"Holy f**king sh*t. You missed an epic night."
I expected such words to be uttered on November 1, the morning after (OK, the afternoon after) I attended the 14th annual Fetish & Fantasy Ball at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. In my head, of course, it was I who announced the epicness (epicocity? existence of the epic?) of my Halloween festivities. In reality, it was my roommate -- who had forgone an expensive Halloween bash for a keg-fueled soiree at a friend's home -- whose night might somehow show up on TextsFromLastNight.com.
I had the right elements: lingerie masked as a costume (purchased at Deja Vu Love Boutique for authenticity), a date who carried real handcuffs on his cop costume and an open mind about the world of BDSM. I even brought a sweater, because being comfortable on the walk between the Hard Rock's new parking garage and the casino's entrance is worth a $3 coat check fee.
Walking into the Hard Rock, I remembered why I rarely visit the off-Strip property. It was packed. Slutty girls shoved their way past me. Douchebags bumped into me, took note of my nonexistent cleavage and skipped the apology. By the time I picked up my ticket, made my way through security and embraced wearing no pants in public, I was worried.
I'd heard that Fetish & Fantasy was nothing more than an expensive, commercialized club party with a theme, and walking into one of the ancillary party rooms, it wasn't difficult to see why people might think this. My date started the night by buying a $5 orange juice. The DJ spun typical club fare to a packed dance floor. Convention-like booths were set up on the outskirts, selling the latest in fashion (Fetisso latex, you don't need powders or gels to get into it!) and print (Girls & Corpses magazine, anyone?). People sat around at tables similar to ones I remembered seeing at my high school prom, and several girls walked around shoeless after their three-inch heels proved they don't have a fetish for calluses and blisters. Everywhere, people took photos with friends and costumed strangers. The main party room (the Joint itself) boasted a similar set-up. Club music blared. Between acts, Snow White go-go danced on stage while lasers illuminated the sold-out crowd.
Sure, there were hints of alternative lifestyle. Latex didn't outnumber lace, but made a valiant effort. The spanking and electro demonstrations in the corner drew quite the crowd, and many people’s fetish gear looked too worn for once-a-year use. While taking a photo of a Spartan and a fallen angel, I was unexpectedly paddled by a stranger. Still, the party was tamer than I imagined it would be.
As we made our way to the VIP area, I asked another fallen angel if I could squeeze by her so I could look out over the balcony at the crowd. She gladly scooted over and continued dancing with her friends to some remix of "Use Somebody."
That's when it hit me. I've never once been able to ask to get by somebody at a packed club. Either, the music is too loud for them to hear anything you say, or they're guarding their primo position to the death. At Fetish & Fantasy, it was entirely possible, easy, even. I'd also never felt so comfortable walking around with a noticeable portion of my ass hanging out of frilly underwear. While there was the unexpected paddling (which was light and no worse than what you'd receive across the street at Hofbrauhaus) there was no unwanted grabbing, pinching or brushing up against.
If only one real aspect of BDSM had transferred over into this commercialized Hard Rock setting, it was respect and courtesy. Nobody hit on me because I had a date -- something I've seen overlooked at both downtown bars and Strip nightclubs. Instead, people asked to take photos with me like I was an old friend. They struck up conversations, and all the repeat F&F attendees told me they loved the new location.
My cop and I walked out of the Hard Rock a few hours later satisfied, but not overwhelmed. It wasn't epic, or even infamous, but, for us, the 14th annual Fetish & Fantasy Ball was the nicest club experience we'd ever had. We'd had room to talk and breathe and neither of us left sweaty or smelling like smoke. In Vegas, that is an experience of a lifetime.