I re-examine the wild side of the city under the searching guidance of my friend Italian pornologist Michele Capozzi…
“Don’t call me a journalist,” said my friend Michele Capozzi. “I am an ‘urban explorer’.” Actually his business card listed about thirty occupations including author, go-go boy, gigolo, producer…. But urban explorer was the most appropriate. Michele, a dark-eyed, diminutive man with a shock of curly black hair, had just returned to New York after a trip to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Taipei, with a final stop in his birthplace, Genoa, Italy. It was his first night in town and he invited me to help him, “check the pulse of the City.”
“I’m like a doctor–a pornologist,” he said citing another metier.
Part of Dr. Capozzi’s exam would no doubt include a search for his very favorite New York phenomenon, the ten dollar hand job.
Prior to Capozzi’s arrival, I tried to take a “disco nap” in anticipation of our midnight excursion, but the phone continued to ring with calls from other colleagues in the world of sexual exploration. There was one from Reb Stout, a man with seven personalities – three male, four female. He would be arriving soon from California where he was aide de camp to my dear friend Ms. Antoinette, corset queen and kinky fashion designer.
“Pack an extra rubber dress for me.” I said, just before hanging up.
The next call was from renowned porn historian Jim Holliday whom I had met the month before in Los Angeles at an X-Rated Critics awards show. XRCO had formed in 1985 and Jim, a founding member, was a veritable porn encyclopedia. I lost track of time listening to him share stories with me about some very stimulating subjects: John Holmes, Nina Hartley, Porsche Lynn, Krista Lane, Erica Boyer, Jamie Gillis… The business of making adult films had moved to the West Coast but New York was still an erotic playground if you knew where to look and Michele did.
Mid-conversation the doorbell signaled the arrival of the urban explorer. It was 12:30 a.m. I was still in my nightie, so I invited Michele to join me in the bathroom where we could chat while I showered and made-up. I enjoyed stripping in front of him, teasing him as my breasts spilled out from my night shirt. After the shower I threw the big towel still damp from my body and full of my scent over Michele’s head and he sat for a few moments all wrapped in my presence, breathing me in.
Michele and his tour of New York had become notorious ever since he was written up in Details, a trendy fashion/gossip magazine. They wrote about his off-beat tours of Harlem and the sex venue’s. They envied his home, a boat permanently anchored at the 79th street boat basin where he hosted porn stars, musicians and lots of Italians. But Details did not print ALL the details. For instance, there was no mention of the frequency with which the urban explorer liked to whip out his penis and caress himself as he drove through the streets of Manhattan. And, yes, I did say “drove,” for no matter what Michele’s level of affluence Michele -pauper or prince- always travelled on his own set of wheels. One year earlier, he drove a wreck with a lot of “character.” It was difficult to see out the windows, but Michele reasoned that the car’s dilapidated appearance kept it safe from vandals. I mean, who would bother?
During one of the many tours that Michele conducted around Manhattan, he took a group of foreign dignitaries to Harlem: His clients got nervous when a pimp mobile pulled up to Michele’s junk mobile. “What is that,” asked a pimp, looking disdainfully at the white salt drippings that covered Michele’s vehicle. “Angel’s cum,” replied the urban explorer. The pimps laughed and the terrified tourists relaxed.
On this night, through a combination of hard work and con artistry, Michele was equipped with a brand new (rented) car and a $1000 suit from Valentino. Despite the upscale wheels and threads Michele maintained his trademark style which was rumpled.
“Have you ever been to Sally’s Hideaway?” asked the urban explorer. We left my Chelsea apartment and drove up Eighth Avenue. Another big challenge to Manhattan drivers is street parking. But at the hours Michele traveled and in the neighborhoods he visited, this never presented a problem. He believed in thinking positive and it worked like a charm. This night was no exception. Michele found a parking spot on Forty second street, around the corner from Show World Theater where Russ Meyer’s films star Kitten Natividad’s name was splayed across the marquee.
“Let’s try to catch her last show, ” I suggested. I knew Michele would enjoy meeting Kitten just as much as we both would enjoy seeing her frolic on stage, sudsing her gorgeous breasts while she sat in a tiny plastic kiddie pool. Unfortunately, we had just missed Kitten’s last show but another show awaited us right across the Eighth Avenue on 43rd street at Sally’s Hideaway.
Michele had a fascination with transsexuals, to use the term of the day. He loved and celebrated all of the more extraordinary aspects of sexual behavior and gender variance. He identified with them. Sally’s was full of exotic black and Latinx transwomen and the men who admired them. Everyone in the bar greeted Michele. He knew them all, he was a regular. Eyes stared as I entered the place on his arm. I seemed to be the only cis woman in sight. Gender benders were everywhere. Michele had his eye on a cute young person who wore big funny glasses and tight white pants. “My name is “Italia,” said the youth. I danced with a big-breasted transwoman who flaunted her tits in a low-cut blouse. Michele introduced me to Dorian, a big bear of a drag queen who was the esteemed mother of one of the many transvestite/transsexual/gay families in the Harlem Ball scene. Dorian was dressed in a tight fitting sequined gown. She wore her hair in a beehive, topped with a tiara and indeed she would have been right at home at a coronation. Michele knew that Harlem Ball scene well. A few years earlier in 1982, Michele and his friend Simone DeBagno had made TV Transvestite a documentary about the ball culture. Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning followed in 1990 to great fanfare, but Capozzi and DeBagno were there first with their hidden gem.
Dorian had now moved to the back of the club and the crowd had moved in her direction. The show was about to begin. Dorian in all her gigantic finery was paired with a slim bare-chested guy in a speedo and a red cape. The dj blasted Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and the two danced very close with Dorian squashing the tiny fellow into her huge bosom. Finally, the skinny guy hoisted Dorian off the floor and carried her off the make-shift stage. The crowd went wild cheering Dorian and this tiny Hercules.
“I Am What I Am” brought everyone onto the dance floor. I was invited by a young white guy dressed in khaki pants and a polo shirt.
“Besides me, who else in this club would you like to take home?” I asked. I was curious to see whom he would choose. “Fat chance,” he answered, not able to admit his sexual attraction to the people at the bar. If he was there just to watch, there was plenty to see: tender boy/girl flesh rubbing up against flesh as the he/she’s danced with one another and shimmied in front of their potential male dates. As I looked around the club, I realized that I might have my pick of many in the place. They all seemed potential sex partners, bumping and grinding and sweating together in that lusty, seedy nightclub.
“Have you ever been with a transsexual?” asked Michele as we left the club to head downtown. I remembered Karen, all silky white skin and little bumps for breasts. She wore a corset to bed and her cock hung soft and limp between her thighs. Then there was Kitty, who liked to snort coke and take bubble baths. I enjoyed them for what they possessed of womanly qualities, their tenderness. But I missed the hard cocks, for they had chosen hormones over hard-ons. “Oh it was fun,” I told Michele, “but I really am interested in cock.”
I saw plenty at our next stop, the Vault, at 28 Ninth Avenue. The Vault is in the center of the meat market district, which is quite an appropriate location because most of the clientele that night was into beating their meat. In the back room of the Vault, fifty men milled around with their dicks in their hands. The big attraction was still more transvestites who hiked their skirts and showed off dicks and garter belts to a crowd of men jerking off. As Michele and I sat at a raised table in the back room, he asked me, “Do you realize you are the only woman in the room?” Actually, it was real easy to tell, because the tv’s at the Vault were not the sweet tiny boy/girls of Sally’s Hideaway. These were big strapping guys who had the outfits down but definitely needed some help in the make-up department.
“And they say there is a man shortage in New York,” I commented to Michele. It’s real interesting to see where all the men are these days. It was the gayest straight scene. “I guess jerking off really is the safe sex of the ’80s,” and the urban explorer agreed. By now we were attracting our own group of loyal fans. As we sat and talked and surveyed the scene, men would come up uninvited and jerk off in front of me. Some tried to conceal what they were doing, others were very blatant.
I watched one man stroke his limp dick while it slid in and out of his fingers. “Don’t hide it,” I said. “Let me see what you are doing.” He looked into my eyes and kept on stroking. “That’s it, love yourself, make love to yourself,” I told him. I was conducting a verbal experiment. Could I tum this guy on by making him feel good about touching himself? The m.o. for the club and for most public jerkoff scenes usually includes laying on guilt. I wasn’t into making this guy feel guilty, but could he turm on any other way? “Love yourself”–and very quickly his dick started to get hard. Then a funny thing happened. This man who had been walking around the club with his limp dick hanging out of his pants, now seemed to get embarrassed when he got stiff. He squashed his swollen prick back in his pants and hurried away. “Men can be so silly,” I said to Michele.
The highlight of our visit to the Vault was my ride on the erotic entrepreneur, Danny the Wonder Pony. Danny is a big hit at parties where he offers himself as a special treat for the ladies. I felt like having some fun in the saddle. ”You just sit there and I will do the rest,” he told me. It was almost like fucking. Danny threw his butt in the air and undulated under me. I held him tight between my thighs and let the back of the saddle caress my butt. A puddle of ooze moistened my under pants. We passed a bunch of guys who looked enviously at Danny, and I wondered how long it would take before a few more of them decided to saddle up. Danny had definitely latched on to a fun idea.
After our stop at the Vault, there was no stopping Michele, pornologist/exhibitionist, from exposing his penis. He stroked it all the way uptown to Harlem, and occasionally I stroked it too. It was like watching a baby in a play pen enjoy his favorite toy. He was relentless.
I met Michele about three years ago through Juliet “Aunt Peg” Anderson. Since that time Michele has become a very well liked regular in the New York X rated scene. Annie Sprinkle, Gloria Leonard, Candida Royalle, Vanessa Del Rio are all his good friends. The transvestites all love him and were happy to appear in his movie. He earns his bread writing for Italian magazines and through an ingenious variety of wheeling and dealing.
“You know,” commented the urban explorer, “in all my recent travels, New York is the only place where I can find a ten dollar hand job. Everywhere else the hookers look at me like I am crazy.” Michele was determined to continue his research on sex rates around the world. I could think of no better man for the job.
Next stop on “New York according to Michele Capozzi” was Harlem. At 5:30 we knocked on a locked door on 125th Street, Michele flashed a membership card at the doorman and we were admitted to a shadowy jazz club that hummed with conversation and heavenly music. We ordered our drinks from a black waitress with a mass of blonde braids and a big beautiful round ass poured into a leather skirt. When we left it was morning, all bright sunshine and heat.
Michele drove through Harlem, finding little streets with ornate tum-of-the-century architecture. We drove across 125th Street and photographed the hand painted murals that cover the metal gates that protect the storefronts. Here was Paris, there the inside of a fish bowl-imagination run wild. As we turned one comer, Michele warned me to keep my eyes open. And there the sun flooded the windshield, a beautiful sunrise in Harlem. That’s when I gave Michele a handjob, sun streaming in, warming his cock, making my hair glisten in the morning light. “Ah,” he sighed, spurting over my fingers and then kissing off the goo with his wet tongue.
We ended our adventure at Wilson’s Bakery on Amsterdam Avenue near 159th Street. Corned beef hash, an egg sunny side up, biscuits and grits, and we ate like pigs. Delicious. The urban explorer had scored again. On the way home, I could hardly keep my eyes open. It was nine a.m. and I was ready for bed. Michele was still ready for action. On West 29th Street, we passed a blonde hooker in a red miniskirt standing at the side of the road. Michele still had the $10 left in his pocket and, I was sure, another orgasm still left in his pants.
As he tucked me in, I wished him luck on his appointed rounds. I knew where the doctor’s next stop would be. There was that patient on West 29th Street and I had a feeling she was going to take the Michele Capozzi thermometer in hand and give him a good shake. Michele Capozzi does not let opportunity slip him by, not this urban explorer.
The original version of this story was published in Veronica Vera’s New York, in Adam Magazine 1988. The language used to describe trans folk reflects the language of the day, and in some instances I have made updates.