Recitation by author
The art of the raconteur is different than that of a writer, or even the actor. The
success of the raconteur’s stories is in the verbal performance. Utilizing the
mimicking of voices, gestures, and sound effects, a true raconteur uses the full
resources available to him to enhance and enliven his story. Embellishing the
truth is an accepted practice.
What follows is a short story I frequently deliver in the style of the raconteur. The
use of the first person makes such stories much more effective. The Butterfly
Lady story is slightly along the lines of the fabulous, though I had a Vietnamese
colleague who had heard that such places and practices do, or did, exist in
The telling of this story is usually preceded by some mention of a member of the
order Lepidoptera, specifically the blue morpho Eugenia butterfly, or, not
infrequently, the wonders of the red light districts of the world’s cities; or even a
discussion of the butterfly effect and Chaos Theory. You know, the flap of a
butterfly’s wings in Ulan Bator, Mongolia causes a severe nor’easter six weeks
later in New England.
This, is the butterfly lady story.
Now it turns out, the story doesn’t begin with the butterfly lady, herself, but with
You see back in the sixties, early sixties, it was a good deal for a musically
talented kid to get a job in a band playing in the Borscht Belt, you know, the
Jewish Alps, up in the Catskills in New York State. Places like Kutchers, and
Browns, The Concord, Grossingers…places like that.
Now I was spending some time in one of those bands and it was a big place. I
forget which one. I played in most of those resorts, at one time or another.
This was about 1963 or maybe 4 and the band I played in was the show band.
The members of the band were pretty much straight-arrow guys: Old time toplevel
giggers and young music conservatory students like myself. We played for
the headliners… you know Steve and Eydie, Joey Bishop, Frank, Dino, Barbara,
Sammy, those people.
And then there was a Latin Band. The Latin Band was all these crazy Latinos
from the Bronx. They were, you know, wild guys. They’d play the gig at this hotel
and they would all pile in a car and drive like maniacs for two hours back to the
Bronx and play there until 10 or 11 o’clock in the morning at some Latin dance
club. They’d show up back at the hotel in the late afternoon They would beg the
chef to give them some food, grab a few hours sleep and then start playing their
gig at nine o’clock at night.
Well, there was one guy in the Latin Band, who was not Puerto Rican, Cuban,
Dominican, Venezuelan, or Latin anything. He was a Jewish guy named Aaron.
And he was a really good flute player, an OK clarinet player, and not a bad
saxophone player. But what really put him in favor with those Latin guys was that
he was a fabulous piccolo player. He would get that thing going and the place
would just go crazy.
Well, during the summer that I was playing there, and when Aaron was also
playing there, a rumor starts circulating among the staff that one of the bellhops,
had been found naked tied to a bed in one of the female guest’s rooms. The lady
guest had checked out and left said boy haplessly bound to the bed with a dildo
inserted in his bum.
Well… whatever the story was, among the musicians, of course, imaginations
ran wild. And, Aaron says to no one in particular, “Listen, you know I have a
younger sister. She’s pretty wild.”
And we’re thinking, “You have a younger sister and she’s pretty wild? How would
you know that?”
Well he wasn’t too particular about things, he just says, “Well you know she
attends Bennington College and she’s independent.”
Anyway, a few years go by and I’m studying at a famous Ivy League school, Yale
to be exact. I’m sitting in a bookstore on the floor reading a book. It was one of
those used bookstores on Chapel Street. This young woman comes up to me
and says “I think you know my brother.”
And I said “Really. Who is your brother?”
And she says “Aaron, the flute and piccolo player.”
And I say, “ Yeah, I know Aaron. I mean I don’t know him well, but for one
summer we played at the same Catskill resort and it was great. He was a terrific
player, a funny guy and everything. What’s he doing?”
She says, “He’s studying medicine. He’s up in Boston, you know doing his
residency and getting to be an MD.
“I said well, that’s cool. So what do you do?”
She says : “I’m in Salvic studies.
“Yeah, I just came back from spending the summer in the Soviet Union. It was
one of those travel fellowships to go abroad and learn how the enemy lives.”
And I said “Well, that’s kind of cool. Ah, what else do you do?”
And she says: “Sort of, well, nothin’. I’ve passed my prelims and I’m starting to
write a dissertation on how the grammar of the Russian language fosters fascism
and dictatorships. I’m kind of bummed out on everything. I don’t know. I may look
for another line of work.”
Anyway we had coffee or something. Her looks didn’t encourage a repeat
encounter, though I would occasionally run into her on campus.
Time goes by, and I’m living in an SRO in Manhattan. That’s Single Room
Occupancy as in cheap flop with bathroom down the hall, hot and cold running
junkies, hookers, rats and roaches. Well, I get a call from the contractor at Radio
City Music Hall and he says, “Listen, I need a sub for the show on Saturday
afternoon. Not Saturday night, just the matinee performance. And I was given
your name. Can you could come in and read the show?
And I said “Yes. Sure, I’ll do it.” Of course, I was nearly starving, so any gig that
paid that kind of money was a godsend. I took the gig.
They had a little rehearsal in the morning, a talk through really, so we could mark
up any strange repeats, cues, transpositions, or cuts. And I went to the rehearsal
and after the rehearsal most of the guys went to Studio H. Now Studio H is
actually Herlihy’s Bar. But all the technical people at Radio City, NBC and Roc,
called Herlihy’s Bar, Studio H.
Most of the musicians went to Studio H and I went to Studio H, also. But I’m
nervous because I need the money and a good rep, so I don’t drink anything. I’m
sitting in my tux by myself at a table with a coffee and a sandwich, which is all I
could afford. I’m thinking about what I have to do. And this woman comes up.
And, it’s Aaron’s sister!
And I say: “Wow, What are you doing here?”
And she says: “Well I work for… I can’t remember: AP, UPI, Reuters, or one of
those news organizations that had offices in Rockefeller Center.
And I say: “Oh, that’s really cool. So what’s exciting about your job?”
“Well I was just in Vietnam for six months. (It’s the height of the Vietnam War.)
And I had an interesting assignment.”
“Really, what was that?”
“Well you know, they give these guys R&R. They rotate them out and they go to
Guam, Manila, sometimes they go to Hong Kong, but the big one they go to is of
course Bangkok, Thailand. And you know it was crazy. So, my boss says, ‘You
go to Bangkok and report what these guys do on R&R. Don’t get too juicy, but
write a good article.’”
So she says to me, “Well, I get to Bangkok and of course it’s just a smorgasbord
of sex, drugs, alcohol, and thrill games. These guys are a big source of money
for the locals.”
Well, she witnessed everything you can think of. You can imagine these GI’s
have been under a lot of stress and they’re doing drugs, drinking a lot and they
are going to the red light district where they are getting all kinds of stuff done to
It’s terrific. But, you know, she’s getting a little excited by all this action. As she
said: “I was getting a little hot in the pants. I’m watching all this stuff all the time
and nothing is happening to me.”
And so I said to myself, rather she said to herself: “Maybe there is something for
One day she happened to be in a medium sized city outside of Bangkok. And
she’s made some inquires among the usual sources: cab drivers, bartenders,
and hairdressers. “Do you know if there is a place that caters to women here?
You know a place a woman can go to and have a good time, good experience.
But not just the usual stuff maybe something a little different. The usual stuff you
can get anywhere, something pleasurable and different. Maybe even a little
She finds out that there’s a place she can go to. Well, she goes to this place and
it’s an old British rubber baron’s mansion. She knocks on the door, and is
introduced around and she says, “I was given this address by so and so, and he
said that I could have some sort of special treatment. A treatment that would be
extraordinary and memorable for a woman.”
And they say, “Well of course. That’s possible, but we ask that there be some
discretion about this and it will not be cheap.”
And she thinks, “Well, I haven’t any place to spend my money.” And so they
worked out a price and, they say, “OK. Come back tomorrow and we entertain
So she returns the next day, on the back of a motor scooter of course, because
those are the taxis. She enters and, “Pleased to see you again and we are here
to give you greatest pleasure.”
They took her into this room and it was like the spa of spa for beauty treatments.
Mud packs, and this and that. Massage, baths, the works. And she said they
depilated her everywhere and made sure her arms, underarms and legs were
hair-free and smooth; all over smooth and very sensitive from the razor and
waxes. They gave her a beautiful haircut. Did her nails. Everything.
“Just amazing, she said, this isn’t really a sexual experience, but, you know, it’s
And they said, “You not done yet.”
And she says, “Well what do you mean “you not done, yet”.
No, no this not ‘sperience.’ This is prep-er-LA-tion. The prep-er-LA-tion, for the
So she says “Okay.”
How does it get any better than this? And she there, lying on this wonderful,
wonderful couch. Comfortable. It’s kind of a table-height couch. But she said it
had a certain comfort, like a big hand holding you.
These three women came in and they started applying this emollient. This very
wonderful smelling stuff about her neck, her body, her breasts, and all over her
belly, her buttocks, her thighs, her lips, her knees, her ankles, and the even soles
of her feet. Everywhere.
The whole room started taking on this wonderful aroma, she said, it was just to
die for. Just the aroma was making her hot, she said. There must have been
some pheromones or something in there that just … just had her aroused to the
very edge, but not quite at the edge. The fingers of the girls who were applying
the emollient seemed electric, sending tiny shivers up her hypersensitive skin.
So, they say, “Move up.” and they bring these stirrups. Like they have in
gynecological examination rooms. She starts getting very nervous. They bind her
arms and feet with soft velvet ribbons.
She says, “Well, now, wait a minute. I don’t want to do something where some
guy with an elephant-sized Johnson sticks it to me. Or some water buffalo, or
other farm animal, or some machine gets involved.”
“O, no,no.no.no. No worry, No worry, No worry. Velly nice here. Is wonderful
place. Is beautiful. Quiet music. Is beautiful. Belly nice, belly nice, nice here.
Beautiful place. Good for you.”
And the environment was very, very inviting and reassuring. All the lighting was
indirect. The light bulbs were hidden someplace. It was as if the light were filtered
through opium golden thin skin.
And the three girls leave.
So, she’s in this room. Dimly primordial pre-dawn lit room. And she thinks to
herself “Now what?”
And it’s very, very quiet.
Almost too quiet.
And she’s aware of her breathing,
And she can hear her heart beat, which is very rapid.
And she’s … very sexually aroused….
She’s nervous…and not quite ... ready
And yet she’s anticipatory … and fearful ... and she’s not sure
And then there’s this amazing sound.
The sound was barely audible. It was a rhythmic and pervasive, yet mysterious
drumming. Divining the source of the sound was like a Zen koan. It could have
been a hundred drummers beating out the same rhythm on microscopic drums
with hummingbird feathers. The result was a subliminal rhythmic throbbing.
She opened her eyes and sees blue ellipses fluttering about the room. They were
everywhere: scores, hundreds, and hundreds. Maybe even thousands.
The ellipses are the iridescent patterns of the wing beats of hundreds of Blue
Morpho butterflies illuminated by black light.
It was better than opium. It was better than an acid trip. It was just amazing. She
thought maybe they doped me with opium, or some rare Asian hallucinogen. She
was enjoying the trip.
And then these butterflies alighted so carefully, so lightly, and ever so lightly and
gently on her body. One landed on one of her nipples and just ever so quietly
and carefully started sucking the emollient from her nipple. And more started
sucking her breasts and her belly and her ears and her nose. They landed on
eyes, her lips, and in the curve of her neck … around her shoulders and on her
belly, and of course in her sex … they crawled into her sex and onto it and little
mouth parts of the butterflies ever-so-gently … ever-ever-so-gently… just taking
one … little taste of the emollient at a time … just one little butterfly taste ... a
little minor suck, like a little tiny lick … the tiniest of tiniest licks, but scores of
them were doing this … and her body started to undulate and it started to rock ...
and it started to move around and she was straining against the velvet ribbons
with which she was bound … and she wanted to scream but she was afraid to
scream for fear that it would end.
And she was bound and pent, and pent and bound and she was moving and her
belly was undulating out of control…and her back was moving up and down on
the table. And her legs were shaking, and shaking and almost starting to cramp.
More butterflies arrived on her body. When they would fly off, the air from their
wings caused another sensation. And there was the sensation of hundreds of
butterfly feet touching her flesh and mouthparts kissing and sucking her
everywhere and of air and blowing and licking. The small probing proboscises of
the butterflies were stimulating all the seven Hindu orifices of a woman and the
vast skin of her body.
And she was arching and reaching and seeking and finding newer and higher
levels of pleasure. The sensations were brushing the threshold of pain. She
began rocketing through layers and layers of orgasms. Meta woman sounds
starting from deep inside her hips, passing through her undulating belly and
rattling her straining throat and uvula in a final explosion of raw guttural sexual
moans and whimpering cries. Her perspiration ignited the emollient and excited
the butterflies to greater feeding frenzies.
And then, finally, she forgot everything.
Well, she said. She didn’t know what time later she awoke, but she was nicely
dressed in a silk robe. All evidence of the emollient had been removed. Her hair
was well done. Makeup had been applied, which was something she rarely, if
ever used, but it seemed to fit her newfound sense of womanliness.
And her clothes were freshly cleaned and laid out beside her.
After she dressed and was leaving, they greeted her in the large front room.
And they said in that very direct Asian way, not exactly interrogative, and not
exactly imperative: ”You have good time.”
And that, my friends, is the butterfly lady story.
Now, I have been relating this tale regularly since the late 1960’s when I first
heard it from my reporter friend. I never thought that anyone would begin to verify
the truth or facts of such an event, much less try to duplicate the very experience.
A lepidopterist of my spouse’s acquaintance claimed no blue morpho’s lived in
South East Asia; only the male blue morpho is blue, and that the prehension of
food is with the feet not the mouthparts, which remove food from the legs and
feet. Humorless scientists have ruined many a good tale.
As it happens, a few years back I was traveling with Eugenia, the woman, who at
the time was my European music agent. While riding the TGV from Paris to
Marseilles for a series of concerts, the subject of travel came up. Being rather
close friends I related the story of the butterfly lady to her. The story took many
kilometers, as I had to translate it into French, since Eugenia was adamant that I
speak French in France, even though Eugenia was a native English speaker
born and raised in Chicago. After I had related L'histoire de Madame de papillon,
she questioned me very closely about some of the details. Since, I am frequently
almost “out-of-body” when in raconteur mode, I was perhaps not as convincing in
the details as she would have desired. Having spent the previous two weeks in
Poland and Hungary, French was neither on my tongue, nor in my ear.
Eugenia told me that she and her college roommate had traveled extensively in
Indo-China, and had never found a place that catered solely to women. Even
later traveling on her own in South East Asia, she never discovered any
establishments catering to women. She even admitted to going to a Bangkok
entertainment house that specialized in transvestites and sampling the services
of a most beautiful young Tamil man, who enjoyed dressing like the famous
Tamil film actress, Shriya Saran. Among his entertainments was a huge
repertoire of “Bollywood” songs, which he sang in that particular nasal Indian
I filed this information away as future story material, and during the next year or
so, never thought about madame de papillon or my friend’s experiences in
Bangkok’s fleshpots. About a week ago, I received a letter postmarked from
Bangkok. The address was written in Eugenia’s beautiful Palmer script. Inside
was a post card. It was a “story” card with the life cycle of the blue morpho
butterfly beautifully engraved on the front. On the verso was written C’est vrai.
[It’s true.] Merci bien. E.
PS: A slightly different version of this story was published in the Mad Hatter
Review Number 13. Shortly after it appeared, I received an e-mail from a
Vietnamese man who claimed to be an aide-de-camp to a well-known North
He said that he, the general and a number of other high ranking officers of the
North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong attended a special dinner in a city
outside of Bangkok prior to the January 30, 1968 Tet Offensive. After the dinner
they were entertained by a viewing of a live naked female American reporter
being bound and then sexually stimulated to exhaustion by blue morpho
butterflies. It served as a symbol of the power of the masses to overcome the
mighty and reinforced the Communist Tet Offensive battle cry: Crack the Sky,
Shake the Earth.
is a composer, author, painter and digital artist whose career has included stints as a professional clarinetist and composer, university professor, business owner, underwater sound specialist, audio and video engineer, technical manual writer and more recently digital painter and musician.
For more information see his website.
Most recently he illustrated Ann Bogle’s Country Without a Name. “The Butterfly Lady” is his first on-line publication. Contact author.
Listen to Daniel's audio contribution this issue here.