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.”