Swelter 17

As a preamble, What's My Line as a Restoration comedy of manners, the new Holly Golightly slowly building conversational steam, reminiscing about Manhattan's annual Jean Genàt-meets-Christopher Street bash aboard the S.S. Intrepid: "My outfit that night, this Mylar sailor thing with five-inch heels, looked so cute A that man-heavy crowd was living when they saw me. Afterward, it started to rain, there were no cabs, and everyone went frantic. I had to pay some limo driver 50 bucks for a six-block ride and he made me ride up front, to hide from his other passengers. Only in New York A I asked him if he wanted me to throw a blow-job into the deal, too. Can you imagine?"

On to other stories of Gotham, downtown girl going gooey over a patron of money-hungry flesh ("He gave him everything A it was love, pure and simple"), the state of drag, and the merits of Fire Island. And then the bombshell, a casual mention of an interesting sideline, moonlighting on the Hellfire, Belle de Jour, and dungeon-chic circuit as Mistress Love. Strong stuff for some of the other guests, but to our way of thinking, manna from heaven.

"It's simple enough work, really, and sort of entertaining. You tie them up against a brick wall with leather straps -- they're nude, of course -- put a horse bit in their mouth, then whip them a bit. When they get all excited, you find out if the wretches are right- or left-handed, unstrap one hand, and let them go about their business. At that point, you can just leave them there, get a glass of wine or whatever, and they're perfectly happy. That's $200 an hour, split with the house. If you help them along, and some of them, trust me, you wouldn't mind helping, that's another hundred. Naturally, you can't report the money: One girl has $300,000 stashed away in a safe deposit box, earning no interest at all. It's hard to invest, save up for retirement -- I wind up blowing it all. Cash can really get to be a problem."

Among the drones who take pride in health insurance, credit, and chump change, a heated argument ensuing. Vice and easy money may be an inalienable American right, but tax-dodging remains another enviable sin entirely. Our thoughts straying toward the good Mistress's potential as a marriage candidate -- handsome private income, an amiable disposition, separate recreational interests. At our insistence, the drift of chatter moving from crime to fame:

"You would ask about that. I haven't had any real celebrity clients, but Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas did have a private cross-dressing appointment with a friend of mine. He'd been on Phil's show, and they wanted to try drag together. They're both so nice and supportive to all of us out here. And there's a very wealthy, fairly well-known gentleman who uses some of the girls at his place. Normally, I don't make house calls, but it was the Carlyle. That doorman got an eyeful, let me tell you, when I waltzed in, with this Chanel suit over my vinyl dominatrix gear, sweating from the heat and trying to look inconspicuous. Anyway, I get upstairs to this beautiful, to-die-for apartment, and this man has his own home dungeon built into a closet, with all the very best equipment. It's a great, big wonderful world, honey, and in this life, the craziness just keeps coming at you.

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