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Friday, 21 August 2009

Soho

On July 24 Janey Bracken and I were taken on a tour of the new Soho sim, before it had been opened to the public. Our guides were Menolly Reiderer and Aeneas Beaumont. Das Wade also participated in the tour until duty called him away. After the tour had taken place Janey and I decided that each of us should write about the new sim since the opening of a sim is such a big enterprise and because this was going to be something very new for all the people of the London sims, whether staff, resident or visitor. As well, Janey is a Londoner born and bred while I have only visited London a couple of times and am not at all familiar with its different areas.

Janey’s first story on Soho appeared on July 28. Since I didn’t want to repeat what Janey had written, I opted for a different approach. I decided to talk with the sim managers to try and discover how they approached the creation of Soho and what decisions they made to achieve their goals. I first spoke with Menolly who told me that the team included an advisor, ozzie Maggs, who had worked in the adult industry in SL for a couple of years. Menolly suggested that I speak with ozzie, which I have done, and have written a report for CNN describing in some detail the adult industry. After this I talked again with Menolly to ask her some questions about the Soho sim specifically and as by this point the sim had been open to the public for a little while, to see how things were going.

On the July 24 tour, the first place we visited was the men-only gym designed and built by Aeneas Beaumont. It is a beautiful three story building with a gym, swimming pool, sauna, showers and bathrooms, all well equipped for every eventuality. When asked if there was a similar gym in RL Soho Aeneas responded that “it is what I think a gym & bath should be” and that a RL version would “perhaps (not) be as clean”.
Afterwards Menolly showed us the Phoenix Club, a chill out area, cinema and brothel room. Menolly said that “the idea is to create a top quality environment”. This, to me, was particularly visible when we visited the brothel room, which was beautifully decorated, tasteful and elegant. To quote Menolly again “even though these are brothels they don’t have to be low class”. The chill-out area also seems very low-key and atmospheric without being too in-your-face.

Following this tour I subsequently talked with ozzie Maggs and visited some adult sims. I then met up with Menolly a second time and asked her more questions, the answers to which are the basis for the majority of this article.

Menolly began by saying “Soho was chosen because it is the redlight area of London so that is the obvious starting point”. I asked her about the choice of places, the gay baths, the Phoenix Club etc. She replied “generally that comes from the layout of Soho ... we did a lot of research into Soho itself... Brewer St is the straight area of Soho and Old Compton Road is the gay area so I wanted to be able to reflect both. A club was the answer for the straight and gay but the gay also needed a place of their own. The Phoenix is loosely based on Madame Jojo's club in Soho. In RL that club caters for everyone and everything and we want to reflect that too. The club will be running amateur and "tranny" nights ... though we have yet to decide on the names of the events that will run on particular days. That comes as it is developed.” She continued “There are two parts of the club really the dancers who entertain and titilate without the sex and the escorts who cater for everything. A lot of people think that dancers are escorts but that is not necessarily the case. We provide brothel rooms for the girls which are stocked with top quality TNT sex stuff. Their clientele comes from traffic a lot of the time. The escorts also hire boards so that people can contact them and arrange a hook up. What we do on the Soho sim is provide them with places they can potentially meet people.”

I asked how one becomes an escort and how this side of things is regulated. Menolly answered “Anyone can apply to be an escort with us. The sim does have a guideline that we seek ... we aren’t freelance. Only people with the Soho callgirl or escort tag can come in here and work. If we had a freelancer come in we would ask them to either leave the estate or apply for a position on the sim we don’t just give it to anyone. They must be over 28 days old minimum and preferably have experience though those that really do want to learn are referred to Ozzie. She has the school to train girls should they wish to get involved. (ozzie’s school is called Waltzing Matilda) Dancers can be escorts but all escorts MUST hire a board to be able to work... no dancer can escort while on stage.” As well as female escorts, in the future it is hoped that there will be male gay, straight and shemale escorts, and possibly furries, as well. As Menolly says “we don’t discriminate ... so everyone is catered for”.

Other aspects of the sim design were touched upon. For example, some builds are “blank”, they are there to look attractive but not be used. This is to allow for some privacy when chatting.
The furniture in the brothel rooms is from TNT Corporation, as Menolly mentioned. TNT is an SL business selling furniture and accessories. People can try the furniture out and later buy it should they find it meets their needs, since TNT also has a shop in the sim.

Since my original July 24th tour many stores have come into the sim. Quite a few are old favourites from the other SL London sims, such as Nils Island store and Dollyrock. Dollyrock has a special line of clothing to be sold and presumably worn in adult sims called “Xtreme”. They have a striking advertisement facing the Phoenix Club, with the logo “Dress for Sex” and I find it very interesting seeing how businesses such as Dollyrock adapt themselves to their place of sales. As well there are animations and attachment stores, art and a skybox shop, to name a few.

A number of opening events have taken place, such as a tarts and vicars party at the Phoenix and the Def Leppard concert. Both of these were very popular and should serve to increase the number of visitors to the sim. More events are being planned. Soho is going to be part of a gridwide fundraising event for a young girl named Claudia, recently diagnosed with leukemia and now undergoing treatment. Claudia’s parents are in SL. Six major SL venues will be take part. Contact ozzie Maggs or Menolly Reiderer for more information. Menolly also said that there are plans for future collaborations with people in the music industry.

As well, some of the terrace houses will be furnished and available for rent, making them handy for those who want to have a home but not have to decorate. The interior decoration will be done in a variety of styles to suit different tastes.

The proposed cinema has been scrapped due to technical difficulties, and shops to cater to the music trade will replace it.

A lot has gone into the creation of this sim and no doubt there will be more changes in the future. It is a learning experience for everyone and it should be very interesting to observe what works, what doesn’t and how SL London will adapt. We’ll keep you posted.



Hibiscus Hastings

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