The October 15 soirée was among the festivities at Romantic Times Book Club magazine's national convention, hosted by the Westin Crown Center Hotel. RTBC is a magazine for those who love their romance novels; its convention involved seminars, workshops, a book fair, and a theme party every night. The Ellora's Cave Fantasy party sounded like some sort of kinky Flintstones adventure, but the Web site just said to come as your favorite fantasy. Intrigued, we called Research Assistant David Wayne to check it out.
We started out with Manhattans and a whiskey and ginger ale at the Brasserie -- the Westin's hotel bar -- figuring we needed to have some sort of buzz going. We were still in our work clothes, but plenty of people more than made up for our lack of fantasy attire; in the lobby alone, we spotted strapping guys with flowing locks wearing skin-tight T-shirts, and one woman in a red-and-black fur jacket and matching fur pants. Did we miss something -- is the gorilla look in this fall?
The shindig was held in the hotel ballroom, where we met a lot of very nice people. Upon our entrance, we were handed a chocolate rose, a button that read "Got Sex?" and other such party favors. It turns out that Ellora's Cave is an erotic publishing house that specializes in capture-and-bondage, not-so-Grimm fairy tales and vampire-werewolf genres. That explained the condoms scattered on the banquet tables; if there were ever a candidate for high-risk sex, it would be the interspecies kind.
We got more drinks from the cash bar, then took it all in. People in all sorts of fantastic costumes danced to "Ice, Ice Baby" and "Bust a Move." Though Ren Fest garb was prevalent among the women, we also spotted a Trekkie, a "retired Playboy bunny" (a woman in a pink bathrobe, fuzzy slippers, bunny ears and diamonds) and too many people sporting angel wings, which we nimbly had to dodge. The guys were fewer in number but had made an equal effort with their costumes. For once, we can realize our dream of using the word breeches in this column: A guy with a massive chest and waist-length blond hair was clad in an unbuttoned peach vest, thigh-high boots and tight, dark-brown, velvety breeches (woo-hoo!). Other guys were dressed as Tom Cruise in Risky Business (i.e., shirt and boxer briefs), Zorro and a Chippendales dancer with blue glitter on his chest and back. We were smitten-kitten over Indian Chief, who had on only a full headdress and a fur loincloth. "He's fucking hot," David Wayne said. "I'd pluck his feather, if you feel what I mean."
Oh, we felt what he meant. "I asked him if it was a requirement that cover models wear their hair long, following the footsteps of Fabio," David said. "He said his hair was about 3 and a half inches. I said, CEI hope that's the only thing that's 3 and a half inches!'"
Intrigued by the long-hair-on-cover guys theory, we tracked down the breeches-wearer, CJ, who won the first Mr. Romance contest ten years ago and was one of the judges for this year's competition. "Well, hair is a sex thing," he explained. "When you put a fan on it, and it starts blowing ... well, the wilder you look with hair, the wilder you're supposed to be, I guess. On my first cover, they put three fans on me. When I saw the picture, I was like, CEHow can my hair stand on end like that?'" The veteran of thirty covers told us about his latest shoot, for a book called The Ruthless. "I'm a vampyre. I was painted white because I'm supposed to be frozen," CJ said while telling us that it was vampyre spelled with a y. "But I'm not a vampyre that kills you. I just bite you on the neck, drink your blood, but you won't die -- a good vampyre. It's, like, where do you people come up with this?"
Meanwhile, David had been making his own friends. "Everyone knows the Indian Chief is campaigning hard -- that's the sub talk," he reported. "He's like Reese in Election. He's That Girl."
He was indeed. Brooks, 26, was a tanned, blue-eyed, dark-haired massage therapist from St. Louis who told us that his strategy for the competition was "to keep a soft, warm heart and to give respect." We tried not to snicker and asked a more pressing question: "What's under your loincloth?" He pulled it up, revealing a package that was neatly ensconced in burgundy satin.
Because we had devolved into Those Oglers, all we could do was finish our drinks and watch as Brooks was surrounded on the dance floor by a belly dancer, a woman dressed as a mechanic and another with angel wings. "It's the Village People in a group grope!" David said, cackling. "It's Valley of the Bi Dolls!" We made the following costume decisions: No wings and, especially, no Rennie gear.