The Dirty Show turns 14
Published: February 5, 2013
Jerryvile is one of those guys who looks like he’d just as soon kill you as talk to you. His eyes are startlingly intense and his voice as gruff as a bear gargling glass. But that’s not the real Jerry Vile; don’t tell anyone, but the Dirty Show curator-organizer is gentle and, honestly, really sweet.
It’s like somebody put an intellectual brain into a retired pro wrestler.
This year sees the 14th Annual Dirty Show take place at Bert’s Warehouse in Detroit during the week surrounding Valentine’s Day. Of course, that means that the timing is perfect for our own Lust issue, so we had a chat with Vile about this year’s show.
The Dirty Show, for the uninitiated, is an erotic art show that includes paintings, photography, sculpture, performance art and everything in-between. Everything is centered on sex (of various sorts) — the show is very much for adults only — but somehow the whole thing retains an aura of class. This is an art exhibition, not a porn convention.
This year, the centerpiece of the show is an exhibit by Puerto Rican artist Gregory De La Haba called “Equus Maximus,” which includes three dead, stuffed horses around a craps table in Vegas headdresses about to get down to a three-way. Take a minute to let that soak in…
“This thing is so big, he has to knock down a wall for his people to get this thing out,” Vile says. “We have to knock down a wall to get it in. It costs a fortune to ship, and we have to lower our numbers of people that can fit in because of the floor space it takes. We’re not a dance — we can’t put people in nut-to-butt. To me, this is an incredible piece of art and no museum could show it if they ever want to get any sort of endowments or patrons. It’s like a menage a trois, but they’re not really touching each other. They’re about to. Erections and spread legs. He sculpted the genitals.”
Getting De La Haba to bring his horse orgy to Detroit has been no easy task for Vile. “I’ve been working on him for years,” he says. “Somebody told me about it at the Dirty Show that we had in L.A. at the City Center Motel the first time we were out there around our 10th anniversary. It stopped me. Like, I couldn’t think of anything else. He didn’t know the artist’s name, so I’d keep calling him week on month. I’d Google ‘horses’ and a few swear words, and you can imagine the horrible stuff I got back.”
Vile swears that the artists didn’t pose these horses in fuck-position for shock value. “When people see it, they’re blown away,” he says. “I was blown away just hearing about it. I have probably seen as much erotic art as anybody in the world, not only through Dirty but I kind of look at different artists at other shows too. I see too much erotic art. I’m always looking for something completely different, and I always find something. This I wasn’t even looking for because it was so outside of the scope of my imagination. This made my imagination a little bigger. Why doesn’t everybody in the world know about this guy?”
Quite. At $500,000, “Equus Maximus” will have to attract the attention of some deep-pocketed people with a huge house before the artist is a household name. “Hopefully somebody will buy it,” Vile says. “We know 50 Cent can afford it. It’s a half-mill, which is a steal for what it is. You have to look at the art prices of big artists. If he becomes one of the big artists of our time, the thing will be worth multiple millions. De La Haba is an incredible painter. I see hints of Caravaggio in his strokes. He’s got a really good artistic pedigree. You can trace his paintings back to the 15th century. The person who taught him was taught by somebody else amazing, and it’s been coming down for centuries.”
So who else is at the show this year?
“There’s a very cool performance artist from New York called Coralee Lynn Rose,” Vile says. “She’ll be out for one weekend or the other. She does nothing. She holds a position forever, like for two and a half hours. That’s probably harder than lifting weights. She was here one year, and she spent the entire evening crawling across the floor of the gallery, moving ever so slowly. She travels all around the world doing stuff like this. This is her art. We’re like this big pot of honey, attracting all these erotic bees. This year, she’ll be seated at a table and she’s gonna have a headphone jack connected to a telephone. You’ll be able to pick up this telephone and hear her thoughts. That’s the gist of it.”
Bizarrely enough, one of the other big attractions this year involves the Golden Girls and, more conventionally, Playboy. “This year, we have Olivia de Berardinis,” Vile says. “She’s been doing the one-page illustration in Playboy since 2004. She’s known for her exceptional work. Playboy may not be as important as it used to be, but they still have the same standards. People get her art inked on their bodies. The other thing we have this year is ‘Golden Gals Gone Wild,’ which is Lenora Claire and a show she curated in L.A. and Miami, and these were smash shows. She got on TMZ, MTV, NBC and all of the printed publications with this stuff. It’s Bea Arthur and Betty White erotica. That’s how we got Olivia. Lenora told her that we’re not a porn convention, because Olivia doesn’t do them. I’m not a fan, but I’m surprised how many fans there are of the Golden Girls. Lenora’s first ‘Golden Gals Gone Wild’ was just before Betty White took off, and I don’t know how much it had to do with it, but she didn’t hit a nerve by accident. If Betty White didn’t blow up afterward, I wouldn’t know who she was, but I can name people who have been in TV shows I’ve never seen in my life better than I can name presidents.”
Of course, burlesque plays a big part in the Dirty Show attractions onstage. “This year, we have Roxi Dlite coming back,” Vile says. “She was Miss Exotic World a couple of years ago, which means that you’re the best burlesque dancer in the world. She can mesmerize an entire audience. During her spot, pretty much everyone there is transfixed on her. We have the Stage Door Johnnies, which are male burlesque from Chicago. These guys are so hypnotic on stage. If burlesque is truly an art, these guys are at the top of it. They move unlike anybody I’ve ever seen on stage. I can’t take my eyes off them.”
> Email Brett Callwood