On the fringes of Little Korea, in a windowless fourth-floor loft, a toupeed man moans as he tries to swallow a young woman’s perfumed, perfectly manicured foot. Next to him, a slick, suited American Psycho wannabe is getting kicked in the face by a living, breathing Vargas pinup. Then there’s me: sipping a Rolling Rock and making small talk with a svelte 22-year-old who went to York Prep and says I can massage her feet for “only” twenty bucks. Should I desire to be spit on or stomped on or “smothered completely”—well, she adds coyly, that’ll be extra.
MISTRESS SAMANTHA’S FOOT WORSHIP PARTY, read the invitation. THE TASTIEST TOES IN TOWN. Forty foot models; $60 cover. Complain about the city’s neo-puritanical, post-Giuliani incarnation all you want; the fact is, New York is still jumping with more nocturnal transgressive action than any other city in America. On any given night, someone’s getting spanked over at Paddles on 26th, or couple-swapping at Le Trapeze, or hoovering low-grade cocaine at a joint in Brooklyn I’d get beat down for naming here. Hence tonight’s noble experiment: to dig deep, search out, get lost, get found—all in the name of celebrating the unhinged underbelly that is New York at night.
Looking to annihilate lingering inhibitions, I down three more beers and introduce myself to a doe-eyed waif in a stylish periwinkle dress. “My name’s Carla,” she lies. “And my specialty is wrestling.” Wrestling? “Hell, yeah! Guys are freaks for it. Costs $300. They like for me to squeeze their neck with my thighs till they pass out. Just got finished with a guy who works for Maxim. Want a demonstration?”
Suddenly, Carla’s got me by the hand, leading me into a tiny room in which a miniature wrestling ring has been erected. With one swift, practiced gesture, Carla lifts her dress over her head and flings it into a corner. Then—thwack!—I’m pinned to the mat, asphyxiated by two viselike thighs that, a moment ago, seemed so delicate and harmless. Afterward, Carla gives me the name of a Website where “you can order me whenever you want,” and I head into the cold night warmed by thoughts of our future together.
But where to? A friend I used to think of as respectable had tipped me off to a “naked party” at Columbia University. A cab ride later and I’m naked in a dorm room surrounded by 50 bare-skinned coeds. As someone who does not spend much time naked unless there is a specific end goal (personal hygiene, private high jinks), it takes me a moment to adjust to the scene. The code of the naked party, it appears, is to pretend you are not naked: Joints are smoked, beef jerky eaten, Machiavelli papers bitched about, exposed genitals ignored. Sort of. Carla Bloomberg, the 21-year-old junior with unshaved legs who is responsible for the party, tells me quite seriously that tonight is not about sex. “Clothes,” she says, “are the shackles of governmental . . . ” But as soon as she’s finished with her speech, she wanders off to climb giddily into bed with another girl.
If you’ve spent the past hour in your birthday suit among strangers, it’s best to acclimate gradually back into the clothed world. So my next stop is Scores on the West Side. Of course, after a foot-fetish event and a naked party, Scores reveals itself to be the desperate, corporatized, R-rated Disneyland it is. After an overpriced, uninspired lap dance, I head to Florent for a burger. It’s nearing six in the morning. Everyone inside is blotto, all of us joined by the wink-and-a-smile bond that comes from living in a place where responsible adults can double, at night, as juvenile hellions. Every stranger looks like a close friend. When I spot the actor Taye Diggs sitting at a nearby table, I make my way over and say hello, as if we know each other. He tells me he’s been out all night on an “urban scavenger hunt.” As I tell him about my adventure, he grins and nods approvingly. The guy’s a New Yorker. He knows what it’s all about.