Sixteen-year-old Martin Stein doesn’t care that he’s being tossed out of “Washington’s Unseen Eros IV,” the swanky, black-tie-optional charity exhibition of erotic art held March 26 at D.C.’s Melrose Hotel. He’s already gotten his.
Then again, Stein—dressed in sneakers, baggy jeans, and an untucked shirt—didn’t come all the way from his home in Philadelphia for the more than 200 bootylicious nude photos, provocative paintings, and sensual sculptures of “Eros.” And he didn’t pay the $85 general admission fee, either. He just came to meet Pauly.
Paul Sorvino, that is—actor, director, producer, opera singer, sculptor, and celebrity guest erotic artist at “Eros.” Moments before getting bounced, Stein waltzed right up to Sorvino and unrolled a GoodFellas movie poster, which Sorvino signed nervously with a silver marker before turning back to schmoozing the 219 paying attendees. Then Stein looked for a place to put his prize while the ink dried, at last laying it gently across Sorvino’s voluptuous bronze vixen, Donna Eterna, listed at $95,000—the priciest piece of the night.
That’s when security stepped in, escorting Stein down a corridor and into an elevator. Outside, Stein runs into his older companion, Bert Barrett, who holds an unsigned glossy Pauly photo. “I came all the way from Philly,” moans Barrett, who has also got booted.
Despite the event’s no-riffraff policy, “Eros” organizer Cassandra Eckert describes the annual fête—which this year includes 21 artists and will raise more than $8,000 for the Sorvino Asthma Foundation—as a swinging departure for usually uptight D.C. “Supposedly, the nude human form is not politically correct,” says Eckert, who’s also president of DC Social Insider. “We don’t really celebrate the human form as much as I think we should.”
So “Eros” breaks out the air horn—sometimes even tastefully. Take Andrey Bogoslowsky, a D.C. painter who’s explaining his approach to abstract expressionism in front of his $4,400 collage, Woman Bathing in a Lake. The piece began with the kind of National Geographic desert-scene photo boys used to ogle back in the ’50s. Bogoslowsky affixed it to a corner of a canvas, which he then splashed with paint, making a rear-view image of a nude woman bathing “in an oasis,” according to Bogoslowsky. “I’m not thinking too much,” he says. “Do first. Think later.”
Around the corner, D.C. artist Carol Lee Morgan is showing her vivid “Division Chief at Home” series—inspired, Morgan says, by her secret affair with a high-ranking Labor Department official many years ago. In liquid glass and colored pencil, Morgan has depicted an anonymous male in a variety of poses, sporting nothing but black boots and a raging erection. In one image, the man appears to be masturbating with both hands.
“Actually, those are my hands,” Morgan says quickly. “If he ever saw this, I’d be dead.”
Eckert says she really likes Sorvino’s $65,000 bronze statue, The Lovers, which depicts a man and woman in a passionate embrace. “I love the way they’re looking at each other,” she says. “Completely in rapture.” And late in the evening, Sorvino himself looks smitten, grinning as he’s approached by an attractive brunette in a slinky violet dress and silver heels.
The woman, 26-year-old Irene Ostrovsky of Tysons Corner, inches close before she takes out a glossy photo of the actor and asks Sorvino to sign it. “For Bert,” she says.
It seems that Ostrovsky ran into the guys from Philly outside and agreed to help Barrett out. “I felt so bad for him,” says Ostrovsky. “He drove three hours.” —Chris Shott