The Red Shoe Diaries


Zalman King’s work is renowned for its racy nature and his storylines invariably revolve around elements of menace and suspense. But in another sense that doesn’t necessarily mean they have what we’ve come to know as ‘sexual tension.’ On the contrary…

For example, in ‘Double Dare’ (one of the six episodes from his cable series ‘The Red Shoe Diaries’) when a hunky office worker sends a fax to the horny voyeur working in the building opposite with the request/instruction: ‘take off your blouse. I dare you” precisely ZERO Zalman King fans are naïve enough to think for one second that she’s not going to precisely that.

Massively successful in the States, ‘The Red Shoes Diary’ is guaranteed to get Mary Whitehouse and her chums in a lather. After ‘9 & 1/2 Weeks’, ‘Two Moon Junction’, and ‘Wild Orchid’) it’s the perfect vehicle for King to indulge his (seemingly insatiable) penchant for soft-porn S&M games involving blindfolds, voyeurism, and ice-cubes. Not to mention lots of expensive lingerie, high-class candlelight, and plenty of Erik Satie piano.

It also features some classic Zalman King dialogue.

“With you,” one beauty tells another for example, “I get this vision of who I can become instead of who I am.”

With each ‘diary’ based around a different kinky fantasy/sex game, the half-hour episodes (shot in the same glossy, arty, style as ‘9 & 1/2 Weeks’) are linked by the ‘Red Shoes’ moody narrator, Jake (David Duchovny). 

Jake has advertised for women to send him sexually explicit fantasies in an attempt to understand his fiancée who left a diary containing her that he came across (not that way, surprisingly) after she committed suicide.

Charlotte Lewis, Joan Severance, and Sheryl Lee (star of ‘Twin Peaks’) play three of the confessors, carrying on the tradition of previous King heroines – Basinger, Carre Otis, and Linda Fiorentino. 

It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it. And that someone is… Zalman King.

The following Q&A took place at his home in the Hollywood Hills.

JS: Zalman King, you stand accused of being a dirty old man. How do you plead?

ZK: “I’ve never been accused of it ! I’m not dirty. And I’m not old.”

JS: Ever since ‘9 & 1/2 Weeks’ you’ve been developing the same theme: women ‘discovering themselves’ by expressing their hidden sexual fantasies.

ZK: “It’s not always the same story but I do like using eroticism as a tool. I like watching the characters discovering their sexuality. I like that.”

JS: I heard a story that you make the scripts more explicit so that by the time the actresses have negotiated them down, they don’t mind taking their clothes off so much.

ZK: “No, no. I would never do that. If the scripts are more, um, provocative, than the actual shows it’s because I’d rather have people who want to do them and who knew what we’re doing.”

JS: Is it harder to persuade actresses to take their clothes off these days ?

ZK: “I never try and persuade anyone to do anything. A lot of actresses really want to do them – because they know we make them look good.”

JS: Good answer. In what way is ‘Red Shoes’ erotica and not soft porn?

ZK: “I don’t consider ‘Red Shoes’ soft porn. From my point of view what’s important is good characters and the relationship between characters. We try to make the stories as romantic and personal as possible, and, you know, with humour. The sex is an adjunct.”

JS: I gather a lot of women viewers have been sending you their own fantasies, so you’ve become like ‘Jake.’ Was that the idea all along?

ZK: “Ha ! No, no. I don’t read them. We had a contest and filmed the winner’s diary. We got 8,000 entries. It really has become quite a phenomenon.”

JS: Are you still perceived as something of a maverick in Hollywood ?

ZK: “I’m actually moving into the mainstream – which is kind of disappointing ! I’m doing a soap-opera for network television.”

JS: I thought you’d go in the other direction, and make a porn movie. Have complete freedom to…express yourself  fully?

ZK: “Well I’ve done a movie of the book by Anais Nin – ‘Delta of Venus’ – that is one of the most erotic books ever written. Really explicit ! And there’s a French novel I wanted to buy, ‘Story of the Eye’ by Bataille, which is amazing. But believe it or not, I don’t really see a lot of porn.”

JS: Why not?

ZK: “I really am in it for the characters. ‘Story of the Eye’ could be like my ‘Realm of the Senses’, which is probably my favourite film. Very, very, graphic. Porn films really don’t make the money people think they do. That’s why no-one spends any money making them. It’s also much more difficult to get sex into films than people realize. That’s why there aren’t many films like ‘9 & 1/2 Weeks.’

JS: Did Mickey Rourke & Carre Otis actually fuck in ‘Wild Orchid’ ?

ZK: “My answer is that it’s my job to make you think they did. In the case of Mickey and Carre, I must have done a great job !”

JS: How important is it to have good chemistry between the actors when you’re doing erotica?

ZK: “It makes it a lot easier. If they don’t get along that can be a problem. It’s actually very difficult for the audience to tell when the chemistry is good.”

JS: Would you describe yourself as a voyeur?

ZK: “No.”

JS: You must be. Watching all these actresses play these parts, it’s very voyeuristic and manipulative.

ZK: “I’m honestly not very voyeuristic. No mirrors on the bedroom ceiling at home… My libido is healthy and under control, thank you. I’m definitely, um, normal.”

JS: Do you see a therapist ?

ZK: “No.”

JS: Does the series get much censorship in the States ?

ZK: “We haven’t much of a backlash because it’s on cable. Male nudity is a problem though we have had some. We’ve shown handcuffs being used, but we wouldn’t show any kind or real pain or violence. Showing an erection would be hard (coughs).”

JS: What about the feminist lobby?

ZK: “They like it. The stories are incredibly popular with women. All the stories are told from the woman’s point of view and a lot are written by women. My wife and my two daughters have written some.”

JS: There are a few gratuitous moments though – an unnecessary wet t-shirt contest here, a lesbian shower scene there.

ZK: “I think it’s completely non-exploitative. For me personally, I’m very careful about that. We just can’t show as much male nudity.”

JS: In ‘Double Dare’, when the heroine calls the fax-flirting to a halt, don’t you think that in reality, she’d probably get stalked or attacked?

ZK: “I don’t know. Reality’s not really my thing (laughs).”

JS: So you haven’t had any amusing insults then ?

ZK: “Only from you.”