Few people who know the professional SM scene in the United States would argue the fact that New York City's Belle du Jour is one of the best-known and most successful dominas ever to crack a whip in North America. Belle, who is a peer of Holland's Monique van Cleef, both in age and experience, is now in semi-retirement. Last time we had news of her she was no longer doing personal sessions but according to our sources she still owns at least one commercial SM studio in Manhattan and still keeps her hand in the New York "scene" from a discreet distance.

  Belle was introduced to B&D back in the late '60s/early '70s by a man she was seeing. She owned a cosmetology business at the time. Keeping that business running, she branched out into professional dominance and it wasn't long before she was New York's most successful SM entrepreneur. She has always been a very good business woman. She chose her professional name, Belle du Jour, in part because of the '70s French film by the same title which starred Catherine Deneuve. It also happens that Belle's real first name is Belle, so the choice was obvious.

  We met Mistress Belle du Jour for the first time late in 1984. We interviewed her at a coffee shop on the west side. She wore a black-leather business suit and looked for all the world like New York's premiere dominatrix, which she was. We were interviewing her for a feature in our magazine, Stiletto, which has been out of print for many years. A day or two later we did our first photo shoot with her. The color pictures seen here, showing Belle in session with a naked slave, were the result. The photos were shot at her spacious midtown loft, which doubled as both a commercial dungeon owned and operated by Belle, featuring several other mistresses and submissive girls, but also was famous as the site of Belle's weekly SM theater. These fantasy performance evenings were the talk of the town! Single submissive men, suburban couples privately into the scene, other dominas and a variety of New York thrill seekers all crowded together on the narrow wooden benches of a raised gymnasium bleacher to watch Belle and her entourage perform various fantasy vignettes on a makeshift stage. Refreshments were served. Audience members were invited to come up for a spanking at the end of the evening. It was all very exciting entertainment during the late '70s and '80s, and SM people flocked to her weekly performance from far and wide.

  Belle's midtown studio and theatre operated until the mid-'80s. It closed, we think, for two reasons. One, the lease was up on the space and good businesswoman that she was, Belle did not want to pay a higher rent. The second reason, she was getting tired of performing her shows. At least these were the excuses we were told. During this same period, Belle had another SM studio operating from a townhouse she owned elsewhere in midtown. The studio was located in the basement flat of the neat little building with the blue front. Belle also rented the first and second floor flats to independent dominas, so she was collecting a nice income, indirectly through the SM scene, from her property investment.

  For a year or so Belle took time off from the active dominatrix life in New York and traveled over to Europe. This was in 1986. We received a nice postcard from her thanking us for the write-up we did about her in Stiletto and telling us she was having a great time meeting fellow mistresses in five different countries. When she returned from that trip she was energized and again set up a commercial studio to work from, along with her friend, Mistress Ione. The glamorous apartment was located at 395 Broadway in lower Manhattan. The other photographs shown here, including the black-and-white shots, were taken at that new location in 1987. In a letter to us, Belle wrote, "I bought a lovely new loft and I plan to do a very private business, no more than three people (per day)." She also asked for ad details for DDI and did advertise this new, more private studio a time or two in some of our earlier issues. Evidently things went well at this very nicely equipped dungeon for awhile, but at some point troubles began. If our memory serves us correctly, the dungeon was burglarized once. Also, Ione had some health problems. By 1988 New York had loads of new, very successful commercial dungeons operating throughout the city with lots of very attractive young mistresses on staff. It is possible that Belle and Ione, both more mature women by now, were not realizing the kind of business they had come to expect a decade earlier. Whatever the reasons, Belle closed her lower Broadway studio and entered semi-retirement as the '90s took hold.

  Though we have not been in direct contact with Belle for a number of years now, we know that she still appears occasionally at fetish events in Manhattan. As far as we know, she does not do private sessions any longer, and hasn't for a number of years. She does, however, still own at least one working commercial dungeon in New York as well as a very respectable portfolio of real estate, which she invested in during her heyday. Belle du Jour will always be one of our fondest acquaintances within the SM scene. When our magazines were in their infancy Belle was helpful to us, especially by introducing us to several New York City dominas when we started DDI. We will always remember this kindness and the mischievous twinkle in her eye. Belle du Jour is definitely one of the best!