Sex in the Future? Can You Say 'Communication'?

We're lunching with the quintessential California Girl, which is a species closely related to Manhattan Chick. How can you tell you've got a coastal speciwoman on your hands?

She's not fazed by nuts. As long as they're unarmed, of course.

"Very rarely do I get a nut," Lisa Palac says sweetly of her wealth of enthusiastic e-mail. "And even when I do, it's nothing I ever feel threatened by. The nuttiest stuff is mostly men propositioning me. Can you blame them?"

Mais, non. If you figure that guys who publish Outside magazine are jocks, and Fortune writers can balance their checkbooks, what could you reasonably assume about the founding editor of the defunct San Francisco cybersex quarterly Future Sex?

Hey, so did we. That's why we recruited Palac, 34, rosebud-lipped author of "The Edge of the Bed: How Dirty Pictures Changed My Life" (Little, Brown, 1998). Having already tackled the past and the present of a pet area of study here at Out & About--la vie sexuelle--it was time to complete our trilogy with a forecast.

"It's not a gadget. It's not a rubber suit."

What?

"The future of sex is very plain and simple--communication, people being able to talk about sex in a frank and honest way."

Not so fast. We're not done with the rubber suits.

Palac, already a freelance sex writer, earned her stripes as an expert in the early '90s. That's when two San Francisco professional guys in their 40s enlisted her to make their cybersex dreams come true. Or at least a reasonable facsimile of them.

The first issue promised "Cutting-Edge Erotica" and "Cyborg Love Slaves." Of course, we're not talking about love slaves a la San Fernando Valley. The corn-fed Palac is a special '90s breed of pornographer, which is the pornographess--art school-educated; kinda intellectual, kinda wild; a nouvelle feminist rebel with a cause.

Back to the love slaves. Just try and get ads for a magazine featuring love slaves, cyborg or otherwise. Do they get a date with the Marlboro Man? We don't think so.

On the other hand, they would be happy to hawk the Motorized Orgasmic Release machine, which sells for $895.

A little steep?

Perhaps, but Palac was plugged into a fairly select universe. Which enticed that wild New York Times to crown her the "Queen of High-Tech Porn."

"I've been trying to live that title down ever since."

By including the piece in the book tour press kit.

Anyway, Palac had figured out pretty quickly that high-tech sex did not mean sex with cosmic paraphernalia--no robots, no orgasmatrons, no virtual reality harems.

"We would call it 'vapor wear,' " says the casually dressed Santa Barbara-based newlywed. "There's no there there. It's made up."

How does she know? She made some of it up.

"We had started publishing fictional accounts about VR sex, and there was so much interest about that, both from fans and the media wanting to know, 'Where are the virtual reality sex suits?' "

On a bar napkin, to start. Palac had called computer porn-game pioneer Mike Saenz to find out where the damned suits were, and when he told her they weren't, he suggested they make up their own. Nonoperative ones, that is.

Saenz designed the Darth Vaderesque guy suit. Palac sketched the girl suit--pink, of course--with a bra shaped like robot hands. Then they put models in them, photographed them and emblazoned them on the magazine's second cover. The headline was "Strap In, Tweak Out, Turn On!"

"My fate was sealed after that, because then everyone went completely crazy. 'Where are the suits? Where are the suits?' The Germans, especially. Every day I would get a call from someone in the German media wanting to know, 'Where are the cybersex suits?' "

Soon the questions were delivered in person at the portals of Future Sex, every messy, unglamorous, disappointing inch of it.

"They expected to see me dressed in a silver bra and high-heeled space boots like Barbarella. I would be talking on the phone, with slave boys under my desk, and I would just eat little pills for lunch and rub my orb."

Which, of course, you would never do in public.

Glamorous? Maybe not. But when your budding career as a girl pornographer gets you into the pages of the New York Times and Esquire magazine, you can relax a bit. You can 'fess up at cocktail parties. You can even dare to think it's kinda cool. Maybe even beyond cool.

Indeed, says Palac, "now it's another career option."

*

A Real Curtain Raiser: You've got to give Paramount credit. When the studio sets out to create reality, it can smell mighty tasty.

"Well, live it, baby. Live it with me."

Love ya, babe. That's Adam Schroeder talking. He's one of the very happy producers of the Jim Carrey breakout drama "The Truman Show." Schroeder was at last week's premiere, enjoying Along Came Mary snacks and Hollywood handshakes for a job well done. The Armand Hammer Museum bash benefited Stop Cancer.

Handshakers and shakees included "Truman" Carrey (with Lauren Holly), Laura Linney, Ed Harris, newlywed Natascha McElhone, Noah Emmerich, Holland Taylor, producer and event co-chair Ed Feldman, director Peter Weir, screenwriter-producer Andrew Niccol, Sherry Lansing and Jonathan Dolgen. Others included Jeff Bridges, Garry Shandling, Jon Lovitz, Jon Landau, Gloria Stuart and Jackie Collins. To get to manna nirvana, the hungry hordes had to walk the gauntlet. Of stretch black limos, that is, 30 of them, which formed a chorus line of pricey transportation between the museum and the Mann National Theater.

For Emmerich, it was the final leg of a journey that had begun three years earlier, when he started a two-year campaign to audition for the role of Truman's best friend, Marlin.

"I responded to the character. Because I like beer, and I'm very duplicitous. I'm a manipulative son of a [gun]."

Bet you say that to all the girls.

The consensus seemed to be, as producer Steve Tisch put it, "that they pulled it off."

"I've seen a lot of movies where you say, 'They really screwed up a great idea.' Well, this was a great idea where everybody collaborated to make a great movie. Having been involved in a picture that was also very original and risky and took a long time to get made, 'Forrest Gump,' I know how thrilling it is to be on the winning team."

Thrilling, yes. But also filling.

Which is the part of the Hollywood fishbowl life that appeals to recent admittee and "South Park" creator Matt Stone. After all, Truman may have bristled at his life led on TV, but the real fishbowl thing has its ups and downs. That is to say, Stone likes it. And he doesn't.

"When you get fed, yeah.

"When you get looked at, no."

Bring on the hors d'oeuvres.

*

Soft-Focus Lens: People treating you like a bad Zsa Zsa clone? Do you believe that deep down you're cuddlier than people give you credit for? Here's some advice:

Get divorced.

It worked for Ivana. After her split from The Donald, the blond New Yorker resurfaced with a snuggly new image and a fab new 'do. Then she sold scads of books to her adoring new constituency.

And now that we're in rerun season, we think we've spotted another book-writing gay divorcee on the horizon. Indeed, could that be Arianna who's blossoming into the intellectual's Ivana?

Arianna Huffington has definitely grown cuddlier in the eyes of the press, as noted by a recent New Yorker magazine, which dubbed her "a kind of Republican Spice Girl." And, yes. She does sing. Kind of.

The ebullient Huffington gave a demonstration last week at a Beverly Hills party for her new satirical novel, "Greetings From the Lincoln Bedroom" (Crown). The bash was co-hosted by a hosting expert--"Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher, a buddy, colleague and bachelor about town who was escorted by a young woman he introduced as Giovanna, "my daughter, my fiancee." (Get us out of "Chinatown," please.)

Anyway, other people give readings from their books. Huffington gave a singing from hers.

Ahem. Me-me-me. We bring you "Ode to an Intern." (Sung to the tune of "Officer Krupke"):

"Dear kindly Mr. Clinton,

Why won't you take my calls?

You just ignore my hintin',

You snub me in the halls.

You never say the sweet things

You used to say to me

Like 'Oral sex is not adultery'!"

But, hey, take my ex-husband's campaign for Senate. Please.

"It's primary night here," Huffington told the folks, "and for me the best news is that Al Checchi has now forever broken Michael Huffington's record. So he now becomes the poster boy of campaign spending.

"Thank you, Al. For this I'm very grateful. He has now demonstrated it takes $40 million to lose a statewide race. Four years ago, it only took $28 million to lose a statewide race. And Alan Greenspan is saying that inflation is not recurring."

For the Record Los Angeles Times Monday June 8, 1998 Home Edition Life & Style Part E Page 4 View Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction Out & About--Bill Maher's escort was erroneously identified as his fiancee in a photo caption in Sunday's Out & About column.
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