Monday, July 31, 2017

Massage Parlor Part II

Massage Parlor Part II, by Jennifer Sills
July, 1974  Ace Books

It took me a few years, but I’ve finally gotten back to the sleazy trilogy begun with Massage Parlor, that Ace Books cash-in on Xaviera Hollander’s The Happy Hooker which did so well it actually sold a million or so copies. “Jennfier Sills” once again blithely tells us all about her whoring; this book, which follows the same template as the last (namely, each chapter is basically just a sex scene) has Jennifer moving shop to Los Angeles and opening a massage parlor for the elite.

As mentioned in my review of the previous volume, it seems to have been an open secret that “Jennifer Sills” was really an author named Stephen Lewis. He turned out a plethora of sex books for Ace, as well as a few trashy potboilers; the back of Massage Parlor Part II even has an ad for Lewis’s books right beneath the listing for the two Massage Parlor novels. I’ve found a contemporary interview with Lewis about the Sills books here, carried out while Lewis was writing this book (which we’re told was yet to be titled – looks like Lewis didn’t strain the imagination too hard coming up with it!). According to Hawks’s Authors Pseudonyms, Lewis died very young, the years of his life stated as being 1946-1981. It’s impolite to speculate, but I wonder if he was an early victim of AIDS.

Because there is a sudden focus on kinky sex in Massage Parlor Part II, not to mention lots of stuff about gay or bi guys; I mean, you’ll read these puke-out parts where there’s an explicit sex scene between a man and a woman, and then “Jennifer” will mention that one of the dudes licks up the, uh, effluvia of the men. Per the above link Lewis was a single guy living in Manhattan who was clearly quite familiar with the underground world of sex for sale, so I can’t help but wonder if his own life mirrored his books.

Anyway it’s a couple months after the first volume and Jennifer opens this book with her having sex with some dude she met at Kennedy Airport, right before her flight here to LA. Jennifer reveals that she broke off her relationship with cop boyfriend Tom, who wanted to marry her; she also sold off her Massagarama parlor, mostly due to all the massage parlor busts that were going on in New York. Most importantly, Jennifer reveals that her book, Massage Parlor, sold so well that she has become almost a celebrity – the novel occurs in this almost metafictional realm, in which fictional Jennifer’s real book has made fictional Jennifer famous in her fictional world.

In fact this latest lay is a dude she spotted grabbing Massage Parlor off the spinner rack at Kennedy; Jennifer arranged to sit beside him and kept spying on him during the flight as he read it, to see if he got hot and bothered; Jennifer informs us she received many letters from people claiming that they got so turned on by her first book that they had to masturbate posthaste, etc. This guy is named Don, he’s a wealthy lawyer, and he and Jennifer hit it off well – soon enough she’s nude at his place, listening to “the latest Led Zeppelin album” while checking out a closeup of her own nether region on the closed circuit TV Don has in his room. “Don began to eat me out like a madman,” Jennifer casually informs us, and off we go into Massage Parlor Part II.

Jennifer and Don also hit it off business-wise; Don convinces Jennifer to open a new parlor here in Los Angeles, and he will co-manage it, using his connections with famous and wealthy people to make it the top sex spot. Jennifer comes up with the idea to call it The Body Club, and after a screening of a porn director’s latest flick, she also decides to hire a bunch of its performers. This sequence is the first evidence of the kinky bent which will drive this volume; there are few straight-up sex scenes this time around, with more focus on oddball stuff. As evidence, Jennifer notes that, after the actors in the movie have sex, they piss on each other. Hmmm….

But one new element this time is that Jennifer actually massages people; whereas the previous book was all about the sex, this one Jennifer keeps reminding us that she gives bona fide rubdowns, and good ones, too; here she proves herself to the porn actors with a bit of zone therapy, making massively-hung actor Geraldo (likely a Harry Reems stand-in) “shoot his load” with some masterful massaging. But Jennifer has her own limits; when an orgy threatens to break out, she says no thanks – and then changes her mind after a little amyl nitrate from an inhaler.

The Body Club is set up in the rundown mansion of an old ‘30s director, who died years ago. Jennifer and Don pay exorbitantly to fix it up, complete with three sex rooms that have different themes and also closed circuit TVs in them. Don also comes up with Jennifer’s price list, which shocks our narrator: it’s a thousand dollars to join the club, and Jennifer’s “services” cost a whopping five hundred bucks…and that’s in 1974 money! Don’s argument is that it’s all about “flash” in Hollywood, and the higher the price tag the more people will covet whatever it is your selling; he also informs Jennifer that they need to capitalize on the fame her book has given her. Now that she’s seen as an expert on sex, she should be paid accordingly.

But Jennifer rarely has just normal sex with any of her clients; at least, Lewis doesn’t focus on those. Instead we get a dude on “a baby trip,” who likes to wear diapers and be rubbed down and spanked and baby-talked to, the climax coming when he breastfeeds off Jennifer. Then there’s the football star who only gets excited when Jennifer slips a finger into his ass – he bridles at the insinuation that he might be gay – and royally gets off when Jennifer puts a pair of her panties on him. And then there’s the guy who hires Jennifer and another massuese, jams sausages and fruits and whatnot in all their passages, and starts to eat them! The “subuman look” in the man’s eyes scares even grizzled Jennifer. 

Indeed, Jennifer gets burned out with all the kinky shit, and wonders “what’s going on with sex?” She complains to Don that no one just wants to screw anymore, that it’s all about the latest weird and freaky scene. I would say this is Dean Koontz’z dictum, from Writing Popular Fiction, being proven once again – that the author of sleaze will eventually reach burnout. And Jennifer does periodically throughout the novel, which turns out to be Lewis developing his escape route; late in the game Jennifer tells us that this volume “finishes” her story, which began in the first book (despite which another one came out, two years later, via Fawcett Books: Jennifer’s Boys).

During a weekend getaway with Don – who doesn’t achieve the narrative importance that Tom did – Jennifer meets an older, “World’s Most Interesting Man”-type Latino dude named Giorgio who seems very interested in her, and vice versa, but Don won’t give Jennifer the chance to talk with him, as the dude is mega-wealthy and Don wants to take advantage of that. Occasionally in the novel Jennifer will muse about Giorgio, wondering if she should take him up on his invitation to visit one day; Giorgio does not know Jennifer is a massage parlor girl/whore.

More johns ensue, from a married couple who get off on jet sprays in the Body Club pool before having sex with each other, to an actor Jennifer names “Dick” who is about to appear nude in a women’s magazine centerfold but is afraid his equipment’s too small. Clearly inspired by Burt Reynolds’s Playgirl appearance, this part has Jennifer using everything from a “penis vacuum” to some pubic trimming to convince “Dick” that his equipment isn’t small at all – capped off with the joke finale that the magazine uses a photo of him with a hand over his crotch. Then there’s the Howard Hughes stand-in, whom Jennifer calls “The Bashful Billionaire;” he rents out the club for an entire night and watches in the darkness as Jennifer and employees carry out a prepared script and screw. The Hughes stand-in plays “pocket pool” and then bids them adieu.

But Jennifer is getting more burned out; it’s been months and she’s had at least two men a day, despite her outrageous fees. Also she fights more and more with Don, though Lewis doesn’t do much with this subplot, not even giving a final confrontation between the two. Instead Jennifer, inspired by a famous diplomat whom she gives a handjob (while spouting awful, punny “policy” dialog), tosses a coin and decides to hell with it – it’s off to Giorgio’s to announce who she is.

For Jennifer spent a weekend with him previous to this, concerned that Giorgio never made any advances on her, just wanted to get to know her. At first Jennifer wondered if Giorgio was gay, before it hit her that he was merely courting her! In the finale though Giorgio admits that he’s known who Jennifer was all along, and about the Body Club as well, but could care less about her past.

The novel ends six months later and Jennifer is now married to Giorgio, living with him in Rome: “Instead of being a happy hooker, I’m a happy woman.” She tells us her story has now come to its close, her massage parlor life behind her, but as mentioned Lewis delivered another novel as “Jennifer Sills” two years later. I’ll get to it eventually.


John Nail said...

God bless the 1970s, when stroke books like Massage Parlor Part II could be found on the general fiction shelves of B. Dalton and even mainstream best sellers would likely have a few pornographic sex scenes. Makes me feel sorry for the younger readers for whom Fifty Shades of Grey is the first, possibly only, "dirty" book they ever read. I've never read Fifty Shades, nor do I plan to, but I imagine it's not nearly as raunchy as what you've outlined in Massage Parlor Part II. Makes me want to film Fifty Shades fans reading passages of "Jennifer Sills"' novel aloud and post their reactions on YouTube. Their response to the "puke-out parts" could prove to be comedy gold.

I think my 15-year-old self would consider the Massage Parlor books must reads. However, the line from your review that piqued my interest was about Stephen Lewis (a.k.a. Jennifer Sills) writing a few trashy potboilers. I immediately went on a quest for those potboilers, finding two for sale: Beach House and The Love Merchants. I chose The Love Merchants, unable to resist the obvious mash-up of Jacqueline Susann's The Love Machine and Harold Robbins' The Dream Merchants. It should be delivered next week. I can't wait.

Joe Kenney said...

John, thanks a lot for the comment, I really enjoyed reading it. You are so right about the special sleaze of the '70s. As for Lewis, I was certain I had a copy of The Love Merchants, but I must've misplaced it. As I recall, it's about "the new Hollywood" of the early '70s. I'm also pretty sure he did a book titled "The Bestsellers" or something to that effect, which was a roman a clef about a Jacqueline Susann type. Anyway, please let us know what you think of The Love Merchants!