THE DOMINA FILES ONLINE: THE INTERNET'S PREMIER DOMINA WEBSITE
If she had chosen to be a politician like Margaret Thatcher, or maybe a film actress like Katherine Hepburn, a lot more people would have known her name and acknowledge her achievements. Instead, Monique von Cleef chose to be a dominatrix. In her way, Monique was just as important to her profession as Thatcher or Hepburn were to theirs, but unlike politics or acting, public notoriety is too often an occupational hazard in the semi-secret world of professional sadomasochism.
Monique was born and raised in the Netherlands. Her first thoughts of a career led her into the medical field, and as a young woman in postwar Holland she studied to be a registered nurse. As any experienced SM player can tell you, a domina with a nursing credential automatically has a leg up on her competitors. A nurse has legitimate medical training, which is a tremendous asset. A nurse also has the practice of care giving down to a science. Most of all, a nurse is already accustomed to being impersonally intimate with a stranger's body, which of course is important in a dungeon when you're tying up a naked slave or administering a high colonic.
Monique worked in a medical clinic in The Hague. She evidently looked amazing in her crisp white uniform, because one day a man who was admitted for a minor medical procedure propositioned her. He was a professional photographer, or so he said, and he wanted to take photos of her. Would she be willing to pose? The man offered a substantial modeling fee and flattered Monique the whole time he was being sutured. He went on and on about how her lovely young figure, her dark blue eyes, her severely-coifed, nearly white-blonde hair, and her square, confident jawline were perfect for a series of provocative photos he was doing for an art-book project. Flattered, and attracted by the money, Monique agreed to pose.
A few weeks later Monique found herself in the man's photo studio, confronted by a rack of black leather clothing and several unusual fashion accessories like thigh-length boots with stiletto heels and various whips. The photographer quickly explained that the costumes were all part of the photo series. "Put them on and if you need help, just shout." He assured Monique that everything was on the up and up. Yeah, we know what was on the way up all right! For the next several hours Monique wriggled and laced her way into the fetishistic outfits and stood in front of the lights. The photographer became more and more animated and excited as the shoot continued. Monique recalled that he didn't pose her with much confidence. It was as if he were in awe of her and just snapped away. Once or twice the photographer made rather leading remarks about how well she fit into the thigh boots. He inquired as to whether she had handled a whip before, considering how comfortable she seemed with it in her hand?
Monique had never met an openly submissive or fetishistic man before, nor had she ever dominated anyone, but being an intelligent, open-minded young woman she guessed at the photographer's real intentions. As the photo shoot went along she realized that the art book story was probably a sham. This man was taking photos of her, in these kinky costumes, totally for himself. She actually liked the way the clothes looked and felt, so the next time the photographer fussed over her boots with a polishing cloth, which he seemed to do a lot of, she told him, "Not with the cloth. Use your tongue!" Needless to say the photographer fell to his knees and went at it with gusto! The photo shoot was forgotten and Monique von Cleef had her very first submissive slave! Unfortunately, none of those very early photos of Monique ever surfaced, which is a great pity. The photographer became Monique's regular client, however, and it wasn't long before she was handing in her notice at the clinic and hanging up her white stockings and sensible shoes in favor of black fishnets and spike heels. That took place in the early '50s..
Monique's formative years as a young dominatrix in the 1950's were a little sketchy. She developed in her new found profession more slowly than today's dominas. She did, however quickly acquire experience on the job, and slowly, steadily, added to her collection of bondage equipment and bizarre costumes. Most of the photographer's leather gear was given to her. Unfortunately, the late '50s period was a difficult time to stock a dungeon even in Holland. Whip makers and rubber-clothing designers weren't a penny a dozen as they are today. During the latter '50s Monique grew in experience and worked here and there, accumulating a faithful and very secretive following of highly submissive and masochistic male clients. Remember, there were no SM contact magazines, no Internet, and certainly no mention of sexual domination or fetishism in the media. Dominant mistresses were very few and very far between. Monique tutored herself, with the help of her eager and devoted followers.
The heart of the story of Monique von Cleef begins around 1960 when she decided to move from Holland to the United States. She arrived with her bondage equipment and most of her kinky costumes hidden away in her vast luggage. Within a year of landing in New York she had gathered a substantial and very faithful following of male slaves, mostly from the tri-state area, and with their help she acquired and outfitted a spacious old house at 850 Lake St. in Newark, New Jersey. In approximately four to five years, from late '62 to '67, Monique's "House of Pain" became a Mecca for submissive, masochistic and fetishistic men throughout the eastern seaboard. Monique, not surprisingly, became familiar with Lennie Burtman of Exotique and Bizarre Life magazines. She posed for a wonderful series of black-and-white photos at Burtman's Manhattan apartment around 1963. For those of you old enough to remember, the fetish outfits Monique wore in these old Burtman photos are exactly the same as those worn by Tana Louise and other models in Burtman's magazines. In part thanks to her acquaintance with Burtman, Monique's reputation spread far and wide. She was without doubt the most popular, most enterprising and most successful professional dominatrix in America during the early-to-mid 1960s. This all changed, however, in 1967.
There are several schools of thought as to why the Newark Police Department raided Monique's "House of Pain" on Lake St. Some say it was because of complaints by prudish neighbors. Some think it was a grandstanding district attorney looking for votes. Still others contend that Monique had to be brought down because of the potential power she wielded through her client list. Here's a brief excerpt from the Newark Star Ledger, which reported the raid when it happened...
POLICE RAID BLONDE'S TORTURE HOUSE
Whips, Chains in Newark Mansion
...Monique von Cleef faces photographer in kitchen of place described as a "professional house of horrors." She was booked yesterday as the queen of a nationwide sex-and-sadism operation allegedly headquartered in a luxurious home at 850 Lake St., Newark. Detectives found a list of 10,000 names and hundreds of "useful" implements...
Knowledgeable people chalked the police raid on Monique's place up to a back room deal between political factions. Though newspapers and magazines nationwide shouted headlines like, "Jersey's House of Pain: Where 10,000 Bigshots Buy Sex & Sadism," what didn't get published was the surmise that an overly ambitious city official got wind of Monique's place, and the sensitivity of her client list, and wanted to use its contents as a bargaining chip for his own advancement. It was rumored that dozens of very influential law makers, celebrities and high-profile businessmen were on that list and had visited Monique's peculiar house on Lake St.
The result of the police raid was that Monique was effectively shut down in the tri-state area. A good portion of her SM equipment was seized and the sensational notoriety from all the media coverage attracted the interest of the U.S. Immigration office and IRS While the bureaucrats took their time deciding what to do with Monique, she salvaged what she could of her kinky possessions and headed out to San Francisco for awhile. Here's what was said about her in a San Francisco newspaper report circa late '67...
CLUB ADDS LADY WITH A LASH
A North Beach club announced a new diversion yesterday and the topless Carol Doda suddenly began to look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. The latest act features a handsome blonde woman with a grand figure, curiously encased in pseudo leather and knee-high boots so that only her face and lower arms are bare. The propriety of her costume, however, is unwholesomely offset by the whip she carries.
Her professional name is Baroness Monique von Cleef and her occupation is "disciplinarian of submissive males," a category sure to frustrate the state employment service if she ever applies for benefits.
As outlined at a press conference yesterday, Monique will come on stage at Coke's, the newly opened Broadway nightclub, and lecture on the joys of sado-masochism. Monique's credentials for this non-credit course are indisputable. A house she was running in Newark, NJ was recently closed by police and a score of her tools of her trade confiscated. Monique joined the press table with an audible creak after demonstrating her act. Obviously Newark police did not confiscate all, as Monique demonstrated the use of whips, leather cuffs, a hairbrush, handcuffs, a straitjacket, chains, leather boots, and, appropriately, gags. Since the management at Coke's is uncertain of the temper of the San Francisco Police Department, Monique will deliver a monologue and demonstrate a few of the devices in "a nice, positive way."
Instead of wilting into oblivion from her troubles in Newark, Monique von Cleef decided to use her negative press as positive promotion. What her antagonists didn't realize was that once an affluent masochist heard about Monique, no matter how, he would travel almost anywhere to see her. The Newark Police raid, and subsequent "unusual" stage performances in San Francisco, helped make Monique the most famous dominatrix in the world! A picture of her in her tight-fitting, black patent leather SM outfit even made the pages of Look magazine, famous for profiles of world leaders.
Unfortunately the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization was not as impressed with Monique's activities as were others. Because Monique was a Dutch citizen, because she had overstayed the terms of her U.S. visa, because she was caught working without a permit, and because she had been busted for running a dungeon she was issued a deportation notice and ordered to leave the country. Insider speculation had it that the government wanted her out of the U.S.A. because of all the sensitive and personal things she knew about too many highly- placed citizens. Her legal indiscretions and her unusual sexual habits were of far less importance than the dirt she had on important people. Monique's influential friends had been able to over-extend her stay in the U.S.A., even considering the legal charges hanging over her head in Newark, but they were not influential enough to fight the I.N.S., The powerful men who had been her slaves melted away when things go too hot. She was on her own and she was swiftly expelled from the United States.
Sometime between 1969 and 1970 Monique returned to Holland. Once she was back in The Hague she acquired a lovely house on Laan van Meerdervoort, which soon became her new House of Pain. The photos of Monique in the leather hot pants, including the shot of her in the rubber nurse outfit, were all taken at this house just north of Den Haag's Central Station. In fact, it was in 1973, in this very house, that Monique collaborated with writer/publisher Lyle Stuart to document her unusual life in the autobiography, The House of Pain: The Strange World of Monique von Cleef, Queen of Humiliation. Published in Syracuse, New York, this was the first legitimate book we know of ever to be published about a professional dominatrix. It helped Monique's popularity skyrocket.
Monique stayed at Laan van Meerdervoort for more than 15 years. Devoted slaves flocked to her address from all over the world and, likewise, fledgling dominas who wished to apprentice under Monique put in their time at the House of Pain as well. If those walls could talk they might tell of crossdressing sessions with a well-known politician and heavy, heavy bouts of SM with a very, very, very famous actor! Amazing and complex SM treatments, and mistreatments, were the order of the day at Monique's House of Pain. Submissive men literally gave themselves to Monique, and we don't just mean by the hour. True sexual slavery was observed. Though she was no longer as youthful as she once was, the 1970s in The Hague were good times for Monique. She was easily the best-known professional dominatrix in the world and that notoriety translated into success.
Eventually, for reasons none of us know, Monique gave up her SM house in The Hague. That was in the mid-'80s, or thereabouts. She told us she wanted to retire, yet she was still quite active in the SM scene both professionally and personally. She stayed in contact with a multitude of old slaves, most of who had become valued friends. Possibly the responsibility of her busy commercial house simply became more than she cared to handle! We remember spending an evening with Monique at The Hague's Club Doma, not too long after she gave up her studio. She seemed as if she regretted it. That was in 1987, which is also about the time Monique began to slide into obscurity with the new generation of SM'ers. Anyone under 50 is hard pressed to know Monique unless they read her book, visited her House of Pain, or heard about her from SM scene historians such as ourselves.
For the better part of the last two decades, Monique bounced from residence to residence. It was difficult to keep up with her, but thankfully she had kept in touch with us. In the late '80s she was all over the place. She had invitations to winter in Spain. She was seen around Holland, Belgium and Germany. She wanted to come back to the U.S.A., but the red flag from her deportation in the '60s was still waving. There was talk that she flew to Mexico City, then Tijuana, in order to slip across the border into southern California. This was only a rumor. In any case Monique did find a way to get back to the U.S.A. for a good portion of the 1990s. She lived on her own, or with one or more of her former slaves. We know that for a time she resided in Columbus, Ohio, then Las Vegas, and finally down in Florida. In 1996 Monique moved back to Europe, settling along the Belgian coast in the town of Ostende. Here, at the age of 70, she opened a small, discreet SM and clinical studio. She specialized in enemas and rubber treatments, but her health was beginning to fail and she, and her clients, became disillusioned. She tried working in Dusseldorf for a brief time, visiting with another veteran professional dominatrix, Lady Jane. Dusseldorf didn't work out either. The photograph of Monique in the white lab coat, looking her age, is from her Ostende clinic. It is the last photo taken of her before her complete retirement.
Monique never lost her dominant nature as she aged, but she had lost touch with the world wide SM scene as it morphed rapidly in the 1990's. Much had changed since her days as the scandalous 1960s torture queen of Newark, or as the most famous and respected dominatrix in Europe during the 1970s. After Ostende and Dusseldorf, Monique went into semi-seclusion in Antwerp. This is where she resided, quietly, until her death.
Some months before her passing we enjoyed a long, rather philosophical phone conversation with Monique. Her voice, rusty with age, still held the power of her dominant convictions, but it was buffered by melancholy. She said that despite her undying love for SM she had become somewhat disillusioned with what the professional B&D scene had turned into. In her heyday rich and powerful men submitted unconditionally. During our talk Monique asked us, "What happened to all the true slaves I remember?" Ironically, as we listened to her musings we recalled a similar conversation with an aging DDI reader. He asked us a similar question about the disappearance of "true" mistresses. Each, in their dotage, was wondering after the other and neither was aware of the potency of the Internet, or exactly how the modern professional BDSM world had changed.
Here is what we wrote in the DDI News section of DDI magazine, issue #55, immediately after her death...
SAD FAREWELL FOR MONIQUE VON CLEEF
Antwerp - Born Mara Bernandina Mohr on January 27, 1925 in the Dutch town of Heerlen, 80-year old professional dominatrix Monique von Cleef succumbed to medical complications associated with advanced diabetes on February 4, 2005 at Jan-Palfijn hospital. "In her day, Monique von Cleef was the most famous and infamous dominatrix in the world," recalled Bert Wibo, DDI's European co-publisher. Wibo was one of only four people to attend von Cleef's spartan funeral service at Begraafplaats Merksem cemetery, February 9.
"In the 1960's Monique owned and operated the ill-fated 'House of Pain' in Newark, New Jersey," added Wibo, recounting his long friendship with the notorious domina. "She was hugely successful but her house was raided by police; she was arrested and eventually deported back to the Netherlands. It was in the 1970's while she had her second 'House of Pain' on Laan van Meerdervoort in The Hague that she co-authored her ground-breaking book, House of Pain: The Strange World of Monique von Cleef, Queen of Humiliation. Willem W. Waterman was the real author and I'll never forget a comment he made about the literary process with Monique."
"Listen, Ma'am," he said, "we all do what we are best at. You crack your whip, I'll write your book. Don't bother me!" Evidently Mr. Waterman was not submissive or we had never spoken to her in this way.
In the 1990's, von Cleef was allowed back into the United States, living in both Ohio and Florida at the special invitation of slaves she had known for years. Evidently these arrangements did not last, because Monique returned to Europe. She resided in Belgium until her recent death.
"Outliving all of her most generous and cherished slaves, this matriarch of the professional dominance movement spent her last years in relative seclusion and amidst extremely modest surroundings," observed Wibo. "Monique was never one to plan for the future, which should be an object lesson to younger dominas working today and spending as lavishly as they earn. I'll miss Monique a great deal."
Readers interested in acquiring Monique's book, House of Pain, originally published by Lyle Stuart Hardcopy in 1973, will find used copies available for resale from Amazon.com or other reputable online book dealers.
A Few Facts...
* Her professional name, Monique von Cleef, should actually be spelled 'van Cleef' if you consider she was Dutch. The use of 'von' was her touch of aristocratic German whimsy, we assume to make her self sound more dignified and imposing. We have seen her name spelled both ways in publications all over the world. Monique 'von' Cleef was correct.
* We telephoned the city planning office for Newark, New Jersey to inquire after her old 'House of Pain' address. We were told that block of Lake St. is a reasonably upscale residential neighborhood, undisturbed since before the 1960s. No doubt 850 Lake St. is still there. The current owners probably have no idea of the significance of their address, so don't stop and stare if you happen by.
* Monique's second House of Pain on Laan van Meerdervoort still stands as well. The Peace Palace is on the same street. It could be that some international dignitary is living there these days.
* Monique's book, The House of Pain, was not a big seller when first published in 1973, nor was it reprinted. It has, however, become a significant collectors item over the years. Recent copies that have been up for sale on Amazone.com have gone for as little as $35.00 and as much as $200.00.