Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
To reach Mistress Zaria's palace of pain, you must get on and off two freeways, negotiate tricky turns through a bland suburban subdivision, go over a bridge and continue right on through the looking glass. The black-clad kitten in spiked heels and Amy Winehouse eyeliner may or may not give you the most direct route to the rented two-story condo she uses for her appointments as a professional dominatrix. She often sends first-timers down a rabbit hole or two before allowing them to cross her threshold.
"If they finally make it, I might take them on," purrs Zaria (who will reveal only her nom de domme).
Pass the entrance exam and you will gain admittance to Mistress Zaria's "dungeon," a converted bedroom decorated in early Marquis de Sade. Black vinyl walls gleam under blood-red light bulbs, reflecting eerily in floor-to-ceiling mirrors. In the corner by blacked-out windows a massage table hulks under a thick vinyl sheet. A motorized hoist raises and lowers a leather swing.
In a closet hang tools of Zaria's trade: stiff wire brushes, brass knuckles, nipple clamps, paddles, riding crops, feather dusters, floggers, masks, blindfolds and gags. With her collection of props and contraptions, Zaria ties up, chains, handcuffs, whips, spanks and physically hurts and humiliates her clients, who pay $200 (and up) an hour for the privilege.
She'll grant almost any request as long as it's legal and not "too personal." Dominatrices do not have sex with the men (and very few women) who seek their services. Zaria's specialty is sadomasochism laced with fetishism. Want to be slapped, strapped, sat on and spit on? She's your girl. She'll fulfill your desire to have your bare fanny tanned by Wonder Woman (one of her most requested costumes), and she'll enthusiastically play the role of sassy secretary turning the tables on the boss. She'll shake Jacob Marley's chains for a naked make-believe Scrooge. But she won't do baby-diaper scenarios or "doctor stuff." Don't ask for strap-ons or "anal training." She has limits.
"One man wanted me to throw cream pies at him," Zaria says. "That sounded too easy, so I refused." Another offered to pay her $200 to take him to a barber for a haircut. "That was too much like a mommy thing. I didn't trust him."
Of her hundreds of clients—she books three to four a day, seven days a week, she says—at least 25 percent are into cross-dressing. They're the biggest flakes, she says, but she'll dress them up in frilly frocks and then dress them down, verbally, physically and emotionally, if they pay enough.
For more than a decade, Zaria, who's in her late 30s and has a degree in business, has entertained the whipping whims of a loyal clientele. She became a professional dominatrix—a woman who dominates others for pay—through her involvement in the local "leather community." A bondage-discipline-sadomasochism seminar taught safety measures such aspre-appointment phone interviews to weed out "weirdos." Good customer service, she learned, means no insulting penis size or weight—unless that's what the guy is into.
Who are her customers? Zaria says her average client is 45, white, Republican and holds a supervisory- or management-level position. He's married, has kids, goes to church and belongs to the country club. As often as twice a week, he visits Zaria's candlelit lair to give up all control and act the part of helpless submissive. In her appointment book are names of top executives at Merrill Lynch and American Airlines. Her youngest client is 22. Her oldest is 82.
At least a dozen professional dommes currently practice in the Dallas area. The legendary Mistress Ruth Cole, a 300-pound hard-core dominatrix, was the greatest of them all, by many accounts. She trained a number of currently practicing domination/submission specialists, including Mistress Zaria, before her sudden death in 1996.
Through conducting consensual acts of domination and submission for money, dommes permit clients to live out taboo fantasies in safe, sane environments. Relinquishing power to the domme, the submissive finds an emotional and erotic outlet. "Scenes," as sessions are called, use a "safe word" to prevent the dominatrix from going too far. "You have to be careful when you're dealing with someone's head," says Mistress Zaria. Some men say "no" or "stop" as part of their fantasy. Only by uttering the safe word—Zaria tells subs to say "mercy"—does all play end immediately.
In a quiet second-floor apartment overlooking a lake just outside the Dallas city limits, Mistress Montana looks more like a Junior League soccer mom than a veteran dominatrix. Dressed in a beige sweater, black skirt and leopard-print stomp-me pumps, the pretty 40-year-old blonde welcomes visitors into a living room appointed with beige furniture and watery art prints. She's a mother of two kids in private school and owns a home in an upscale bedroom community where neighbors have no idea she earns $200 to $300 a session applying hardwood paddles and cats o' nine tails to the pale buttocks of middle-aged CEOs, high-profile real estate developers and at least one local TV newsman.
A typical appointment involves conversation, maybe some light refreshments, then a trip to her dungeon. Montana's recreation room is a windowless red and black den filled with things that make men go "ouch," including a full-body swing that supports up to 850 pounds. Speaking in a hypnotic murmur, Montana will blindfold a client, run her fingernails up and down his naked torso—"I like to say I'm inspecting my property"—then transition to the dark side. "They can tell me what they like, but in here, it's my gig," says Montana, who expresses a preference for hardwood spanking devices. Like Mistress Zaria, her safe word is "mercy."
Montana was drawn toward domme-dom after working as a phone-sex operator 20 years ago. Most callers were submissives seeking discipline from a sexy-sounding dame. "I did research into the psychology of it, into the profile of the person who longs for that. It's almost like being a sex therapist," says Mistress Montana. "So many of them, their mamas really messed them up. They can't talk to anyone else about what they need. They'd feel too exposed telling their wives. So they come to me on their lunch hour."
What she won't do: fisting, knife play, blood sports, "brown showers" (look it up at your peril) and "Roman showers," which Zaria won't do either. (Don't look that last one up. You don't want to know.) She also refuses to take on personal slaves who want to dress like French maids and do household chores. "They never get the floor clean, and they're always underfoot," Montana says.
One of her favorite games involves attaching a line of wooden clothespins to sensitive areas, then suddenly ripping them away. Mercy. — Elaine Liner
Call us lame, but we've gotten to the point where we sometimes enjoy a Good Records in-store a lot more than a club show. No smoke, no late nights, no cover charge, no drive to Denton, no drunken sound guys with a bass fetish. It's all of the fun without the majority of the hassles. And guess what? When you watch a show with a bunch of record nerds and bloggers, people actually seem to listen, which is really what it's all about. So grab a six-pack and stop in the next time there's a band playing. They'll probably be good. And if they're not, just remember, it was free and there's always the parking lot.
Soon the formerly conservative Rod Dreher will find himself to the left of our very own Jim Schutze. Dreher's leftward lurch began when he came out of the closet as an environmentalist. Then he penned a column admitting that his support for the invasion of Iraq was a total mistake. He would later announce his opposition to capital punishment. Finally, he wrote that he has problems with, well, capitalism and big business. At this rate, in a year or so, Dreher will write in favor of unionizing welfare recipients. For sure, there have been times when Dreher's evolution (our word) has been hard to watch, like seeing a college freshman change his stripes midway through his first political science class. But Dreher's honesty and insight always manage to shine through the awkwardness of his revelations. Here's the sound of our left hand clapping.
Public Trust owner/director Brian Gibb moved from Denton to a space on Commerce Street in 2006 and people crammed the joint, spilling out of the door and onto the asphalt. The Public Trust makes art a party and everyone's invited. Over the course of the last year, and through a transition from Art Prostitute into the Public Trust, the gallery has showcased impressively diverse exhibitions featuring local and national artists. We've seen skateboard art, simple drawings, tiny art, giant art, group shows, mad paintings, stuffed objects, photographs and more. And we're willing to bet those gallery peeps had fun through every show, which is part of what makes TPT a place you truly want to be. Their receptions are as friendly as house parties, often with crazy-good DJs and a little hooch to boot. The price of the work is friendly to the budget-minded and the well-heeled, just like the gallery itself.
There's no shame in diggin' on a little Starland Vocal Band or some Supertramp. Don't feel bad if you truly love Judy Collins. There's a place for you where people understand. That place is in Mesquite and it's a radio station with high school kids for DJs who probably have no idea whom they're playing. We'll give them the benefit of the doubt because they crank out the '70s Top 40 as if wool dickeys and macramé owls were back in style. With Robert Bass in the music director's chair, the station offers all the best from the age of super-sappy love songs. Jim Croce and Ambrosia never had it so good, even back before they had songs on albums that weren't Time/Life collections.
On September 13, former Dallas Morning News TV critic Ed Bark posted to his Web site, which he calls a blog, a handful of wonderful photos of Mark Cuban sweating his ass off and making his "O" face whilst rehearsing for ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Man looked like he was going to have a heart attack; we're not sure he'd make it through a single episode of Crawling With the Stars. Ed got the snaps and the interviews with the Mavs owner because Ed's got clout and chops from two-plus decades at Dallas' Only Daily, where he accrued the rep as "the dean of American TV critics," as Kansas City Star's Aaron Barnhart wrote of Bark when he took Belo's buyout one year ago. We'll admit we're not as enamored of Uncle Barky's obsession with local TV news ratings as we should be, but Ed's coverage of local TV news goings on has been invaluable: He's the one who kept us informed of the doings at KTVT-Channel 11 during the Regent Ducas era; he watched Anchorwoman when no one else wanted to; and he still goes to Los Angeles on his own dime to cover the fall and spring season previews, since The Dallas Morning News is still too cheap and short-sighted to employ a freaking TV critic. He's providing content about content. At least Ed's still bringing something to the table, which is more than most of us can say in the crowded but somehow always lonely blogosphere.
Sam Merten's coverage of Dallas City Council meetings on DallasBlog is a must-read for political junkies, capturing the drama, intrigue and the contentiousness that the daily paper often overlooks. We were particularly impressed with his dispatch on the debate over allowing Trammell Crow to raze a safe, modest apartment complex for a strip mall. Add Merten's no-fuss journalism to his well-sourced reporting on the Trinity River debate and you have all the evidence you need that local blogging doesn't have to be all about opinion, conjecture and frivolity. Instead, it can give you a bigger bite of what's going on in your fair city than the big-dog news outlets.
Come on, admit it. For sheer guts alone, you have to hand it to freshman city council member Angela Hunt, who stood up to the entire bunch on the Trinity River toll road issue. What makes Hunt the best council member is not so much the position she took on that river thing, but that she had the courage to do it and not be a nut case about it. When we read about her or see her on the tube, she's always calm, cool and collected. And except for the Trinity deal, she seems to play well with others. It's something about being smart, thinking for herself and doing what she thinks is right. Is that not a plan?
This DJ shit sometimes gets on our nerves, what with the boy culture and the wheelspinners' propensity to try to out-obscure each other at the expense of alienating the dance floor. Oh, and then there's that whole club mindset, in which anything that's not house music with a beat that sounds like a cat barfing isn't considered danceable. That's where DJ Wild in the Streets comes in; she's adept at digging some gems out of her crate that will please the purist and the casual booty-shaker alike, all without succumbing to remix fever. This is a woman who knows that if you provide the international pop, the Stax classic and the classic backbeat, they will come.
For stand-up comedians, stage time trumps all, including spouses, children, international incidents and most major sporting events. There's nothing more important than the opportunity to make drunk people laugh. It's about gaining experience, about learning what makes the masses guffaw. Nobody knows this better than Linda Stogner and Jan Norton, who, for the past 15 years, have hosted comedy shows in the backs of bowling alleys, delis, pizza parlors and other unlikely venues. Calling their operation the "Backdoor Comedy Showcase," Stogner and Norton have championed both up-and-coming and veteran comics. They were booted from their first official comedy-only space on Ross Avenue this year to make room for another soulless corporate headquarters, but that hasn't stopped the pair, who continue to host shows anywhere they can draw a crowd. For that, we give them our most sincere rubber chicken salute.
Couple problems here. "Metro Politics" really isn't a column. It's a little explanatory title that the News puts over stories by Gromer Jeffers, local political reporter. And Jeffers isn't supposed to be considered a columnist. But the larger truth is that Jeffers is a better columnist than any of the typists at the News who are supposed to be columnists. He takes you inside local government. (If you happened to read his take on why the proposed University of North Texas law school at Dallas died in the Legislature, for example, you saw that it got doused in a pissing match between state Senator Royce West and state Representative Yvonne Davis, both Democrats of Dallas.) Jeffers also gives you some flavor for where and when politics gets done in the real world. Seems like half his stories include references to stuff said at tables or just outside the front door of Brooklyn Jazz Café. That's cool. If the News was smart, they'd stick his picture on top of his stories and call him an official DMN columnist. No, wait. Better to leave him where he is: as the best columnist who isn't one.
The Kettle Art Gallery really shouldn't exist. In a missive on the official Kettle Art Web site, co-owners Frank Campagna and Kirk Hopper admit that they rarely represent artists who sell work for bucketloads of cash. They have no major benefactor and don't live in the space or hold fund-raisers—all elements that keep most galleries afloat. To top it off, they're in Deep Ellum, the neighborhood everyone's been told to run far, far away from. But anyone who's been to Kettle knows better. Their strip of Elm Street is thriving. Campagna's and Hopper's marathon exhibition schedule, featuring everything from tattoo artists' works to horror-themed shows, keeps the gallery walls full of fresh new work from both underground and prominent local artists. It's all a mighty fine affront to conventional attitudes about how to make and sell art.