NOTICE/WARNING/or WHATEVER: This writeup describes an adult video tape. While the descriptions are not pornographic, this is not really appropriate for kiddos. The material described is inappropriate for anyone of any age!
"Don’t be fooled into thinking these are games of chance ... In exchange for [a very large] advantage, you offer a modest but lively entertainment."—Harry Anderson, Games You Can’t Lose
Did you ever spend good money out of morbid curiosity? You know you are going to "be had," but you wonder how they are going to do it—so you invest a few bucks (or quid, for our friends across the sea), just to find out what the gimmick is.
So it was with the video tape that came to be known as Un-Art; the evil opposite of art.
"250 Fetish Videos for only $8.95", promised the cheaply-printed brochure that arrived in my mail box. Surrounding this unbelievable claim were pictures and words that promised naughty fun—none of it too hardcore or disgusting. "Besides," thought I, "surely there isn't much it this world that can horrify or shock me." It was 1992—a few years before the internet would prove to me how sadly naive that claim was.
How could I not be curious about an ad like this? There were pictures of naturists playing volleyball, a woman in a corset, sexy liaisons, pretty ladies in lingerie, and more. It looked pretty tame, but it could be some kind of serendipitous smut bonanza. I knew it could not be 250 full films (not for $9!), but, even if it turned out to be 200 short subjects five minutes long each, we're looking at a great deal of naughty entertainment for less than ten dollars!
"Also," I reasoned, "for nine bucks, it isn't much of a risk."—and I was really curious, sometimes you want to know how the trick is done. So I sent a check to the company and waited. I kept the advertisement in a safe place, so I could contact them when my videos didn't come.
Which, of course, they did not—so, after waiting a reasonable amount of time, I telephoned the company. It took a little nerve for me to tell the operator that I had ordered "250 Fetish Videos," but she assured me that they were on their way.
A couple of months, a further phone call, a letter including photocopy of the paid check ... the package finally arrived. It was a video tape—a remarkably flimsy VHS tape with a label with the words "250 Videos" stamped on it. Everything about it seemed cheap, from the crudely-stamped label to the poor-quality cassette ... it was amazingly cheap. I would soon come to refer to Un-Art as the "poorest quality product I have ever purchased". The flimsy plastic cassette felt like it would break with a light twist of the hands—I was almost afraid to put it into my video player, lest it break in there and I’d have to take the thing to the repair shop with “250 Fetish Videos” in it.
Did I mention that this was a damn cheap product? I did? Okay, just checking.
The "videos" were actually clips of pornographic movies from the swingin' 60s and the groovy 70s ... each about, oh, say 3-10 seconds. It was pretty soft-core, nothing you couldn't see in a hard R movie, at least if the MMPA were feeling a bit generous. Women with robin's egg blue eyeshadow, white men with afros ('honkfros' as we used to say), women with really straight hair. It was mostly naked women, or semi-naked women, with the occasional semi-naked man thrown in. There was some sexy contact, nothing triple X. To be sure, there were none of those weird, macro closeups favoured by harder core fare. I believe we saw exactly one semi-erect penis.
I have no memory of the soundtrack of Un-Art. I have asked others who saw the tape ... none of us can remember if it had music, original sound or if the entire thing was in eerie, dreary silence. It has completely erased our memories—one of the bizarre effects of Un-Art.
At first, it was kind of funny, "Okay, I've been had, and here's how they did it."
Then, it was a little boring—not boring enough to turn off. Some of the women were kind of pretty, and the men were nowhere nearly as gargoylish as later porn actors. So the viewing continued. Besides, I reasoned, maybe they'll show something! Anything.
In time, it became weirdly hypnotic. The rapid-cut nudity (and not-so nudity ... some of the actors and actresses were fully clothed, and could have played in a PG-rated film), the bizarre old hair, makeup, and clothes—I couldn't tear myself away.
What was really ballsy, was that the company actually included a pile of fliers for their other products in the envelope with Un-Art. You could purchase flimsy video tapes stuffed full of thousands of similar videos (900 Fetish Videos! 1100 Sexy Videos!).
At one point, there was a shot of a young woman and young man going at it on a couch. It looked exactly like the Brady's den from The Brady Bunch. Apart from a basic overall impression, this is my sole concrete memory of Un-Art. The Brady Bunch couch and some partly naked people on it doing the nasty in a sort of bored, distracted fashion.
Overall: It was freaking hilarious.
My friends, as sick as I am, loved it. Mark and Craig (a couple of fun-loving absurdist gay guys and two of our very best friends) took a particular shine to the dadaist fun that was Un-Art. I can still hear Craig’s husky baritone, intoning "Un-Art! It's FABulous!"
We gave the tape to them, with the idea that they would pass it on. And so they did, to a good friend. I know it has probably gone on to the dumpster or perhaps it sits, forgotten in a cabinet somewhere, and yet I dream that the cheap VHS cassette is still out there, sailing the seas of fringe culture and making a few lives more surreal.