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The Agony & the Ecstasy 

Charlotte's fetish underground

As the barefoot guy on stage walks over shards of broken glass, Mistress LunaSea runs an electrical shock device called a "violet wand" over the back and chest of a shirtless, skinny guy named Raven. Bright white/orange sparks arc from the multi-pronged tip of the wand to Raven's pale skin, which is streaked with long, angry-looking welts where Mistress LunaSea has been dragging her blood red nails. Raven, who's bespectacled and has short, dark hair parted on the side, sways back and forth with his eyes closed, as if in a trance. Suddenly the guy on stage, a magician named Paul Moses Jr. who's sporting a ponytail and Fu Manchu moustache, picks up a shard of glass and starts eating it. As he shows the crowd his now bleeding mouth, a girl wearing a black vinyl corset, fishnet stockings and a gas mask struts in and starts mimicking cunnilingus with a towering dominatrix sitting stageside named Mistress Autumn Twilight. Then things start to get weird.

It's Monday night around 10pm and the weekly Fun, Freaky, People (FFP) party is just getting underway. An assortment of dominatrices, slaves, fetish dancers, artists and musicians is gathered at Jeff's Bucket on Montford Drive. It's fitting that it feels like you're stepping into a dungeon as you walk down the steps to this funky, dark little space, for all kinds of out of the ordinary things are going on here.

My friend and I had just ordered our first round of drinks when the buxom, raven-haired Mistress LunaSea saunters over and dares me to touch what looks like a metal flyswatter. Being a dumb member of the male species, I do just that. Zap! Not too painful, but enough of a jolt that I wouldn't want to do it again. Mistress LunaSea starts teasing me about how she'd like to zap my penis. Thanks, but no, I say. In addition to the FFP parties, LunaSea oversees several Yahoo fetish groups, and is considered somewhat of a mother figure to Charlotte's BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism & masochism) community. "I just like to dress up and be a freak," she says. "I live the dominatrix lifestyle; it's what I do."

The girl wearing a gas mask — which gives her an unsettling, alien-like appearance-is Mistress Sapphire. She eventually takes off the mask to reveal a pair of giant, almond-shaped eyes, set within a beautifully exotic young face, which she has adorned with numerous metal studs, including two in her upper lip, one through her tongue, and one through the bridge of her nose. Her head is shaved except for a single strand of reddish/orange hair that hangs across her forehead.

Mistress Sapphire brings Raven, 23, up on stage, where he assumes the policeman's "spread 'em" pose while Sapphire and LunaSea take turns working him over with an assortment of whips and flogs they pull from a black leather bag.

As I take in this crazy scene from behind a corner table that's covered with all kinds of whips, paddles, cuffs, restraints and other fetish toys, I realize how soon one becomes desensitized to it. While I'm chatting with "Bob," who looks every bit like the 34-year-old banker he is, I look up and realize, "Oh, yeah, they're still whipping Raven," whose back is now a tapestry of inflamed welts. Bob lives in a small town just outside Charlotte, and he defies the stereotype that all BDSM fans are black-clad, multi-pierced freak shows.

"I just like the music, the people, and the way some of the women dress," he says. "Everybody seems to get along; you go to some of the other uptown clubs and there are different factions or people getting into fights about one thing or another. You don't see that kind of drama here."

After hanging out for a few hours, my friend and I are getting ready to leave when Mistress LunaSea comes over and informs us that she's getting ready to shock some guy's dick. "Want to watch?" she asks us. Well...when in Rome. So we gather around as Rock Hill resident Ray White, 27, who's dressed in slacks and a tie, unzips his fly and produces his penis. Sure enough, Mistress LunaSea taps it with her electric flyswatter. As I watch through clenched eyes, I actually see a little spark fly from Ray's member. He jumps back, upsetting a table of drinks behind him, but then laughs it off and gives Mistress LunaSea a hug, and keeps right on partying.

Unbuckle your Bible belt, Charlotte, whatever your kink, fetish, or sexual orientation, there's a burgeoning BDSM culture in the Queen City that can accommodate just about every proclivity under the moon. To join in, all you need is an open mind and an adventurous spirit — and some black leather clothing never hurts.

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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