The phrase "crossing the line" in the subtitle refers not only to the sexual flexibility of sailors but to a time-honored, officially-sanctioned maritime initiation ritual said to date back to the early 1600's. It occurs in the U.S. Navy when ships cross the equator. Those who have already gone through the ceremony are known as "shellbacks," and those being initiated are called "wogs," short for "polliwogs."
In the interviews that follow, Sonny, Eddy, Anthony, Trent, and Joey describe the shellback tradition and their individual experiences "crossing the line."
Sonny: I missed the beginning, thank God. That's the worst part, where you get woken up at three in the morning and have a mixture of nastiness shoved down your throat. After eating the breakfast you have to put your clothes on backwards and inside out. You put your pants on, then your underwear. You have to crawl everywhere you go.
You crawl up to the forward part of the ship, the fo'c'sle, and you work your way back aft. You get the "truth serum" — it's a syringe without the needle, full of Kool-Aid and Tabasco sauce. They squirt it in your mouth. The guy who's doing it has two vials. If he likes you, you might get something that's not so bad. But if he hates you, you'll get the nasty stuff.
From there you start crawling across the deck. And that's where they pulled my drawers down and shoved Crisco up my ass!
Zeeland: Someone you knew?
Sonny: Oh yeah. Well, on that class of ship, you basically know everybody. It's a great ship to be on. And I was proud to be on it. But from there you crawl to this toilet. There's cherries floating in it. They tell you to go down with just your face and bring out a cherry. So you get down there and they push a button and the water — cold salt water — shoots you in the face.
You keep on crawling, and you get over to ol' King Neptune and his friend Davy Jones, and they tell you your crimes against the ocean and what your punishment is. I had to go over to the fat man. In this case it was the master chief. Fat. Belly full of Crisco. And he stuck an olive right in his bellybutton. You're on your knees between his legs, and you go down to get it. You don't want to get your teeth too close, you want to just bite the top of that olive. And he grabs your head and shoves your face down in there and you come out with Crisco between your teeth.
You get to stand up and walk down the ladder to the very back part of the ship, the fantail. There you have to crawl through this tube that is full of nastiness. People's puke, noodles, leftover food, eggs. When you're halfway through it they sit on the damn thing and tell you to roll around in it.
You get through that, then you go over and they try to teach you something. "Shellbacks don't swim." Until you understand what they're saying they hit you with a shillelagh [actually a section of firehose]. You get into this makeshift swimming pool, and the guy standing there tells you, "Okay, swim over to that corner and tell the master chief you're a shellback." So obviously he said swim, and all along you've been doing what everybody tells you to do, so you swim. He tells you, "You did something wrong! Swim back and figure out what you did wrong!" And this water's nasty. . . . You swim back, and they try to teach you again. "Shellbacks don't swim. Shellbacks don't swim." Ahhh! That's right, I'm supposed to be a shellback now! So you walk over.
You're still wearing your clothes while you're going through the initiation, even if they are pulled down around your knees and stuff is dangling. But at the end they don't want you carrying that through the ship, so there's a guy there up one level above you with a firehose squirting everybody down. Your clothes are trashed, your boots are trashed — you just throw everything overboard. So everybody's standing there totally naked, being shot down by this guy with the firehose. I was one of the last people to go through so I didn't get to see the bodies I wanted to see. But I walked all the way through the ship naked, and I saw other guys walking naked, and when I got to my berthing compartment there were guys waiting to get into the shower. And I finally got to see some I wanted to see! Then you shower and you have to scrape all this stuff out of crevices where it doesn't belong.
So, the shellback initiation is fun. It's something to be proud of.
Zeeland: You didn't mention the wog queen competition [through which the winning drag performer escapes the unpleasantness of the rest of the ceremony.]
Sonny: I know why I didn't mention that too. I was one of the candidates! We blew up some rubbers, and I put on this T-shirt and they tied it in a knot. I had tits that stuck out to here. I wore this skimpy skirt that just hid. I was one of the few that had it hid. And I wore a wig and makeup and everything.
That was the only time I guess you could say I was in drag and I'll never do it again. The only people allowed to watch it are shellbacks. I was the first one down there, and all these other guys start walking in panties. One guy couldn't hide it at all. He was wearing such skimpy panties that his balls kept dropping out. It was funny. But some of 'em — the guy that won knew how to hide what he had. He dressed in black lace panties, black lace bra, and he had a cat-o'-nine-tails with a long handle. He put on the music and started swishing and stuff. You've got to put on a show. He was dancing, and he got up to the captain. The captain's sitting in his chair, and he just sits on the captain's lap, right on his cock, and starts scrunching. Then he stands up and he goes over to the XO, this big musclebound dude. Sticks that cat o' nine tails right on his crank and starts acting like he's giving him a blowjob. We're all going crazy over this, we couldn't believe it — all of a sudden white stuff just spooges out of his mouth. Don't know where it came from or how it got there, but white stuff [makes sound effect]. And he won. I didn't even come close.
Zeeland:So how do the other guys watching react to this?
Sonny: They all get into it. I mean, it's funny.
Zeeland: What do you think the ceremony means?
Sonny: It's just basically a brotherhood type deal. And if you refuse to go through the ceremony, people think less of you.
Zeeland: Did you have any feeling about the homosexual overtones of this?
Sonny: No, because it's all tradition that's been done for, shoot, generations. And it's just — there were no homosexual overtones, that I saw.
Zeeland: You don't see any homosexual overtones to getting Crisco shoved up your ass?
Sonny: No! Because it was part of the initiation. It wasn't something that these people do because they want to do it, it's something that's been handed down from generation to generation.