Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Ski Lodgers


The Ski Lodgers, by William Hegner
December, 1976  Pocket Books

Despite the unassuming title and cover hyperbole (“Hegner sales now over 1,000,000!”), The Ski Lodgers is one of the most lurid and outrageous trash novels I’ve ever read, William Hegner in the scant course of 175 pages graphically detailing everything from incest to bestiality, not to mention a whole bunch of regular sex. And he doesn’t even waste your time with a plot!

The novel details the sex-filled life of Stefan Zodiac, a 44 year-old ski instructor from Budapest (mistakenly listed as Austria on the back cover) who for the past several years has worked as the “skimeister” for the Inn of the Swallows resort in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. But Zodiac, who claims to have won the Silver medal in the Olympics, is more interested in bedding the gorgeous women who flock to the Inn. And the women are eager to bed with him, given his fame as a first-class stud, rushing up with him to his private lodge above the Inn.

Unlike The Worshipped And The Damned, Hegner this time out doesn’t bother with writing a regular sort of novel, with plot development or anything; instead he delivers what’s for the most part a novella, serving up elliptical chapters titled after each sign of the Zodiac, documenting in explicit detail Stefan Zodiac’s numerous affairs. Each of his conquests represents a Zodiac sign, though Hegner doesn’t do much with this theme, other than for example having Stefan say something like “You are the sign of the Ram,” to an Aries girl who’s blowing him, to which she’ll respond, “I’d like you to ram me.”

Zodiac has stayed here at the Inn for many years, hired long ago by Hattie Kroger, 60 year-old owner of the place. The only other recurring characters in the novel are Sidney “Balloon” Ballard, the Inn’s obese comic and the closest thing Zodiac has to a friend, and Eddie Banner, the Inn’s crafty PR man. But these characters ultimately have nothing to do with anything, and the “plot” moreso just concerns Zodiac’s steady stream of easy conquests, with him bedding everything from actresses to bisexual tennis pros to animal trainers to even a congresswoman.

It would be a waste of time to document all of them, as each woman is only in the book long enough to get introduced, exchange a few lines of dialog with Zodiac, and then go up to his private lodge to have sex with him. I imagine sex must’ve been easily come by in the liberated ‘70s, but The Ski Lodgers takes it to extremes – in some cases the women are propositioning Zodiac mere seconds after meeting him. The hardest he has to work for any of them is Jacqueline Monde, a journalist from Quebec who happens to write a piece on the Inn midway through the novel; Zodiac has her flown into the resort so he can meet her and, of course, screw her. And of course, she’s more than eager.

But just to list a few of them, first there’s Dina Lawrence, notable if for nothing else than being Zodiac’s first conquest in the book; Christina Rowe, a famous actress who speaks suspiciously like Katherine Hepburn (her memorable moment involves poking fun at Zodiac’s “I’m A Swallower” pins, which beyond having the double meaning for “The Inn of the Swallows” he awards to those women who, uh, live up to them – and Christina promptly earns one of her own); Belinda Drake, Zodiac’s “Libra” conquest who shares the same birthday as my wife (September 29th – Zodiac asks each woman the specific day and month they were born); and Nancy Frazier, the aforementioned congresswoman, who despite being here on a political junket is quick to run up with Zodiac to his lodge.

Special mention must be made of three of Zodiac’s conquests, for here in these sections we learn that bestselling fiction of the 1970s was a hell of a lot more outrageous than it is today. First there’s Bobbie Lee and Martha, a pair of tennis pros who go everywhere together. Zodiac of course ends up with them, screwing Bobbie Lee in his lodge, only for Martha to walk in on them…and pout that she wasn’t invited. This leads to a three-way during which Zodiac learns that the girls, of course, are lesbians (actually bisexuals, I guess)…and my friends, they get off on taking a piss on each other. Then they have Zodiac piss on them! Then they piss on Zodiac! Then they piss in each other’s mouths!!

Next up we get even more outrageous with the arrival of Jill Gibson, 15 year-old star of the TV show “Pepper Peabody;” she comes here with her mother, Kim, herself an actress. Zodiac and Kim hook up posthaste…and Kim promptly pimps out her daughter, informing Zodiac that the child is far more advanced sexually than her years would imply. There follows an unsettling sequence in which young Jill comes to Zodiac’s lodge and engages in all sorts of XXX-rated shenanigans while pretending to be even younger than she already is…a sequence that gets even more outrageous with the arrival of Jill’s mother, who promptly inserts herself into the scene! Now follows yet another three-way, this time with a mother and her teen daughter not only screwing Zodiac but each other, with Hegner delivering one of the grossest lines ever, as a nude Kim squats over her daughter and tells her, “Kiss where you came from.” 

But Hegner isn’t done yet. Shortly after this we have the arrival of Erica Glass, a very attractive young woman who works as an animal trainer. She comes to the Inn of the Swallows with a menagerie of animals for some event PR man Eddie Banner dreams up, and when she makes her inevitable trip up to Zodiac’s lodge she brings along her favorite of the animals, a chimp. While Zodiac’s banging her Erica casually informs Zodiac to take a look at the chimp: it’s masturbating as it watches them. Blithely informing Zodiac that the chimp is very interested in human sex, Erica disengages herself from him and splays herself out for the chimp – who promptly begins screwing her as a stunned Zodiac watches on. Later Erica informs Zodiac that she’s had sex with all kinds of animals, including snakes…!

Something occurred to me as I read The Ski Lodgers. With its increasingly outrageous sex scenes and increasingly-disassociated protagonist, I realized that a “second level” reading of the novel could easily have Hegner himself as Stefan Zodiac, with Zodiac’s increasing boredom and apathy a mirror of Hegner’s own boredom and apathy with trash fiction – the front of the book lists thirteen other novels by Hegner, all published in just a few short years. And just as Zodiac barrels through his women, so too does Hegner barrel through the sex scenes, their increasingly outrageous nature not only another sign of Hegner’s boredom but also perhaps his disgust with both himself and his readers – “You people want sex scenes? Well, that’s what you’ll get.”

Giving more credence to this is that Hegner doesn’t even seem to be sure when The Ski Lodgers takes place. It was published in late 1976 and seems to occur around this time, with talk of women’s liberation and mentions of Raquel Welch, and with characters who are, obviously, very liberated in their sex lives, with lots of dopesmoking going along with the rampant casual sex. Yet early in the book, immediately after informing us that Zodiac is 44, Hegner writes that Zodiac took part in the Olympics shortly before World War II, and it was the destruction of many of these official records in Budapest during the war that allowed him to lie about being a Silver medalist. This then would imply the novel occurs in the 1950s or early 1960s. So did Hegner just make a mistake or what?

To be sure, despite the focus on lurid sex and extreme imagery, Hegner is still a good writer – he has a definite penchant for doling out one-liners, like he’s the Shane Black of trash fiction. And as displayed in The Worshipped And The Damned he also has a gift for creating memorably-catty female characters, each of whom give as good as they get (in more ways than one).

Whether my thoughts on Hegner’s disgust with the genre and his readers is correct or not, it appears that after this he only published three more novels, with nothing published altogether between 1979 and 1999, when he returned to co-write Razzle Dazzle…with actress Stella Stevens!

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