Within a few short weeks, fast-talking event producer Forest Williams had elicited the interest of Howard Stern, Hustler magazine, Playboy Channel's Sexcetera, and MSNBC, but being a local boy based out of Santa Rosa, Williams was happy to have me along for the ride. "Nothing like this has ever been done before," he said amid a stream of perfected soundbites. "The event will be Webcast live. With amateur women, just like you, competing for $1 million and a two-year modeling contract. The mainstream porn industry is against me. They said it couldn't be done without their support, but I've proved them wrong. You'll see.
"It's high noon and bright. Not the ideal time to be skulking around outside the Power Exchange sex club, but there I am, standing on the street with a small group of men anxious to participate, but not too anxious to make eye contact. Williams is late. The women have already arrived: 37-year-old Libra, a manicurist from Las Vegas, on the arm of her husband of 11 years; 29-year-old Hot Chocolate, a medical office administrator and mother of two originally from Jamaica but now living in Petaluma, accompanied by her boyfriend; and 42-year-old Raini, a waitress from Chicago who claims to be something of a homebody when she's not celebrating her birthday by having sex with 20 men at once. Two other women have already dropped out of the race, a decision the other competitors can appreciate.
"I haven't told my family yet," says Libra, a Taurus who enjoys rock 'n' roll clubs, Fabio, the color purple, and anything written by Stephen King.
"But my parents will probably find out pretty soon," Libra laughs. "If I win the money, which I plan to, I'm going to give them a good chunk. I'm pretty sure they'll accept it. We're all adults."
But money isn't Libra's central focus. She has long-standing gangbang fantasies that she has played out on a small scale back home in Sin City; she and her husband are active swingers; as a hobby, she performs as a cyberhostess for an online sex site; and she has been actively training for this event with men of varying length and girth, all friends of her husband.
"It's about seeing my wife happy," says Libra's husband, Leroy Brown, a diminutive cowboy with a firm-set jaw, a colossal black cowboy hat, and a large leather belt with a notch for every year he and Libra have been wed. "I enjoy watching my wife light up, getting all giggly and excited when she's got a new cutie in front of her. Our marriage isn't a contractual obligation. It's based on freedom and love. And I love to see her happy. I'm just here to make sure she's safe and cared for."
Libra's eyes fill with tears as she curls into her husband's arm, giving him a shy, intimate peck on the cheek that makes me feel more like an interloper than if she had dropped to her knees.
"This is fun, " Libra says, wiping away the curly blond hair that has stuck to the tear on her cheek, "but my husband is my life."
For Hot Chocolate, a slender ebony beauty who enjoys cooking for her children and reading books by Maya Angelou, the contest is strictly about money. Though Chocolate has posed nude for Forest Williams' Web site, her sexual relationship with her handsome live-in boyfriend, Mario Tolls, is pretty traditional.
"He's a nympho," laughs Chocolate. "We like sex a lot, but it took us a couple of months to decide to do this. He'll be doing my lubrication through the whole contest. If I win, I want to buy my mother, who still lives in Jamaica, a car and stuff. I worry that she'll find out about this, but she lives in a different country, so she probably won't."
Raini has no such worries about her family: She hasn't had contact with them in quite a while. They don't approve of her lifestyle as a woman. Which includes reading Shakespeare, watching Casablanca, and taking part in orgies when she can. "Whether I win or lose, only a few people have had the opportunity to have this kind of experience. And I'm really eager to add my name to that list," she says. "To test my limits, live out my fantasy, and have this experience. I'm really excited."
Williams arrives, wearing an unflattering beige suit and a ponytail, and hustles the contestants and the media into a medieval banquet room for questions. Totally in his element under bright lights and microphones, Williams is a low-budget combination of Larry Flynt and P.T. Barnum, all smoke and mirrors and smut.
"These are my girls!" he says with satisfaction. "And who am I?"
"The king," answer the girls with ill-rehearsed conviction.
"And who is Forest Williams?" asks a Hustler reporter.
"A jack of all trades: I've been a taxicab driver, a dishwasher, and everything else. I've mopped out peep show booths ... I like to think of myself as the only honest person in the porn business. This is a promotional event. This is not real life. And, unlike other people who have held events like this in the past, I'm willing to give away the secrets." Among them: "having sex" does not mean the men will ejaculate; they will be on a two-minute time limit. And gangbangs never include the full number of men advertised. Forest expects around 150. About 20 have shown up. They sit in the well-lit game room surrounded by a '50s motif, reading over finely printed model release forms. Still images and video is where Williams expects to make most of his money. Even if no spectators show up to pay the $50 door charge, the interview on Howard Stern will, according to Williams, make everyone rich from video sales, though "everyone" is an easily recognized euphemism; the women have yet to finalize details regarding the video. But Williams promises that each of the women will be a shareholder in the new movie company he is forming, which will be owned and operated by the talent. As for other promises ...