ARCHIVE: Juicy Jenn Creates a Vibe

In most small-city business blocks, whenever neighborhood merchants pop into one another’s business establishments, it’s more often than not an excuse to grouse about the slow foot traffic, the sloppy street sweeping, the usual gadfly grumbles.

When folks on Asbury Park’s so-called “arts block” at the west end of Cookman Avenue get together, the results often generate some colorful sparks. You might even call it synergy.

When the new Parlor Gallery opened its doors last February on the site of the former Crybaby Gallery, we praised it here as a pop-art paradise for abstract, outsider and guerrilla/graffiti disciplines. With cool-cupcake Crybaby curator (and mistress mixologist of the atom-age lounge at The Asbury Lanes“Juicy” Jenn Hampton as the constant — and an infusion of fresh perspective from new partners Jill Ricci and Michael Walker — the spacious Parlor has kept a light burning in the window for an Asbury art scene that’s seen its ranks decimated in recent years.

Then in May, documentary filmmakers Mike Sodano and Nancy Sabino opened theShowroom, a small storefront screening space located almost right across the street from the Parlor. While time will tell if Nancy and Mike’s oddball gambit will click with a loyal base of filmfans, the owners have wasted no time in exploring every thematic angle; booking live events that range from Helen Pike historical lectures to Mr. D’s ventriloquist shows, and tying their featured fare in to every local event from Pride Weekend to the upcoming Wave Gathering 2009.

It was just a matter of time before they constructed a passageway between the Parlor and the Showroom, and this Wednesday night, the screening spot presents the first in a new series of “Guest Curator” events, with Juicy Jenn hosting a showing of the documentary PASSION and POWER: The Technology of Orgasm. The 2007 film by Wendy Slick and Emiko Omori is described as “the story of one simple invention, the vibrator, and its relationship to one complex human behavior, the female orgasm” — and the synergy here comes from its being presented in conjunction with the new installation at the Parlor, La Petite Mort: A Collection of Erotica.

The doc — a chronicle of the still-ongoing battles for sexual freedom, civil liberties and personal privacy —  features appearances by Shirley ChisholmBetty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and unspools at 8pm on June 17. There’s an encore showing scheduled for June 19, on a program with Get Naked: Life in the Erotic Art Industry — featuring a talk by famed nudie photographers Ellen Stagg andVivienne Maricevic.

For her part, Jenn will entice passersby into her Parlor to sneak a peek at the Erotica display as part of Friday evening’s monthly Collide-A-Scope slate of happenings, and there’s a proper opening reception going on this Saturday, June 20. Continue Reading to find out which films didn’t make the cut — and which body parts still register a collective “ewww” from even the most jaded sophisticates.

RED BANK ORBIT: So how did you come to be the first guest curator for a Showroom event? Did they approach you about it, or did you have this vibrator film in mind already?

JENN HAMPTON: They had the idea to do a lecture with one of the artists at the gallery, and they got to thinking they should have outside people program some film shows. I had just done a guest-curator thing over at SICA in Long Branch, and we did really well with our Black Pop show — so when they asked me I was willing to give it a try.

I figured we could do something in connection with “erotic week,” but I didn’t want to do anything too eclectic, too arty — I was thinking along the lines of 70s porn.

As are so many of us, so much of the time. The irony here is that not so very many years ago, Asbury Park was an excellent place to catch up with 70s porn. The Baronet, for just one example, was an X-rated house for a while there — but they made their play at going “art-porn” by showing Bob Guccione’s CALIGULA for almost an entire summer.

I briefly considered Caligula, but it was way too gory. Vampyros Lesbos was another one I thought of, but it’s a little too eclectic — a great film for music, but it’s not really erotica. 9½ Weeks is too common, and other more obscure films are tough to track down for public screenings. Then they asked me if I remembered a vibrator documentary from the Garden State Film Festival; so we went with that.

Have you seen this film then yourself?

No! I actually haven’t! Nancy says it’s really well done. But there are a lot of vibrator documentaries out there, and a lot of interest in the subject now, so I wanted to do a little presentation on it. It’s interesting to me how these things were marketed back then; how they were ’soothing massagers’ and that sort of thing. You know, I actually found a vintage vibrator at the Ocean Grove Flea Market recently — the people at the table couldn’t possibly have known what they had there. I didn’t buy it, though. Maybe I should have, but something about an old used vibrator…

So there are limits to even Juicy Jenn’s open-mindedness.

Just about everybody has their limits, and that’s part of the reason we do these shows of erotic art. We allow people to explore the boundaries of what makes them comfortable.

They might wind up surprising themselves as to what they’re willing to view on public display or they might just confirm that they’re not as much of a libertine as they might have imagined.

An erotica show is still very much a niche market. We started Crybaby Gallery with the idea that we’d be mostly about erotica, but people didn’t react the way we expected them to. Here we were in a city full of gay men, with all this penis-themed art, and the gay guys would pass it up and buy female erotica instead. Then the lesbians would come in and take a look at the penises on the wall and go ‘ewwww…’

That’s funny; very few of us are as jaded and blasé about this stuff as we might think we are…

You know what makes me mad about some of the people who call themselves erotic artists — they don’t do shows; they just sell and show their work online. Which to me kind of runs counter to the spirit in which this sort of thing was intended. You’re supposed to be on public display; supposed to be celebrating sexuality instead of keeping a low profile on the internet.

The Parlor Gallery’s new exhibit includes works by (clockwise from top left): Vivienne Maricevic, Carolyn Weltman, Beatrice Morabito and Heidi Kirkpatrick. 

One of the people we have in the show, a woman named Vivienne (Maricevic), has been shooting pictures of naked men for over 30 years. What interests me most about her is how she started doing this; sneaking into the old gay sex clubs to take pictures, and putting ads in the Village Voice, asking guys to come up to her place, which has always been a bit of a risk on her part. She’s had an apartment here in Asbury Park for about ten years — she sort of hides out here, finding inspiration from the beach.

Speaking of public displays, how are you going to play things with your floor-to-ceiling windows out there on the street?

We’re not covering up; we’ll arrange things as tastefully as possible and see how people react to it. But Asbury Park, which for so many years has been thought of as this island of tolerant behavior, has been getting weird lately — a guy I know went toParadise and got hot out on the dance floor, and when he took his shirt off they threatened to kick him out in the street! Can you imagine? I mean, people take their pants off at the Lanes to bowl; should we be throwing them out the door?

So what’s a taboo for Juicy Jenn, at least when it comes to public events? What won’t you do, or never do again?

What I will not do again is work with Crispin Glover (Jenn was one of the presenters of a personal appearance by the actor and filmmaker at the Baronet). That was quite an experience — he traumatized me for life!