The party house

The first thing to know about orgies is, please don’t call them orgies — they’re “parties.” We were in San Francisco, America’s Sodom & Gomorrah, but no matter how liberal a city might be, you don’t want to piss off the puritans. Also, if you call it an orgy, you’ll attract some scumbags and sketchy participants, so our orgies were parties.

By nature I'm a very introverted man, and ill-at-ease around people I don't know. I avoid and abhor parties, so you'd think I'd be extremely uncomfortable at a party with naked and near-naked strangers. Well, remember the old adage about giving a speech in front of a crowd? Pretend everyone is naked, they say. When most of the crowd around me actually was naked, I simply couldn’t be nervous.

Bill Brent

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In the late '90s and early aughts, I worked for Black Books, a porn publisher, though even now I can hear my boss saying, "Doug, it's not porn, it's erotica!"  His name was Bill Brent, and he was a good man, a good boss, a good friend, and a well-known San Francisco eccentric.

He was an excellent writer, and as a publisher he preferred and mentored new talent. He started "Perverts Put Out," a recurring literary event so outrageous it briefly made Fox News furious. He had a fetish for flannel, really believed in the Myers-Briggs personality test, and he had a positive outlook that kept my natural negativity in check as we worked together for several years.

He’d gone into the erotica business, he told me, because he wanted to do what he loved, and sex was what he loved. "Fucking is my hobby," he said, and of course, everyone needs a hobby.

Bill described himself as pansexual, a term I'd never heard until I met him. It means bisexual but beyond. His sexual preference was for humans of legal age who consented, whatever their sex, gender, or gender identity. Basically, a sexual smorgasboard. If that sounds pervy to you he'd take it as a compliment, but he always went about his perversions in a cultured, considerate, and genuinely charming manner. 

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Re-reading Bill's obituary this morning, I find myself crying all over again, and I'm awestruck by this line:

"Bill had a particular knack for befriending difficult people, 'unlikable' people, people who were stubborn and opinionated, the awkward and the shy and the clueless," added Black Books colleague Lori Selke. "This is a big part of what made his community-building so successful."

That's me she's talking about, though it was also many others. Every adjective Lori mentions — difficult, unlikable, stubborn, opinionated, awkward, shy, clueless — was me, and still is. A few years of friendship with Bill, though, made me a little less of all the above.

He made me feel welcome in the extraordinary world where he lived, with its wide, warm circle of queer activists, sex workers, sex writers, radical faeries, leatherfolk, and myriad misfits. I was one of the misfits, and didn't even know I'd been a rescue project.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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Bill's business had started as a zine, but it grew into a magazine with thousands of subscribers, and a book publishing business. We were a tiny and struggling operation, though, peaking with four employees, and the budget was tight.

We ran parties — orgies — as fundraisers for Black Books, and every party reliably brought in hundreds of participants, and thousands of dollars. I'm proud of the books and magazines we published, but the parties kept the company afloat.

The magic happened at a large and elaborately furnished home, called “the party house” or "the faerie house" by everyone who knew about it. On the outside it was painted purple with gay rainbow dots, and inside was everything for your party-going needs.

The party house

Marty, the owner of the house, had subscribed to our magazine, and liked it so much that he let us hold our parties there, one night every month. The party house, though, hosted orgies almost every night, and it was a favorite, almost famous place among the city's sex-adventurous.

Since he owned the party house, and lived there, Marty was at the parties — our parties, and all the other parties.

He was, to me, a mysterious man. Rumor had it he'd made his fortune in early software development, but grew tired of it and quit.

After that, he was living the dream — rich, retired but still young, giving back to the community, and incidentally getting laid 365 nights a year, in the orgies at his party house.

I barely knew Marty, though, and it's possible that everything I think I know about him is wrong. His interactions with me were limited to complaints, probably justified, that I hadn’t cleaned the dungeon or hot-tub well enough. He was always nice about it, though.

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Everyone always wants to know how the orgies worked, so let's step into the party house. The first floor looked utterly ordinary — it had bedrooms, a kitchen, and a large living room with several couches.

The second story had a few bedrooms that nobody lived in, stocked with fresh sheets and blankets and fluffy pillows. Step right in and close the door behind you, or leave the door open — it’s a party, after all. Across the hall was a bedroom-sized shower, with four nozzles.

Instead of a lawn, the back yard was a sprawling two-level wooden patio. At the edge, very high walls mostly blocked the neighbors’ view. There was a large hot-tub, which I remember as really quite large, the size of a small swimming pool. I remember it, because after the parties I was often the guy who cleaned it. 

The basement, though, was what made the party house the party house. There were cages that locked, medieval stocks, slings, swings, whips, chains, handcuffs, weird spiky things, glory holes between the rooms, a ladder that climbed to God knows what, and dozens of other elaborate toys I’ve forgotten, because I’m a basic penis-in-vagina guy, so none of that stuff much interested me.

There were also mattresses scattered about on the floor, and always, everywhere in the house, boxes of protective gloves in small, medium, and large, and jars of condoms and lube in assorted brands, flavors, and colors.

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At the office and at the parties, my work was always fully clothed. I was a jerk of all trades, by day — proofreading articles, answering the phones, handling subscriber problems, and such.

The best part of the job was at night, though, working the check-in table at the monthly parties. The worst part was cleaning up after the parties — ugh. Very rarely, when someone at a party was being a jackass, I was the bouncer, not because I was tough, but because I was big, and could look tough.

On party night, I’d be at the house two hours before the doors opened, helping Bill set up the snacks and supplies, and making sure everything was neat and tidy and ready for fun. We’d always let people in well before the scheduled starting time, to avoid having a long line down the sidewalk, because lines would've garnered the house unwanted attention.

After you’d paid the admission — $20 p/person, I think, but it's been a long while — I’d give you a big paper bag for your clothes. You were in a large room with all the other recent arrivals, and everyone — men, women, and those in between — would undress in that room, getting as naked as they wanted to be, or switching into a costume if they were into that sort of thing.

You could always tell a newbie, because he or she would ask, “Where’s the changing room?” You’re in the changing room, honey. It’s an orgy. We're all in the changing room together.

After you got naked or mostly naked, you’d hand me your bag of clothes and everything else you didn't need for the night. You'd tell me your name, and I’d write it on the sack, and then file your sack of stuff alphabetically on the ginormous shelves behind me. Shelves went up to the ceiling and around a corner and into an alcove. You need a lot of shelf space, for hundreds of people’s clothes.

When the party was over, we could usually find your bag of clothes and stuff. Usually.

An occasional but recurring problem, though, was that many faeries had ‘real-world names’ but also ‘faerie names’, and maybe multiple aliases. They'd sometimes check in under one name, but forget and try checking out under one of their other names.

Picture yourself standing naked when the party is over, telling me your name is Mike Jones, and me looking at the names on all the sacks on the 'J' shelf, but not finding your name, not finding your bag of everything you brought.

“Are you sure you were Mike Jones when you got here?”

Ooooh — maybe I was Tundra Lava Lamp?”

And indeed, I’d find your britches and shoes, jock strap and car keys, in a sack filed under ‘L’ for Lava Lamp, not ‘J’ for Jones. So congratulations, you won't have to walk home naked.

You just ate five minutes of my life, though, and now there are ten people waiting behind you in the check-out line, so make your apologies to the tip jar, capeesh? And next month, please remember your name.

Next month, though, that same lovable faerie might have given himself a new name to forget. Every job has its little frustrations.

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At the beginning and end of every party, I was at the check-in/check-out table, but during the parties I was on patrol. Eyes out for bad behavior, icky messes, poor sportsmanship, etc. I learned to make easy chit-chat with naked people in unusual positions, and occasionally shushed fuckers who were screaming too loudly.

My orgy experience was as staff, never as a participant, but all of our orgies were relaxed and easygoing, not like Eyes Wide Shut or some porno.

People mingled, same as at any other party, and talked about sports or the news or whatever. They ate snacks, told jokes, and had a good time. Often they did what people do an an orgy, of course, but our orgies lasted all night, and nobody has the stamina to fuck all night long, so most of the time wasn't actually fucking time.

Our parties were open to all comers — men, women, gay, straight, bi, whatever, so long as you were sober and 18 or older. Typically, the house was packed on party nights, most of the guests were naked, and it was truly beautiful. There's so much hate in the world, but here was a house and a night dedicated to love.

And the variety was a further delight. Where else could a man run his hands and tongue all over another man, then take a quick shower, then run his hands and tongue all over a woman, who'd just taken a shower after having her hands and tongue all over another woman? In his parties, Bill built the pansexual paradise he'd always wanted, where anything goes, between any and all consenting adults.

Some people came for the vibe, as much or more than for the orgasms. And people who came looking for sex sometimes didn't get it — being at an orgy makes a special happy moment more likely, but there are no guarantees.

As an employee, though, I always wanted everyone to get it on, please. It's entertaining to watch, and it makes happy memories for everyone in the room. No cameras were allowed, but certainly a few scenes are bookmarked for frequent replay. Shall I share?

• We had a pretty co-worker at Black Books, utterly unattainable for big fat me, but she attended some of the parties, where I saw exactly what I'd wondered about.

• Another co-worker was a man older than me who'd always been straight, but was becoming 'curious'. At a few of our parties, he began indulging his curiosity. By the time I left San Francisco, I'm not sure what label he was wearing, but he was smiling more.

• A naked 19-year-old woman inexplicably flirted with me during the check-in procedure one night, and several times during the party. She gave me more attention than I was accustomed to, and then gave me her phone number. I never called.

• A middle-aged faerie flirted with me too, came to most of the parties, and always left a generous donation of weed in my tip jar. He was effectively my supplier while I lived in San Francisco, and always for free. That's quite a fringe benefit. Thanks again, Sam-I-Am.

• A couple of old women on the swing apparatus, black and white, sang Al Green's "Take Me to the River" and laughed. It was hot and hilarious.

• On safety patrol through the basement, a breathtakingly beautiful woman was on a mattress on the floor, busy with a man as overweight as me. As a fat guy, let me tell you, most women of her make and model aren't available to men of my shape or his, so it gave me hope for a better world. In violation of our no-staring rule, I discreetly leaned against a wall and watched to the end.

• Sometimes, after a busy party, I'd refresh myself by stepping into the 4-prong shower upstairs. A few times one or two other people joined me in the showers.

• Because I'm an old-fashioned guy, my favorite voyeuristic memory from the parties is this simple story of boy meets girl: A man and woman sat on a couch, naked, talking and laughing. No sex. Not even any kissing. They got up, walked around separately, but returned for more (and only) conversation — and every time I walked by, I saw he was hard.

They were at the next party, too, and again didn't 'do it'.

Finally, hours into their third party, something sparked and they were all over each other, on that same couch. I only saw a few minutes of it, but it was a few minutes I haven't forgotten.

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Marty and Bill were on good terms with the party house's neighbors. It was a residential block, with a house on one side and a church on the other, so we kept the music and moaning to a low volume.

The second story window at the house next door had a view over the fence and into the patio, but the neighbors never complained and sometimes watched. We'd wave at them, they'd wave back. Always they had a standing invitation to drop in free of charge, but to my knowledge they never did.

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It still amazes me how few problems we had with people at the parties, considering that we had no screening of guests, no in-house security, and no idea who many of our party-goers were.

Luck was on our side, certainly, but as party organizers we took our duties seriously. We walked the grounds, visiting every area of the house at least every fifteen minutes, trying to make sure everyone was having a good but safe time, and we acted promptly on any complaints.

In my three years of working the parties, only a few people were turned away at the door, for being drunk, high, or "we had a problem with you last time." Maybe a dozen people were asked to leave, and blacklisted from returning. There were no sexual assaults beyond brief unauthorized touching, which got the toucher banished. There were no fist-fights or serious injuries. Twice there were police officers, but both times it was just a party-goer in a cop costume.

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If it’s your first time at an orgy, or if you’re hosting, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the rules need to be spelled out plainly, in advance. If there aren’t any posted rules, turn around and go home. Don’t even be disappointed — you don’t want to attend a sex party that has no rules.

Different parties will have different rules, of course, and I'm probably forgetting some important ones, but here’s what comes to mind from our posted rules:

• Consent is required. Simply being there is not consent.

• Condoms and general safe-sex practices at all times.

• Safe words must be established and respected.

• Trust your gut — if someone grosses you out or makes you uncomfortable, walk away and tell party management.

• All toys and equipment must be washed after use.

• Watching is OK, but discretion is appreciated — avoid staring. 

• No photography, videography, or recording.

• Respect the privacy of other party-goers — do not tell people who weren't at the party who was at the party.

• Do not intrude when there's action going on. If they wanted you involved, they would’ve invited you.

• Do not offer coaching or commentary, unless asked.

• Watersports in the shower only, or in upstairs bedroom #2, where there's a moistureproof mattress protector.

• If you have an unusual or disturbing kink, please clear it with party management in advance. We live in a society, people.

• If you’ve accidentally made a mess, just let party management know. We'll clean it up. No worries.

• Do not have sex on a coffee table, bookcase, or any household infrastructure not built for boinking.

• No candle play. The wax never comes out of the carpet.

Beyond the rules, some recommendations and general advice:

• If you're nervous about attending, it’s OK to bring a friend.

• It’s also always OK to decline any invitation, at the party, or to the party.

• Walk the entire premises before doing the deed. It’s a big place, and you don’t want to be spent before you get to the best part.

• Cum washes out of most clothes, but still, if you wear anything, don't wear something you'd be sad to see stained.

• Before changing partners, please shower upstairs.

• If people are queuing to use the cage or harness, don’t dawdle.

• You will need more towels than you think you’ll need.

• Do not fall in love at the party.

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Some internet sleuthing reveals that Marty eventually grew weary of living in the party house, and sold it in 2016. Everything that made the place special was removed in the remodeling, and there's no word on where all that equipment went.

Now it's just another house in San Francisco, probably painted beige. That's mighty sad, and there ought to at least be a historical plaque on the porch: "This was once the party house. Millions of orgasms happened behind this door."

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Here’s the point of all this, one small thought that launched this long, rambling reminiscence:

A lot of people are ugly inside — tortured, sad, sick, miserable. Many of us think we're ugly on the outside, too — too fat, too short, your nose is too big, and your boobs are lopsided. Well, nobody's perfect, but also, nobody is as unattractive as they think they are.

It still amazes me that I was paid to watch thousands of men and women undress, and then to walk around and watch them screw. That's better than office work, believe me.

And it changed my perception of human beauty.

Our guests came in all shapes and sizes, all colors and kinks. About 70% of party-goers were men, and most of those men were conventionally attractive, I suppose, but a lot of them were funny-looking like me.

Of the women, many were toned, tanned tens, absolutely ready for their centerfolds, but many others were flabby, scarred, wrinkled, or disabled — and you know what? None of them were unattractive.

I've seen so many naked adults in the flesh, please take my word for this: There is no such thing as an ugly human body.



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  1. I don't have time to read the whole column - I have errands to do first. But now I know why you asked me if I met Bill, in an in email. And my response was, "Yeah, once or twice. I remember his house festooned with many, many peni.' So many penises. Stained glass, watercolor, wood cuts.

    I was feeling maudlin maybe 6 weeks ago, and believe it or not, I looked up that very obit. I knew he was gone, of course. I found out immediately, through the grapevine. I barely knew him, and I absolutely also let some tears out re-reading it that day.

    1. I had forgotten the penises, but yeah. There were penises. Some vaginas too, I remember a big one in the kitchen, but mostly it was penises.

      Sorry about maudlin. Send me an email, any time you need a hug, dude.

    2. >Some vaginas too, I remember a big one in the kitchen,

      Every time u waz in the kitchen, m8

  2. This is amazing, man. Tales of the City. "Do not fall in love at the party."

    Your late friend Bill sounds like an amazing man, but i also sympathize with Marty selling the house after so many years and getting a good nights sleep 4 once. Applause for both gentlemen. and you too!

    1. Glad you liked reading it, but living it was better.

      I don't know much about Marty, but if I have my timeline approximately correct, he owned and lived in the party house for at least 25 years. Maybe longer. That's a lot of parties.

  3. >An occasional but recurring problem, though, was that many faeries had ‘real-world names’ but also ‘faerie names’, and maybe multiple aliases. They'd sometimes check in under one name, but forget and try checking out under one of their other names.

    Believe it or not, this is an occasional problem for us at Renn Faire. At the pottery booth, we hold purchases for people to pick up on the way out, so they're not lugging around heavy stuff all day. The clientele are a good mix of your average person, hardcore Medieval reenactors, and what we call "Playtrons," people who love dressing up and coming, but don't do reenactments. Lots of the last two categories have SCA names - Society for Creative Anachronism, a reenactment organization - as well as "mundane" names.

    They writhe their name and phone number on the bag, and go get drunk, and come back 6 hours later forgetting their name, or often forgetting to pick up their pottery completely.

    Yes, I have an SCA name. It's Capall. It means "Horse" in Irish. I chose it because the group we belong to has the Uffington White Horse as a clan symbol.

    1. All my favorite people have fake names — fairies, zinesters, drag queens, and I guess renn fairies.

      So what happens if they forget to pick up their pottery on the way out, and they paid cash or you don't have an address for 'em?

      Oh, and I got your Uffington White Horse, right here.

    2. We call them. That's why we ask for the phone number. We only hold overnight if they have already paid, so that's not a worry. They usually have multi-day passes, and will be back at a later date. VERY occasionally, we have to ship, which costs them extra.

      Yeah, that's the horse. The clan I'm in does Iron Age Celtic. Basically dressing in plaid and animal skins. I don't participate much anymore, but Virginia definitely does. She goes all-out. It's not my bag.

    3. Here's the clan picture from 2015, my first year at Pennsic. I know the names of maybe half of these people. I'm in there, Virginia is mostly hidden in the back. This is about 1/2 of the current people who camp with us. I haven't been camping at Pennsic in about 5 years - last two were cancelled, and I hate it anyway. Too many people. I stay home now and take care of the dogs.


    4. It looks like a happy bunch of weirdos. I see Bill Brent in the back row, second from the right. Bet you look good in plaid.

      So all these faces and twice again as many all camp in the same place, everybody as temporary neighbors? Yeah, even if they're all great people that wouldn't be fun for me.

      And with that many people, they're not all great people.

    5. >I see Bill Brent in the back row, second from the right

      That's Gallen. Never considered it, but yeah, he looks like Bill.

      They are, in general, a decent bunch of folks, but all with their own fucked-upness. Lots of alcohol issues - 40 years ago, the clan was formed as basically a way to drink and dress up in costumes. Only a few people are there from that long ago - Virginia and Steeleye, I think. At least one guy in the pic is dead. The guy with the Black and White checkerboard, Mertygan was his name. Had a heart attack, like 30 years old. His wife Coenogh is the farthest left person in the picture.

      Yeah, it was not my idea of fun, which is why I tolerated it for 3 years, then bowed out.

  4. I wouldn't go but you make it sound sweet. I really empathized with the last few paragraphs,.

  5. I put off reading this for days because it is so long but it is also funny. I don't (think) I know anyone whose ever been to an orgy, very educational and ... respectible? Wholesome?

    1. I write about orgies and you accuse me of wholesomeness? Well, maybe. I certainly liked the parties more than the world outside the parties, where everyone is clothed, and most things that matter (sexually and otherwise) are hidden and rarely mentioned.

  6. While I never visited this particular party house, I did spend way too much time at a place called "Mike's Night Gallery" south of Market. The description of the venue is almost identical, though Mike's was 100% men. Ah, the memories...

    I never considered myself conventionally good looking, but I never left Mike's unsatisfied.

    1. Those were the days, my friend...

      Marty was gay, and his parties were for men only, but nobody could do what he did every night of the week, so the party space was for rent on other nights.

      Our parties were once monthly and open to anyone, and I think a lesbian group rented the place on alternate Thursdays.


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