History of the BackDrop Club


A firsthand education in the science of B&D:
the inside story of Backdrop II
Story by Marvin X
(Reprinted from Fetish Times, Number 10 circa 1974)

"Put on my stockings, Make sure the seams are straight."

I groveled at her feet, struggling to pull the black nylons over the smooth, rounded contours of her legs. Finally I finished the job. The seams weren't exactly straight, but I hoped she wouldn't notice.

Mistress Monique towered over my nakedness, a breathtaking vision of glacial beauty. She wore a black corset bra that thrust her beautiful breasts up and out; filmy black see-through panties, garter belt; black high heels; and those black nylons with slightly crooked seams.

"What is the purpose of bondage, slave?" she asked coldly. "I-I'm not sure, Mistress Monique," I stammered. "Fore play," she snapped. "And teasing. Now get up on the table."

She tied me face down on the hard narrow table; using tubular webbing - a nylon-dacron blend of cord that is used principally for mountain climbing. Utilized in bondage, it's easily as secure as rope but doesn't leave marks. For openers Mistress Monique delivered a few resounding hand spankings to my rear end, then a few more with a paddle, followed by a taste of the "board of education" - a frighteningly oversized wooden instrument at least one inch thick that meets the flesh with a cruel thud.

Her treatment was both severe and gentle. After several serious swats, Monique would gently massage the violated area, then deliver a few more blows. Pain, yes...but a kind of erotic pain, which is what spanking is about.

Next Mistress Monique put me in a standing position, legs spread wide apart and secured with cords which ran through rings in the floor. My arms were outstretched and affixed to a horizontal bar. A cock harness was installed. She blindfolded me with an ace bandage, then proceeded to tickle me all over with unknown devices. It was a delicious sensation.

Monique took off the blindfold and stood before me. She had removed the corset bra and black panties, and was now wearing a transparent black negligee. I blinked in wonderment. "Tell me what's in your thoughts, slave," she commanded. "I--well, I was just thinking how nice it would be to eat your pussy," I admitted in total honesty.

"No, no, no," she scolded. "That's not what you're supposed to say. You're supposed to tell your mistress how beautiful she is and how much you'd like to serve her, and..."

I'm afraid I wasn't a very good slave.

That scene took place in the main bondage room of Backdrop II, a truly unique private B & D club in Hayward, CA. Recently I spent three days at Backdrop--listening and learning, watching and experiencing the incredible flow of events that comprise the very special lifestyle at this house of fantasy. The cast of characters:

Master Robin Roberts: Age 33. Short but well-built. Accomplished expert at bondage. Former Navy man, computer and electronics specialist, chemist. A student of psychology and the various school of B & D. Fanatic collector of data. Double Leo, with appropriately giant ego.

Mistress Monique: Age 26. Height 5'6", weight 120. Haunting violet eyes, pretty face. Great body with negligible flaws. Very soft skin. Stern mistress. Patient and understanding. Dominant personality.

Mistress Tanya: Age 40. Tall, thin, attractive. Great at playing mother-type role. Loves to discipline naughty boys Likes play-acting, gets deeply involved in her roles.

Mistress Katherine: Age 21. Recent addition to staff. Tall, thin, angular, very attractive. Saucy. Regal bearing. Dominant personality.

Candy: Robin's slave and resident submissive female. Age 27 but looks 19. Beautiful in an ethereal, almost ghostlike way. Loves to be tied up and spanked. Submissive personality, but will do domination.

Diana: Submissive, new addition to staff. Blond and pretty, about 21. No further data available.

Members and non-members: People from all walks of life, ages 21-65, who come to Backdrop to have their needs fulfilled. Mostly men, but a surprising number of women. Dominant and submissive personalities.

There are other staff members who are on call--two or three more mistresses, another master, a male slave--whom I didn't meet. Robin and Candy live in the turn-of-the-century house that serves as Backdrop's headquarters. Staff members like Monique and Katherine work 10-12 hour shifts, providing their services from early morning until late at night. For members, Backdrop is open around the clock.

Eavesdropping on a telephone conversation: "Yes, yes, that's right, that's really true. No sex at all. Bondage, discipline, spanking..no sex." Mistress Monique and her colleagues are used to calls like this one. The phones are very busy at Backdrop. Most of the calls come from two or three small, simple ads that Master Robin runs in the Berkeley Barb, an underground paper circulated mostly in the San Francisco area. Typical ads read: "Mistress Monique will spank you: Call__________" or "Female slave available. No sex or heavy trips..."

Some of the conversations get pretty bizarre. Many calls are from cranks, or from people who think the "no sex" line is a come-on, or from the lonely and alienated who have nothing better to do. Monique (on the phone): "Well, do you want me to dress you in baby clothes and play your mother, or...okay do you like to be tied up and spanked?"

No sex, no heavy trips. On the phone anything goes.

No sex, right. What Backdrop does provide is bondage and discipline, humiliation, female and male domination, fetish modeling with optional photography, wardrobes for TVs, and a very special telephone service.

Robin: "We have some people who enjoy receiving periodic phone calls. We do it only with members. They come in, pay their dues and receive a special mailing address to which they can send money to get the erotic phone calls."

Monique: "George is a phone freak. He doesn't want to come in for a session, doesn't even want to be faced with a woman. He wants you to talk to him while he masturbates. He'll say, like,"What are you wearing? Nothing." "What does your pussy look like?" Beautiful. "What are you doing right now?" Well, I'm sitting here rubbing my stomach. Would you like to rub my stomach? I'll say things like, George, what are you doing now? He'll say, I'm playing with your boobs. I say, it feels good, George, keep going."

Besides the telephone. Backdrop has other equipment Lots of it. In the principal B & D room, one finds: a whipping post; a set of stocks; 350-plus feet of tubular webbing in lengths from one to 12 feet; 1000 feet of various sizes of rope; a lot of chain; leather harnesses; paddles of various sizes, shapes and descriptions; a hard table; and various eye hooks on the floor, walls and ceiling which provide the same binding effect as an X or cross.

The other session room, now in use but being fitted with new equipment, has a table, strategically placed eye hooks which allow for suspension and other unusual positions, and Master Robin's newest project, a cell. This tiny barred cage is but 4 1/2 feet high by 3 1/2 feet wide and is designed so that the average person cannot stand up in it. A harness or chain will prevent sitting as well. People into long sessions of restraint could spend several hours in the cell, according to Robin.

One reason Backdrop is in a class by itself is that it's a private club. More than 400 members pay dues of $30 for six months, which entitles them to various privileges as well as a discount on sessions. There are dinner parties, demonstrations and outings. Members can drop into club headquarters any time, just to be sociable or perhaps to get into an impromptu session; the clubhouse is available to them any time of day or night.

Of course not everyone who comes to the house is a member. There are those drop-ins, those unknowns, those callers who have answered an ad and scheduled an appointment. Because at least 70 percent of these callers are no-shows, and because Robin is super-security conscious, he has devised a nearly foolproof screening method.

When an unknown caller schedules an appointment, he is not given the Backdrop address but is told what freeway exit to take, and instructed to call the house from a phone booth near the exit. Since Robin knows every phone booth and its number near every freeway exit, he knows whether or not the person is legit and how soon he'll arrive. Only when he calls from a known phone is he given the address of the house. Still, 10 percent of those call from "authorized" phone booths are no-shows. Some people just lose their nerve.

When a non-member does show up and goes through a session, if he likes what he has experienced he can apply for membership. If he is liked in return by the Backdrop people, he (or she) becomes a member. The person is assigned a secret code number-a combination of birth date and initials-which is used in the future for scheduling appointments and for all communications. Names are rarely used, except between mistress (or master) and client, and in the case of long time members.

Each member has a card in the master file. It contains the usual statistical information, plus the person's likes and dislikes, pain threshold, favorite fantasies, etc. I'm actually not too certain about what's on these cards. They are top secret, and are kept in a safe whose combination is known only to Master Robin. Security.

A surprising number of women come into Backdrop-Robin claims 25 percent of his clientele, and half of this number are married. Noting that B & D houses in Los Angeles have found it difficult to attract females. I asked Robin: "How do you attract women?"

Women are more uptight regarding B & D fantasies

"Very simple," he said. "You place an ad that reads something like, "Female slave wanted by considerate master, and the telephone number. And it works."

I asked him if women seemed to be more uptight about bringing their B & D fantasies into the open. "Most definitely. First of all, most women are not willing to get involved in something like this on a commercial level. So, in general I don't charge 'em any money I enjoy working with them. If I enjoy it, and they enjoy it, what difference does it make if any money changes hands?"

The second afternoon of my Backdrop experience I met a young lady named Ruth who had read the ad in the Berkeley Barb, reluctantly came in to find out what B & D was all about, and now has done several sessions as a submissive with Robin. She is now 20 years old, divorced and presently living with a man about 40. They are into swinging. Her lover, who had the usual misconceptions about B & D, was violently opposed to Ruth's plan to explore this alien activity.

I asked her, "How did you feel the first time you went through it with Robin?" "I felt like I was a little kid that needed to be protected and needed security," she said. "It seemed very strange for me to have that feeling, because I've always considered myself very independent and quite capable of taking care of myself. It was really nice, because it felt like for once you could just kind of shrug everything off and not worry about a thing, and it was all going to be there when you came back anyway."

"Has your experience here changed your outlook , your attitudes?" I persisted. "Before," she said, "anytime anybody said they were into B & D, I thought they were perverted, sick, needed their head examined. I don't feel that way anymore My boyfriend was really puzzled as to why I did enjoy it so much. He's gone through a few head changes about it."

Later that day a cute young blond named Irene dropped into the house. She was wearing shorts and had that California Girl look -- fresh and tanned and unspoiled. Her boyfriend wanted to get into B & D with her. She was a little spooked by the idea. Her sister had been in an S & M relationship and had been physically injured. Irene saw backdrop's ad in the Barb and dropped by to talk about it. Robin, Monique and Candy chatted with her for about an hour. "She'll be back," Robin said confidently.

Submissive females: break 'em in slowly, carefully

"How will you handle her when she comes back?" I asked him. "How will you break her into it."

"Slowly. You find that with B & D, if you take it slowly you can get a lot further and have a much longer-lasting relationship. For example, the first time I worked with Ruth, if I had grabbed her, thrown her on the table, tied her face down and wailed on her with a paddle until she said 'uncle,' it wouldn't have gotten any further than that.

The question is how can you tell if she's a submissive female? The easiest way to do it is to go to a dance and pick out a nice, attractive young lady or an old lady, if that's your taste-and the first time you dance you very gently take her hands and move them behind her back. Either she says, "Oh, I like the masterful male and presses closer to you, or she steps on your instep with her spike heel and says 'Let go of me,'at least you know where you stand.

"Or even while you're having intercourse. If you hold her hands tightly above her head or behind her back and she doesn't react negatively...they are all technically bondage positions."

"Is there anything you won't do here?" I asked Robin as we sat on his porch and watched the world hurry by. "I don't understand.." he said. "Say someone comes in with a very bizarre fantasy-say he wants to be strung up by his cock and attacked by giant termites," I replied.

"We do not get involved in anything that is injurious to human life. We have two basic definitions; one is pain the other is injury. Pain is anything like spankings, bondage, etc. Injury is anything that requires healing-cuts, heavy bruises, welts. So, no injuries. Pain-yes."

"Say you're dominating somebody." I asked Monique, "and he's saying 'stop, stop, stop' but you suspect he really doesn't mean it."

"I have a key word. The first time I work with someone, I tell them I don't know their pain threshold, or how much humiliation they want, or exactly what they're into. I don't know what their limits are. A lot of people get off on yelling 'stop' and 'help' and 'please don't do that, mistress,' or whatever. There's a word that I use-key. Candy's word is fuss. It's a short word that sticks in your mind and is easy to remember. If they said that word, it releases them from everything. Without that word, I don't stop."

"What do you think is really humiliating to a man?" I asked my mistress. "To have a man dressed as a woman...in front of other men Or putting them in diaper. To one men, just giving them an order is humiliating. The fact that they have to take an order from a woman. I have one man who comes in about every two weeks and I just give him orders: rub my back, kiss my feet, etc., and he leaves here mad every time, and hating himself for coming in and putting up with me. And yet he comes back. But the whole experience to him of being submissive to a female is very humiliating."

"Why do people need humiliation?" I asked of no one in particular.

Robin: "To make them recognize that they're human beings,more than anything else."

Monique: "I've found that most of my clients who are into humiliation are usually very intelligent, extremely successful businessmen. To a lot of people, it's a release to have someone say to them, "You're nothing".

All the world may be a stage but Backdrop conducts its own intimate theater on a one-to-one basis. Staff people are all skilled actors and actresses, trained and schooled in the art of making fantasies come true. (Once I asked Robin, "So just about any fantasy can be realized here." Actualized," he corrected me. "Not realized. Realized means that there is a finality to it. Actualized means that its an ongoing thing."

New mistresses must go through rigorous training

Actors, yes. Yet, without exception, the Backdrop people are really into B & D. It is part of their everyday lives, not just a job they do a few hours a day. New mistresses who join the staff are required to go through 12 hours of rigorous training in structured classes. Robin teaches them dynamics, techniques, the psychology of bondage and humiliation. There are encounter sessions. Three books are required reading: The Joy of Sex, Body Language and Psycho Cybernetics.

Master Robin trains his new people to "listen" to what clients are not saying -that is, what they're trying to communicate about their needs without saying anything. "For somebody to walk in and say, here's my trip, here's my script-it doesn't happen, says Robin. He looks for certain basic traits in a dominator who has a dominant personality.

Staff members get 60 percent of the gross from every session they do, which in itself is unusually high. Backdrop's fee is remarkable low in a business notorious for blatant rip-offs and exorbitant prices. A one-hour session is but $35($30 for members)for one full hour-regardless of the activity. If Robin had his say there would be no fee at all,just a club where people of like interests could get together and do their thing. But there are bills to be paid, food to be put on the table, expenses of every conceivable variety.

A unique human being is this Robin Roberts. His whole life is devoted to B & D, and Backdrop is the axis about which he revolves. He can talk eloquently (and often at great length) about any subject, with knowledge and authority. It takes a very special personality to be a master. First and foremost one must believe in oneself. That he does.

"How long have you been a master?" I asked the master. "Eighteen months." "Did you know that you were a master before Backdrop?" "I knew that I was dominant. Being a master means several things. One can be a master only if he has an individual willing to be his slave, who is willing to put up with him. It's a commitment on two people's part."

He continued: "Master doesn't necessarily mean that you're a mean ogre; master can mean that you're a master craftsman, that you are the best there is. That's what a master represents. I actually like the term "preceptor" more. In other words, you have the ability of finding what a person's needs are and then fulfilling them. For people who are into slavery, I like the term novitiate, or novice-somebody who is being brought along. Or student, or protege. By being a master, I am responsible for any slave that I have. You have to be able to turn it off and on. I can walk into a room and say, You are a slave, or snap my fingers, and they assume the position of a slave. Period."

One of Robin's favorite stories is about how he first discovered B & D. In the 1958, at the age of 16 or 17, he was leading a mountain climbing expedition. One girl on the trip, a "starlet type" of about 25 was causing a lot of hassles. Robin took her over his lap and gave her a sound spanking, to the shock and amazement of everyone watching. The experience was "very sexual, very sensual, very exciting."

Robin discovered B & D in 1958 on top of a mountain

"When did B & D become a part of your personal sex life?" I asked. "In 1958. When I came down off the mountain after 40 days and 40 nights, one of the first things I did was look for somebody to experiment and play with." Soon after that he became involved in bondage photography, which in turn led to experimentation with B & D sex.

There was an eight-year stint in the Navy, during which he traveled all over the world and presumably learned to tie a wide variety of knots. As a civilian, he worked eight years in electronics and computer technology, part of that period in atomic energy commission-type work. He won't discuss that job or its implications.

Backdrop I, which preceded Backdrop II, was started in Palo Alto, CA about two years ago as a bondage photography school. Friends predicted that Robin would either be in jail within two weeks or starving to death inside of four weeks. Neither happened. Instead, he discovered that a lot of his customers were into domination, and so Backdrop II was born in Berkeley to serve that need.

A tragic auto accident nearly wiped out the whole operation. The entire staff, minus Robin, was in the car at the time. Everyone was badly hurt, especially Candy, who had to spend painful weeks in bed and undergo plastic surgery to put her back together (today her fragile beauty is virtually untarnished by the scars of that mishap).

Backdrop was forced to close. Many of the members (only 75 at the time) felt badly about it, and donated money to help Robin reopen. "It's kind of a phenomenon that we've got a 'commercial operation' that is continually revitalized by the membership," says Robin. "It's a matter of caring. We care about them, and they care about us. In a lot of ways, our home is their home."

Today Backdrop II is flourishing, and Robin thinks the world is ready for Backdrop III and IV. There are several members in Los Angeles who want him to open a place there, but Robin is afraid of spreading himself too thin. He's also concerned about the lack of control over such a long distance (400 miles).

One of Robin's fantasies that is soon to be actualized is a new clubhouse, also in Hayward. He's currently negotiating for the property, which is about two miles from the present headquarters. The present house would be kept in operation, but the new clubhouse would be set up along slightly different lines.

Dues will be between $25-$50 per month per person. Each member will be given a key to the house; they can come and go as they please. The locks will be changed every month, meaning that if you don't pay your dues you don't get the new key. The refrigerator will be kept full, and bottles of personal libations can be stored there. The ambience will be social. Membership is by invitation only. Robin says that present members of Backdrop - those sociable types with whom Robin & Co. have established a rapport-will be prime candidates for membership.

There are other plans afoot too: a second location, somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area to handle the ever-increasing demands for Backdrop's time and services, and a newsletter for members, so that the vast amount of valuable information locked up inside Robin's brain can be disseminated to a segment of the public long hoodwinked by unscrupulous operators and deceived by fraudulent ads.

The master's head is a vast storehouse of data

"Someone once asked me what I majored in college," says the master. "I told them I majored in trivia." Robin's head is indeed a vast storehouse of data. He knows everybody in the B & D business in California and beyond. He knows what everybody is doing, and whether or not they're doing it honestly. He is a man of tremendous energy; he sleeps only 2-4 hours a night. Sometimes he looks like a tightly wound spring about to be uncoiled.

"Logical" is one word Robin uses to describe himself. He is a Star Trek fanatic-a "Trekky"-and naturally identifies with Mr. Spock, the unflappably logical Martian. Yet Robin is also a firm believer in astrological signs. Some may say logic and astrology don't compute. I disagree.

Robin: "There's a strong basis for astrology, but I do not allow it to rule my opinions of a person. It gives me a place to start, a point of reference until I can find more information. One good way of working with somebody is ask 'em what their sun sign is. They'll say well, I'm a Leo. You say, oh really? What are Leos like? They're going to tell you basically what they are. Somebody says , what's a Leo? I say, Leos are extravagant, egotistical bastards. That's what I am. I've been told that a number of times, and I pretty well believe it."

Egotistical, logical, educated, well-read, astute, perceptive, understanding, verbose, brilliant...and dominant. What's it like being the mater's slave?

Candy literally will do anything Robin asks (commands) her to do. She keeps bus around the house, doing the cooking, cleaning, answering phones and seeing an occasional client. Her specialty is fetish fashion model, but she's also the resident submissive female. You can tie Candy up and spank her on the bottom and do mild humiliation on her for $35 an hour-no sex or heavy trips.

Candy, a contortionist who can get into some uncanny bondage positions, has had submissive tendencies for as long as she can remember. Before she met Robin, she occasionally enjoyed being tied up and made love to. But it was Robin who brought these leanings completely out into the open. "Robin taught me all I know," she says. Occasionally she'll play a dominant role with a client.

One afternoon Robin and Candy gave me a demonstration of suspension. Quickly and expertly, the master bound his slave and had her dangling head down from the ceiling. Later he gave me some lessons in spanking, one of my favorite sports. Robin held Candy over his knee and told me to take a few swats at the rounded, naked buttocks of his slave. I did, and her pale skin turned a soft pink, then a rosy red.

"No, you haven't got the wrist action," said Robin. "The trick is to do it so that hand is flat. You notice the difference in the sound. ("Ohhhhh," moaned Candy.) That way you get both cheeks at one time. Then..." Whack.

Can I have another try at it? I asked. Candy, sobbing: "I'm not a guinea pig". With my new knowledge I delivered three successful swats.

"Now take your hand and put it across" instructed the master "then just go with the wrist. It's just like playing golf. It's all in the wrist."

Candy has two un actualized fantasies. One is being branded with a fleur-de-lis with an "R" in the center; the other is having her nipples pierced and a golden ring placed permanently through them. Robin says no to both. He doesn't want her body marked.

Candy: 'The look on his face puts me in the mood'

Presumably, her bondage and sex fantasies are well-tended by her master. Says Candy: "One thing that really puts me in the mood i the look in his face when he starts to tie me." "What do you see then?" I asked. "The unreadable. Totally unreadable. The firmness is there. He never tells me what he's going to do first, he just does it"

Hayward, home of Backdrop II, is a mellow bedroom community of some 94,000 souls, located 32 miles from the center of San Francisco and 14 miles from Oakland. Not much goes on there, not on the surface anyway, and when the wind is right you can savor the briny stench of pickles and stewed tomatoes emanating from the Hunt & Wesson plant, Hayward's biggest industry.

Inside Backdrop, things are alternately chaotic and placid. Robin Roberts, high-energy master, is usually busy at something: running a tight ship, dominating females, reading, thinking, talking to prospective members, making bondage equipment (which he sells to members at lightly above cost). Mistress Monique is often busy with clients, including many regulars but during idle moments she talks easily about herself: "I consider myself very dominant. What I'm probably looking for is a man who's much more dominant than I am. I may never find him."

There's a sort of ongoing power struggle between Master Robin and Mistress Monique; a Battle of the Dominants. It takes place mostly on a verbal level, but sometimes Robin will deliver a friendly but stinging slap to Monique's lovely backside.

"You know, one of this days we're gonna get into it," warns Monique after Robin's practiced hand makes contact with her hind quarters. "Promises, promises," snorts Robin.

"What would you do to Robin if you had him tied up?" I ask Monique. "I'd beat him," she says, only half-kidding, "for all the times I've bent over at the wrong time."

Robin: "Let's face it, if you have a marksman who has a good rifle, every time he sees a target he's going to shoot at it." "But you, as a master would never put yourself in a vulnerable position, would you?" I ask Robin. Monique: "He sleeps sometimes."

My three days at Backdrop II were a real adventure, an eye-opening experience. Space doesn't permit the telling, but there were many more adventures (e.g., my imprisonment in the stocks at Candy's mercy, my semi-suspension and leather bondage trips conducted by Monique) plus many more words of wisdom from the master. We'll have more on Backdrop in a future issue of the paper, hopefully soon.

Meanwhile, you can writ the beautiful people from his house of fantasy actualization at: Backdrop, P.O. Box 4XXX, Hayward, CA 94050. From prospective clients they prefer to get name, address, phone number, photo if possible. All mail will be answered first.

Backdrop II does it all with care, with understanding, with imagination. Best of all, they do it with love. That's what B & D is all about.

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