"This better be good," says Normie No. 1, Dale Ballinson.
"It's cheaper than a strip club," says Normie No. 2, Steven Baas, "and maybe we'll pick up." Not likely. Both are from Moraga.
Inside the Civic, vending tables flank a collection of obvious, fairly unimaginative, erotic "art" -- black-and-white photos of sun-browned breasts sprayed with thick cream; white thighs ensconced in hopelessly altitudinous boots; Catholic schoolgirl buttocks laced with red welts; smooth, sinuous male torsos topped with leather dog collars. A predominantly straight, male crowd wanders through the large, dusky hall, glancing sheepishly at tables laden with vibrators, dildos, chocolate erections, feminine lubrication, and anal beads; they linger longer at the Web site booths. At the podium, porn-star-turned-director Candida Royalle peddles her discreet but stylish vibrator.
"You could get stopped going through customs," says Royalle to a small but rapt audience of fans and possible protégés, "and the guard could pull it out and not even know."
Chainsaw Chuck amuses me momentarily with his "Kinky Koloringbook," a collection of original sci-fi/fantasy babes with wings, horns, or whips.
"Porn stars are athletes," says Royalle's voice via the loudspeaker as I pass a table of satin vulva puppets with the slightly disarming suggestion, "Smell me."
"For most couples, sex lasts no more than 15 minutes," continues Royalle, as I deliberate over the Bungee Sexperience, a contraption that offers the "illusion of bondage" with weightless, bouncing, gravity-free sex in midair. (If Royalle is right, simply getting into the swinging harness could double the duration of the common sexual experience.) Dr. Felice Dunas, author of Passion Play: Ancient Secrets for a Lifetime of Health and Happiness Through Sensational Sex, takes over the microphone as I consider a table of dildos topped with the heads of robed monks, devils, bards, and goat gods produced by the (D&D) lovers at Divine Productions Inc.
"One in 10 women do not have orgasms," says Dunas as I am offered free porn, cinnamon Altoids, and jars of dill pickles from www.picklepilot.com, "not by hook or by crook, by their next-door neighbor, their dog, or Jacuzzi. That's 10 percent, people."
I look over the resort package offered by Hedonism III, located on the North Coast of Jamaica -- au naturel beach, steam room, grotto, pool, and bar; fort ruins, giant chessboard, hammock garden, wedding gazebo, see-through water slide, glass-bottom Jacuzzi, water sports center, and beach-side trapeze workshop -- and agree with 24-year-old Thalia Snyder: The only thing more horrifying than a see-through water slide is a grotto located beneath it.
Nearby, 1992 Playmate of the Year Corinna Harney sits at a table wearing a floppy hat and looking wholly real -- and wholly unlike the glossy photographs of her crawling along the beach covered in baby oil. A number of men wait patiently to have her scribble general things about their prowess for $20 a pop. She chatters sweetly about her upcoming baseball movie with Drew Johnson and John Saxon, but she looks bored.
"This show would be huge in Las Vegas," says Harney. "I heard it was really big in New York, but there's just no one here. I didn't think San Francisco was so conservative."
"I don't think San Francisco is conservative," says Fetish Diva Midori, standing next to a large customized cage and her slender, pretty female slave. "We have the whole range here, from very vanilla to very kinky. But this show should have been marketed towards people in Marin and Concord, people who might be interested in exploring their sexuality but who are intimidated by Stormy Leather or Good Vibrations. People who need to discover what turns them on."
Onstage, Adagio, a very sexy balancing act embodying a similarly built bald man and woman, gives way to the small, long-haired Angel, who strips down and covers herself in various gooey substances: honey, syrup, raspberry sauce. The guys gather around, including the Moraga duo who grin through the entire act.
"I discovered something," says Baas. "I like raspberry dressing. I like that. It's so messy."
"I definitely had the most fun researching the messy people," says Katherine Gates, author of Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. "It really resonated with me, and I'm one of the most anal-retentive people in the world."
Of course, Gates isn't talking about your garden-variety syrup-is-sexy kind of mess; she's talking messy fun worthy of Splosh!, the English fetish magazine whose elaborate photo sketches involve clumsy waitresses who spill spaghetti in people's laps and painstaking orgies involving baked beans and banana cream pie. For lovers of mess, looking at pictures or videos of men and women covered in slop is reason enough to climax, but masturbation rituals can also include elaborate scripts, costumes, and sets, as well as partners.
"It really bothers some people," says Gates with a big grin and a flip of her deep orange hair. "There's something in my book that always disturbs someone."
It's true. Deviant Desires has been sitting in my bathroom for weeks, and every time a new guest comes to the house, he or she leaves the lavatory squeamish.
"I've been a pervert all my life," shares the petite and cheerfully disarming Gates, surrounded by sex toys on one side and the projection of a large, round ass with baked beans sliding down its crevice on the other. "But I'd never seen a book about the kind of stuff I was into. You know, silly, funny stuff. Stuff that isn't glamorous at all. So I decided to write one."