I am so ancient, such a dinosaur, that I can remember when even cable television was a novelty in New York City. I arrived there in late 1972 and according to Wikipedia, the both of us were laying down roots about the same time. Within the first six months of my life in Manhattan, I lost my television in a custody battle after being evicted in an apartment share gone bad. I learned to exist relatively TV-free for the next five years. No one I knew with a television had access to the new cable industry but from reading about its early history, it sounds as though none of us was missing very much. What was there was mostly public access fare – nothing to catch the attention of regular TV connoisseurs of the day.
Something which had quickly gained popularity on the tube in those early 1970s was a series of badly produced commercials on greater New York local TV for JGE Appliance stores. The chain was open to “union members and Civil Service workers only”. It’s owner, Jerry Rosenberg, who was also it’s only spokesman, became an overnight New York legend. Sporting a hard hat, the pot-bellied loudmouth was always perched atop a large appliance of some sort, while an off-camera voice asked “What’s the story, Jerry?” He responded with “What’s the story?” then went into reciting a list of appliances and their brand names in his gruff, unpolished Newyorkese. What’s the story caught on like wildfire and even Upper East Side elite had incorporated it into the vernacular.
In these same times I was buying my weekly copy of BACKSTAGE, checking for auditions in hopes of landing the job to kick into motion my still-dreamed-of theatre career. In my quest I continually saw an ad seeking actors for a weekly entertainment show on Cable Channel “B” . They were looking for talent to perform spoofs of current media topics and the news. The ads never were specific as to age, gender or physical description and no one I knew had ever ventured to check it out. Because it had been awhile since I’d auditioned for anything, I was longing to satisfy the actor in me. Phoning the number from the ad, I chatted with a guy who was friendly and informative. He invited me to come a few days later and “hang out with us”. I asked outright if this was legit and he answered that it was non-union, but certainly not porn if that was my concern. “What harm could it do?”, I wondered, though I distinctly remember telling no one of my plans. At worst it would end up being just a little something to add to a stagnant resume.
It was a great apartment on Central Park West, filled with video equipment in an almost furniture-empty living room. There were three guys on the production team talking with two young women actors. All were seated in wooden kitchen chairs that somewhat lined the perimeter of the make shift studio. Prominent was a badly bleached blonde chick who dominated the group. She was brash with an acute Bronx accent. The guys were getting a kick out of her because she was such an air head, proving it with each sentence that fell out of her big mouth. I’d brought my portfolio of $400 worth of modeling photos that the guys were politely leafing through as they openly guffawed at the big breasted ignoramus commanding the center of attention.
After an uncomfortable fifteen minutes of feeling totally out-of-place, another two men showed up, obviously already part of the mix. With their arrival, the guy from my phone call brought out a bottle of booze, a large container of salt and some limes. “Let’s do some tequila shots and talk about what we need to get through tonight” he announced, filling the area between his left thumb and index finger with salt. I’d heard of tequila, but had never tasted it – knew what shots were, but where the limes and salt came in was way beyond my ken. I refused to not look like anything but super cool and compared to the Bronx bimbo, I had to be able to pull it off. The tequila was so medicinally foul-tasting to me that the salt and lime were a welcome relief. The bottle passed between us at least three times before we finished hearing the evening’s schedule.
One of the two late arrival actors would be doing the booth announcing for this week’s show. The only piece they would be video taping was a spoof on the JGE Appliance commercial. It was for a fictitious Simone’s S & M Warehouse, and the most likely candidate for the role of Simone, a dominatrix, was hands down the blonde bimbo. The more likable woman left. The guys thought I would be great as the voice who asked “What’s the story, Simone?”. The bottle was passed again as we went over ‘the script’.
This would definitely be Simone’s piece in which to shine. I would begin by posing the pivotal question and she would go off into reciting a litany of S & M paraphernalia featured at the warehouse. She was given a cat o’ nine tails whip to use when accentuating certain items on the list. There were things neither she (nor I for that matter) had ever heard of. She insisted knowing not only what they were, but how they were used. Our rehearsal was truly enlightening on multiple fronts. Certainly these many years later I cannot recall them all, but I distinctly remember the first two items which were tit weights and ball stretchers. There also were the basics: handcuffs, gags, restraints, and leather hoods. The poor thing couldn’t keep the items straight. We were all of us pretty well loaded now after polishing off the bottle of tequila. The production staff was adamant she recite them in the exact order written, so they ended up making cue cards to insure she remain true to their script.
Then there were the costumes. Simone wore a black leather bra and panties, fish nets and 5″ spiked high-heeled patent leather boots. She was only 5’2″ or thereabouts, weighing perhaps a hundred pounds, but the girl was all breast – easily 40 D or better. She spilled over the cups of her bra. She loved it. Her concern was she wouldn’t know what to do with her hands. They added to her whip a black double-headed dildo, at least a foot long, which she would brandish in her other hand. Oh yes, and I had a costume as well. I would not be just an off-camera voice like in the commercial we were spoofing. There was a full harness with black leather pouch and a leather hood with zippered mouth opening for me. At the time I was just a hair under six-foot tipping the scales at a hundred forty pounds with a 29 inch waist. The chest portion of the harness could be adjusted to sort of fit, but the waist was fashioned for a much beefier dude. We made it stay on, but the pouch was loose, only remaining in place if I stood perfectly straight and didn’t move.
Problem was, as the scene begins, I am on all fours, ass to camera with masked head turned to deliver my line “What’s the story, Simone?”. There I remain the entire time. Simone is perched on my lower back, straddling me backwards, my naked ass framed between her thighs and knee-high boots. The firm leather pouch holds my penis in place, but my scrotum dangles visibly somewhere below. The production guys are roaring with a visual even they could not believe we’d created. I am so buzzed from my tequila christening that even I think my pendulous balls are funny. Our actress Simone is the only one not laughing, worrying about reciting her list of sadistic accoutrement in the right order.
The camera rolls.
ME: What’s the story, Simone?
SIMONE: What’s the stawh-ree? We got tit weights! We got boo-awl stretchas. (she cracks the whip).
Simone is supposed to get up at this point and walk to the right to continue. She walks totally out of camera range.
SIMONE: Here at Simone’s S and M Warehouse….
They explain to her she must stay in camera range. She nods, thinking she’s got it now. We begin again and this time, a bit further on her list, she walks too far to the left. We have done at least four takes and she has barely gotten half-way through her list. I marvel at her stupidity. Even the guys aren’t finding her as funny as they had before the tequila. Deciding to make it easier for her, she will now stay put on my back and simply alternate the appointed whip cracking to either side of us. This works well except when she needs to whip to her left. She gets confused “becawze I got da’ dildo in dis’ hee-and”. A few times she smacks my ass with the big dildo instead of whipping and once again the guys are hysterical, like this chick is Lily Tomlin.
After what feels like umpteen takes, all of which we’ve stopped to review together, we agree we will do it only one more time. I don’t believe in these days video equipment of the more ‘affordable’ variety has the capacity for editing. Simone feels confident she can get through it. I had come down from my tequila high long about take number three. Now I just want to go home. Production is ready to buy another bottle. Instead we begin our final take.
Miraculously, Simone is performing flawlessly. She hasn’t failed even at the complex left-sided whipping. She is actually funny. Each whip crack is expertly crafted and stronger and more deliberate than the preceding one. She senses things are going so well that at one point, she gets up and moves left. We all hold our collective breath. She realizes she’s erred just prior to her whip crack and tries to self-correct by quickly sitting back down on me. She strikes my bare ass in the process. I flinch slightly in pain, muffling an audible “aaahhhh”. The crew cannot stifle their laughter. We actually have made it to the near finish. Simone reaches the last item on her list, delivering it spot on. Then comes our ending.
ME: So, that’s the story, Simone?
SIMONE: That’s the stawh-ree!
(FINAL WHIP CRACK)
Which she delivers, unrehearsed, between her own legs, flagellating my dangling, unprotected ball sack, dead on. Instantly I collapse in beyond-excruciating pain, wailing. Simone slides off me, falling ass over tit, hitting the floor. The crew is howling, so hard in fact, that no one can call “Cut”. Now Simone, the accomplished cable TV star out flat on her butt, sits up and screams “Cut!” Again, “Cut” (with a seated whip crack) “Cut gawd-dammit”.
Of course it was better than anyone could have hoped for. They retained every moment of Simone’s brilliant improvised ending. Although my testicles were still aching, even I laughed like a fool when we watched the play back. You couldn’t have planned something so hysterical. It was like a trained stage animal shitting on the floor in the middle of an important scene. They decided to use the piece regularly on their show. They invited me to come back and to please keep in touch.
I did neither. At first I worried it had truly been a bad decision to sign the release form after making such a naked fool of myself for absolutely nothing but a few slugs of awful tasting booze. Knowing my ridiculous behavior had been captured FOREVER on video tape continued to gnaw at me for weeks. But how many people even had Cable Channel B at the time? And of that miniscule percentage of the eight million people in the city who did, what were the chances they were so bored they were actually watching anytime it might have aired? Besides, anyone who could recognize leather-hooded me from those three minutes of video, certainly had to be an extremely familiar intimate. It did become a NYC credit on my resume plus a great anecdote to pull out at cocktail parties.