Joan Didion at the Orgy

JOAN DIDION, CA. 1977. COURTESY OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tonight, in a living room in the Hollywood Hills, tucked between the Santa Monica Mountains, in a ranch style home on Mount Lee, a current of erotic energy moves past the Hollywood sign, carrying with it a buzz not unlike that of the Tesla Coil at the Griffith Observatory. I watch as an unclothed tangle of men’s and women’s bodies arc like the coil’s sparks in front of me on imported Moroccan rugs.

Only days before, I was living in isolation in a suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel when I received a telegram from a colleague inviting me to the orgy. I’ve been told that you can spot an orgy coming for days, sometimes weeks, in advance. It’s in the weight of a drop of condensation on a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. It’s in how that drop clings to the glass before releasing itself down its own side.

The sky is a red velvet curtain. One could do worse than get lost in its folds. I keep my eye on the foreground. A man I’ve heard called Larry arrived completely uninhibited and I wonder if he drove here naked or simply left his clothing neatly folded on the passenger seat of his green Volkswagen Beetle. Larry services himself while surveying the scene.

I have never been to an orgy before and while there seems to be little protocol to follow, I begin to feel uneasy. I hear a lone coyote’s song echo from deep inside the canyon. I watch as a woman uses a vibrator on another woman while her husband roams the room with a tepid gin and tonic and a half-hearted erection.

An orgy is one of the most common sexual fantasies and differs from swingers’ parties. At an orgy, you may not be familiar with your sex partner.

Research shows that choice makes us unhappy. To be offered multiple opportunities weighs on the mind causing a mild depression and in some cases, complete despair. The orgy is a buffet of opportunity and it will be a while before anyone asks for their money back.

The longest orgy in Los Angeles history lasted four entire days, from November 28 until December 1st. Like this orgy, that orgy was invitation only although by the second evening that formality had been waived. As word spread to Santa Monica, then Los Feliz and even Malibu, many people in Los Angeles found themselves under a spell as if driven by the same compulsion as the animals to Noah’s Ark. One man died of a heart attack on the third night.

To participate in an orgy is to consciously accept an abject view of humanity. For now, I’ll keep my place on the sidelines, tentatively.