In a deserted alleyway cluttered, tonight, with dripping dumpsters and sidewalk-straddling automobiles, the entrance of the CoCo Club glows faintly. From the street, there is no indication of lascivious mirth or lustful debauchery, no overloud laughter, heated entreaties, or accentuated bass, just a ponderous metal door and a simple sign. But just inside the door, at the top of a steep, narrow staircase surrounded by sanguine walls, the felicity becomes clear: Heat, music, smoke, squeals of gaiety, and the rhythmic clinking of cocktail glasses rise from the unseen basement level. Following the stairwell to the left, the newly arrived guest finds herself overlooking the nightclub's denizens, just as they are able to look her over, as she descends into the intimate tumult. The crowd is eye-catching, an evocative mix of women dressed in corsets, lace, men's suits, work boots, miniskirts, baggy pants, and Army shirts, all meticulously selected and arranged. It is easy to imagine, within this old speak-easy setting, a time when such gatherings might have offered a clandestine thrill, but the excitement is anything but covert.
"I want sex," says 23-year-old Elly Keigler, "not cuddling or petting cats -- real sex. I want to be in a place where people respect their bodies, and their lust. That's why I'm at 'In Bed With Fairy Butch.'"
"In Bed With Fairy Butch" is a biweekly erotic cabaret where women of any inclination -- butch, femme, andro, top, bottom, switch, lesbian, dyke, bi, transgender, soft butch, girly-girl, bulldagger, tomboy femme, bi transsensual domme, boy bottom, dyke daddy, granola femme -- are welcome. (Men must be escorted, except during the near-monthly co-ed shows.) Fairy Butch is Karlyn Lotney, a delightful, burly bulldagger, with a queen's wit, a Jewish mother's heart, and the homespun habit of calling everyone "sugar." Since coming out of the closet in 1982, in Dayton, Ohio, at the tender age of 16, Lotney has become the savvy confidante and shameless inspiration for dykes across the country: first with her sex advice column "Ask Fairy Butch," which has run in Curve, Creampuff, and On Our Backs; then with her hands-on sex seminars -- "Chicks With Dicks," "Dyke Sex: Nuts and Bolts," "Dyke Sex: Powertools," "Romancing the Stone: What Does Stone Butch Really Want (In Bed)," and "Fairy Butch's Dyke Sex Tips for Straight Men" -- which help with everything from "clitpumping" to oral gratification to advanced use of strap-ons; and finally with her notorious club night, where girls strip for girls and anything goes so long as everyone leaves happy.
"Women are not taught to pursue sex in our society," explains Lotney. "But pursuing sex is more than occupying a place of power; it is also relinquishing a place of power as the object of sexual desire. It's more complicated than people think, and that's the economy most dykes are engaged in. We try to break down those taboos a little here."
From the eager eyes and fistfuls of dollars surrounding the tiny stage, taboos seem a scarce commodity. Still, as a relaxed, no-nonsense andro takes a seat in the front row, she wedges the cocktail tables together in front of her, citing the small gap as a sure lap-dancing concourse. Then, Fairy Butch and former student and co-host LaTricia Ransom take the stage. The crowd erupts and pushes closer to the stage, raising the temperature markedly. Ransom and Fairy Butch chat for a minute like old friends over coffee, including the crowd as a third companion.
"What are you going to do for Valentine's Day?" Fairy Butch asks.
"Nothing," shout two women in the back.
"Nothing?" Fairy Butch chuckles from her couch. "C'mon, what are you gonna do?"
"Masturbate!" shouts an eager fan.
"How is that different than any other night?" she asks, still chuckling.
"Are you going to do it a little harder?" asks Ransom.
"Maybe in front of an audience," suggests Fairy Butch.
The chant begins immediately: Pam! Pam! Pam! Pam emerges from the crowd with a tall cocktail in her hand, slightly embarrassed, but happy to participate. She pants a little into the microphone, and that's all. No one pushes for more. It's early yet.
Fairy Butch asks Pam what she looks for in a girl: very sexual, no drama. (Example of drama: "I just got out of three-year relationship, and I'm really confused, and do you have any latex gloves in your pocket because I'm just not sure, and I really need lube!") The crowd roars and it is immediately clear how the Fairy Butch "Dynasty" has grown: It is impossible not to feel comfortable under the malevolent arm of Karlyn Lotney -- you'd tell her anything. Within a few sentences, even the couple men in the crowd, squished next to their gal pals, uncross their arms and allow their jaws to slacken.
"What should you do when you're fucking a girl, and she starts to ejaculate all over your brand-new down comforter?" reads Fairy Butch from a napkin drawn from a bucket of audience queries.
"Go to Home Depot," says Fairy Butch, revealing a newly discovered bulldagger obsession. "There, you can buy a plastic 8 by 10 tarp and slip it right under her ass. They're open 24 hours."
The next inquiry: pointers on giving head to a rubber cock.
Fairy Butch asks who's packing, and two volunteers jump onstage to unfurl their strap-ons, one hard and black, the other soft and pink. They kiss and describe their penchants: pressure on the clitoris, lipstick rings, a little hair pulling.
"A few fingers inside never hurts, huh?" suggests Fairy Butch. The chicks with dicks smile.
Fairy Butch invites a couple to come onstage and make out in honor of Valentine's Day -- after all, she says, monogamy is a continuum. Twenty-four-year-old Minnesota native Dara Sklar and 22-year-old Hawaii native Lindsi Kwizuka -- both first-time patrons -- press themselves together and swap spit, catching Fairy Butch completely off-guard by inviting her into the sandwich. It's enough to get the crowd lubed for Trixie, newly returned from New York City and looking for "daddies that don't have to pretend, and clean switches, not on their period." With her 4-inch tongue and spiky blond hair, Trixie is a crowd favorite. Stripping down to a red G-string and gyrating against audience members, she finds a way to straddle two tabletops, dangling over the head of stalwart Night Crawler photographer Paul Trapani. Next up is Loretta LoveLorn, a statuesque, auburn-haired lass who strips down, twirls her hair, and lights a Valentine on fire to the tune of "Love Hurts." Aware of the symbolism, Fairy Butch makes sure LoveLorn gets kissed by another patron before she leaves. It's a carefree congress Fairy Butch happily facilitates for 30-year-old Brook Lujan, a newly single, first-time patron, and for several girls from out of town (as the audience says in unison, "You may like big girls or small girls, short girls or tall girls, but everyone likes girls from out of town"), and anyone else looking for a self-gratifying smooch. And that's all before Fairy Butch's "Singled Out," during which the blindfolded dancing vixen Theresa chooses Elly Keigler for her seductive lap-dance and imaginary phone sex voice. And still there's more: baby butch stripper Junior, who makes the mistake of asking me to remove her combat boots, a task I fumble through, with pen in teeth, just in time to see her girlfriend Elise sucking her strap-on; the irrepressible Coco, who works every body in the room and does the splits in a G-string for the barstaff; and, finally, Fairy Butch's femme alter ego Surely U Gest, who dances and says good night.
As most of the crowd hits the dance floor to work off a considerable head of steam, I follow the trickle of people upstairs toward the night air. It's slow going. Fairy Butch, already out of costume, is standing on the landing, saying good night, dolling out appreciation and advice where needed, and signing folks up on her mailing list.
"Thank you Fairy Butch," yells Elly Keigler before lurching into the night on the arm of someone other than Theresa.
"Even if you don't get laid, it's nice to get a compliment, or a phone number, or a kiss," says Fairy Butch. "It's good for you."
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