Oh, Bondage Up Yours

The other feel-good story of the year

Joan Pass makes people happy. Like the little old man who needed an armful of whips? He was happy. The technician who needed a bundle of adult-baby gear, such as giant diapers and bottles? "He was in heaven," she says. And the three purchasers of German, multi-user, remote-controlled vibrator packages ("Mit Reizstrom zur Ekstase!")? They were ekstatic, naturally. But it's all in a day's work for Pass and her husband, Franz, the jolly couple behind the kinkiest boutique in the county: the Black Room, an oasis of jubilant sexual-celebration smack-dab in the heart of otherwise flaccid Irvine, Orange County's self-proclaimed City of Romance.

If we called the Black Room the Happiest Place on Earth, we could get into legal trouble. But between the rides, the toys and all the cute costumes she sells, Joan Pass is making a lot of cherished dreams come true.

"Fetish means living out your fantasies," she says. "You'd be surprised how many people are into the scene: attorneys, engineers, doctors, you name it—all people who, because of the business world, have to maintain decorum. Especially baby boomers, who can now come out of the closet. Now that their children are grown, they have time for themselves, and they don't have to worry about hiding things. They can set up a swing or something right in the bedroom."

It's not just whips and chains—the Black Room has it all. If not leather, what about latex? Maybe a shiny, intricately stitched PVC dress? Gas masks? The imported Lady Spartacus line of bristly, chrome, gladiatrix lingerie? The spiked, strap-on panty contraption? ("It's vicious," says Joan, "but hey, people like it.") It's a selection comprehensive enough that Pass Distributing Corp.—the import/export arm of the Pass fetish empire—trucks with hundreds of accounts, keeping top-quality gear available to even the lowliest boutiques worldwide.

Part of the secret is that, thanks to Franz's Teutonic background, Pass has an exclusive deal with several respected German firms—the Mercedes-Benzes and Porsches of the fetish world—that lets them carry clothing, furniture and gear that, says Joan, is six months ahead of anything else this side of the Atlantic: Sprechen zie der Megamasturbator, for instance?

"In Europe, especially Germany and Amsterdam, they're much less hung up over sex," Joan says. "The word in America implies dirtiness. We don't want to throw it in anyone's face, but tastefully done, this can be beautiful. Used appropriately, these things enhance—they make sex a little more pleasant."

And if it's not your particular thing, there's plenty of other people who think it's just peachy. After 25 years in Orange County, Joan and Franz's little sideline now occupies 5,000 ultrasexy square feet in an Irvine business park, so they must be doing something right. Sure, at first people didn't understand, she says: once, neighbors called the cops and reported an illegal orgy on the premises, but the police left amiably after discovering it was just a fashion show.

"The general public who aren't into this lifestyle are very much intimidated," she says. "They can't handle the whips; they can't handle the furniture. They can maybe handle the lotions and a little bit of the massagers."

But times are changing, she says. Even in tepid Orange County, more and more fetishists (and the fetish-curious; stop in, start with a video, and go from there, advises Joan) are timidly coming out and making friends—or more than friends.

"People are starting to recognize sex as an everyday thing. One of our current customers was so anti-everything, and now his wife is wearing leather pants and a coat from me," she says. "There's a lot more going on out here than meets the eye."

The Black Room, 18021 Skypark Circle E., Stes. E & F, Irvine, (949) 261-2040; www.passcastle.com.
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Anaheim Concert Tickets
Loading...