In the late 90s, it occurred to me that a fetish-oriented Website might be a highly pleasurable way for me to showcase my burgeoning Photoshop and design skills. The idea of Heartless Bitch, as I entitled it, was to publish interviews with the world’s most glamorous dominatrices that would reveal what they were like out of their dungeons. Implacable altruist as I am, I hoped to demonstrate that most of them were loving daughters and moms and wives, scrupulous recyclers, all-around good eggs. Along with a few vainglorious nincompoops, they included a few women with whom I formed enduring friendships.
One of the first dommes I contacted to ask if she’d submit (oh, the irony!) to an interview was the Tampa-based blonde bombshell Mistress Antoinette. Her Website was as ugly as she was striking, and she asked if I might, for pay, help her with it. For one who’d been struggling for years to earn money as a graphic designer, and whose boat fetish really floated, the question wasn’t difficult to answer.
Toni, as she asked me to call her, turned out to be a major sweetheart — friendly, generous with her praise, and self-effacing. The only thing I didn’t like about her was that the boxful of photos she sent to be scanned for her site reeked of the cigarettes I would never be able to persuade her to stop smoking. She lusted (well before he was exposed as a colossal dickhead) after Mel Gibson. She found my own music rather too genteel, if you will, and worshipped Tool, exemplars of art/grunge. I discovered that she'd been fat and not-popular as a girl, and then a mother in teenage. She claimed to play bass, and we fantasised about forming a band and making a fortune on the fetish event circuit. I could picture her appealing to Chrissie Amphlett’s constituency, though I couldn’t picture her sitting on the edge of a stage, legs apart, in a very short skirt, as Chrissie did, so wonderfully nonchalantly.
We became ever better friends over the course of many phone conversations, and then — after the photo I sent her of me in my rock dreamboat days inspired her to see me in a whole new light — almost lovers. I flew to Tampa to spend a weekend with her, but we got along as dreadfully in person as we’d always gotten along splendidly on the phone. I wound up spending pretty nearly all of the Sunday alone in my nice air-conditioned Holiday Inn room, hiding from Tampa’s hellish heat. But when I got to the airport on Monday morning, I heard myself being paged. She’d driven all the way over from Lakeland to ensure I didn’t fly back to San Francisco angry or hurt. That was as close as we came to a falling out.
I continued, over the years, to design for her. I stopped accepting payment. I, uh, shaped her branding. ‘Twas I who came up with the slogan “The sound of male whimpering is Mozart to my ears”. I was going to ghostwrite her autobiography, but couldn’t get an agent or publisher interested. (Holler if you’d like me to send you two sample chapters.) She visited me in Beacon, New York, and I her in Dunedin, Florida. She was my best woman — I had no best man — at my wedding to the former Mistress Chloe.
I marvel, 19 years after it began, at my inability to find any trace of our friendship in my life in 2016. We speak, every 18 months or so, when I phone her. “I’ve just been so busy,” she will invariably sigh. I wonder aloud why we’re not friends anymore. “I’m just so busy,” she’ll sigh again.