50 Shades of Louisville, Whiskey Row club had recent history


by Joe Arnold


Posted on August 28, 2012 at 5:36 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 29 at 2:01 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- The mystery of an underground sadomasochism club continued to unravel on Tuesday after WHAS11 News aired images of what work crews discovered during Whiskey Row stabilization efforts.

Judging by the state of decay in the collapsing buildings, demolition crews had estimated the club dated to the 1970's, but e-mails and posts to WHAS11's Facebook and Twitter accounts reflect a  more recent sadistic history.

Click here to see pictures from inside.

A former founding member told WHAS11 that LATEX, short for Louisville Area Trust EXchange, was in operation in the mid to late 1990's with close to 1,000 dues paying members.

"A group of about eight of us decided to form an organization to promote and teach people about safe ways to practice sadomasochism," the man explained, agreeing to share the information with the condition that WHAS11 withhold his name.  "There were a few professional dominatrixes, a few that were in committed B-D-S-M relationships, some gay, some straight."

In June, in the mold and grime two floors below Main Street, the workers were stunned to find a sadistic dungeon in the 19th century building.

Workers found "disturbing" oil paintings on one wall of the sub-basement, depicting one person in bondage and a man eating another person.  

Sharp-eyed WHAS11 viewers pointed out that the paintings are reproductions of works by classic artists Francisco Goya (Saturn Devouring His Son) and Salvador Dali (Femme Couchee), among others.

One of LATEX's founder's recalled that in the early to mid 1990's, a nightclub on the other side of Main Street, Sparks, began to host "s & m" performances, the practice of inflicting pain and humiliation for mutual pleasure.

"We operated primarily at Sparks," the man said.  "We did demonstrations, theatrical performances, held workshops and classes, did benefits for local charities, and eventually opened the clubhouse/private area across the street in the room the construction crew discovered."

But after one person was injured, the group decided to form LATEX as a safe place for such activities.

The founder said the dungeon once held dozens of bondage and "torture" implements, but only one remains - a wooden rack with a chain attached to an ominous gear.

Other implements included a large rope "spider web" that extended from one support beam to the other and pairs of manacles hung from each of the arched brick alcoves.

Though "DO NOT HANG" was stenciled on some plumbing work, some people were hung from their ankles, LATEX's co-founder said.

He added that the room was a private space for receptions and demonstrations but "never, ever any nudity or sex acts."

"We employed safety personnel and guards to insure nothing dangerous, non-consensual, or untoward ever took place, and to my knowledge never did."

Much of the sub-basement has rotted away, but Whiskey Row's owners plan to preserve the paintings and save the torture rack as a link to history.

See more pictures from inside.

Warning: Some images may not be suitable for all ages. Click the pictures to the right to see the full gallery.