A potential Soviet asset had fallen for a professional dominatrix who made decent money peeing on entertainment lawyers. Also in play was Mary Tyler Moore's landscaper, merely because he was sweet on the dominatrix and her record collection.
The most actionable intelligence from these black leather ops would not be obtained by the Agency, but by the landscaper himself, Stuart Argabright. Under the alias Dominatrix, Argabright recorded "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight," a New York club hit released in 1984. [...]
This all started like so many high-school dreams: with no wheels and dumb luck. In 1977, Argabright was picked up while hitchhiking back home on the Key Bridge crossing the Potomac from Washington, D.C. He was 18, wearing a Tubes T-shirt and had just won tickets to see the Stooges. He was six years away from borrowing Iggy Pop's swim trunks in West Berlin, and seven from Dominatrix turning Iggy and Bowie's "Play It Safe" into a post-punk seizure.
The woman driving was older, and her red Corvette Stingray smelled of spy perfume. [...] They began seeing each other, spending nights at her East Side apartment, getting high and listening to Bowie records. After Argabright noticed the bull whips and manacles hanging in the closet, it became apparent that his friend's occupation entailed visiting all manner of welt and contusion upon the no-account hides of wealthy degenerates.
They soon compared clientele: He had Dylan, Paul Simon and Rock Hudson. She had music executives and a Russian official in D.C., who apparently had been beaten senseless enough to fall in love, with ambitions of defection and marriage. ("But a dominatrix doesn't often entertain marriage thoughts," says Argabright.) Always game for defection, the CIA contacted the dominatrix and encouraged her to "play ball." She reluctantly agreed while continuing to make the landscaper late for his mulching appointments on the Upper West Side. [...]
"The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" was recorded in the studio of Tangerine Dream's Peter Bauman, with vocalist Claudia Summers, Ken Lockie of Public Image, Ltd., and Bow Wow Wow remixer Ivan Ivan. [...] One imagines the boys at Langley picking up this 12-inch and adding it to the Argabright-Argabright folder, somewhere between "weeded Paul Simon's periwinkle bed" and "shared stage with Klaus Nomi." Not to mention those gigs with Rammellzee, G.G. Allin, and good lord, Max Headroom. Best keep that tab open.
How a pro-domme, a Russian diplomat, U.S. intelligence and Mary Tyler Moore's landscaper conspired to create a dance classic
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