ritual," a fetish party that's returning to Rock Island for its second year. "It's an attitude. It's any kind of ritualistic behavior that people do to excite themselves. Many things can be a fetish: piercings, tattoos, fifty-year old men being attracted exclusively to college girls, transvestism, feather dusters--whatever. It can be tying people up, wrapping them in plastic, dripping candle wax on their skin. Everyone is constantly thinking about sex whether they admit it or not, and fetish represents the sexual expression of people who have experienced the meat and potatoes."
The original "Whip It," put on by Goldberg (previously best-known for the fashion shows he staged at the late, lamented nightclub america) and his mentor, William Logan, proved that there are many folks in Denver who fit this description; the bash was among the most successful, and most talked about, events in an area nightclub last year. The initial concept came to Logan after a trip to Europe. "It seemed like Denver nightlife was being taken over by sports bars and other mainstream activities," he notes. "And since Rock Island is Denver's alternative club, we thought we would give this a try." He adds, with obvious promotional fervor, "'Whip It' falls into step so well with the current state of American entertainment culture. It's underground, it's fashion-conscious, it's sexual, it's about doing your own thing. This kind of party gives people the freedom to do things they only fantasize about. When a woman or a man dresses up in a fetishistic fashion and goes out to a club, they are making themselves alluring and exotic--something we all fantasize about being. It's a kind of sexual foreplay in the public sphere.
"People like to watch other people," Goldberg elaborates. "I mean, who wouldn't pay good money to be part of an event like this?"
The answer to that question is still pending--but there's no doubt that those patrons who choose to attend will find an environment far different from that of the standard LoDo beer hall. Goldberg overflows with excitement as he hypes the details.
"We're going to redecorate Rock Island with loads of fetish-related art and installations," he pledges. "The design will center around creating more of a feeling and a vibe than a particular look. The entire staff of the club will be appropriately dressed, and some of them will circulate in the crowd in fetish gear while serving shots. There will be a red-light district in the basement, which borrows its visual theme from Amsterdam's famous prostitute quarter. It will put everyone into an entirely altered state of mind." Also on site will be spanking and dominatrix booths for those who believe in hands-on participation. In touting the latter feature, Goldberg makes it sound like a breakthrough in women's liberation: According to him, "Being a dominatrix is all about putting a woman in charge of a sexual situation instead of a man."
For those who like to blend bondage and discipline with voyeurism, Uzi and CJ's Leathers, two of Denver's primary leather outlets, will present fashion shows. "I think it's always important to showcase a couple of local stores and a couple of local designers at an event like this, because it gives these people and their products some exposure in the city," Goldberg insists. "Mari [Gustafson] from Uzi will be putting on a presentation that is sure to expand everyone's horizons, and Jen Hefner, from the defunct Sugar Daddy outlet, will provide some designs. She makes clothing for many of the local strippers, all of which can be taken off the body with one pull of a string--which is no easy feat. She also creates a lot of the club wear: clear latex, vinyl and plastic numbers that are very popular in the dance scene."
Many of these duds will be worn by area models who'll rub shoulders (and perhaps other things) with the crowd when not on the runway; a local clone of Betty Page, who remains the world's most famous fetish pin-up girl even though she's been dead for years, is just one of the head-turners who's promised to attend. Back in his america days, Goldberg concedes, some models balked at the garb he wanted them to don: He's heard more than his share of "I'm not wearing that on stage" comments. But he claims that these protests are usually retracted by the evening's end. "After last year's party, everyone was saying, 'Thank you for letting me do this!' The models were walking around with chain-mail outfits and whips and really getting excited by all of it. I think there is an initial fear of exposure on their part, but then that passes and they enjoy themselves. They express sides of themselves they didn't know were there."
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Such expressions have the potential of rousing the ire of the local police--and while the only handcuffs used at the original "Whip It" were the property of kinky attendees, Goldberg remains cautious. "When you throw a party like this, you attract the attention of law enforcement types, so we really have to keep on eye on things that might cross the boundary of legality," he confirms. "For instance, it's illegal in the state of Colorado to perform simulated sex acts in a bar: Two people grinding together on the dance floor is against the law. And patrons cannot take off their clothes in a bar unless it is a strip club. Let's say you have a swimsuit on underneath your clothes and you took your clothes off. Even though it's something you see at every neighborhood YMCA swimming pool, it would be considered stripping, and you would be subject to an arrest or a fine."
By these standards, simply miming the steps of the dancers in the film Dirty Dancing would result in a quick trip to jail. As a result, Goldberg admits that "we do push the envelope as far as we can. But we don't work outside the law. We work within its parameters."
Even so, "Whip It II: The Ritual" is salacious by its very nature: How could it not be when the party favors are being provided by Kitty's adult emporiums? But Goldberg is confident that the attendees will be aroused rather than offended. "I truly believe that the fetish scene here is much larger than people realize--and I think half of it happens in the suburbs," he asserts. "Obviously, you won't find a librarian walking up and down Broadway wearing a tinseled bustier or an executive with nothing but leather chaps on in the Park Meadows mall. But that's what 'Whip It' is here for. We give these people an idea of what the fetish community is without getting into too many of the sticky details. We'll show these partygoers what they can do without necessarily telling them how to do it. If you know what I mean."
Whip It II: The Ritual. 9 p.m. Friday, June 27, Rock Island, 1614 15th Street, 572-7625.