The Skin Two Rubber Ball
Back in 1992, my friend Michelle was working with me on Skin Two magazine and one day she had a bright idea. Now, Michelle is bright and fun and I usually like her ideas a lot. This was no exception.
Back then, we had run various parties in London under the Skin Two banner but, believe it or not, there was no big international fetish party. The modern scene was more or less focussed on London back then. Most other big cities around the world had almost nothing at all. Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and New York had hidden undergrounds on a small scale, but Michelle was thinking bigger than that. She planned the word’s first really big international celebration of fetish glamour, the Skin Two Rubber Ball.
Hammersmith Palais was packed with visitors from all over the world – on a Monday night! They came from Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Australia and across Europe and the UK. Truth to tell, we were way over the building’s legal capacity. Our Production Manager, Nic Marchant, still swears we had four thousand people. We raised loads of money for charity, the local police were super-friendly and the publicity for the fetish scene was massive and very positive. Jean Paul Gaultier was there – you can see his photos in the book. Yes, there was a book of the event and even a film. We were in all the papers, on TV, the works.
The international fetish scene as we now know it was born that night. George from Northbound Leather in Toronto stayed at my house and went home saying Canada had to have something like the Skin Two Rubber Ball. Soon afterwards, I was at at George’s own party with three thousand kinky Canadians in one room. Glenn from Fetish Factory in Fort Lauderdale came too and he also went home fired with passion to do the same thing in the Florida sun. Today, his event is probably the biggest and best fetish party in the USA. Then came German Fetish Ball in Berlin, Fetish Evolution in Essen, Démonia in Paris, Bal des Supplices in Lyon, and all the rest. We were invited to do two parties at Sydney University in Australia, we sponsored San Francisco Fetish Ball for several years. We did eight years in Atlanta, Georgia. What had we started?!
Some of my favourite memories from the Skin Two Rubber Ball are Nic Marchant’s fabulous stage shows – I’ve still not seen anything nearly as good at a fetish event. Then there was the posse from Essex who arrived in a tank – really, a tank – and parked outside the Palais. The tank driver was dressed in a latex dalmation suit, white with black spots, a back nose, tail and floppy ears. Not terribly military. Officers from the police station next door struggled not to giggle. Drag queens alighted fro stretch limos. Traffic in Hammersmith came to a standstill.
One of my favourite Skin Two Rubber Ball memories was the time Brian the security chief came to me with an anxious look on his face. A young American guy had complained that he had been sexually assaulted and wanted the police to be called. What were we going to do? I hurried to the back room and found a pretty French girl in floods of tears. She was the one who the American claimed had assaulted him.
In her charming French accent, she explained that she had liked the look of him and tried to pick him up. No harm in that, surely? Most young men would be flattered. Not this one, though. The young American was furious, saying that she had offered him poppers to sniff. He was very anti-drugs and highly offended. I tried to calm him down, pointing out that the French girl had meant no harm, she was now in floods of tears and very apologetic; it was hardly a matter for the police. Still he insisted on making an issue out of it. Then I had an idea.
Hammersmith police station was just a few steps from the venue, so I said “OK, I will walk you there myself and we will tell the police all about this.” Brian’s face fell. The last thing he wanted was to bother the local police with this. Or with anything, probably…
As we walked from the room, I whispered an aside to Brian. How would it be if he fetched the French girl’s coat, made sure she had cab fare, and put her in a taxi? He smiled and, seconds after we walked over to the police station, she was gone, away into the night.
As we approached the desk sergeant at Hammersmith nick, he did his best not to laugh. (I was wearing the full uniform of a San Francisco motorcycle cop.)
The sergeant studiously ignored my get-up and asked how he could help us. When I explained that the American was complaining about being approached by the cute French girl, he tried his best to take us seriously and went off to fetch a form. I’m sure he brought us the longest and most complex form they had. This boy was no fool. The American, clearly under the impression that he was reporting the crime of the century, took the officer’s pen and started to write his crime report.
I looked at the officer. The officer looked at me. We understood each other. I left the American to it. I’m sure that form hit the wastepaper basket in the back office very shortly afterwards. At any rate, the French girl was long gone by then.
A few years later, after Hammersmith Palais closed down, we ran the Skin Two Rubber Ball at several other venues for a few years. It was fun and we made a weekend out of it, with a daytime fair and supporting events. Finally though, I felt I had been there seen it, done it and got the t-shirt. Similar events had started in other big cities across the world, the international fetish scene was well under way and our job was done. No point in re-inventing the wheel – it was time to move on.
Or so I thought. Much as I like to think I’m a Londoner, (my Mum was a cockney) I was actually born in the Midlands. I love the friendly vibe of the fetish/BDSM scene in the North and Midlands and had long been friendly with Terry of The Events – he’s been running events for as long as me. Rather than pose in the frantic London clubs, I would often slip away to Manchester or Birmingham for fun. One day, Terry suggested that Leeds was really a party town and there was nothing big going on fetish-wise, so why didn’t we get together. Here we go again…
Last time I had been in Leeds, an indoor lavatory was considered an effete indulgence suitable only for pouffy Southerners. But Terry knows his stuff and I got on the train. My God, Leeds has changed. The venue Terry had chosen was very cool. Not far from Harvey Nichols, round the corner from some posh hotels, charming and helpful staff, all a long way from the dodgy geezers who run London clubs. (I could tell you a tale or two about them, but prefer not to grass, due to preferring to stay in good health, thanks.) Leeds does have a Northern character though; on Fridays and Saturdays, gangs of drunken girls in white stilettos and skimpy dresses hang out of white limos, singing (usually different) songs while waving half-full bottles of cheap Cava at passers-by. I absolutely love it.
So Skin Two North was born – later changed to our new brand of KFS North. Much smaller than the old Skin Two Rubber Ball, we’re talking around four hundred people. That feels just about right. Local DJ Paul Domaster joined the team and we expanded to Birmingham with KFS Midlands. It’s fun and a growing number of Londoners, jaded with the huge, impersonal scene down South, are coming up to join us. Fetish folks come from Scotland, Cornwall, East Anglia. We’ve started something – again.
Having gone from four thousand to four hundred people – a long and winding road, via Hammersmith, San Francisco, Atlanta and Sydney University to Leeds – you’d think there was nowhere left to go. Only it didn’t turn out quite like that. Enter The Chardmore Society…
The Chardmore Society is at www.ChardmoreSociety.com