Amy H. : Artist, One-time Fetish Model
Image credit: Cal Tabuena-Frolli
A lot of the music from this episode is from Vistas. They’re wonderful and you should listen to them.PLAYLIST
Song – Artist – Album
Discrete Machine – Jan Jelinek – Best of JUNK JET
Deepest Laws – Rome – Rome
Make Em NV – The Roots – Dilla Joints
Vistas – Vistas – Mute
Ambient Odysseus – Idiom Creak – Sweet-Time-Girl
1, 9, 8, 5 – Hypo – Gooom Tracks, vol 1
Treasure – Matmos + So Percussion – Treasure State
Psychic Chasms – Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms
(Awesome unlabeled album from the WZBC music library. Email me if you know it.)
Everything – Vistas – Mute
Non Song – To Rococo Rot – Hotel Morgan
I Must Bury My Muse – Asfandyar Khan – Snow Makes Things Perfect
An Apology – Future Islands – In Evening Air
I very, very rarely shave my legs, but when I went to this show it was one of the first time ever that I shaved my legs. It’s like a Japanese tea ceremony, you know? You get all your ingredients, you get the soap and the water, I’m standing in the shower, I’d hook my leg up on the faucet and I’d soak my legs up. I’m thinking I’m in a commercial, trying to do it all sexy. I have my soap in one hand and then my razor, and I’m like “Oh yeah, this is great!” And when you’re done you have these bare legs, and it feels really great to rub your legs together; you’re like, “Oh yeah, this is why people do it.” Then they start to itch, your hair follicles turn red. It’s really not sexy – there’s all that hair embedded in the soap when you’re done, and you gotta keep washing the razor. It’s awful. You’re like, “Why…? Why?”
I pop balloons for money. Not in like a children party kind of way. Pornographic kind of way. Dirty balloons.
It was at the point where I was cleaning houses for my landlord because, well, I hadn’t paid in a while and I wasn’t making any money. I started looking on Craigslist for gigs. I don’t want a job. I just want to work for a day, get me money to live, that’s fine. I was looking for tickling videos, it’s like oh that would be fun.
So did you not find any tickling videos, or tickling work?
You know, I found a bunch, but it was all in like West Pennsylvania and there was no way I was traveling to West Pennsylvania. Have you heard that people who live in the woods have sulfuric acid in their fences, in West Pennsylvania?
They eat raccoons and they have sulfuric acid in their fences… Like hicks, you know? I don’t wanna say it, but they’re hicks. [laughs] God… I’m not gonna go to Hickville to make a tickling video. How much money am I gonna get for that, 40 bucks? Come on!
But then I happened upon a balloon porn, and I thought that would be a lot funnier.[Hey everyone, I’m Mischief.]
So you like to have fun for money? How about some light-hearted, softcore porn?[Today, I’ll be playing with some balloons. We’re gonna have lots and lots of fun, so I hope you’ll join along.]
It just didn’t look too filthy, it looked like there was some morality there and I thought, you know, this is great for money. Yeah, that was it. I e-mailed, I said “Give me some more info, ” and they got back to me right away.
It was 300 dollars per session without clothes, and I think like 250 per session with clothes. Guess which one I chose? [laughs]
I was an artist.
An artist doesn’t have a day job, they draw all day. This is what I’m gonna do. So I’m psyched, I’m like “Wow, I’m gonna be in…” I never admitted it to myself, I never was like “I’m gonna be in a porn.” I was just like “I’m gonna be in a very dirty video.” In the back of my mind I was like, “Well, I hope this doesn’t damage me for life.”
They sent me a DVD and two balloons to try out on. I watched the DVD, it’s about a suburban housewife – blonde – blowing up balloons. These are not small balloons, these balloons are like three times the size of my head. How about a fetus? Like, like eight fetuses… Mid-term.
She was sitting in a nice little suburban home, just sitting there next to a TV, with some balloons, talking to a balloon, baby-talk.
“Oh, you little balloon, I’m gonna blow you up… I’m gonna pop you!”
It was all about saying ‘pop’ and ‘burst’, because that’s like the whole element of it; it’s like, “Surprise!”
I watched the video with my roommates, and I’m like “Excuse me, I have to blow up the balloons now.” I go to the kitchen, in the other side of the house, and I’m like blowing up the balloons in the kitchen; I’m kind of terrified, because they’re huge, you know? Like eight fetuses large. I blow it up, and you gotta blow it up until it pops. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, it’s the scariest thing, because you know it’s gonna break, but you don’t know when. My hearing… You’re just like worrying about everything – your safety, your hearing.
So I blow it up until it breaks. Like, that’s not too bad, and then I blow the other one up, it’s not too bad. So I e-mail them back, I’m like “Piece of cake, let’s do it.”
I went out to the suburbs. He pulls up to the train station in a Prius, hybrid car.[The third generation Prius. It’s harmony between man, nature and machine.]
A Prius. I get in the car, and I’m wearing – so I don’t look like an idiot, like the other porn bitches – I’m wearing this 1950s high-waisted, thin-waisted housewife dress. I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing, like I was just in it for the money. I know what I’m getting into, I know I’m getting exploited here. I just need the money.
Did you have any sort of preconceptions about what women who do porn modeling are like?
You know, like the rape victim who just sort like turns around, she’s like “I’ll just get fake breasts, because is just they want, I’m a victim” sort of thing. It wasn’t like that for me, I just really wanted money. I’m totally detached and I don’t find it sexy at all. That’s why I did it.
In the car, what were you guys talking about?
We were talking about Darwinism, and he’s like totally into it. He’s telling me that like “I worked in Alaska, and I just don’t think mankind is gonna last much longer, and nature is gonna regulate itself,” and I’m like “Wow, oh my God! I wanna talk about this more!” but in the back of my mind I’m thinking like “Balloon porn… I’m about to do a balloon porn!”
I have phobias myself, I can’t stand baby birds; hairless, little baby birds, I just can’t stand it. I really can’t, especially dead baby birds on the street, I have to cross the street. Everybody has… I mean, most people have their phobias.
So this guy had a phobia… What was the phobia?
The sound of balloons popping. [laughs]
Did he say what lead him to investigate this? Was he like sick of having to leave birthday parties, or something?
Yeah, he thought it was really bizarre. He was Googling his phobia, looking for the name it, something… Trying to see if there are any support groups. And he’s living in North-East Philly, he got out of school, I guess he had a bunch of loans and he had like a home mortgage deal, and a boring 9 to 5, and he happens upon some balloon-popping porn fetish sites. Wow, that’s an idea!
He starts with his wife, he makes her pop some balloons, videotapes her, takes some photos, puts it on a website, and it just takes off. So he starts doing it more and more. It’s bringing a lot of money, he pays off his mortgage, his student loans, he moves to the suburbs. And he doesn’t tell anyone in his family, doesn’t tell any of his friends anything, but secretly has a balloon porn site.
So was there actually a name for this guy’s phobia?
I have no idea. I doubt it.
We’re at his Prius. We pull up, get out, I look around, there’s like a lawn, fresh air, I’m like “Wow, you did really good,” and I’m like starting to think about fetishes I can start profiting on. I’m like, “Wow, what about hand puppets?” Then we go in and he has a big dog that runs up and is like “Oh, I’m well fed.” He has just like the happiest pets ever, like big, fat cats and just a wonderful home. We got to the kitchen and he offered me delicious peach wine. Never in my life have I had such delicious fruit wine, oh my God!
This is like a big contrast to your apartment, and the house that you live in, as you are struggling on…[laughs] I lived in a South Philly apartment that didn’t even have a wall, there was just like iron fencing, and I slept in a living room, we called that a bathroom, you know? I hadn’t seen a lawn in like six years, so it was really just a wonderful place.
They couldn’t tell anyone that they were doing this porn website. It was a world of secrets. You know what the suburbs is? A world of secrets.
They actually sent me off to a little guest room to take a nap for an hour, and just relax, get my lung capacity up. In the room, I’m thinking about what’s about to happen and I’m like “Oh my god, I’m gonna be naked, hairless, on film, popping balloons. I’m never gonna be able to get a teaching job.”
Were you worried about people finding these pictures in the future?
Actually no, I wasn’t worried about it at all. I was actually more concerned about my varicose veins than anything else.
So I go downstairs in my little kimono, but the whole thing is pretty formal and professional, you know? Like, “Well, you’re gonna stand there, you’re gonna take your robe off in 8, 7, 6… and then we start taking photos and rolling.” Then he explained to me that there were no edits, and we couldn’t stop shooting. So this is one take, then we would take a short break and there would be another take. So I couldn’t say like “I gotta get some water” [laughs] and I had to act like they weren’t there. They were like “We’re just gonna mouth words to you and give you signs. Just make sure you blow up some balloons and you pop some balloons. Don’t blow up all the blue balloons…” I’m like, “Piece of cake.”
Then he’s like, “Here’s a big balloon, you can get started with this. Just get on top and start rolling around, baby-talk these motherf-ers and just get going.” [laughter] So I take my robe off and I’m like, “Hey…” [laughs]
You know, when I’m in these high-pressure situations where I’m like the entertainer…
It’s so vaudeville, and I can’t take anything seriously. I’m naked, and I just jump on top of a balloon and I’m like “Oh, it’s a big balloon. I’m gonna pop it so bad!”
I have a quota, I’ve gotta blow up something like 80 balloons or something, with one take of maybe 25 minutes.
At first I’m popping balloons, I’m real casual, I’m being sexy. At the end of the 25 minutes I’m going insane. I wasn’t sexy at all, I had my flyaways and everything. I go over and I grab a Martini that’s empty with a little umbrella on it, on the fireplace and I just grab it and I’m like “I gotta stab ’em!” Balloon carnage everywhere…
I’m naked, and my butt is huge… [laughs]
Your butt was huge – was that just the way your butt was, or like it somehow, I don’t know, it expanded to fit a balloon?
No, I’ve just got a big butt all the time. It just kind of like pops around. Do you know they have these things now that are like bras for your butt? I think they’re called brums. [laughter]
There were a lot of close calls, like it started going in my butt a little bit, then in my underneath butt crack. [laughs] And I’m really wishing I had a brum at that point. Then I sat on a balloon, it was like a medium-sized red balloon, I’m like “I’m gonna getcha, I’m gonna pop you so bad,” and I sit on the balloon and I feel it go up into my butt. I can’t say ‘stop.’ There was a balloon hanging halfway out of my butt, sort of in my butt, and I’m like “Oh my god, what am I gonna do?” There’s a balloon in my butt.” I look right at the camera and I’m like “Think! Think quick!” Vaudeville, right then. I’m like, “Excuse me, I’ve got a balloon in my butt,” and I pull it out real slow, sexy, I guess, and hold it up for the camera and kind of like wing it around. I’m like “Balloon in my butt, get it!” and then I tossed it behind my shoulder.
So you were kind of like twirling it like a bride twirling her negligee at the bachelorette party?
Yeah, I was twirling a brum.
The guys is like running in and out, with his headphones on and he’s just like “Oh God, I hope I don’t hear these.”
Wait, why was the guy running in and out of the room?
Because he had a phobia and didn’t want to hear the balloons. At every photo shoot he has to wear headphones to block out the sound, and he actually has to leave the house, for especially big balloons.
So what was it like having to emote with these big, huge balloons that were going to pop in your face, and possibly hurt you or sting your skin, but still look sexy and happy about it at the same time?
That was the worst part, because you had to look like you’re not afraid. Inside you’re like, “Oh my God, I might die! This might go in my eye, my ears might start bleeding.” I had red welts all over me from these popping on my skin. [laughs]
You know, when you go to a bar in Philly and these men come up to you and they just look really nice; then they get closer and they smell sort of like masculine, and you’re like “I don’t know if I like you, I’m not sure yet. I’ll still give you a little smile… Maybe we can have sex, I don’t know yet, but I’ll…” and then you just have to act. [laughs] But inside, oh my God, you don’t know if you’re gonna live to see the next day. That’s how it was doing this balloon, it was just like being at Fiume.
Fiume is a bar in West Philly?
Fiume is the dirtiest bar in West Philly. I don’t mean like filthy-dirty, I mean like, you know…
* * *
The first shoot wrapped up and it was great. They were like, “Wow, that was really a wonderful job!” and I’m like, “Well, yeah… My lung capacity is so good.” He drove me back in his Prius, dropped me off at the train station, and he was like “You know, we might go to Wildwood.”
Wildwood is the tackiest place in the world. I love it.[Shopping, and everything. Free beaches! Safest beaches! We love the rollercoaster!]
“…and we’re gonna take some photos of these girls on the beach, blowing up balloons, for our website. It’s gonna be so fun, you should come. My parents live there, we’re gonna go to their beach house. They can’t know I have a porn website, though. We’ll make something up.”
Then a few weeks later he calls me up. We get to Jersey, we’re driving there, and I’m thinking, we’re going to start walking the boardwalk and we’re gonna walk up to these women and say like “Hey, we’ve got this funny balloon-porn website. Why don’t you blow up these balloons and we’ll take pictures of you, and it will be so fun. Don’t you wanna do this?” Yeah, that’s not how it worked out.
He and his wife are like, “Hey, we’re gonna go out to the boardwalk now,” and as soon as we got there I’m like “Alright, cool,” so we start walking the boardwalk. Walk up to these women – he’s like “Well, let’s just make up a story. I don’t know, just make something up,” and I’m like, “Oh my god…” I just suddenly realized that we’re not gonna tell these women that we’re doing this for a website. We’re gonna trick them.
So I make something up really quick. I’m like, okay, I look like an art student with my little skinny jeans, my short bangs and the whole nine. I’ll just tell them that I’m going to Temple and we’re here on a thesis for the expression of surprise. Blow up these balloons until they pop and then act like you’re surprised, and I’ll take pictures, and it will be great, and it will be shown in New York and blah blah blah.
You know, a lot of the carnies they didn’t speak English. He went for them. And no fat chicks, that’s out of the question. At first it works out fine, and a few of them reject me. He’s just like blatantly checking out these girls, it’s so creepy. I’m like, doesn’t he know that he’s creeping people out and then he expects me to go up to these women and just say, “I know it’s a little weird, but my creepy motherf-ing friends over here are gonna help me out. Don’t mind them…”
We’re doing this for hours. Towards the end I go up to this one woman and I ask her to do it, and she’s like “I hope you’re not doing this for a porn site.” As soon as she said this, I look at her and I give her this look, like “Run! Run, now!” Kind of like the square smile, like “I don’t know…” But she did it anyway, and I’m like taking photos, and I’m just like making it very clear to her that she has to blow this up until it just explodes. The guy has to run away every time it pops, he has to run away and come back. His wife is just standing there like “Oh!” She’s just walking beside her man. She was quiet, I didn’t really know her too well. I knew she was a girl scout leader, that was it.
In a past life?
No, no, she was a girl scout leader in this life.
I can’t do this anymore, I have to think of a way out. I’m exploiting these women. I’m better than this. I looked green. I was about to just vomit.
I look at him and I’m like, “Look dude, I’m feeling a little ill. Let’s go back.” I just flat out refused. So that was it, I cut it short.
Was it something you felt guilty about for a while afterwards?[hesitant] Yeah…
How I make decisions in my life, this is how it goes: “Oh, that will be funny. I’ll get to write a little story about it, or something, and tell a funny little joke.” No, it’s not like that. It’s not just so light.
How did this whole experience change your attitude towards porn?
I can’t watch porn. I don’t think it’s sexy. I’m like estimating how much they make, when I’m watching. I’m like, “Well, they probably made 1,200 for that. Ooh… That, probably 1,500.” It’s all phony. They’re not enjoying it.
I’ve seen a lot of porn. Old stuff, it’s really hot; people are doing this because they get off on it, and it’s great for them. Sometimes I wanna see people have sex. Hey, that’s hot! But the attitude of taking advantage of women, I can’t deal with that.
People get off on fear, on exploitation. That’s the name of the game, exploit. And that’s sexy to people. If you have a balloon-popping fetish, that’s awesome that you can admit that, and it’s awesome that you’re in touch with yourself in that way. But good God, you’re not making money off of me.
Sexuality to me now is, I don’t wanna say sacred, that’s so stupid, but it’s a little more guarded now, than it used to be.
Did you ever go back and try to find the pictures of you, that were on the site?
No, I don’t wanna see them. I’m pasty, I ate a lot of donuts around that time, I didn’t have a job, I was kinda a little chunky-butted… I don’t wanna see it. No, no, I haven’t seen the photos and I don’t want to.
* * *
So what do you think?
Hi guys… Hi… Hello… Hi guys… Hi everyone… Welcome back! Did you miss me? I’m back again… I’m back… It’s Vicky Blane… My name is Jocelyn… My name is Molly… Hi, I’m Daisy… My name is Lisa-Marie… Jackie… I’m Faith… I’ve got my friend, Christina… Hey, I’m Kylie Hunter…
I’m here with my favorite thing, as you can see today… Balloons!
I have all these balloons here…
A cute little mouse…
Here, in the balloon room…
Balloon room, surrounded by these amazing, beautiful balloons…
I have all kinds of them here today…
A bunch of very beautiful, blown-up balloons…
I’m going to be playing with balloons today…
I came here today to play with a bunch of balloons…
Playing with some balloons…
I’m playing with a bunch of balloons…
Playing with balloons! Do you wanna play with me?
I’m here to show you how much I really love playing with balloons…
I love balloons, I love to jump on them and make them bounce, it’s a lot of fun…
Bounce on the balloon until it pops.
Do you want me to?
Do you wanna see me pop some?
I’ve never popped one before, so I’m really excited to be able to do that with you today.
I’m here to pop some balloons for you…
Pop for you…
Pop some balloons for you…
I’m here to blow it up for you…
I’m going to pop one balloon…
I was told I couldn’t blow it to pop, so it’s like a challenge, so if I don’t blow to pop all of them…
And we’re gonna have lots and lots of fun, so I hope you’ll join along…[laughter] [balloon pops]