Monday, July 22, 1996
I still don’t know his name. The invitation, which comes to me courtesy one of my law clerks, is from Damion Seraglio Bond–a pseudonym. The Location: Gatsby’s Rendezvous by the Sea, “the house that all of Malibu deems the scandalous haven of sleepless nights.” The Event: DSB’s Fourth Annual Pajama and Lingerie Party. This seems like an opportunity to check out the state of decadence in Southern California, so off we go.
We arrive early, having been warned of parking gridlock later in the evening. A sentry outside the gray stucco beach house asks us to wait by the door. Soon we start hearing a loud growl from inside. After 30 seconds or so, a large doggie door pops open to reveal a mechanical wolf–eyes aglow, water drooling from his bared teeth–lunging in our direction. “Don’t worry, he’s chained,” the smiling sentry assures us as he lets us pass.
Inside, a few revelers are milling about, much like at any party, except they’re in pajamas, robes, and teddies. A few men are wearing women’s makeup and lingerie. Beer, frozen margaritas, and soft drinks flow freely, but no hard liquor, and no smoking allowed. A squad of Israeli security guards, conspicuous in coats and ties, patrols the premises and enforces the rules.
We wander past the far edge of the pool when a palm tree suddenly rises from the ground and a zombie shoots up, entangled in its roots. He makes furious noises and finally squirts a jet of water from his mouth before he disappears. Another one of our host’s mechanical booby traps, the wolf’s first cousin.
Our host seems to have left nothing to chance. The exercise room, behind a glass panel, has been turned into a bondage peep show. Dancers undulate in cages, on raised stands, and on a Plexiglas platform in the middle of the pool. A magician in a bathrobe adorned with the moon and stars performs card tricks. A masseuse, caricaturists, and a body painter ply their trades.
For all this, the party is not much different from a junior-high sock hop. People eye each other nervously while snatching finger food. Every one seems to be waiting for something to happen.
As midnight approaches the place becomes so packed–there are now perhaps 700 bodies in the living room and on the pool decks–that it’s difficult to move. The later arrivals display slightly more provocative costumes. One fellow walks in supporting a clip-on cup and precious little else. Reminds me of a nightmare I’ve had where I go to a party but forget to dress. One lady appears in a black leather bondage outfit; handcuffs hang from her belt and she carries a coiled whip. More lingerie than a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. It dawns on me that I’m at a pajama costume party, sort of a sleepover for adults, but with no sleeping allowed.
As midnight strikes, the crowd becomes quiet and everyone rushes to the deck overlooking the Pacific. Soon, fireworks start shooting from a barge anchored offshore. I’m glad our host hasn’t overlooked this detail. You know how dull parties often get when they forget to tow in the barge for the private pyrotechnics.
After the fireworks, the crowd begins to thin and we take our leave. As we wait for the van to the parking lot, I join the smokers’ exile across the street. Our host stops by and I offer him a cigar. “No thank you, I don’t smoke,” he says, wrinkling his nose. I mean to ask him his name, but he rushes off. As we drive away, we marvel at the event we just attended. It was certainly different and wonderful in many ways, and breathtakingly expensive. But decadent? Not really.