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The Extrasensory Polynesian Butt Plug Mystery
By Dave Shulman
First published in L.A. Weekly, February 8, 2006.
Jeffrey Vallance had spent too much time in Los Angeles again, so in 1983 he went to Polynesia to make art. Then he came back and taught at UCLA, before returning to the South Pacific at the end of 1985. It was on this second excursion that Jeffrey created a series of Polynesian performances: I Joined the Samoan Police Force (Leone Village, American Samoa), Audience With His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Topou IV (Royal Palace, Nuku’alofa, Tonga), Tongan Jam Session (Zero-D Recording Studio, Nuku’alofa, Tonga), Landing Place of the Spirits (Matavera Village, Rarotonga, Cook Islands), and Tumu Nu Ritual (Areora Village, Atiu, Cook Islands).
When he returned to Los Angeles in early 1986, Jeffrey called and told me of his many adventures, including the tale of the Perfect Day:
“I met this guy in a bar in Rarotonga,” said Jeffrey. “And he said, ‘Go see my dad in Atiu. You can stay with him. He likes to have guests.’ So I went there and looked up his dad, and his dad was really pissed off. ‘That damn son of mine! Why did he tell you to come here?!’ Really mean, like he had a hot poker up his butt. I tried to find another place to stay, but there weren’t any. So I was brought to the chief, and the chief decided to let me stay in the governor’s mansion, which was the biggest building on the whole island.
“One day I decided to go for a swim. I walked down this path of jagged fossilized coral, several miles, and as I got near the beach it was getting really hot. I thought, ‘Oh, shit. What an idiot. I didn’t bring any water.’ Just then, I noticed a coral cave up above the beach, so I went in there and saw that the cave was dripping water, very slowly. I found some old coconuts, broken in half, so they were like cups. I used a piece of bamboo to prop up one of the coconut cups, to catch the drips. After about 20 minutes, I had a cup of water. Really sweet water. Then I balanced the cup on the bamboo again, and went down to the beach.
“When I got there, I was getting hungry. This family appeared. They’d been spear-fishing in a nearby pool, and handed me a piece of raw fish. It was really good. Then I went back up to the cave and had another cup of water, and just swam and drank water all day.
“I was already happy, but when I got thirsty, water appeared, and when I got hungry, fish appeared. It was a perfect day.”
“Wow,” said I. It did sound awfully perfect.
I had some questions about atoll topography, and while Jeffrey was answering them, I remembered something important.
“Oh, hey,” I said. “That reminds me. About six years ago, I was in this —”
And Jeffrey cut me off.
A quarter-century ago, Dungeonites ruled the first floor of UCLA’s Dykstra Hall. Generations of Dungeonites before them had handed down a sacred collection of Super-8 ’70s porno loops, which were exhibited at weekly meetings. Each autumn, one of the elder Dungeonites brought the newly chosen Keeper of the Porn (and whoever else wanted to go) to the Tender Box, an adult novelty store in Hermosa Beach. There, the Dungeonites-in-training would select and purchase more porno titles to add to the collection.
I’d been appointed Keeper of the Porn that year, because I owned a projector. Elder Dan “Wild Man” Peinado, last year’s Keeper, drove; I rode shotgun, with two other barely legal freshmen — Davy-Boy Reaves of San Diego and Eric Belle of Arcadia — in back.
Reaves, Belle and I had never been inside a porno store before, never seen so much pink and purple and red and blue and Day-Glo green and yellow in one place outside of the poster room at a head shop. Most people didn’t own videotape players yet, so while there were a few tapes, most of the stock was magazines, books and sex toys, with a small box of 8 mm shorts.
And I’d never wondered whether such things as butt plugs existed. I knew that some people liked to put things up their asses, but hadn’t considered the possibility that one day I’d find, hanging on the wall at the end of a magazine rack, an assortment of brightly colored “Polynesian Butt Plugs,” in three sizes: finger size, cock size and baby-head size (which I hoped was just for show).
I didn’t feel comfortable asking the man at the counter, but I asked Peinado, Reaves and Belle. Is there some historic link between Polynesia and butt plugs? Are all butt plugs Polynesian butt plugs, so it’s just a more formal term, like Roman Catholicism? Or is this just a zany marketing strategy (“Plug yer butt like a Polynesian!”), to make it seem exotic?
“Dude,” came Reaves’ reply. “Lay off the butt plugs and pick out your movie. Let’s get out of here.”
“Millions of years ago, Atiu was a regular atoll,” Jeffrey had been saying before I interrupted him. “And then something volcanic happened again on the ocean floor, and the atoll got shoved up in the air. So where most atolls have water in the middle, this one has kind of a jungle. There’s a rim of coral sticking several hundred feet up, and then it dips down to where the lagoon used to be, and there’s a jungle with fossilized coral — makatea — that has all these sharp, jagged edges.”
“Oh, hey,” I said. “That reminds me. About six years ago, I was in this—”
“—porno store?” said Jeffrey.
“Holy fucking shit! That’s exactly what I was going to say!”
“Yeah,” said Jeffrey. “That happens sometimes.”
“Yeah. I have psychics on both sides of my family. Grandmother Vallance used to have a fortunetelling shop in Long Beach. And, on my mother’s side, my great-great-uncle was a world-famous psychic. The NYPD used to bring him from Norway to New York to help find bodies.”
“Wow. Anyway, about six years ago, I was in this porno store, and they were selling ‘Polynesian Butt Plugs.’ Did you know I was going to say that, too?”
“Good. I’m glad.” And I really was glad.