A man walks into a bar. He’s carrying a carpet under his arm. He wraps himself in the carpet, lies on the floor, covers his face and waits for people to step on him. A sign taped to the bar reads: “Step on carpet.”
People step on the carpet — dozens, in fact. The more people who step on the carpet, particularly if they are women in heels, the happier the man is. Some are timid, others are audacious. Some dance on the man. Some step on him while ordering their drinks, completely unaware that a live body is underfoot. Some just stand there, frozen, looking totally freaked out.
Four hours later, the man slips out from beneath his carpet, folds it up, tucks it under his arm and heads home. “It was a nice party,” he says cheerily, as if he were talking about something far more ordinary, like, say, a backyard barbecue.
That man (and none of this is a joke) is Georgio T., a 48-year-old immigrant from Malta, who calls himself the Human Carpet. He has become an occasional sight around New York’s bar and club scene and a fixture at sexual fetish parties.
Georgio discovered his predilection when he was a young child, he said. “I loved to have weights on me,” he recalled during a recent interview, his gentle voice flavored with a Maltese accent. “I liked having my cats walk over me.” He worked his penchant into childhood role-playing games. “Somebody wanted to be the doctor,” he said, “somebody wanted to be the carpenter, and I would want to be the carpet.”
He took his act professional a few years ago and now mostly appears for a fee — his standard rate is about $200 a session, plus tips. Human carpeting is still a fairly wide-open market: Georgio knows of only one other person in New York doing a similar thing, a guy who calls himself Kevin Carpet.
But Georgio insists that his pursuit is not a money-making stunt and that he gets genuine pleasure out of it. “It’s my fun,” he said. “People are paying me to have fun.”
“The more people who pile on, the better,” he continued. “The higher they jump, the better.” He said he has never been hurt, even though the heaviest person he has entertained was a 390-pound man. Ten women once stood on him at the same time, a personal record. He once worked 11 hours without a break.
Georgio lives a bifurcated life. By day he is a massage therapist in Fairfield County, Conn. Even though he agreed to provide many details about his life, he asked that neither his full name nor his face be revealed.
Georgio, as the Human Carpet, works a few times a week. On a recent Wednesday he began the evening at an after-work party at K Lounge, a stylish boîte above a fancy Indian restaurant on West 52nd Street in Midtown. As he arrived, with the carpet folded under his arm, he cut an unassuming figure: slightly hunched, in dark trousers and a dark jacket, a bucket hat covering his mostly bald head.
As the party gathered some steam, Georgio quickly unfolded his carpet — the edges are sewn together to form a cylinder, allowing him to slip into it like a dress — laid a thin layer of padding on his chest and flopped to the floor. But before he could enjoy his first stiletto, the party’s promoter came rushing over and told him there was a problem: the promoter had failed to get clearance from the bar’s owner, and now the manager was putting a stop to it.
The manager was alternately confused and indignant. “Why is he on the floor?” he asked. “People can trip over him.” He added: “It doesn’t look good.”
Georgio silently folded up his carpet. He looked genuinely upset that he was being denied the pleasure of having strangers step on him. “I’m too disappointed,” he mumbled. He now had three hours to kill before his next gig, at a bar in the Lower East Side. He briefly considered calling it a night and driving back to Connecticut.
Over dinner, he described how he is motivated by a desire to push his own boundaries and those of others. “There’s hardly any middle ground,” he said. “They’re either shocked and don’t want to do it or they’re thrilled to do it.”
Georgio affixes the label “sexual fetish” to his pursuit under certain conditions, specifically when beautiful women step on him and really get into it. He gave an example of an arousing scenario: “Two girls step on me and make out. And if that doesn’t turn me on, I don’t know what would.” He also likes intense parties where the flow of body-stompers is constant.
Short of that, he said, getting stepped on is simply an enjoyable activity for him, though not particularly titillating.
He spoke rhapsodically about one woman who spent nearly two hours standing on him at Lotus, a club in the meatpacking district, and toying with his face using the heels of her shoes. After she was done, the woman leaned down and thanked him, and said that she never thought she would be able to do something like that. “I woke up a monster in her,” Georgio said.
These sort of personal connections are what make it all worth it, he said. He writes emoticon-festooned notes to strangers who friend him on Facebook, including one woman who wrote him recently out of sheer curiosity.
He replied: “Thank you for adding this human carpet, Emily :) Can’t remember if & when we have met. So sorry :( Have you stepped on me?”
Shortly after 10 p.m. he lugged his carpet into the Skinny Bar and Lounge on Orchard Street. The manager gave him the green light and two minutes later, Georgio, beaming happily, was on the floor, carpet-enrobed, his body pressed against the bar’s foot rail — his preferred location.
Over the next four hours, he received steady, if mostly apprehensive, attention. One guy leaped onto Georgio when the D.J. played the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around” and made believe he was on a surfboard. Two people independently called the experience “squishy.” A drunken freelance videographer visiting from Cincinnati lay down next to him and pressed her body against him for a long time. “He’s really cool, man,” she declared.
But it was largely a hipster crowd, not his most enthusiastic clientele, and there were long periods in which he simply lay there, motionless, alone in his carpet.
(In contrast, during a fetish party at a Lower East Side club on a recent Saturday night, he was stepped on by more than 150 people, he said. “It was hilarious!!!” he wrote in an e-mail message. “High traffic carpet.”)
At about 3 a.m., the crowd at Skinny had thinned and Georgio decided to call it a night. “I guess it’s time to get up,” he said matter-of-factly. And within minutes his carpet was in the trunk of his car and he was hunched over the wheel, heading north, a tired middle-aged man after a long day at work.