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Friday, October 21, 2011

Annie Sprinkle Talks About Halloween, Hookers, and Reviving an S.F. Tradition

Posted on Fri, Oct 21, 2011 at 2:00 PM

"Let there be pleasure on Earth, and let it begin with me," says Annie Sprinkle. - JULIAN CASH
  • Julian Cash
  • "Let there be pleasure on Earth, and let it begin with me," says Annie Sprinkle.

Annie Sprinkle has made a life of exposing herself -- literally and figuratively -- for three decades. She is a filmmaker, performer, writer, activist, porn actress, and former prostitute. Most recently, Sprinkle and her wife, Beth Stephens, are behind a movement they call ecosexuality, which essentially views the Earth as a gigantic lover to be engaged and respected, rather than a storehouse of materials to be consumed.

This weekend Sprinkle returns to one of her origins at a Halloween-themed party called Masquerotica, a staggering mix of acts and efforts from sex-positive, performance, and musical communities. Sprinkle will be joined by Margo St. James and Carol Queen at the Hookers Ball Brothello, where the three will pay homage to the raucous galas in San Francisco and New York where prostitutes and their fans could out themselves and celebrate the oldest profession.

Sprinkle recently spoke with SF Weekly about the Hookers Ball, Halloween, and other rituals.

What can you tell us about Masquerotica?
It's an effort to restore a tradition in San Francisco of big sexy Halloween parties. The Exotic-Erotic Ball carried that tradition for a long time, but it got a bad reputation in a number of ways and then went out of business. There was also the Hookers Ball. It was started in New York in the 1970s by Margo St. James, who founded a group working to decriminalize prostitution called COYOTE, which stands for Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics.

With both of these Halloween parties gone, a man named Joegh Bullock wanted to start another. Bullock is a promoter who's very supportive of the arts and the sex-positive community. He produced my solo performance in the 1980s called Post-Porn Modernist. The vision behind Masquerotica is to be very inclusive and much more broad than what Exotic-Erotic had become. We hope it becomes an annual thing, and with its message of inclusivity, fun, play, and love, we hope it will be the biggest sexy party of the year.

A poster from the 1978 Hookers Ball
  • A poster from the 1978 Hookers Ball
What were the Hookers Balls about? They were a very important part of sex-positive history because whores are at the forefront of this movement. They were started by Margo St. James, who'll be there -- she'll be the belle of the ball. The parties were remarkable events because sex workers were coming out and making themselves public. People who supported the cause of decriminalization were doing the same. A lot of johns turned up to support us too. The first one was in New York, and I went when I was 20 years old.

They were the first thing like that, really, and they had outrageous slutty costumes. There were tons of photographers because it was so unusual. One was at the Copacabana, and the attendance was in the hundreds. [Later ones in San Francisco were at venues as big as the Cow Palace.] It was very exciting. It had an impact on a lot of us.

What can we expect in the Hookers Ball Brothello?

A flyer from 1976
  • A flyer from 1976
It will include things that are entertaining but provocative. There will be spoken-word pieces and performance art. I'm focusing on what I call an Erotic Services Providers Menu. All the items will be legal. It could be paying to have someone whisper dirty stories in your ear. It could be ankle-teasing. It could be a face massage. It might be someone feeding you chocolate, or going through a tantric exercise with you.

We'll also have banners from the original Hookers Balls, an art exhibit, and a designer will be on hand who did one of original COYOTE logos. Part of it is to introduce young people to this, people who weren't around for the earlier celebrations. We invite everyone to come and dress like a whore, be part of whore culture. That's what this is.

Speaking of dressing up, how does this relate to Halloween?

A woman named Susun Weed said, "You can change your consciousness by changing your clothes." Think of what that means to, say, a closeted transsexual or transvestite. Halloween is the one day of the year that they feel safe anywhere. And if you're a whore, you can be a saint. It goes for everyone. You can act out these archetypes we all have within us. You can safely be a devil. It's a time when people get creative. Making costumes is a theatrical and therefore a spiritual personal exploration. We might think costuming is just a surface thing, but it's really calling forth what's within us.

This surely applies to erotic costuming -- people jazz up their sex lives through costuming. We might dress real frumpy when we're around the house, but to be sexy, we put on a sexy outfit. It's important to let these inner personae and archetypes run free. I think San Francisco is the best place in the country to do it, too. San Francisco is a sexually mature city.

The Hookers Ball Brothello happens from 9 to 11 p.m. at Masquerotica at the Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St. (at Brannan), S.F. Admission to the larger event is $55-$100.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.
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