Annie Sprinkle's 25-year career has taken her from happy hooker, to porn-star darling, to performance artist, author, and activist. But amongst all her personal and artistic achievements, perhaps none is so vividly recollected by so many as her long-standing use of the speculum to provide audience members with a rare look inside her truest self.
However, as she notes in her new book -- Annie Sprinkle's Post Porn Modernist: My 25 Years as a Multimedia Whore -- Annie has officially retired her speculum in favor of more cerebral pursuits.
Today's particular pursuit is macrobiotic cooking for the Man Who Came to Dinner. Or in this case, lunch. I've shifted meals to accommodate Annie, who lives on one of Sausalito's fabled houseboats. And houseboats, naturally, are much better visited by day. Annie's home floats at the end of a wooded street amidst a varied collection of buoyant abodes. As she opens the door -- dressed in a flowing black velveteen dress, with a fluffy green feather rising out of her long red hair -- I am surprised at my own compulsion as I lean forward and greet Annie with a kiss on the cheek. Having spent the better part of the previous day perusing her book, a largely photographic tour of her life in sex, I feel as though I already know Annie -- very well.
Climbing the stairs to Annie's living room/kitchen I am immediately struck by the expansive views. The houseboats of Sausalito, I realize, are a unique subculture. I cast my eyes across rows of unusual structures, each inhabited by Bay Area residents who enjoy, I imagine, a very different experience of San Francisco than I. Behind it all the hills of Tiburon provide a beautiful backdrop with Mount Tam looming above.
Annie offers me a cup of tea. Pushing past the herb blends and Earl Gray I discover a canister labeled "Sensuali-tea: A potent blend for lovers." Guessing that this will be in keeping with the theme for the day, I decide to give it a try.
As Annie sets the water to boil, I notice the clock hanging on the wall just above the sink. "Is that you?" I ask, referring to the photo in the center of a topless woman leaning through the opening of a vaginal portrait.
"Oh, yes," she says. "That's my clit clock. A friend of mine makes cock clocks so I thought I'd give this a try."
"Were they ever mass-produced?" I ask.
"No," says Annie. "I talked to the women at Good Vibrations but they told me, 'People aren't going to put that up on their wall.' "
Looking around the rest of Annie's apartment I am entertained by the endless collage of photos and memorabilia. A life in sex, it seems, produces a lot of memories.
As I move over to Annie's kitchen table, I bypass the canvas "Director" chair in favor of the one labeled "Star." Sitting down I am honored to find a personalized menu which Annie has created just for the occasion. Printed on delicate shell-covered paper, the menu allows me to anticipate the sensual array of foods to come. I am briefly tempted to skip the "Foreplay" and dive right into the "Afterglow."
Annie joins me, carrying two bowls of "Sexy Shark Shitake Leek Miso Soup." The broth is rich and hearty. "Potent," says Annie, with good miso and moist chunks of fresh shark meat.
As we sip, I ask Annie about a recent newspaper article profiling San Francisco's new "John School," a Scared Straight-style program for men arrested for soliciting. As an ex-callgirl Annie has long been an advocate for prostitutes' rights and the legalization of prostitution. "I think it's a step in the right direction," she says. "Basically all these people, most all of them, are just looking for love. That's all. What they need is love and sex. So simple and so pure and so basic."
The next course arrives on blue glass plates shaped like fish. Each plate is crowded with an arrangement of simple, natural foods. "I'm mostly macrobiotic," says Annie. "I like to eat macrobiotic. And lots of sugar for dessert."
The meal includes sauteed bay scallops, brown rice, fresh snow peas, steamed spinach, and mashed roasted yams. Annie and I click chopsticks and dig in.
As we eat, we naturally begin to discuss the relationships between food and sex. Annie thinks many men like to eat beforehand, while woman often prefer to be hungry.
I am more interested in the seemingly unfortunate contrast that presents itself after sex. "For men," I point out, "sex is like a sleeping pill. While women are filled with energy, heading off to clean out the utility drawer or write overdue thank-you notes."
"That's true," concedes Annie. "Unless you've been having sex for hours and hours and hours."
"Oh," I reply, slowly bowing my head in shame.
"From what I've gathered," adds Annie, "women are much more ... big volcanoes. Big sexual volcanoes. They have all this energy and lava. It takes them a long time to erupt. And then men are like, well, you know --" (clearly, she doesn't want to offend me) -- "men are like ..."
"Smaller volcanoes," I volunteer, letting her off the hook.
"Yes, smaller volcanoes," says Annie. "So do an experiment next time and see if the woman doesn't want to go to sleep after you've had hours and hours of sex."
"All right," I agree, thinking for a moment. "But I may need to bring in some help."
Jumping from her seat, Annie offers to read my tarot cards. "Of course," I say. It's another first for the Man Who Came to Dinner.
As I mix the cards, Annie transfers a bag of Sausalito cookies onto a plate and prepares a pot of Coffix, a coffee substitute made from roasted grains. Lighting two candles, she asks me to choose a topic: "Food, sex, money, work?"
"Why don't we go with love," I decide.
Next, through the picking of various cards, the state of my love life is expressed in words like "oppression," "anger," and "delusion." As neither of us is too excited about these results, Annie announces what seems to be the tarot equivalent of a makeover. My second attempt yields more comforting words -- like "growth," "fulfillment," and "master," allowing Annie and me to conclude: I'm going to be just fine.
"I've been pretty celibate, actually, for a year," Annie offers out of nowhere.
"Really," I respond, attempting to speak in a tone devoid of any measurable reaction.
"Well , I had a couple of little flings but nothing compared to. ... anyway ... Why did I bring that up?" wonders Annie. "Oh," she jokes, "because I'm going to give you a tour of the bedroom."
Together we enjoy a slightly nervous laugh.
Then, peeking over her shoulder and out the window, Annie announces that the sun has appeared, making it possible for us to take her rowboat for a spin. Game for almost anything, I help Annie locate the life preservers and emergency whistles before heading out the door and around the dock.
Together we flip her tiny fiberglass boat into the water, load up, and ship out. Several neighbors look on from nearby docks. She's only lived on the houseboat for five months or so, but everyone already seems to know Annie Sprinkle.
I offer to row but Annie insists that she likes the exercise. Slowly we make our way around a bend, past the marina lined with sailboats, and out in search of pelican and seal.
For half an hour we tour the harbor, eventually spotting an enormous pelican. Then two. Then three. Annie lights up like a little girl. But she's disappointed that our voyage hasn't produced a seal sighting.
Back on shore, Annie presents me with a parting gift: a copy of her very own comic book from the Carnal Comics' Legends of Porn series. "Write whatever you want," she advises me. "I don't have any secrets."
"It would seem, by definition," I remark, "that you couldn't have any secrets."
"No," she agrees, thinking slowly to herself. "I don't think I do."
By Barry Levine
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