The Hookers Of Last Night’s Freaks And Fetish Party Kicked Off SusCon 2016.
You’d be forgiven if you wondered whether the drifts of metallic confetti had been deposited on the stage like pounds of accumulated chaff from an entire miniature air force of panicked miniature pilots. And you’d be forgiven if you thought the lone figure sweeping it up by the light of the video projection on the back wall was a little over-dressed for the task. But that figure, Allen Falkner, whose name was on the event that just ended, and whose birthday the event celebrated, wouldn’t forgive himself if the job didn’t get done quickly and correctly.
“Someone slipped and fell [on confetti like this] a couple of years ago,” he says with a shrug before returning to sweeping as the lights and sounds and dancers of The Church roil around him. The event was the annual party and show known as “Allen Falkner’s Freaks & Fetish,” held this year as the opening event for a week-long conference called SusCon.
“I put together SusCon and Freaks & Fetish as way to get all my friends together for my birthday,” Falkner says. “Originally, it was just to get groups together to do suspensions, nothing more. After 2001 and 2002, other people started to pick up the SusCon model and do other events around the globe.”
What is SusCon? We’re glad you asked. SusCon is an often-annual week-long gathering of hookers — not that kind!. Hookers in this sense, and as they like to call themselves, are suspension enthusiasts. The hooking part is a colloquialism for how they do those suspensions; participants use hardware to pierce the skin as anchor points from which they’re then lifted in to the air using a block-and-tackle system rigged from overhead.
It’s not for the faint of heart.
From 2003 to 2008, Falkner was more of a participant than an organizer in the SusCon events, but he started to notice something: “When we got all these groups together, I realized that there was a huge need for education. Some groups were well-trained, and some were far from it.”
As you can imagine, there’s considerable danger in being poorly trained and highly enthusiastic about a pastime that involves sticking various bits of surgical steel through your skin and using those to be hoisted into the sky. So, as Falkner again assumed a leadership role for SusCon, the programs for 2010 through 2014 became more and more geared toward education.
Suspension enthusiasts include many who’ve been exploring body-modifications for years, as well as people who seem to be exploring the limits of their bodies and the kind of body/mind states one can achieve when they take themselves beyond physical pain.
Operafication, one of several featured performers at the Freaks & Fetish event, is accompanied by an electronic musician as she sings haunting vocalizations while hanging about 10 feet or so above the stage. There’s an almost dissociative quality to her performance, as if she is hovering between different states of consciousness, even as she hovers over the audience. Here, eyes remain mostly closed as she sings, floats and kicks herself into a gentle spin. When she opens her eyes, she peacefully looks right through the audience. It’s mesmerizing.
Not all the show is about suspension. Producer Courtney Crave, a fetish model, burlesque performer, hooker and Allen’s wife, put together a tight bill. The emcee was The Lizardman, famous for his head-to-toe tattoos, sub-cutaneous implants, teeth filed to points, forked tongue, good humor and utter affability. He filled the interstices between acts with jokes, compliments, swallowing an industrial soup ladle, and re-enacting his Guinness World Record achievement by swinging a full beer keg around in circles by his ear-lobes.
Anna and the Annadroids is a San Francisco-based troupe of robot-doll-faced dance and aerial theater performers who returned to the stage several times in different groupings and guises, and also spent most of the time up in the air. Instead of hooks through the skin, the pint-sized Annadroids used their almost inhuman strength to stay aloft using an aerialist’s rope, a lyra or a general defiance of gravity.
It should be noted that not everyone at Freaks & Fetish last night is here in town for SusCon. As on any Sunday night, The Church (as the Lizard Lounge is known on Thursdays and Sundays) had its usual coterie of gleeful, willful dancing misfits. And they were there, more than ready to party with these newcomers.
“Freaks & Fetish is normally a closing party,” Falkner muses. “Having it as an opening party may or may not have been a good idea. We will see how hungover everyone is Monday.”