Shake Your Money Maker 

With several no-shows and a tepid line-up, Exotic Erotic drops the Hip Hop Ball.

Covering the Exotic Erotic Ball from a musical perspective is like watching porn for the screenwriting. While not completely superfluous to the proceedings, music is at best an afterthought to the sex-positive annual extravaganza — too bad, because it could have been a glowing highlight.

Now in its 27th year, Exotic Erotic has become a cultural institution, not to mention a symbol of Left Coast extreme liberalism that represents everything red-state Republicans hate about us. Held Halloween weekend at the mammoth Cow Palace — a venue that brings back Heavy Metal Parking Lot memories of waiting in line to see Judas Priest scream for vengeance — it's definitely a place where Billy Idol's "Flesh for Fantasy" could be the theme song. Idol and his trademark lip-snarl would have fit right in, as would Priest frontman Rob Halford, or anyone in spandex, leather, or any combination thereof. Anything goes at Exotic Erotic: Voyeurs, fetishists, freaks, perverts, strippers, porn stars, and porn star wanna-bes are all welcome, and there were plenty of soccer moms, insurance adjusters, accountants, and the like in attendance, along with sex-industry workers, swingers, and people who like to be flogged publicly.

Exposed breasts and bare ass cheeks abounded inside the event, but after about an hour or so of walking around the Palace's cavernous hallways, endless seas of cleavage and even buttless chaps tend to lose their shock value. If you've seen one nipple, you've seen them all. Likewise, all the Catholic schoolgirl and naughty nurse costumes (for women) or horny devil outfits (for men) seemed to belie a lack of imagination. If you wanna do something really different, come as a Keebler Elf, Mark Foley, or Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Still, middle-aged couples in matching his 'n' hers kink suits were kind of cute, provided you didn't think about it too much. And observing a naked Violet Blue (the porn performer, not the author, sex educator and Chronicle columnist of the same name) getting strapped to a giant X and covered with hot wax by her also-naked girlfriend beats watching reruns of Friends any day.

Before the Ball, hopes were high for a sexy Halloween party studded with A-list hip-hop luminaries. Unfortunately, that was not to be. The legendary Too $hort — a perfect choice, what with all of his baby-you-nasty material — was replaced by Naughty by Nature, whose biggest hit, "O.P.P.," doesn't have nearly the sleazy cachet of "Freaky Tales" or even "Shake That Monkey." And though Flavor Flav — star of VH1's guilty-pleasure celebreality show Flavor of Love — was also an announced guest, he and his oversize clock never materialized on the main stage. For that matter, neither did Naughty frontman Treach and his steel-chain necklace — although he and bandmate Vinnie may have briefly graced a secondary stage C2tE was unable to locate.

Instead, we got '80s has-been Thomas Dolby performing entirely forgettable, fluffy synth-pop (with the exception of "She Blinded Me with Science," which still rules); covers of Led Zeppelin tunes by an androgynous duo called Smash Up Derby; a procession of generic exotic dance troupes; and a set by ageless wonder George Clinton that seemed to go on forever.

The P-Funk founder and writer of classics like "Freak of the Week," "Atomic Dog," and "(Not Just) Knee Deep" seemed totally in his element. Many in the crowd looked like they could easily have been members of Parliament-Funkadelic, a band for whom every show is a costume party. A low-key yet powerful presence, Clinton rocked the house without breaking a sweat, sharing the stage with guitarist Eric McFadden and an unnamed female vocalist dressed as Wonder Woman. Former Deee-Lite singer Lady Miss Kier made an unannounced and unexpected cameo, belting out her one hit, "Groove Is in the Heart," a somewhat saddening sight. No longer deee-lovely nor delicious, the early-'90s It girl looked bloated, tired, and, well, tore-up. In comparison, the also-overweight Clinton seemed practically hale, although the highlight of his show — a rousing version of the funk-rock epic "Cosmic Slop" — came relatively early in his set. Wouldn't you like to dance with me?/We're doing the cosmic slop, Clinton sang. The song, about a trick-turning mother in the ghetto who begs God not to judge her harshly, rang with pathos: Always with a smile, she would surely try to hide/But the facts were known, she was catching hell.

Speaking of which, huge picket signs by Jesus freaks in the parking lot notwithstanding, the Exotic Erotic Ball wasn't quite a seething pit of evil decadence. Sure, it was sinful to a certain extent, but glued-on horns do not a devil make. The protesters may have had better luck finding a Dantean inferno of fornication at the Power Exchange's "Swalloween" party. The grand finale — a costume contest won by a bold, tall black woman with jutting ta-tas and green fairy wings — was actually kind of tame and more than a little, um, anticlimactic. There's always next year.


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