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When the Political Gets Very Personal

August 01, 2000|BOOTH MOORE

It's T minus two weeks until the Democratic National Convention, and one art gallery has devised an unconventional way of grabbing a piece of the action: an exhibit of political porn titled "Democratic Sex."

The show is just steps away from Staples Center on Flower Street, in a former 1920s speakeasy (at least that's how it's advertised).

The warehouse-like space has been converted into the Speakeasy Gallery by sex therapist Dr. Susan Block, who dressed for the exhibit's opening party Saturday in star-spangled stilettos and bra, plus red fishnets and a red lace garter belt.

Butterflies were having a field day in my stomach as I waited on the sidewalk in front of the gallery's iron gate with a few other party-goers. "Let them in one by one," an imposing man said to the gatekeeper.

Inside, I tried to look unfazed while contemplating the artistic merit of gyrating sculptures and X-rated body parts rendered in crystal. In a matter of minutes, I was able to resolve a long-standing internal debate: If I were on "Sex and the City," I'd be the prudish Charlotte York for sure.

In one corner of the gallery, Block had built her "boudoir," from which she would Web-cast her sex therapy show later that night. Cameras were trained on a bed, covered with silk scarves and phallic-looking pillows. Shelves above the bed held sexy dolls, books on sex and Yale pennants (she's a grad).

I bought a shot of courage at the bar, which was decorated with sleek mannequin legs. (Worst wine I've ever tasted.) John Halcyon Styn, who recently won a Webby award for his wacky personal Web site was in the corner drinking in the ambience. He's a friend of one of the artists but said he had always wanted to attend one of Block's Saturday night parties, where people can pay to watch (and participate in) a taping of her show.

Not particularly excited about the hors d'oeuvres (pickled pigs feet aren't my bag, baby) or about striking up a conversation with any of other dozen or so guests--the aging dominatrix, the couple nuzzling in a womb-like chair, the shirtless guy painted like an American flag--I was relieved to see Block teetering over on her heels. She introduced herself and offered a Cook's tour of the carnival of erotica.

Naughty pieces include a series of Block's computer-generated photographs, "Hungry Republicans," which featured doctored images of hard-line conservatives in unsavory poses, French Revolution erotica and a statue of an eerily lifelike naked woman by Kevin Springer, whose day job involves creating special effects for films.

Block hopes to spice up the convention and, by extension, the presidential campaign. "Al Gore has a deficiency of sex appeal," said the love doctor, stroking her pet snake, Eve. "Women are running from him in droves! This show is going to do wonders."

I had to leave before the party got too interactive. (Previous engagement, I swear.) It was probably a good thing; just the sight of a shag fur-covered ladder was enough to make me want to run screaming into the night.

"Democratic Sex" runs through Nov. 1 at the Speakeasy Gallery downtown. Info: (213) 749-1330.

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E-mail Moore at Booth.Moore@latimes.com.

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