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Whipped into an animal frenzy 

"Ooooh, that heat is hot," burns one of the courthouse lunch matrons pouring out into the noontime sun.

Granted, the Orange County Courthouse doesn't seem a likely place for some crazy, dominatrix-themed leather protest. But, then, at first sight, this protest doesn't really seem like much of a dominatrix affair, either.

Two skinny girls -- one painfully freckled, one painfully French -- awkwardly twirl in plastic high-rise bodysuits, fishnets and thigh-highs in the midsummer heat. A small army of milquetoast PETA folk surround them bearing placards that read "Fashion Victim" over the face of a cow. Pretty obvious stuff. But where are the whips?

Nowhere. Instead, it's just the usual scattering of slow-news-day media-members and a wayward lawyer or two out to catch a glimpse of another useless spectacle. Why here? Why now?

"We usually just try to choose a busy downtown location around lunchtime," says the redhead, Lisa Franzetta, "so we can reach as many people as possible while we're handing out our shopping guides to non-leather products. Y'know, just a busy location in general."

Okay. But isn't all of this public display illegal?

"Not at all," she supposes. "It's a public sidewalk, so it's your civil right to stand out and hand out informational literature."

Oooooh, I love informational literature. Especially pain-free shopping guides. Shopping is fun ... except when Lisa's around. Ever since the teen-age, fetal-pig dissection incident detailed in her press release, she's been known to throw down all tantrum-like in public protest of fur and stuff.

"There was a fashion show by a fashion designer who uses a lot of fur and has for many years," she recalls wistfully. "Despite PETA's correspondence with him, sending him videos of our undercover investigations of animals on fur farms, festering wounds going without veterinary care -- absolutely gruesome stuff -- he continued to design with fur."

"So at a show of his at

Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco, I interrupted it by taking a bag full of bloody money -- fake money and fake blood -- and I dumped it over his head and said, 'Here's your blood money, fur pimp!'"

By now I'm pulling fur balls out of my own festering wounds, and wishing maybe I had one fewer cocktail last night. PETA people tend to dance around words like "festering" and "wound" like people really want to hear them.

"Our demonstrations are obviously meant to be kind of ... vaudevillian," she camps, "to bring as much attention as possible to the work that we do."

Like, say, promoting a pain-free lifestyle while dressed in bondage attire.

"Yeah, we're having a lot of fun out here in bondage wear," she lies, "but there's lots of serious work going on."

But don't you worry that people are going to come out expecting something a little more salacious than nice girls in plastic wrap?

"Well, I have had some people ask if we were doing free whippings!" she giggles, albeit unsuggestively. The closest thing to a whip I see looks more like a flacid pompom. It's being waved in full lackluster glory by the French girl, who really can't talk anyway.

PETA has celebrities, right? Like when all five of the Go-Go's stripped naked in the early '90s to make sure that we knew they didn't wear fur. Clearly, that was genius. But this ...

"Well, in fact Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go's kind of moonlights as a professional dominatrix," Franzetta frazzles. "She says over and over again that she only uses pleather."

What? LIAR!

"Oh, she's very vocal about it. In fact, she is on our website,," she sells. "You can find a cute picture of her there."

And Belinda?

"She hasn't done much for PETA in awhile," she curts. "But we've got lots of celebrities who work with us. In the last couple of days, Paul McCartney wrote a letter to McDonald's shareholders around the world asking them to implement stricter animal-welfare standards on the suppliers who provide them with meat for their restaurants."

Of course, McBeef and McNugget do require the passing of at least some animals, right? Oh, but who's counting ... Besides Paul McCartney, who is, we might add, very, very boring.

"Well, you know it's a culture of celebrity," she breezes, swaying her head back in big cultural revelation. "Regard-less of what you think about it, people are influenced, young people especially. They see beautiful women like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Britney Spears wearing vinyl outfits, and they want to emulate that."

And bondage girls in front of courthouses. Let the emulation begin! So, you're saying it's better for them to whip themselves than to whip animals, right?

"Absolutely," she fades. "Pain free lifestyle for the animals only!"

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