NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2009
MICHELLE TEA

THE FIFTH WEDDING

A DISPATCH FROM A THREE-WAY MARRIAGE AT THE 2009 VENICE BIENNALE BETWEEN A PORN-STAR-TURNED-PERFORMANCE-ARTIST, HER CHAKRA-SAVVY PARTNER, AND THE OCEAN.

DISCUSSED: The Lone Butch of Venice, Co-Op Sex Toy Boutiques, The Bronzed Underwear of Certain Academics, Ambivalent Porn Experiences,Inspiring Alternatives to the Cracked-Out Pimp-Abused Sex-Worker Model, The Least-Angry Angry Woman, Silky Aqua Ascots, Cross-Dressing Nazis, Castrations Performed to Nico Songs, The Unpleasant Taste of Canal Water, The Need (After Wrapping One’s Face In Dental Floss) For a Beer

Sadie Lune is hanging out by the canal in a weedy, de-touristed part of Venice during the final muggy days of the Biennale. She’s got a bunch of piercings all over her face and ears, connected to one another with a web of thin silver chains. Sadie is a San Francisco performance artist whose work reinterprets and perverts mythologies—I once watched her, as Eve, pull a feather pen from a snarl of hair and write a letter to Adam bitching him out for sleeping with the landlord (God) and getting them evicted from her garden. (She did this with a live boa constrictor around her neck, one she pulled from a shitty purse.) Like most of the people here in Venice to perform at the wedding of the artists Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, Sadie is queer and has done time in the sex industry, and both of these factors strongly inform her work. Later she will enact a mermaid spectacle with a girl named Lian, but for the moment she is gazing across the lagoon towards San Michele, the island where the Venetians bury their dead, and bitching about the lack of queers in this sinking Italian city.

“She’s not the hottest butch in Venice,” Sadie says of the lone handsome gay woman she found. “She’s the butch of Venice, and she’s hot. She has a hot, young, femme girlfriend.”

“She was a bitch,” chimes Lian.

“She was just threatened,” sympathizes Stephanie, a burlesque dancer who performs under the name Lady Monster. Stephanie has long red hair and a soothing voice; she actually resembles a younger Annie Sprinkle. The tattoo on her arm is of a nude woman with fire coming out of her mouth like a tongue.

“She’s not a bitch,” Sadie agrees. Upon asking the Hot Butch of Venice where she could find others of her kind, the Butch apparently replied, “Here there is nowhere, but you find them everywhere,” and quickly split the scene.

Sadie and Lian wound up drinking at an American-owned disco bar, fending off men who went from “dulce to douche-ay” in ten minutes. The pair seem dejected by the results of their romantic efforts, though excited for the wedding, which is about to happen in a wide warehouse recently acquired and renovated by the Biennale. Performers from eighteen other acts have already gathered inside, among them a drag queen from Berlin, a feminist activist from Athens, a trio of mermaids from Switzerland and a gender theorist from Barcelona. Italy’s top crusader for the decriminalization of prostitution is present, as is Carol Queen, the American sexologist who helped found the feminist co-op sex toy boutique Good Vibrations.

I have come to deliver the homily. Like everyone else, I am dressed in blue, as was requested by the brides. In the tradition of the Doge, Venice’s ancient rulers, Annie and Beth will also be marrying the sea.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Michelle Tea is the author of four memoirs and the novel Rose of No Man’s Land. She curates the monthly RADAR Reading Series at the San Francisco Public Library.

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