Mistress Cyan first encountered BDSM at a party in the early '80s, following months of correspondence with the hostess, whose PO Box she found in a personal ad in a long-defunct fetish magazine called Encore.
"It was like, wow," she recalls. "There's loads of people tied up. They've got this woman inverted, okay, and this guy's dropping hot wax between her legs, and she's screaming, and I'm thinking, I gotta go... my God, how am I ever gonna explain if this place gets raided?"
But she stayed. Or rather, he stayed, and fell down the rabbit hole. Back then, Cyan was a married man, the director of operations for a $3.5 billion corporation that manufactured housewares and woodenware, with a company car, an expense account and two young sons. Thirty years later, at age 58, this stunning transgender powerhouse is the most respected professional dominatrix in Los Angeles, plus the founder and executive producer of DomCon, an annual convention in LA and Atlanta; a bondage model who has appeared on shows like Nip/Tuck and Las Vegas; a regular guest speaker at UCLA; a community leader commended by the city of West Hollywood for her Thanksgiving and Christmas charity slave auctions; and the owner of Sanctuary, a 7,000-square-foot commercial dungeon near LAX, which employs forty women and boasts nine themed playrooms named after Greek goddesses.
Circulating one of Sanctuary's weekly fetish parties a few Saturdays ago, she embraces old friends and giggles with newcomers, surveying the tattoos, corsets, feathers, nudity and meaningful stares. A spaghetti-strap dress in black crushed velvet rests on her slight, 124-lb frame as she monitors activity that can be sexual but can't be sex, resolving problems swiftly and calmly, with a soothing but firm poise, her patent leather red platforms amplifying the authority of her usual five feet ten inches.
The night before she'd gone to bed at 4 a.m., and at 5:30 a.m. her phone erupted with Hole's "Celebrity Skin" (I'm all I wanna be / a walking study / in demonology). When she picked up, she learned her sister-in-law was going into labor. After spending the entire day at the hospital, Cyan wonders aloud whether she's too tired to "play" with anyone tonight. ...