The Baroness is the host of Below the Belt
Below the Belt is billed as an adult variety show with a difference, a cheeky and sometimes risqué peek into aspects of alternative culture. It’s full of sleaze, scandal and even a penis or two, just the way we like it.
Together with her driver, bodyguard and companion Gino, the Baroness (the show’s host) travels in style through greater Johannesburg and Cape Town as she visits brothels, nudist beaches, sex shops and steam baths among other locations on her tour of this cultural underworld. She probes and prods a whole gaggle of celebrity hunks including Gareth Cliff, Danny K, SA’s sexiest man Colin Moss and Emmanuel Castis, demanding to know size, girth and cut or uncut.
The show was licensed by the SABC earlier this year after Underdog, the show’s production company, pitched it to the broadcaster. Executive Producer Luiz DeBarros and Director Lars Schwinges developed the idea based on Lars’ long-held belief that the Baroness needed her own show. The SABC agreed. All thirteen episodes were then shot over an astonishing sixteen days in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Underdog is known for making queer films, so the natural question to ask is, ‘how gay is Below the Belt’?
The Baroness herself doesn’t feel that the show should be labelled “gay-specific” at all. “The show covers every aspect of sexuality,” she comments to Mambaonline, “From old to young, straight to gay. I have been around the world one hundred and seventeen times and I don’t put anything in categories. Sexuality is sexuality. I think it’s a very balanced show.”
She adds, however, with a seductive purr, “The Baroness has a predilection for men, and so the more men she can get her claws into…[A pause at the thought] Men are a magnet to her and she is a magnet to them.”
The Baroness did discover, however, the benefits of going clubbing on the gay scene. “If you want a night of unadulterated fun and style, have a night on the gay town,” she enthuses, “I met a very heterosexual barman working in a gay bar. He said, ‘you get no shit in gay bars. They just want to party and have fun.’ And a straight barmaid in another gay club said, ‘I adore working in gay bars because that’s where the fun is.’” The Baroness agrees with this sentiment and the virtues of the gay partying environment. “The lack of tension,” she lists, “The lack of violence, the style and wit.”
And then comes an intriguing revelation. “Certain heterosexual men involved with Below the Belt started confiding to me that through Below the Belt they were starting to experience feelings towards the same sex,” the show’s host reveals, adding that this was not entirely surprising to her, “There are a lot of gay men walking around who don’t realise they’re gay. I see men with wives and children as camp as a row of tents. But I don’t tell them. I let them figure it out for themselves. I drop golden eggs for them to pick up. Just because you spent a weekend in Amsterdam doesn’t make you Dutch.”
BTB promises to be something of an eye-opener for South African audiences, from its unconventional locations to its celebrity guests’ often frank discussions about sex. But was there anything that was an eye-opener to the show’s own host? “I was a little surprised that there’s so much anal sex in the straight world,” replies the Baroness, “And I move very much in the straight world.” She explains that she was surprised to discover, for instance, that a top-selling item at an adult store is a strap-on dildo – for wives to use to penetrate their husbands.
And what kind of reaction is she expecting from the general viewing public to these and other unexpected revelations? “I’m going to unleash the hounds from hell,” she responds frankly, “Because the show is very sexy as much as it sexually arouses you. I’ve seen some episodes and I’m ready to fuck after the closing titles.”
But how explicit can one really get on South African television. “More than you think”, says Executive Producer Luiz DeBarros. “The SABC 3 really wanted to push the envelope here, and we felt it was time that South African adults were treated like…well, adults”. He promises we’ll be treated to gay nudists, a flash of a swinging penis, naked breasts and the Baroness’ wholly uncensored mouth. And that’s just in the first episode.
And it is this, the Baroness adds, that looks set to cause a shake-up. “People don’t like their sexual psyche aroused. They want the missionary position with the lights out and that’s it. I’ve always said sex is the angel of chaos.” In the creation of what she sees as a much-needed “chaos”, the Baroness is prepared for a certain degree of backlash. “We’re going to get the anti brigades,” she says, “We’ll get the anti-blasphemers and the anti-adulterers and the anti-gays.”
So is this all just in the name of cheap shock and titillation? “Well there’s that to it”, grins Luiz, “but really it’s meant to entertain with a satirical edge that takes a dig at our hypocrisies”.
With weeks to go until the first episode hits the airwaves, the Baroness speaks with passion on what is to be a show like no other. “I know that the show’s going to be funny,” she comments, “And laughter cuts through the tension and prejudice. The show is funny, it is shocking, it is educational, and a huge turn-on whether you are straight or gay.”
And as the days go by until Below the Belt meets the world, the Baroness waits with a keen sense of relish for “ten thirty-one on the night of July the first.” And in the words of fellow diva Bette Davis she closes with a seductive caution, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Below the Belt begins on Tuesday 1 July on SABC3 at 22.00.