Amber Hawk Swanson (right) with Amber Doll.
Amber Hawk Swanson (right) with Amber Doll.

The Sex Doll Diaries


The Sex Doll Diaries

Artist brings her silicone twin to town for one last romp.


sex doll

By Janine Zeitlin

On May 15, Amber Hawk Swanson spent her final day on South Beach with her sex doll. The 27-year-old multimedia artist lounged near Collins Avenue and 20th Street for one final photo shoot with Amber Doll, the 115-pound silicone figure whose head was molded on Swanson's.

The sisterly pair sported matching white glam shades. The doll wore a bikini with the word love printed on one breast. Swanson donned a flirty red sundress. "We're done, a total wrap," the dark-haired Chicago artist said after Simon Hare snapped photos to document her Miami exhibition. It was a gorgeous sunny day with a postcard-ready blue sky. People stared as they passed by.

Swanson ordered the doll nearly two years ago from RealDoll — before the October 2007 release of Lars and the Real Girl, a movie in which a lonely man orders a sex doll he embraces as his girlfriend. "I was really attached to the idea of embodying victim and victimizer simultaneously," she explains. "She's actually just Body No. 8 with my face. Our bodies aren't identical. She has this perfect Barbie doll figure, and I certainly don't."

In the months before the doppelganger's arrival, Swanson began cruising sex doll websites. "There's a community of primarily men who are online and chatting about dolls, and it's really kind of innocent and friendly," she says. "I felt a real affinity to these men at the time." Swanson was single then, and her interest in the doll became personal. "I was imagining that she would fulfill these emotional needs of mine."

Swanson's adventures with her twin — roller-skating, getting married, sharing cake — are chronicled in "To Have, to Hold, and to Violate: Amber and Doll," an exhibition at Locust Projects in Wynwood.

Reactions to the doll were similar across geography and gender. Videos showed bundled-up Bears fans humping the figure and peeking at her crotch, while at the Exxxotica convention in Miami Beach, girls gone wild in hot pants lustily draped themselves over her. "There's usually groups of people who approach the doll," says Swanson. "Almost always, a leader of violation and a protector emerge. There's usually someone who is like, 'Check it out,' or 'Oh my gosh. Stop! You can't do that to her.'"

Perhaps the strangest response Swanson witnessed in Miami was aggression. At the opening of the show, a man whacked the doll as she was laid out in a casket, surrounded by fresh flowers. "People enjoy punching Amber Doll, but I've never seen anyone wind up and really go at it this way," the artist says. "Her jaw tore. It was a bit shocking to watch."

Swanson headed back to Chicago last week, leaving Amber in Miami. It will be the first time the pair has been separated. "I just left the gallery for the last time," she says of Locust, where the exhibition will be up through June 28. "I definitely have a little pull on the heart strings. My emotions really kind of vacillate between those leftover feelings over the expectations. She's this doll who's had a huge impact on my life."


Staph Breeding

How much MRSA is out there? No one knows.

By Isaiah Thompson

Sloan Bashinsky's got all kinds of ideas about all kinds of things. A former lawyer, failed mayoral candidate, and current contender for the Key West city commission, the island resident shares his thoughts daily on his blog, Among his theories: The hurricane shelter being built on a nearby island is a development scam; "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" signs are sucking the soul out of the Keys; and fish scraps make good fertilizer — if you bury them deep enough.

He also thinks methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — the occasionally lethal strain of staph infection that is impervious to antibiotics, which has made recent headlines — is occurring in the Keys and throughout Florida in greater numbers than anybody is aware of. He might be right.

Bashinsky learned about staph the hard way — he caught it and developed recurring infections on his hand and abdomen, a picture of which he posted online. He wondered how many of his neighbors had contracted the disease, and in trying to answer that question, discovered a startling fact: Nobody knows.

"Currently MRSA is not reportable in the state of Florida," acknowledges Kate Goodin, a surveillance epidemiologist for the Florida Department of Health. "Hopefully that will change in October."

In that month, she says, the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control will make their annual revisions to the state's list of reportable diseases, which lacks of any mention of MRSA.

Until that happens, Goodin says, the state simply doesn't know how many people are catching it. But there are indications the problem is growing. A study conducted last July by Roger Sanderson, a regional epidemiologist and colleague of Goodin's, showed that where there has been data, cases of drug-resistant staph increased steadily between 2003 and 2005. He estimates more than half of all staph samples sent to Florida labs are drug-resistant, and his department is recommending that MRSA be added to the reportable disease list.

For now it's virtually impossible to know whether people like Bashinsky represent isolated cases. "We didn't used to see it in the community. We are now seeing a community-acquired form of MRSA," acknowledges Steve Mason, nursing director at the Monroe County Health Department. Would he call the number of cases alarming? "I don't think so at this point," he says.

Vincent Conte, assistant director of epidemiology at the Miami-Dade County Health Department, agrees there is no evidence of a pandemic. "I got a call from someone in the Keys" — Bashinsky, probably — "who said that the Keys are just inundated with MRSA. We have no evidence for that," says Conte.

"You could check with the Monroe County Health Department," he adds. "But since it's not reportable, they probably don't know either."


The Cursed 48

John Timoney, Publicity-Shy?

By Tamara Lush

The wildly popular TV show The First 48 is wildly popular, in part, because of Miami. As fans of the show know, the Magic City is one of several metropolitan areas featured on the A&E crime docudrama. For the uninitiated, the show revolves around the two-day period after a body is found, operating on the premise that there is a steep fall-off in the odds of a successful investigation after those critical first 48 hours. Homicide detectives are the stars, and the series' most popular investigators work at the Miami Police Department. (One of them, Lt. Joe Shillaci, even had an hourlong spinoff special air on the cable network in 2006.)

Fueled by gallons of Cuban coffee, the MPD team tackles murders that involve Santería, gay love triangles, cocaine, gangs, and sometimes a combination of all four.

The detectives often interact with fans on the A&E website. They answer questions about their personal lives (Are you from Miami? and Are you single? are the most asked). Sgt. Armando Aguilar, for instance, recently gave detailed instructions to fans on how to make Cuban coffee. (Aguilar, who is the police union president, also has a large number of female fans, many of whom are thrilled when he speaks in Spanish).

But after seven seasons, the contract between A&E and MPD has expired — and the network and top brass are renegotiating. Word around the police department is that filming will be halted; apparently Chief John Timoney thinks the show doesn't portray the city in the best light.

It would be unfortunate if the cameras stop rolling here. For one thing, the rest of the cities are boring. (Phoenix? Please.) For another, the Miami detectives are portrayed as fundamentally caring, kind, and competent people. Isn't that better PR than another episode of Lexus-mooching?

Plus, fans around the globe will be sorely disappointed. One detective says he was greeted in a Brazil airport by an autograph-seeker. Apparently the same thing happens from time to time at local crime senes. The show's comment board is abuzz with the rumor of Miami's imminent demise. Consider fan Lisamarie's online take: "We want to see the two hottest detectives back in action again! You guys make our mouths water!!!! Mmmmm ... delicious.... LOL."

Perhaps she's referring to Dets. Fernando Bosch and Rolando Garcia, but who knows? None of these guys is a schlub.

In fact some of the devotees exude a Tiger Beat passion. Tinat302 is particularly smitten: "I would absolutely love to work with the Miami detectives ... especially Rolano Garcia, Mario De Los Santos, and Fernando Bosch!!! They are soooo hot!! I would even let them practice their 'pat-down' techniques on me!!"


To Not Catch a Thief

Aviation student gives flight to revenge on YouTube.

By Natalie O'Neill

In broad daylight a couple of months ago, a group of men lifted Alex Moscoso's shiny blue motorcycle from the parking lot at George T. Baker Aviation School and placed it in a van. Then the thieves calmly started the vehicle and drove away.

But Moscoso, a fit 20-year-old with a short goatee, isn't angry at the guys who stole it. He's pissed at the school's security guards, who he claims spend more time napping and socializing than patroling the grounds. "I was like, are you kidding me, man?" he says. "They literally do nothing."

After the theft, guards at the school were slow to get back to him about it. So he decided to conduct a little investigation of his own.

Camera in hand, Moscoso staked out a spot outside an afternoon classroom and caught two security guards on tape. The footage is less than scandalous, but — it could be argued — the guards are slacking off.

It looks like this: A male guard is sitting, slumped on a trash can, text-messaging someone. Next to him, a female guard with a long braid reaches for the phone to see what he's writing. She lets her hand linger on his arm a few seconds. They continue a chummy chat for the remainder of the three-minute video.

"It's what they were doing on the day my bike was stolen," Moscoso says. "It got me mad."

Once he got the "evidence" on tape, he posted it on, dubbing the clip "False Security." To date, it has gotten 16 hits, including two from Riptide.

In the past year, the Miami Police Department has received no reports of stolen items from the parking lot, which is adjacent to Miami International Airport. (Moscoso contends this is because the school's administration encourages students not to file them.)

George Sands, an assistant principal, offered Riptide a vague explanation of the school's security policy: "Guards' duties vary depending on assignment," he said before quickly excusing himself from the phone call.

But Moscoso, now bikeless and $10,000 in debt, is hoping for something more specific. "I think the school should pay me for it," he says. "They're not providing us the security we deserve."


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