I admitted it. I’m a virgin… no not that kind of virgin… I mean I am a virgin to the world of fetish. But tonight marks my foray into the world of fetish fashion. I will be attending the 15th annual Organ Grinder’s Ball. I was approached by Amanda , one of the shows creative directors to write review of the OGB. We had spoken via twitter about my love of Burlesque and how I was interested in finding some place in Cleveland where I could be exposed…to Burlesque. So that brings us to this blog, the first installment of #KinkyinCLE. I decided to do a two part series to provide my readership with some background on one of the longest running fetish fashion shows. And I admit that part of my reasoning for a preview blog was a selfish one…I wanted to know what I was getting myself into. So I virtually “sat down” and interviewed Gemma Viets (one of the show’s producers and wife of the Ball’s creator Tommy Viets) and Amanda to get a bit of background and find out what tips a season fetish show vet would give a fetish how virgin like me.
Me: How did Organ Grinder’s Ball begin?
Gemma: The Organ Grinders Ball began with the original owner Tommy Viets. He used to own Chain Link Addiction, and he and his staff came up with the concept of Organ Grinders Ball a little more than 15 years ago to generate an event where people could wear the clothing they buy from his stores. Since then the store have been sold to other owners and Tommy retained the parties. Chain Link was the first punk rock store that also sold lots of vinyl and latex way back in the day.
Me: Where does the name originate?
Gemma: At the time the name was created by the staff working for Tommy Viets.
Me: What goes into producing the show from start to finish?
Gemma: There is a great deal involved in production. stage, lighting, music, models, costumes, a creative team coming up with the fashion show, finding talent, advertising, promotion, websites, rehearsals, staffing on all levels. A lot goes into it.
Amanda: To start the process for the Organ Grinder’s Balls we hold tryouts every January and cast about 30 to 50 localish people (covering all types of alternative lifestyles) as models & crew & designers. Then we rehearse at another venue with a taped out runway once a week for about 10 weeks. We also hold small private training sessions for models that want truer bdsm skills for stage (everyone is a volunteer so we never know what skill levels we’ll get in the mix though I must say this year has a stellar “kinky” cast!). My long term boyfriend & I write then scripts and pick music for all 4 scenes together. Our scenes/plots are inspired by sexiness & beauty we find in music, art, porn, theater, pop culture, history, self exploration and the people around us- you name it! We use a mini sand table of sorts to move the models around to help us visualize the action as we are writing out the parts. Then we do our best to help them learn the roles, the action, how to use the props and help w/ costuming. At a certain point we step back and see what is working and what isn’t and then go into the final stages of working what we got & who can do what “stunts” into the hottest thing all of us can make out of it. Sometimes it’s flawless but sometimes “we” (all of us) just never let the audience know what didn’t go right. Everyone is so professional, beautiful and “stage ready” by the day of the show that we are always happy & proud. Elated even! And then after the club closes and when everything is packed back away and loaded up into our cars & trucks to take to storage - we’re all off to private cast & crew after party/ sleepover as a reward!
Me: How do pick themes for the performances?
Amanda: First we identify what look or fetishes we want to cover. We try to identify what is new on the fetish scene or trendy for this year and also pick things that have not been overdone ( like school girls, nurses etc etc). Then we try to think up a scenario that can incorporate all the “acts” into a plot of sorts. We are inspired by the beauty and sensuality we find in music, art, porn, theater, pop culture, history, self exploration and the people around us- you name it!
Me: What was the inspiration for this year’s performances?
Amanda: There are 4 scenes this year- ( plus The Zafira Dance Company for in-between entertainment- reknown bellydancers)
1. Museum Heist – think Thomas Crown Affair meets Night at the Museum meets Pink Panther meets Jay & Silent Bob Strikes Back.
Docents bring “art” out that is admired by museum goers and fondled by kids on field trip then the 4 cat burglars sneak in steal the jewels and escape. The inspector comes out w/ her crew to figure out what happened, to come back with 3 of thieves in tow for heavy interrogation. In the end it turns out the inspector was the 4th thief and she has had the jewels the whole time in a secret hiding place…
2. Absinthe Dream- Victoria’s Secret runway show was mostly our inspiration mixed with Moulin Rouge. That and the fact that we own a ton of green tulle & bubble wrap! This is a light, pretty scene that starts out with an art nouveau feel with champagne and absinthe and bubbles but gets darker and darker as the they slip into drunken debauchery. We have girls in green with a maid & butler serving the alcohol and an absinthe fairy at large, then a girl covered in glowing absinthe fairy “cum” then bubble people with their bubble girls in latex balloons. Then as it gets darker we incorporate green masked couples with green wax and green clothespins bsdm acts then finally on to the crowd choosing between a light and dark fairy to win for the whipping of the alcohol demon.
3. Beauty Hurts- we always do one model walk - more straight modeling/ less acting - this year’s walk is based on bdsm fashion and the colors red& black -asking the models to wear their best fetish or goth gear and act out or carry some type of s & m prop
4. Tarot of Fetish – we always close the show with something dark and scary, heavy on the s & m so this is based on a girl getting a tarot card reading from a seer (think Morpheus & the Oracle) and the cards coming to life representing the Moon & Sun card, the Empress card, the Hanged Man, the Staves, the Cups, the Devil, the Lovers, the Priest, the Weapons and the Wheel of Fortune card
Me: Have you been involved with the OGB since the beginning?
Gemma: Tommy Viets has been involved since day one & I have been involved for 10 years.
Amanda: Craig got involved 8 yrs ago as a model and I got involved 7 yrs ago as talent for belly dancing. We have been the creative directors for the last 4 yrs now.
Me: How has the show evolved over the years?
Gemma: Events have evolved a great deal over the years. Organ Grinders in its own right has earned a great deal of respect making it this long. There aren’t many events and none in Cleveland in this genre that can say they have made it as long as we have. We are fortunate that we have strong supporters in the scene that come back to us every year, and it is because of them that we can continue to do this. In terms of events – we do way more fashion scenes. We use to do body modification exhibitions, which we no longer do mainly due to safety issues. I think from the first event until now the key has been to have fun, and we still are. The people might change a little bit because people’s lives change, but it’s really cool now to see a lot of old school people coming back to us. We are from the old Nine of Clubs, Chamber and Aqualon days and it is always awesome to see those old friends that we use to run around with. Additionally, we love the new faces that find us every year as well.
Me: What’s your favorite part of working on the OGB?
Gemma: For Tommy and I our best part of OGB is the fact that we can do this every year and that people support us. We love that people love to come out and have a good time. The crowd comes early, and stays the whole night and everyone has a great time and meets new friends as well. That’s what we like. I can tell you every year when I walk in day of show and the models are rehearsing for the show that evening, my stomach gets butterflies because the show is always awesome, the models, the clothing, the runway, and the exhibitions! It is the exhibition event of the year and everyone has little voyeurism in them that wants to come out. We love that we can do this.
Amanda: Being given the chance to write & direct these shows is my biggest accomplishment to date and working on the shows w/ my bf is, while sometimes being a bit trying, also a great creative, bonding experience. Plus we have to try out all the “stunts” at home before we teach others how to do it…wink. As you can tell I just love to talk about my “art”
Me: What is your least favorite part of working on the OGB?
Gemma: Least favorite part would be that the events are deadline driven so we are constantly pushing ourselves to make the deadlines. The lack of sleep is really unattractive…
Me: The OGB is about to hit the 15th year mark. What do you think keeps Cleveland coming back for more?
Gemma: People come back for more for a few reasons. First we get people that drive in from local states every year. Sometimes we get our friends from LA as well. Not so many people do this, and not so many people do fetish balls successfully. People come because in this area it is THE fetish event to go to. We also have a great deal of respect for our participants as well. When we say Organ Grinders Ball, everyone knows what we are talking about or have heard of it so the event itself is well established. We strive every year to make the event fun. The minute this is not fun, then there is no reason to do it, and I think that is what people also notice. Not to mention the people watching is the best around…
Me: What, if any, misconceptions do you think people have about the OGB?
Gemma: I think the only real misconception is that people still think we do the body modification exhibitions, which we no longer do. And even though people don’t wear much, there is somewhat of a dress code. We have to be “covered” we just like to push that rule as far as we can haha…
Me: What advice would you give a first timer?
Gemma: To first timers I say this: leave your inhibitions at the door, we don’t judge our guests, nor should anyone be judged. You will see things that you wouldn’t see at regular events. In terms of what to wear-less is more. Fetish attire is not expected, but trust me when I tell you, you will want to dress the part… if you have a significant other that is jealous, leave them at home-the eye candy alone will knock your socks off. And most importantly have a good time. ALL VOYEURS WELCOME! We do have rules and guidelines that we hand to you when you arrive in terms of appropriate behavior. Events like this don’t happen very often in Cleveland. You may see them in Las Vegas or California, but not here. For sure take advantage of the opportunity because it is worth every minute
In a few hours I will be making my way downtown to pop my fetish show cherry. I expect you’ll want to cum come as well.