Dirty Furniture

Blake Eskin, The New Yorker, Oct. 16 1995.

A few years ago, when Joe Hurley played guitar in a reggae-and-rock band, his friends called him Thirsty Joe Mosh, but now he mostly goes by Kinky Joe. His latest nick­name refers to his new career—designing, building, and selling spe­cialty furniture. Hurley’s twelve-page furniture catalogue offers such items as the Bend-Over Chair, the Multi-Position Stair Sofa, and the Kinky Headboard, which has hidden stocks with holes for the wrists (“Mom will never know … Avail­able in oak or birch veneer”).

Hurley, a skinny, jittery twenty-eight-year-old Bronx native with a mustache, could easily be mis­taken for a handyman. He was in­spired to go into the erotic-furniture busi­ness after chat­ting with a woman with a pierced nipple. Hurley figured that while others man­u­fac­ture equip­ment for hard-core sadomasochists, he could corner the market on “sexual fur­ni­ture for the every­day Joe, coming home from work and having sex with his wife.” He already knew how to build cab­i­nets and repair furniture, and once he’d set up a toll-free number and dis­cov­ered direct mail he found his niche.

A couple of months ago, Hurley moved his work­shop from the Bronx to a loft build­ing full of artists in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The new space has a nine-by-fifteen-foot showroon in which, for fifty dollars and hour, cus­tomers can pri­vately sample the merchandise. He in­vented most of the items himself—some of them, like the Genital Re­straint Chair, in re­sponse to a par­tic­u­lar customer’s fantasies. Occasionally, a client’s imag­i­na­tion is kinkier than Kinky Joe’s and he will take custom orders. He has been working on a con­vert­ible bondage table-bench for a dominatrix; since she is quite small, it has to be easy to fold up. “She’s like my little Bernadette Castro,” he said.

On being asked if he had ever re­ceived complaints, Hurley shook his head and, after a nervous snicker, said, “All my cus­tomers have been com­pletely satisfied.”