By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
According to those who should know, the blood sports phenomenon probably began in San Francisco, in an apartment at Geary and 23rd Avenue, in the spring of 1994.
"How do I explain it without sounding like a sap? We decided to be vampires together and drink each other's blood. We drank it first with alcohol, because we were worried about AIDS, and then we were just like, 'Fuck it, we're already having sex.' "
Heads look up from tables at an outdoor tea house in Hayes Valley. Danielle Willis is speaking -- quite loudly -- of her vampire à trois relationship with a male named Violet and a female named Dharma. She remembers the three sitting in her Richmond District apartment, drawing blood from one another's arms with big syringes, then smearing it all over each other, squirting it in mouths and other body openings. She unwraps an oat cake, tosses it to her 3-foot-tall Belgian wolfhound, and continues.
"I'm a writer, and I drink blood. It's such a Californian, like, 'That's my lifestyle,' kind of thing. But I don't want to go on record as saying I'm a vampire, in the full mythological sense of the word, because that would be stupid and pretentious, and then I'd have people coming up to me and going, 'Why don't you turn into a bat?' "
Although New Orleans, home of novelist Anne Rice and horror author Poppy Z. Brite, has some claim to the name, San Francisco is considered Vampire Central by most participants in the phenomenon. Nearly every night of the week, ghouls can be found twirling on dance floors of the city's goth clubs ("Death Guild," "Roderick's Chamber," "So What?," and "The Matrix" among them). Goth clothing boutiques dot Haight Street. Role-playing vampire games are acted out in the shadows of the Palace of Fine Arts.
But few take the concept to such public extremes as Danielle Willis and other members of the San Francisco blood sports scene, notably David Aaron Clark, Clint Catalyst, and, of course, Steven Johnson Leyba, whose bloodied backside was sodomized in front of San Francisco's elite, making a birthday party for a political consultant a nationally (in)famous event. The people who participate in blood sports have bodies that are lined with scars; their lives are lined with experiences that seem unbelievable. But they are, after all, people. They sleep, eat food, pet the dog; they had childhoods and continue to make their way through the ordinary routines of daily life. The reasons they perform publicly with blood are varied and deeply individual.
Danielle Willis may be familiar to some San Franciscans via her critically acclaimed 1993 one-woman autobiographical theater show Breakfast in the Flesh District, based on her 1990 book Dogs in Lingerie. Others may remember her from the Cafe Babar readings of the late 1980s, the beginnings of the local spoken-word renaissance. And lonely men may recognize her from 10 years of dancing at the city's strip clubs. But her parents will remember her as a nerdy little girl who brought home report cards that noted a need for great amounts of attention.
Her mother forbade her to play make-believe with the other kids, she says, because she would remain the characters she had assumed for days. When Willis was 12, her family followed her father, a noted economics professor, from Palo Alto to New York City.
"I was terrified of death at a very early age -- death and aging -- and I discovered that one could avoid that through vampirism. I think that aging and death might be voluntary," says Willis, who's wearing a purple velour catsuit that clings to her lanky figure, knee-high go-go boots, and a lavender biker jacket. "So far so good!"
She admits sinking her teeth into horror novels during her adolescence, especially ones about female vampires. She wore bone necklaces and handmade medieval clothing to school in Long Island, went to Jethro Tull concerts, and visited graveyards with girlfriends. "We were our own little Ren Faire," she says.
Expelled from Barnard College, and recovering from a nervous breakdown (over her first love, an older woman), Willis moved to California and the fringes of society, tripping on hallucinogens on the weekends at Disneyland. In the mid-'80s, she was working as a poodle groomer in Oakland, at a boutique called Poodles a la Pamela, when a writer friend suggested she could make more money as a stripper. She started dancing at the Market Street Cinema. The idea of slumming was intriguing to a child of privilege.
"I thought I had died and woken up in a John Waters movie. It was so sleazy that I just loved it!"
Her observations on sleaze wound up as material for Dogs in Lingerie and her subsequent show at the Climate Theater, where she painted a satanic pentagram on her bare chest in menstrual blood.
She appeared in articles about "sex-positive women" in Penthouse, Spin, and Esquire, at the height of the media fascination with white girls who spoke freely about sexual issues. She hosted spoken-word nights at Slim's nightclub South of Market, which featured such female transgressive writers as Kathy Acker and Lydia Lunch, darlings of the literary underground. But in the past few years her public appearances seem to have been confined to "blood orgy" shows in clubs, starring herself, her boyfriend, Violet, and a third party, usually a woman.
"For various reasons, our veins are too burnt out for performance purposes. Rather than sit there stabbing and hacking for two hours, we needed somebody with fairly virginal veins. The performances would last about five minutes. Basically, we'd take the blood out, spatter it all over the girl's tits, then we'd do this sort of like blood-smeared, faux lesbian thing, and then we'd get offstage, and folks would be happy. It was good clean fun! Usually there were catcalls, but the blood made 'em quiet. People would faint. Or throw up."
Their last such show was six months ago at the Trocadero, she remembers.
"I didn't have big enough needles. The crowd needed more, and I was going to give it my all. This girl, Gravity, had a tampon in. I whispered in her ear, 'Do you mind if I whip out your tampon?' The crowd was screaming, 'More blood! More blood!' I felt they were dissatisfied, so I yanked her tampon out and threw it at the crowd, and then we got the applause we so richly deserved."
She throws her head back and laughs.
People worry about Danielle Willis. She confesses to being on a four-year hiatus from anything aside from blood performance, lying low, contributing to a few anthologies, trying to finish a novel. She's made an occasional TV appearance on Strange Universe, but there's been no more stripping, and very few public readings. Her income appears to derive from other sources.
"Let's just say that my ad in The Spectator sex newspaper went like this: 'Sexy young vampire seeks willing, generous victims.' And let's just end it right there," she chortles. "Vampire for hire."
Before she got involved in bloodplay, Willis recalls, she was approached by Charles Gatewood to pose for photos. At the time she refused, because she had no tattoos or piercings, the subjects he was then documenting. But in 1994, in her apartment in the Richmond, something else entirely was taking place -- three would-be vampires were horsing around with blood and syringes. Willis reached for the phone, dialed Gatewood's home in Bernal Heights, and when he answered, she said:
"Charles, you can take my picture now. I'm finally weird enough for you."
Charles Gatewood packed up his equipment and drove out to the Avenues. He had, perhaps more than any photographer, documented the stranger sides of human existence, and was eager to see what the blood deal was all about. Since the 1960s he had placed himself in the center of many unusual events, from New Orleans Mardi Gras and New York sex clubs to biker rallies, tattoo conventions, and circus sideshows.
Along with Bay Area piercing legend Fakir Musafar, he had been the subject of the feature documentary Dances Sacred and Profane; the Re/Search cult-favorite book Modern Primitives utilized his photos. But when he arrived at Willis' apartment, and saw the three vampires drawing each other's blood with enormous butterfly needles, designed for intravenous use, even he was disturbed.
"That was my first real encounter with real-life vampires doing real-life bloodplay," he says. "I was fascinated and frightened. I heard a little voice saying, 'This is scary, this is evil, this is bad, what are you doing, what are they doing?' It was probably a Southern Baptist Sunday school voice from my past. I also heard [tattoo artist] Spider Webb saying, 'The strongest work is always the work that grabs you right between the legs.'
"My best work always scares me. I knew I was onto something."
He shot some still photos, and two short videos. One, titled Bloodbath, featured Danielle, Violet, and Dharma naked, flicking blood out of the needles, licking and smearing it over each other's bodies. The other, True Blood, was of Dharma alone, facing the camera, slowly mutilating herself with scalpels, and wrapping barbed wire around her bloodied wrists.
The videos circulated through the underground, and amazingly, the performers were getting recognized on the street from their bloodplay. Friends put friends in touch with Gatewood, and soon he was attending all sorts of blood-related events, shooting roll after roll of goths, pagans, Satanists, masochists, and performance freaks.
As it turned out, most of them were from San Francisco.
Sitting in a cafe in the Lower Haight, Gatewood seems to be just another 54-year-old photographer, wearing khakis and a Polo shirt. But he is also a one-man PR machine, selling videos and his self-published books out of his home through his company, Flash Productions. Although his moody book about Wall Street won the Leica Medal of Excellence, he can never go back to the free-lance corporate world, where he once worked for Rolling Stone. As he says, once the toothpaste is out of the tube you can't put it back in. He subscribes to the late William Burroughs' notion of an artist as an antenna of receptivity:
"My work is not theory-driven. I know I'll get washed along to another interesting scene."
Fringes of society appeal to him not only because of a degree in anthropology, but perhaps also because, in a sense, he is what he photographs -- an outcast making up his own niche, who fled a miserable alcohol-torn family life in the Ozarks of Missouri for a new beginning somewhere else. Years of drinking and drugs kept the party going, especially when photographing scenes of 1970s decadence. Now, he says, he is sober, and these days he gets his rush from sticking a macro lens inches from a scalpel carving into someone's skin.
"I get really high. Time stands still. I don't worry about paying my mortgage at that moment."
He feels his blood images, like his earlier photos of tattoos and piercing, seem freaky because of cultural and racial biases. Anything that happens to white kids is horrifying, he suggests, but if African natives are seen engaging in similar rituals, they seem wise and beautiful and interesting:
"We romanticize the noble savage, as long as we can marginalize them and keep them out of our psyches. 'That's cool because he's doing it in New Guinea, and he's black, and he's got a bone in his nose and doesn't threaten me; that's cool.' But that's because we can keep it in a safe area of our psyches, and know that we're not going to have to come anywhere close to what he's doing."
So why does he think people engage in blood rituals?
"This is primal. This touches some deep places. I think the impulse to wake up by any means necessary is a healthy impulse. When you're desperate, and you don't see any options, and you're trying to find a way out of the nightmare of modern society, you use whatever means you have. A lot of people feel numb, especially young people. They don't want to feel that way. They want to wake up, to throw off conditioning from Big Brother and Madison Avenue and decide for themselves what's important and what's real."
He stops and gazes across the cafe at a young girl with tattoos, sitting by herself. One of his models, somewhere in the past.
"I thought she was dead," he says.
Eventually his blood documentation was extensive enough to publish. He showed sample images to Ron Turner, owner of Last Gasp Comics (publisher of underground comics since the 1960s), and explained the idea: a full-color coffee-table book of in-your-face blood photos, unrelenting crimson close-ups of seeping wounds and splattered breasts, with text supplied by Danielle Willis and David Aaron Clark.
"I want it," Gatewood remembers Turner saying. "Let's do it, and let's get it on the press before the Commies take over Hong Kong."
The book, True Blood, is scheduled to be unveiled this week, precisely three years after Gatewood helped unleash the blood phenomenon by premiering his short videos at the Artists' Television Access (ATA) space in the Mission. In the audience that night was a 23-year-old kid who had just moved to the city from Arkansas.
Carrying a tray of grapes and cheese cubes, the handsomely androgynous Clint Catalyst glides through the crowd at "Roderick's Chamber," a weekly South of Market goth club where he is co-host. He is featured in the True Blood book, and has been involved in blood sports since seeing Gatewood's video at ATA.
"I was floored, and everyone around me was, too," Catalyst says. "I felt uneasy, but in a good way. It was so beautiful, the movement, the flow, the way the blood was being flicked around."
And just months after leaving his parents' house on a dirt road outside Conroy, Ark., Catalyst was in the Mission doing his first public blood performance: 13 cuttings on his shoulder, administered while he sat on a chair constructed of 10cc hypodermic needles.
"It was a psyche fuck," he says. "I consider my cuts injuries, but they were injuries that were done for a sort of empowerment."
Catalyst says he knows exactly why he is attracted to blood. He was sexually abused as a young child by neighborhood boys. For years, he says, he had no way out of the pain. Then, one Tuesday night, as his parents watched a TV movie of the week in the other room, he locked himself in the bathroom and deliberately cut his finger with his father's razor.
"I felt I was carrying round all these fingerprints of other people for so long, so in wanting to claim my own flesh, I had to begin digging for my own answers."
After finishing college, Catalyst moved to San Francisco, and immediately settled into the goth scene, working at the House of Usher club and publishing the literary zine As If. He is frequently seen posing for magazine fashion shoots, while working on a master's degree in writing from the University of San Francisco.
He seems torn about sensationalism in the blood scene. Although he performs with blood, and takes those performances seriously, he knows that blood sports can also appear cheesy:
"Of course a lot of people scoff at it. Come on, I scoff at a lot of this stuff too: 'Oh my god, that's so sensationalistic. That's so ridiculous. That's stupid.' But blood is a very salient topic, particularly for the '90s. I consider blood a symbol of the life force. The initial cut hurts, definitely, but then there's the rush, and it definitely gives me energy. If it makes people think, then I feel I've accomplished something.
"I mean, who hasn't had sex unprotected? And is that any more dangerous than some sort of blood sports?"
Catalyst feels that a cultural emptiness propels people to search for meaning through blood ritual, the goth community, or, in his case, both.
"A goth is someone who makes his or her own decisions, and says, 'This is how I'm going to live my life, and this is how I want it to be for me.' A person then who is autonomous, I believe, is gothic because he or she is saying, 'I feel, and I feel this way, and that means that I feel extremely.'
"Feeling extremely in this day and age is a very rebellious thing, because people are so desensitized. They have all this information coming at them from all these different sources, and so they've become inured. They don't want to have to be an activist for anything anymore."
Catalyst's explanation of childhood abuse coincides nicely with the work of Pacific Heights psychologist Daniel Lapin, who specializes in child trauma, and who contributed an afterword to True Blood. Lapin's recent book The Vampire, Dracula and Incest outlines his theory that an abused child has undergone a form of psychic vampirism, that something has been taken from the boy or girl against his or her will, and as a result these children feel dead inside. Many patients who were sexually mistreated in their youths have dreams about vampires, he says, and documented episodes of abuse periodically occur in the private lives of vampire authors, including Bram Stoker.
"Who hasn't been abused?" David Aaron Clark wonders aloud over a pint of beer. He lifts a match to his cigar stub and watches without expression as a Capp Street prostitute in white hot pants steps out of the bar's restroom, her john following behind. Clark, a 37-year-old porn journalist, lifts one eyebrow as if to say, "It figures," relights his stogie with a tiny smirk, and continues.
"One time I went to a sex club with a lover at the time, who liked to drink blood. She ended up making a bunch of cuts on me and starting to drink from it. We just basically went nuts and ended up making out like teen-agers on a bed in the back of this club, while the blood was flowing all over, and she was drinking some of it, and so forth. That's chaos. That scares the modern primitives. They don't want a part of that.
"Your average middle-class Caucasian likes things clean and neat. They like order, they like a process. 'I will have my scrotum pierced. And then I will have a ring on it. And I will run the chain from the ring up to my nose. Process complete.' "
Clark is accustomed to speaking in soundbites that piss people off, and has done so within a journalistic career that dates to his high school years. His physical presence is memorable -- tattooed arms, all-black clothing, black floor-length duster coat, and black leather floppy cowboy hat. He writes a column for The Spectator, and because of his own personal history of blood rituals, he was a natural to provide the text essays that accompany Gatewood's photos in True Blood.
"Just about everybody in this book -- whether they're fucked up, whether they're together, whether they're brilliant, whether they're not so brilliant -- I honestly believe they're all individuals," he says. "And some of them have the trappings of modern primitivism, or goth, or whatever, but I think these are all individuals who are doing this because they think it's a way to transform their own personal reality. They think it. They haven't been told it. None of these people have gurus. They are their own gurus. They are their own demons. Even in those acts of self-destruction, they're hoping to find something in themselves that says they're not a loser. To carve out some space for themselves, no pun intended."
Clark sees four strains of people interested in blood rituals:
1) Members of the S/M scene (he includes himself in this group);
2) New Age-ish body modification types;
3) Alienated goths; and
4) Singular freaks, including (by Clark's classification) Steven Johnson Leyba and the Los Angeles performance group the Aesthetic Meat Foundation, known for its deliberately gory, bloody performances.
Although Clark covers the local sex scene and is a regular at the Power Exchange -- a dimly lit SOMA sex club that caters to consensual whipping, cutting, fisting, and wandering voyeurs -- he admits he's never engaged in blood rituals here on the West Coast. For him, it feels more comfortable to have his skin cut open in the S/M clubs of New York, where he is closer to home.
Clark, who grew up in the small suburb of Hadden Heights, N.J., says he remembers nothing of his father. His parents divorced when he was 2, and all photos of Dad were tossed out. To this day, Clark says, he knows little of the man except that he was a professor.
Overweight and an only child, Clark shared a bedroom with his grandfather, whom his mother had rescued from an asylum. Clark says he read everything he could get his hands on, from comics and monster magazines to his stepfather's issues of Screw, which he would spread out on the bed and devour. He read and reread Stoker's Dracula many times; one scene, Clark says, stuck with him in particular.
In that scene, rather than biting the neck of the woman, the vampire opens his chest and allows her to drink from him.
"In what was mostly a penny dreadful, that was one of the few hints back in the original novel of the kind of depth and passion that comes part and parcel with blood," he says.
Clark claims to have won awards for journalism in high school and at Rutgers University. Then, he says, he worked at Dow Jones News Service in Manhattan. After the stock market suffered the Black Monday crash in 1987, he took a Hustler magazine into the company's lavishly appointed restroom and masturbated three times. "It was just so great, watching the whole military-industrial complex crashing around me! I made sure to not rinse the shower afterwards."
Playing in a band after hours, Clark says, he developed a heroin habit that would propel him into the nether regions of the Lower East Side. He eventually cleaned up enough to land a job covering the sexual underground for Screw. An increasing interest in the fringes meant that he soon would be hired to perform S/M scenes in clubs -- for $100 and an open bar tab. The financial drain of New York brought him to San Francisco. His columns for The Spectator the past two years are a frequently controversial first-person exploration of the local sex biz, and on the side he writes novels and edits anthologies. His parents are completely accepting of his career, he says, although he acknowledges that they might "think I'm kinda nutty."
After another of many rounds of beers, Clark insists on making a religious point:
"All the people in this book are merely seeking to emulate Jesus Christ, whose blood washed away the sins of the world. Or maybe just their own sins. Everybody's gotta start somewhere."
Clark goes on to describe his most profound blood experience. It occurred at a book release party for his first novel, The Wet Forever, held in 1993 at a New York sex club called Paddles. The cover photo of the book was of his girlfriend Jean, a prostitute and singer in his band who had committed suicide by jumping out a window. Consumed with guilt over failing to prevent her death, Clark needed to process the pain somehow. He says he allowed his new girlfriend, dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl, to lash him to a wooden crucifix. To the astonishment of the club, she then pulled out a scalpel and carved a big cross into his chest.
"I was both trying to expunge my guilt and at the same time take myself back bodily. Half of me was living in this other world where Jean still was alive. The place was insane. This was far beyond the S/M there. I went into God knows what galaxy. It was fabulous."
In the audience that night was an artist named Steven Johnson Leyba.
May 3, 1997. Blowup dolls hang from the ceiling of the San Francisco Mart South of Market. Male and female strippers gyrate for the likes of the mayor, city supervisors, San Francisco 49ers executives, and the usual second-string political suckerfish who habitually trail in the wake of such events. Jack Davis, the city's premier heart-for-hire political bulldog, the mastermind behind the last two mayoral elections, is turning 50 in high style.
The bars are flowing, music blares, colognes mingle with perfumes and the sweat of caterers. Off in one corner huddles vampire novelist and blood-sports performer Danielle Willis, wearing a Pocahontas dress, shivering under a coat. Two days earlier she had been in a Walnut Creek recovery house, her parents standing around her bed, trying to convince her to stay in the East Bay to kick her heroin habit. But she has refused their advice, and braved the elements tonight to honor a previous commitment -- to strap on a Jack Daniel's bottle and sodomize the bloodied backside of artist Rev. Steven Johnson Leyba in celebration of a birthday. After all, what are friends for?
Most of San Francisco and much of the rest of the world knows what happened next. The infamous Apache Whiskey Rite commences. A dominatrix named Mistress Izabella Sol cuts a satanic pentagram into Leyba's bare back, pees on it and him, and scoops the blood-and-urine mess into a bowl. Leyba slurps from it, but before he can finish performing a satanic curse on the politicians assembled at the party, his microphone is cut off.
Willis sodomizes him nevertheless. The cast is congratulated by the drunken crowd. Union workers ask Mistress Izabella if the group would be interested in performing at their Christmas party. David Aaron Clark, who has videotaped the scenario, shares a laugh with Sheriff Michael Hennessey, then hoists Willis upon his shoulders, her crotch in his face, and the two hit the dance floor to the strains of AC/DC's "Back in Black." Leyba is invited up in front of the entire party by Jack Davis, where, wrapped in an American flag, he is allowed to finish his curse.
Within days the bloody affair is the subject of front-page articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today. Still photos from the Whiskey Rite appear on CNN, the offending images discreetly masked with black boxes. Saturday Night Live's Norm MacDonald includes a joke about the party on "Weekend Update." Discussion threads appear in the alt.satanism Internet news group.
Somehow -- could it have been dead voters? -- the campaign for a bond issue to help build a new 49er football stadium -- a campaign run by Davis -- gains the narrow approval of S.F. voters.
Sitting in a Mission coffee shop, not far from the apartment he now shares with Clark, his mohawk still visible, but grown out around the sides, Leyba ruminates on his relation to blood rituals. One table to his right, a young woman sleeps with her mouth open, a full latte clasped in hand.
"The thought of being cut on, it terrified me for years and years. I didn't know until I actually started doing bloodletting that on a lot of levels it's sexual," he says. "I can't explain."
Does it matter that every time he's been cut, it has been by a woman? He smiles. "That helps."
Although his chest scar provides the back cover image for True Blood, Leyba feels little connection with others who participated in the book.
"Vampires? It's ridiculous. I find no attachment to that imagery. For me, bloodletting is a way to give back to the Earth. That might sound bizarre, but the native way is, when you receive something, you want to give something back, and the best thing you can give of yourself is your blood."
Leyba's childhood was spent in the Southern California suburb of Pomona, a life of skateboards and Hang Ten T-shirts. His parents divorced when he was 3, his father, Benny, preferring the lifestyle of a full-time eccentric. His mother remarried, and at 13 Johnson found himself living on a ranch 10 miles from Camden, Ark. He remembers being shy and introverted, surrounded by homophobic football jocks. "Nobody talked to me, except for other weird kids."
Studies at the California College of Arts and Crafts and the San Francisco Academy of Art led to a curiosity about his half-Mescalero Apache heritage, and a dislike of what usually passes for Native American art -- coffee-table books designed for tourists. He wanted more, and moved to New Mexico to learn his own culture. He watched a Fourth of July ceremony performed by Crown Dancers, and was taken with the character of a sacred clown named the Labeye, played by a small boy with a bag over his head, whose role was to imitate and mock the Crown Dancers. To him, the rituals felt stale; the clown's meaning had been lost. The clown, he felt, was supposed to shock people out of their complacency. Something inside him clicked, he adopted the Labeye clown name as his own surname, and constructed his own Crown Dancer mask and headdress, much to the anger of tribal elders.
In April of 1996, he decided to be cut. He had already been putting his blood into his paintings. His roommate had a friend who was visiting, and who was skilled in the art of cutting skin.
"It was kind of a challenge for myself, because I thought, 'This is silly, this whole modern primitive thing.' "
But the endorphin rush proved irresistible, and he discovered that preparing to be cut is, perhaps, a way to clear the mind.
"I always have to specifically tell myself why I'm cut again. To me, mentally, it's like, 'OK, I'm going up there, I'm doing the ritual, I have an intent. I'm being cut on, and I'm making an offering. I have to respect the ancestors, people who have come before me, and their intents when they did it.'
"There has to be a reason every time."
He says he's tried, but can't cut on himself. He needs someone else to assist him. Disposable scalpels are procured from dominatrix friends, who get them from their doctor clients.
The first Apache Whiskey Rite (back carving, urine, sodomy) was held at the 1996 Burning Man event in the Nevada desert, a ritual that the 31-year-old Leyba says was the best of the three he has performed. Unfortunately, he says, Burning Man officials wouldn't allow him onto the stage, so he hooked up with other like minds and did it at their campsite, illuminated by a pentagram burning in the dirt.
"A lot of people were tripping on acid," Leyba says. "A lot of them were like, 'He's been sodomized for six hours now!' "
Of course, it would be the Jack Davis party that forever changed his life. The media flurry -- local and national -- was so intense that he left for Los Angeles, where CNN reporters followed him around the city, calling for an exclusive interview.
And in a little-known repercussion, the Internet chat group alt.satanism grew noisy with complaints. Apparently the dominatrix who carved the pentagram on Leyba's back, Mistress Izabella Sol, had neglected to finish the bottom line of the design. And not only that, she peed on it! Debates raged. Did the Davis party make Satanism too mainstream? Is it still Satanism?
"Everyone was offended," chuckles Leyba, "even the Satanists!"
But every ritual has a silver lining. A young woman recently approached Leyba at a fetish party, saying she had read about him in SF Weekly. She said she was a sadist. Leyba immediately thought, "Uh oh, this woman wants to hook me up to a car battery." They kept talking, and a couple of months later the two were together onstage in New York City, naked, covered in each other's blood, simulating sex acts. She was rechristened Lady Hades, and now the two are inseparable.
We once winced at the idea of nipple and navel rings. Will blood ever become as trendy as tattoos and body piercings? Will blood boutiques line groovy shopping districts of major cities, offering cuttings and laser scar removal? Or will there be those who believe that blood-cutting rituals are just too tame? Will they attempt limb removal in the name of spiritual empowerment?
Those with a cultural curiosity for the next big primitive thing may want to keep following the roving lens of Charles Gatewood.
"It's hard to see how they'll commodify this one," Gatewood says. "Maybe they'll have little vampire kits at Macy's."
Or perhaps it is Danielle Willis who will lead the way.
"People have seen folks hung by their dicks, practically, but blood is still a medium that hasn't reached saturation level yet," she says. "When it does, I'm ready to come in with pus! Squeezing pus!
"That's right, Charles, we're going to make a book called True Pus!