“I’m not looking to get into Oprah’s book club,” explained Polly Frost, the self-described erotic sci-fi and horror author whose X-rated comedy soap opera, Sex Scenes, has been making a splash at readings in New York City, “I love raw, pulpy stuff.” On December 28, Santa Barbara’s cooperative winery and tasting room, Cellar 205, will host a live reading of Frost’s Sex Scenes, transforming the Funk Zone into an erogenous zone.
Raised in Santa Barbara, Frost moved to New York in the ’90s to write, contributing humor pieces to the New Yorker and film reviews to Harper’s Bazaar before surrendering to the desire to write erotic fiction. She cowrote her steamy stories with the help of her husband, Ray Sawhill, and claimed all couples should write erotica together.
“I was always pushing the envelope with my humor pieces anyway,” she said. “Eventually I just thought, ‘The hell with it. I’m tired of not being able to just do it.’” Doing it, of course, is Frost’s favorite subject. Among the 18 tales that make up Sex Scenes are “Impulse Control,” a story about a Hollywood call girl whose involvement in a high-profile sex scandal leads to her own reality TV show, and “Profit Margin,” about a female porn mogul who works in the sex industry but can’t get any action with her own husband. Actors will be reading both stories at the Cellar 205 event, as well as excerpts from “A Personal Relationship,” a gay story set in Santa Barbara. “In New York, our audience is gay, straight, bi — everyone,” Frost said. “I hope we’ll find the same thing in Santa Barbara.”
For more than a year now, Frost has been delivering monthly installments of Sex Scenes to hungry New York audiences. Die-hard fans follow the theatrical readings at the Cornelia Street Café, the same venue where Eve Ensler’s OBIE Award-winning play The Vagina Monologues was born. Frost considers herself part of New York’s erotica scene, and often presents her work alongside burlesque performances. Though in some ways she sees her work as inhabiting the fringes of literature, Frost believes sex is central to the work of all great writers. “I think the most important writing is about sex — but these days, it gets marginalized into erotica. If you read Henry Miller or Philip Roth, it’s highly sexual writing, but we’ve gotten to the point now where we’ve broken apart from that.”
In addition to five L.A. actors, the cast presenting Sex Scenes in Santa Barbara includes Cellar 205’s co-owner John Bargiel and S.B. native David Vining, who now works as a director in New York. Despite the gutsy nature of her work, the author admitted she’s slightly nervous about bringing Sex Scenes out of its big city context and back to her hometown. “My parents have read everything I’ve written and heard some of it on recordings,” she said, “but this is the first time they will have heard a live reading.”
It’s a bit of a risqué gift to bring home for the holidays, but Sex Scenes is decidedly tamer in content than her upcoming book, Deep Inside: Extreme Erotic Fantasies, a collection of stories scheduled for publication by Tor Books in June 2007. According to Frost’s 18-and-older Web site, Deep Inside “breaks every taboo as it takes you inside the throbbing flesh and twisted urges of the kinky, the depraved, and the supernatural.”
By comparison, Sex Scenes promises relatively soft-core pornography-cum-comedy. “It is satire,” Frost warned. “In addition to being highly sexual stuff, it’s also pretty outrageous.” Nervous she may be, but a little aural sex obviously doesn’t scare Frost — she’s cool, but far from frigid. “I’ve never had anybody walk out during a performance,” she said, “but I’ve had people make out.”