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800 words

Venus and Lars

January 06, 2008|Dan Neil | Dan Neil can be reached at dan.neil@latimes.com.

Bianca was born in San Marcos, a prosperous, well-scrubbed bedroom community near San Diego. She was always very quiet, often spending hours--actually, 24 hours a day--staring out the window. Her hobbies included staring, posing seductively and falling over. She had dreams, I'm sure. What girl doesn't dream of her Prince Charming on a white horse who orders her off the Internet? But she could have scarcely imagined that one day she would star in a major motion picture, one of the art house hits of the season.

"Lars and the Real Girl"--about a neurotic introvert (Ryan Gosling) who falls in love with a silicone sex doll--isn't what you'd call a stretch for Bianca, but it's a huge leap for Abyss Creations, the company that manufactured her. Abyss' RealDolls, billed as the world's finest love dolls, are full-size, anatomically correct silicone mannequins/sexual surrogates--correct, though implausible, considering the dolls' enormous rubber chests (up to 32G). But you can't fault the workmanship. If the bachelor party blow-up sex doll with the "Oh, no!" expression is Budweiser, a RealDoll is 1961 Chateau Latour.

Of course, you have questions: $6,500; yes, fully functional; weird, cold and a bit clammy because of their silicone construction. After Abyss' team of fabricators achieves the dolls' sumptuous final form, they are powdered to make them soft and supple to the touch. As for being cold, "You can warm them up in a bathtub," says Matt Krivicke, the 36-year-old chief executive and creative director of Abyss.

When I meet Krivicke in the RealDolls showroom--a few of the dolls are flouncing around on couches, all glassy-eyed and parted lips--there is a poster of "Lars and the Real Girl" on the wall. "We love the movie," Krivicke says. "We took the whole factory out to see it." Still, he grants that "Lars" is a little unrealistic. The churchgoing character never attempts to have sex with Bianca--or whatever you call carnal knowledge of silicone--because, you see, they're not married yet.

Right about now, you might be having that falling-in-an-elevator feeling, and I sympathize. The world did seem like a better place before I knew guys were ordering silicone sex replicants off the Internet. But try to look at this through the lens of evolutionary biology. Beneath the onionskin of civilized behavior, human males are inheritors of a fierce imperative to copulate to ensure the continuance of their genes. In the modern world, this primal urge has grown inconvenient, dangerous and occasionally ridiculous, as in the case of a British man who was recently charged with having sex with a bicycle. And yet we cannot doubt the power of this urge, especially when we see the craziness that results from its frustration.

Which is why I believe we should be bombing the sex-starved young zealots of the Taliban with RealDolls. In five years, Waziristan would be the new Aspen.

In Abyss' workshops, the staff is busy with orders for Christmas, trimming the silicone fringe off ersatz flesh and painting slutty faces. Headless splayed silicone bodies hang from chains, something like the Spanish Inquisition if it were staged by Larry Flynt. It is a fascinating process. The dolls begin as a stainless steel and PVC armature, which is situated in a full-size body mold. Flesh-toned silicone is poured into the molds and left to cure over the weekend. On Monday mornings, the naughty Venuses emerge from their shells.

If you suspect that anyone who might buy a RealDoll is a scary, lonely loser with an attachment disorder the size of Nebraska, you might have seen "Guys and Dolls," a British documentary profiling some of Abyss' clients. Among them, the notorious Davecat, a fey man-child living with his doll, Sheshawn, in his parents' house.

"I think the thing my father finds difficult about my relationship with Sheshawn," says this real-life Lars, "is the fact that she's not alive, you know, she's not a human being." No, really, you think?

"We didn't think that was the fairest representation of our clients," says Krivicke, who claims the piece was edited for maximum creepiness. Most of the company's clients are normal, healthy men who like to have sex with inanimate objects. Still, some are lonely, shy, sexually ineligible men whose dolls relieve a life of agonizing loneliness. Some are disfigured, some are emotional cripples. Krivicke's assistant, Bronwen Keller, suspects a few are ex-military so shattered by their experiences that they just want some nonjudgmental female companionship. "Every week I get a call asking if we give a military discount," Keller says.

If that isn't about the saddest thing I've ever heard. *

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