On our recent trip to Las Vegas for the AVNs, we sat down with Tara, manager of The Black Room a fetish leather store in the area. We talked about all things Vegas, dating, and the BDSM scene abroad.
anniebear: Your store The Black Room is kind of a fixture here in Las Vegas and I know you get a lot of tourist traffic as well and you and Franz are local community/BDSM figureheads?
Tara: To a degree. Not as much as some people think. In the last few years we have made more in roads but sadly in Vegas its very divisive. And we have found that when you kind of get involved with one thing even if you’re doing it with the best of intentions another group will be upset with that so to make everyone happy we really do keep our distance. That’s why we don’t really affiliate with a single group here or there. It’s a very unique place Vegas. And the community as I said there’re all these little niches and you just try to make everyone happy. I found that that’s really hard to do because last year at this time I had a dungeon here in town. And sadly it closed and I’m not angry about it but I am disappointed about it but I really never had any local community support to keep it going, which I found very surprising. I really did. I really thought- I don’t want to say you build it they will come but I thought it would have had more local people than I did.
Dexx: That was Faust right? Can you tell us more about that?
The idea behind Faust was I always wanted a dungeon based on a European model. I’d been to many places in Germany and Holland and things like and what we wanted to do was give a place to play that people who were new to the scene or very much into it or very experienced could come to a place that was for fetish only. Faust was not a sex club. It wasn’t like a lot of the other places here. That’s fine that’s there thing but that’s not what we were about. We were about play. When we opened, we had a fantastic opening night I mean it was brilliant and we had an 8000 square foot place. I had a building that was 20,000 square feet and I had plans to expand if things had gone well and I really had this idea of doing it the way no one had ever done it before I mean it was much more than just having a cross here a flogging table there. I really had a lot of stuff planned. But I invested quite a bit of my own money, what I could afford. I had a partner from Belgium, Roger Muiller. Roger and I both had that same vision. And if you go on Faust on Facebook, I still have my site up and you can see photos of it. We had a really wonderful lounge area where people could just relax before they played or after just to get them in the mood or to wind down. In the lounge area no play was allowed-but it didn’t work here in town. I think part of it, like I said lack of community support and part is because I had to be very careful how I advertised. The city didn’t give me a hard time. But in this city you also have to be very careful how you do things. And if I’d have been like in your face kind of like a lot of the nightclubs are they would have shut me down quick. So I was trying to work under the radar but again metro knew about me metro came in on a number of occasions, never had a problem with it but it was a glorious failure as I’d like to say.
anniebear: I did visit the space it was beautiful.
You know I had some interesting nights. I wont deny it. I did have great memories but it just didn’t work.
anniebear: And how did The Black Room come about?
[The Black Room] owner Franz, he had this place in Irvine, CA. He was there for fifteen years and he had it in the back of a jewelry store his wife owned and was quite successful. But it was much more of a local community kind of little shop. His wife sadly passed from leukemia in 2010 and he came out here. He started in October 2010 here with basically all he had which was whatever he had placed in storage because he had closed the business to take care of his wife. So we had that and I came on about four months after he opened. And we just tried everything you can think of for advertising, we had some pieces that we brought in here that we thought would be great sellers, didn’t sell at all. Other things that we knocked heads about, sometimes he was right sometimes I was right. (laughs) For instance late last year we instituted a line of adult baby and it is flying off our website! We cannot keep stuff in fast enough. We get lots of hate letters from people who are waiting and we’re trying to get stuff in as fast as we can!
anniebear: I thought you were going say you get hate letters from people saying that they’re against the store (laughs)
Yes, they’re just in tears (laughs). Now I have nothing against infantile play, its great people love it but I didn’t think it was as popular as it is. And that surprised me, happily. That has really taken off for us, we I think have a good reputation on the quality of stuff that we sell. We try to bring in as much from Europe as possible. I won’t deny that we do have a little bit of what I would call inferior quality for beginners. Because obviously beginners don’t want to spend a lot of money but I still want to sell to them so I bring in the “fifty shades of gray” line, the stuff that’s very basic. You may get one or two uses out of it. You may buy a flogger that costs you $10 and the purist in me doesn’t want to sell it I hate it but business is business and it does sell. But for those who are more knowledgeable or have more experience they really do like our stuff and that makes me very happy. I am one of those people I won’t sell something to you if I just don’t think you’re ready for it. And I will tell people that straight to their face, you’re not ready for this. If you really really want it I’ll sell it to you but if you’re asking my opinion you’re not ready for that. And I think that has shown that we’re very honest with our customers.
I read things on Yelp and it’s usually nice things but somebody wrote one time that they said, “I came in there a stranger and I walked out a friend.” And that that makes me happy because those are customers which are going to come back. Even with tourists I won’t just sell something to a tourist thinging, “well I’ll never see them again.” And that have proved to be nice because we have had a lot of return people. I’ve had people from Australia, New Zealand, even Germany that will come here and will say we came to Vegas, yea we’re going to have the “Vegas experience” but our first stop was your store. That really makes me feel good because that tells me we’re doing something right.
Do we make mistakes of course, do we get people mad at us of course. That’s business. Its like I was trying to tell Franz one day the more you sell online the more you’re opening yourself up to criticism because he hates to see criticism but you have to roll with the punches. I say if you’re selling ten pieces and you get one complaint, it’s 10% of your business. If you’re selling 100 pieces and get 10 complains its still only 10%. So you have t look at it in that perspective.
anniebear: How did you meet Franz then?
It was funny, I had come back from Ireland. I’d come here in the early 2000’s got a little homesick and went home. Then the economy crashed in Ireland and I thought well there’s no way I want to stay here and live on the dole so I came back to Las Vegas, I have family here. And I was actually working in a sex club as a bartender. It was very funny because a sex club is not my personal kind of thing and I just stood behind the bar and it was just a meeting place. I always had people say they came in there just to come talk to me even if they never got lucky in the club they still had a good time because you know I have a talent, if you would for making people laugh.
anniebear: I’m sure you make a great bartender.
I met Franz, he came in one time. We got talking and then he had come in a few other times and we just hit it off. And he said to me “if you ever want to come work for me let me know and I’ll hire you on the spot.” And I said “yea ok thanks, etc.” I finally had gotten tired of the club it wasn’t me and it wears on you those places always do just like I always hear escorts say they can do it for so long and then just burn out. I was in this [BDSM] world myself as a player and I’d been a pro-Domme for more years than I care to admit but he found out I was no longer working there and I didn’t contact him or anything but he gave me a call one day and said do you want to come work for me and I said yes!
anniebear: And do you usually get along?
It’s funny because you know believe me we have some knock down drag outs but what’s really good is that we do leave it at business. Before he had his new fiancé, many times we would go out on a Saturday night after work and go to dinner and go do some karaoke or something. He’s like a big brother. And Franz is very knowledgeable, he has some really good contacts in Germany and because of that Franz gets his stuff direct and it eliminates a middle man which obviously gives us the ability to sell stuff at really what I consider reasonable prices. We have very much beginner stuff that’s very cheap and we have some really high end stuff and it can be expensive. But for the most part if you look at the pieces and the quality of it it’s reasonable.
anniebear: Have you spent much time in Germany?
I have been there on a number of occasions but I’ve never lived there. The last time was in 2001. I had to visit the Kit Cat club and if you haven’t been go!
anniebear: When you were a professional Dominatrix, that was in Ireland?
No that was in Holland. I was very much my own enterprise. I never believed in working under other people like that because the more people that are about the more likely you’re going to get in trouble. Just like if I did it here I wouldn’t do it as a group or under anybody else or have a website because the police troll those things in Vegas. Even though no sex is involved, if they want to bust you they will. But I had very interesting clients in Holland. It was a little bit different, the late 80s early 90s, tastes changes just like styles change but I when I was doing it it was much more what people would call the run of the mill play. I never had anything really unusual, in my mind. I’m sure a lot of the stuff to vanilla people would seem unusual but it was –your basic floggings, whippings, anal play, CBT, piercings, things like that. I had basic clients, some people who were local politicians at the time. That was the biggest thing I always noticed. It always amazes me how many professional people are in this lifestyle, maybe because they’re more open minded or have more time or funds, I don’t really know. Most of the people that I knew in Holland were very much professional people.
anniebear: We’re always interested in hearing about what the scene is like in other cities and countries.
In Europe what surprises me too, Vegas is such a visual town when you go it’s “I’m in Vegas I’m going to do myself up,” it surprises me when I first came here you see that we [at The Black Room] are more about fashion and clothing than we are about equipment though we have been bringing that part of it too. It really surprises me about the number of people who are local that really don’t dress up and for us when you went to a dungeon or club that’s what it was all about. I mean yes everybody played but you saw the stereotype people, in corsets the men in suits, special rubber suits or leather or latex, masks. And you really don’t get that here. The most you seem to get is people who will wear a black t-shirt maybe biker boots and a vest as far as the men go. A lot of the women just get naked which is fine to each their own. But in Europe it was all about the image was part of the fantasy. Part of the atmosphere of the club that’s really lacking here.
anniebear: In LA I feel that people dress.
Dexx: It varies from event to event, but some people do.
anniebear: It seems like Vegas has a lot of old school players or people that have been in the scene for years and years and don’t really deviate much from those rules to the point of not being inclusive.
They do and people have a right to do and believe what they want. I don’t have any issue with that. What I don’t like and I’m just speaking for me personally, I’ve never sat there and called out anybody on this, what I don’t like is how many times I’ll hear the chatter online that if you don’t do it this way or that way you’re just dabbling your not really serious. Or you don’t know what lifestyle play is all about. Who anointed them the “S & M guardian.” To me if you’re thing is getting tied to the bed and getting spanked a few times before you engage in sexual play, if that’s your kink then that’s your kink and there’s nothing wrong with that. So I really don’t like when people do that. And I hear a lot of that. I don’t know if goes on like that in LA but I just saw so much criticism about the way people play. I get annoyed when I hear some club say we’re a male dominated society and our group is all about male dominance. Ok that’s fine I don’t have problem with that but for somebody who is new to the scene or doesn’t understand it when they come to their group, they’ll turn around and insult them, “oh you’re a switch or a male submissive get out of here.” That’s just rude, I’m sorry. I always thought we were about educating each other as much as the pubic at large and I hear a lot of that.
anniebear : What advice would give to someone brand new starting out exploring the lifestyle?
Be careful. Ask loads of questions; don’t be afraid to ask questions. I also say that if there’s something you are interested in, try to find people that you first trust and who know a bit about what it is you’re interested in. And let’s say for instance you’re into electrical play, play with more than one person. If possible-I’m going from the aspect that you’re not attached to anybody. You find somebody you trust, you play. If you really like it fantastic. If it’s not what you thought it was don’t just discount it. Try somebody else and see how they do it because everyone is different in their techniques. So you may find, ok I like it but that first person just wasn’t good at it or you may try it with two or three different people and you just don’t like the experience. You say ok that’s not for me. Use your head, just be intelligent. I’d like to think that most people that get into this are fairly intelligent. Someone who’s willing to be submissive say, wouldn’t play with someone without asking questions. It’s a dangerous pastime if you don’t take your precautions. Just ask loads of questions and be smart and if something in your head says this isn’t right you stop, walk away. Don’t feel like you have to prove anything to anyone.
For somebody who is new I’m always leery of the people that say “I don’t do the munch thing because I find them to be ridiculous” that kind of red flags me. When people around these public sites say that. Not that you have to do a munch but the great thing about them is if you’re a regular attendee most people kind of know you and you know them so if you’re somebody new and you can meet them at a munch and ask around. It lays the ground work.
Dexx: What do you think it’ll take before Vegas could have another public dungeon again?
Well, Franz and I have talked about this and we have a plan in place if the cards fall properly. We would love to do something in the space next door to us. We would like to turn it into a weekend play space. I think what it takes is it’s hard –the most ideal way to do it in this city is in a private residence. But the trouble with most private residences is that if you want the perfect place it’s going to cost a ton of money to rent and the trouble is with most houses is the rooms are too small. And then there’s parking or upset the other residences. It’s tough. It’s a shame that Vegas is a little bit tight assed but they are. I always laugh and jokingly say this town loves the nickname but they don’t like the actuality. Yea we’re Sin City the adult playground of the world. Come spend your money but you can’t do that you cant do that.
Dexx: Keep your panties on there! (laughs)
Like the AVNs it’s a porn star thing or the Fetish and Fantasy Ball and everyone knows what its about and yet people get so bent out of shape when they see boobs, even if the nipples are covered, they see boobs; and oh my God! It’s what it’s about.
anniebear: It’s the American way to have that reaction.
You know Ireland is still a very conservative place and they say oh you have such freedom in Vegas you can do what you want and I’m like really? I can get in better trouble in Dublin than here. It is what it is.
anniebear: So, are you seeing anybody right now?
No I’m not and it’s hard for a number of reasons and you’re going to laugh at this. I just like regular run of the mill, straight fellas and I’m a post op so it’s hard to find regular straight fellas who are A) comfortable with my past, B) are at least interested in this lifestyle, or C) because they know I work here it scares the hell out of them. Its like oh I don’t think I could handle her. She’s gonna be too much or too wild for me.
anniebear: Are you a switch do you prefer domination?
To say I’m not would be a lie, I am a switch but the way I say that is I do pro Domme occasionally. I do have some clients that come into town a few times a year, not a ton. But for my own personal play I’m a bottom. I can do the Domme role, I’m good at it but I don’t get the excitement I get out of being a submissive.
Dexx: Are the Germans as kinky as their reputation would suggest?
Yes. It’s a good thing! Franz said this once to me and I don’t know if he was really joking about it or meant it-the Germans when they approach their business, the business days are very straight forward, very proper, all the T’s are crossed, everything is efficiency. So I think when they have their down time according to Franz he says that’s when we let our hair down and that does make sense because I do have loads of friends who are Germans and they’re kinkiest you’ve ever met. They don’t broadcast it but they don’t conceal it, where I have friends who are really kinky in Ireland, I mean Irish men are trust me the kinkiest things going but they all deny it.