In operation for the past eight months, members-only Los Angeles club Sanctum likes to declare itself “LA's #1 erotic experience”. The proprietors of the club created what is ostensibly a moveable feast of fucking for rich men and women who want to explore group sex, fetishes and garden-variety voyeurism à la Eyes Wide Shut. They offer “invitation-only private parties at various clandestine venues in Los Angeles," and charge a $2,500 membership fee to visit their LA events.
Male attendees must wear a tuxedo and women, “lingerie or tasteful evening wear,” plus masks all around. The club’s website mysteriously adds, “We are fully out in the open, certainly – but we still harbour secrets.” These claims of sophistication and intrigue seemed incongruous with the reality of what sounded like a pretty standard orgy, so I decided to check out Sanctum to see if it lived up to their hyperbole.
According to its strict set of rules, Sanctum requires aspiring members to submit their photos via email before they are approved to join or attend. “Beautiful single ladies can enter the club on our guest list” (after submitting full-length photos). Even the most privileged men don’t get that luxury.
After paying twenty bucks to the valet, guests were driven by golf cart up a driveway to the main structure of that night's Sanctum venue, which was a non-descript mid-sized mansion perched precariously on the corner of Mulholland Drive. After an ID check, we were then walked into the building by a black-suited security guard.
The house had a minimally-lit living room and bar that featured a posse of around eight women in high-end lingerie and heels spanking one another for the pleasure of everyone present. For some reason, the house had a shark tank, status symbol for James Bond villians, 90s rappers and drug cartel leaders. Just one young, though healthy-looking, shark swam happily in the tank, taking in all the masked idiots staring at it.
I had expected something a little more decadent than a McMansion with a goddamn shark tank, considering all the hype and cloak-and-dagger mystery surrounding the club’s press and PR. Visions of Hollywood gatekeepers snorting coke off a petite wannabe actress’ tits weren’t exactly realised.
Instead there was a predominantly male crowd, with the overall ratio of men to women about 70 percent. These included a group of OC dudes celebrating a birthday, a clan of Iranian luxury car salesmen (who arrived in Lamborghinis), a solo guy named Dave who claimed to be a pharmaceutical heir and an assortment of gangster-looking types flashing a hefty amount of cash.
As advertised, all the men had a tux on, which created an odd uniformity. It seemed like most of the women were paid, though they didn’t exactly typify your average street hooker. There were no shabby tats, cellulite or track marks evident.
Another room, up a flight of steps nearby, featured a naked girl spread-eagled on a huge round table while a sexy Asian lady, resplendent in lingerie and mask, poured hot wax on her thighs. While gratuitous moaning ensued, the “submissive” didn’t seem to get burned.
Of the 30 or so women in attendance at the club, around 20 of them were employed by Sanctum. Word has it the working girls in attendance received a $500 flat fee for the night, plus whatever else they scored via participating in a slave auction, and subsequently servicing their buyer.
Held in the center room of the mansion, the slave auction went down at about 2AM. Ten or so women were paraded catwalk style, with an auctioneer starting the bidding. Various guys proceeded to bid on the women. After an agreed sale, the hired “slaves” were then obliged to meet their “buyers’” sexual requests, with the process taking place in a side room removed from the main crowd. Ironically, the club’s CEO says that proceeds from the auction are donated to an unspecified charity that helps battle international slavery.
Two non-working girls, a blonde Hollywood PR-type named Melinda and her corporate lawyer pal Shelle, wore tasteful vintage cocktail dresses and masks. Accompanied by their respective dates, they confided they were a little disappointed with the proceedings after being tipped off to the club by work friends. “It’s not as exclusive or upscale as I expected. There are some genuinely creepy people here. One guy asked me to walk him inside by the leash that was around his neck,” Melinda noted. “I expected a lot more. It’s a bit anticlimactic, though there are a lot of hot guys here – and a shark.”
Sanctum’s CEO Damon (he doesn’t like to use his last name) says that he was doing parties outside of the US for a few years before launching Sanctum. He also runs an even more exclusive experience (only 15 couples per event) called Sanctum Privé in a penthouse suite in one of LA’s iconic old Hollywood hotels.
In terms of the type of people the club attracts, Damon claims Sanctum’s requirements are “money, power, or beauty – at least one of these must be in place for entry.” This apparently spans a varied group of entertainment people, doctors, lawyers, musicians and artists, “clientele who can afford the experience.”
Damon says the club’s screening process weeds out the trashy folk, so no drunken brawlers or jealous fights. “We’ve had very few problem guests, because everyone is thoroughly screened, so not many rotten apples slip through. Our gentlemen guests are generally over 30 by rule, and know how to behave themselves around beautiful women. We have private security to protect our guests so they feel free, but not to hinder them. Everything must be consensual; that is the paramount rule. If it’s not, we don’t ask twice at Sanctum.”
As far as defining the experience, Damon stresses that it’s not actually a swingers’ party, and is keen to hype the mystery factor. “If sex happens at the parties, and only those who make it inside can say for certain, and I’m not saying either way, it would be a voyeuristic experience watching erotic arts unfold, somewhat like walking into a real Eyes Wide Shut. That’s if sex was happening. Guests might also become interactive art themselves. We don’t inhibit that activity.”
Damon offered a final tip for potential attendees. “Expect to have questions raised about sexuality and sensuality, about fetish, about art. Expect to see things you’ve never seen in your life, in a setting that is exciting but protected, surrounded by people you’d want to be surrounded by.“
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