If you’ve explored Gowanus nightlife over the last four years, chances are that you’ve stumbled into a fairy forest, all-nude burlesque event, or any other type of delirious costumed madness at the Gemini & Scorpio Loft, whose exact address remains available only to event attendees (upon RSVP).
Gemini & Scorpio’s semi-secretive location imbues it with a kind of post-industrial Narnia vibe that brushes off the pretension and cold shoulders of other Brooklyn nightlife. They hold wildly immersive events that riff on pop culture, like this past Halloween’s Stranger Things extravaganza, or last February’s David Bowie movie sleepover. The venue is split into two parts: “Gemini & Scorpio” handles the G-rated, high-production events like the former, while the NC-17 rated “House of Scorpio” handles makeout and sex parties.
Brokelyn recently got the chance to sit down with G&S founder Miss Scorpio, a Soviet-born entrepreneur whose business success seems to have from her self-termed “perpetual outsider perspective” on the NYC dating scene. She talked to us about how G&S evolved from the early days of online dating and how she keeps sex party creeps at bay, and mused on the precarious position of affordable art and culture in New York.
So, what is Gemini & Scorpio?
Gemini and Scorpio runs themed costume parties with live entertainment. I suppose these days I should say “immersive” themed costume parties with live entertainment. Cause I started doing these before that was a thing and now it’s a thing.
When did Gemini & Scorpio form?
It was 13 years ago. Wasn’t [the] plan.
So how did it get started?
By complete accident. It started out with my partner, Miss Gemini, trying to write a book about online dating. This was in the days when [online dating] wasn’t widely accepted, and we very early on saw the potential, we were excited by it. Since our generation now does everything online, why not find dates online? That understanding wasn’t really there yet, so we started trying to write a book based on our experiences online dating, trying to explain to people that it’s actually really fun, and here’s how it can be fun. It doesn’t have to be a wedding ring; it’s all about meeting like minded people and going out on great dates. That’s how we started an event list, which was initially about interesting places to take your online date. We always suggested: Do not do dinner and a movie. Do something you want to do anyway, that way it’s a filtering mechanism. For me, if I want to go to a brass band and puppet thing and my date goes Ew, fuck no, [then] that’s not my date. [Laughs]
What is House of Scorpio? How is that different from Gemini & Scorpio?
House of Scorpio is the kinkier sister to G&S: we take that same immersive, colorful vibe and apply it to sex-positive events. Our crowd is an intersection of polyamorous, Burning Man and kink communities [and] people just starting to experiment with alternative sexual or relationship modes. G&S has been running since 2002; HoS since 2009. Our most popular event [at House of Scorpio] is the monthly makeout party Lip Service, [which] is precisely what it sounds like: a place to get slightly naughty with your partner(s) or attractive strangers, but not the place to take it beyond first base. And yes, we play silly games like Spin The Bottle and Twister. We even do Seven Minutes in Heaven sometimes.
We also host “play” parties. A very small number of tickets is available for each, and guests get approved to buy them individually. [And] our newest venture is our Bedroom Badass class series: poly- and kink-friendly sex and relationship workshops. It is a safe space. You’re welcomed to be in there and to be the you that you may not show to anybody else anywhere else. And it’s entirely a place where whoever you bring is welcomed and accepted and nobody will ever say anything about it in your other spaces.
Do you feel like there’s a crossover from other artistic communities?
Definitely, from the poly community, I guess the younger, more queer-oriented BDSM community. It’s different from the BDSM community of my younger years, there’s a lot more gender orientation fluidity, which is really important to us, which is really great at a party. It’s not quite a swinger scene. It’s people who are friendly and interesting and aware of our rules of interaction, which [include] not assuming someone’s gender, or orientation or relationship status.
How has that changed over the last 13 years?
I think there’s such a greater awareness now of the different flavors of relationship experience, whether it is gender or sexual orientation there’s so many more ways of being that are recognized and respected, it’s joyful to see that.
So what are the parties at HoS like?
It’s not as salacious as you would expect. In fact, one of my party guests told me that I run the most wholesome sex parties in New York. I thought that was a lovely thing to say! It was so nice, right?! There [are] lovely people chatting, drinks, a nice rooftop, a beautiful loft. The sex is kind of incidental; it’s not threatening, it’s not aggressive.
There’s a costume requirement for our parties. This works for Gemini Scorpio and House of Scorpio, costume and dress-up are required at every single event. It gives partygoers part ownership of the event. When I see that you’ve dressed up for my party I know that you have read the rules, you’re familiar with what we’re doing and you’re on board.
The timing structure of sex parties [nobody naked ’til midnight] is really useful, because we do have a large contingent for whom these kinds of parties are the absolute first foray into anything of this sort. They know that if they leave by 11:59pm they won’t see anything they might not be comfortable with. But what’s funny is I meet a lot of people for [whom] it’s their first time, and at the beginning they’re planning to leave by midnight, and they don’t! Virtually nobody leaves by midnight.
How do you deal with people, especially men, getting out of hand at your parties?
We would just remove them. I [have] my staff there, everyone is really on it because we do these sex-adjacent events. We have a hard line with that kind of behavior.
There are so many of these black t-shirted “masters” — insert eye roll here — dudes who watch too many fetish films, and think there’s a certain way to act, to be cool at these parties. And it just makes them awful, and they don’t get it. And it’s not acceptable. Any form of disrespect to any party guest or performer, including our presenters is just not acceptable. They would be removed immediately.
How do you ensure that people are well behaved with alcohol in the mix?
One of our rules is actually not getting too intoxicated. Because if you have too much to drink you can’t make consent decisions and that’s really important. It’s great to see people respect that.
Do you think there’s anything special about the community in Brooklyn here or in Gowanus that gives G&S/HoS a specific flavor?
I love this neighborhood. I think Gowanus is the possibly the last holdout of real artists using industrial space to create art, combined with still some industry happening and real small businesses, and it’s sad, because since we got our loft just four years ago I’ve seen it change drastically. And, many of my friends have been pushed out of their spaces in the last few years. There’s been this implosion happening and it’s terrible. I basically run this space and the events as if they might go away at any moment, because that’s what happens in New York constantly, so we’ll give it our best now and we really don’t know how long it will last.
How do you think technology and gentrification have changed the subcultures in New York?
It only bothers me that [the scenes] are so dispersed, it’s removed the possibility of stumbling into things by chance. The further back you go, the more it was that you could get into a neighborhood which, you know, 30 years ago was the East Village and the Lower East Side, and you could walk along and stumble into some wonderful, delightful weirdness. These days you have to know about it in advance, and you need to go out somewhere far to find it. The element of serendipity is removed, and that’s unfortunate because you really only find out about things connected to your sphere. The joy of New York City is how many subcultures operate here at any one given time.
This interview has been edited for clarity.