It's a hot, sticky night in Hollywood, and it's about to get hotter - and a lot stickier.
The Inkhole is a new pop-up activation in Los Angeles to promote the upcoming film The Happytime Murders. Set in a world where humans and puppets co-exist, a pair of detectives set out to solve the murders of cast members of a popular puppet children's show. The investigation takes them into the seediest corners of Los Angeles - which is exactly where I find myself tonight.
After being ushered into the building, on a nondescript corner in Hollywood, a group of patrons is led downstairs - into a puppet tattoo parlor. The tattoo artists are both human, one giving authentic tattoos; the other giving airbrush tattoos. The place is run by a dirty-talking puppet who wouldn't let us into the speakeasy until I gave him the password: "Puppets make my nipples hard."
Like magic, the door opens and we head deeper into the labyrinthine club. We are deposited in a small, but lavish club, decked out like a high price bordello. The bar offers two specialty drinks: DTF (Down to Fluff) and Good Time For You. There is a blackjack table off to the side. Lots of overstuffed leather couches surround a dance floor, set in front of a small stage. To the right of the stage is a puppet emcee named Howie. Throughout the night, he introduces Bella Donna, a talented burlesque performer who doesn't just strip, but sings and delivers bawdy jokes. A true, classic burlesque performer.
In the middle of the evening, there was an unplanned power outage. The human actors in the speakeasy played it off well. Some warned that there may be a puppet killer in our midst; others suggested that this might be a raid. Unfortunately, no power meant no air conditioning, which caused the club to become uncomfortably - and realistically - hot and stuffy. When the power was restored, I ventured into the Sugar Den.
A bouncer and a velvet rope guards a doorway. Behind the door, more twisting paths take us to another door, and we are led into the Sugar Den. Run by a husky-voiced puppet named Midge, the Sugar Den is a hideout where you can get your hands on the puppet drug of choice: sugar. We are warned away from the purple rock candy - it's "puppet grade" and not suitable for humans. I stuck with a box of Nerds, my safe "drug" of choice since I was a child.
So we got the booze, the drugs, the tattoos, and the gambling. There is one other vice we have yet to encounter: sex. Following more dark hallways, I discover the Pupp Show, a display which features pole dancing puppets (one male; one female - even puppets are objectified equally). There is also a peep show shadow dance, and a BDSM scene which features a Dalmatian puppet whipping a human masochist.
In order to exit the speakeasy, you must leave through the puppet porno shop. Laden with sex toys and dirty videos with titles like Plushy Mounds, 12" Black Swan, and Boy Toy Story, when you look a little closer, the sex toys are actually chew toys, and the naughty lingerie are actually dog costumes. On the way out, we are given a gift, wrapped in plain brown paper. Sadly, it's not porn; it's socks.
The Inkhole is only open August 10-13 to participants 21 and older. It is free to enter, but you must make a reservation. The Happytime Murders opens in theaters August 24th.