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Michael J. Mooney March 3, AM. There's an unmarked black door at the end of a Pompano Beach strip mall, next to a laundromat and a dollar store and across the street from an Episcopal church. The only hint of what happens beyond the door is a worn leaning against a pole near the parking lot. It re "Club Hedo. Just after 11 p.
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It's their first time here, and a few people stare as they amble past the pool table, wide-eyed and a bit nervous. The clandestine club would fit right into a pleasant snapshot from There's a disco ball, a wooden bar adorned with Christmas lights, vinyl chairs situated around a few Formica tables, and a parquet dance floor replete with a single metal pole.
The young couple sits down on a leather couch. A mix of recent pop songs and older disco plays to the 20 or so people — nearly all between 40 and 60 years old — scattered about the room. Soon enough, though, they're invited to a group of regulars — two men and three women — seated at a table. Susan, a tall, year-old blond in a chiffon dress, locks eyes with the young lady in polka dots, takes Club hedonism broward gently by the forearm, and guides her to the chair next to her own.
Like most of the people contacted for this article, Susan asked that her last name not be published for fear that tales of her exploits might make it back to neighbors and coworkers. By day, she's a Broward public school teacher, but on weekends, she puts on a little extra makeup, wears a slightly shorter dress, Club hedonism broward comes to clubs like this. Susan asks if they want anything to drink. The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University estimates that as many as 4 million Americans participate in some form of group sex or couple swapping.
With its welcoming beaches, year-round sunshine, and fine appreciation for vices, South Florida has become the mecca of swinging in this country. Couples make sexual pilgrimages here from points all over the world. At least four different swinger cruises depart from South Florida every year.
While swingers anywhere can connect through websites and classifiedSouth Florida has five on-premises sex clubs four in Broward, one in Miami-Dade, none in Palm Beach catering to a variety of different lifestyles. He can be found striding through his club with purpose, wearing black slacks, a black shirt, and a thick gold chain.
His employees are diligent, because they know he's a perfectionist and they dare not upset him.
Every inch of the club must be spotless. Every employee must embody a delicate blend of attentiveness and discretion. He says he wants people to think of his place as "the swingers' club where everybody knows your name. And yet, Monte says, "It's about much more than the sex. People can have a few drinks and dance a little bit and get to know each other. It's a private, members-only establishment, thereby not subject to public indecency laws or liquor laws. The club is divided into two parts.
The front room serves as a nightclub. Guests bring their own alcohol, but mixers are provided, and bartenders make the drinks. There's a small buffet complimentary with the price of admission and a dance floor in front of a wall of mirrors. Then there's a back section. Once visitors get comfortable, they generally move into this area, which is partitioned off into a maze of separate lounges. The "love parlor" has turquoise walls, a red pleather couch and chair, paintings that would not look out of place at your grandmother's house, and porn broadcast on a small TV mounted on the wall.
A massage room and "group playrooms" have industrial carpeting, more vinyl-covered tables and cushions, and sex toys.
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Walls painted back, white, and purple add a gothic feel to some of the rooms. A "fantasy suite" includes six queen-sized mattresses. These rooms are where the orgies take place. Unlike the other clubs in South Florida, which require guests to remove their clothing before going into "play areas," at Hedonism, you can undress — or not — whenever Club hedonism broward wherever you like. Early in the night, the back area is quiet and empty. But by midnight, people have limbered up, and the hallways echo with a cacophony of guttural moans.
Monte opened Club Hedonism inbut he tells people that partner-swapping dates back to the days of Julius Caesar. By the s, the phenomenon had spread to the suburbs. But the modern, mass-market form of swinging didn't come about until the early s, on the heels of the sexual revolution. That's when Plato's Retreat, America's first on-premises swingers' club, opened in New York, in the cavernous basement of the Ansonia Hotel, in a defunct gay bathhouse where Bette Midler and Barry Manilow performed early in their careers.
Almost immediately, similar clubs started opening in Boston, in Chicago, in Los Angeles. Deenie's Hideaway opened in Coconut Creek inand a handful of other South Florida clubs followed suit. Monte has seen Club hedonism broward evolution firsthand. More private, so-called "bi-wives clubs" popped up in neighborhoods across the country.
Many of the biggest clubs, including Plato's in New York, closed. In the '90s, a series of raids on South Florida sex clubs scared even more people away, even though the criminal charges were dismissed. So for years, Monte says he kept his club out of any kind of spotlight. He has the small that stands out front, but he puts it up only on weekend nights. His business subsisted on word-of-mouth advertising. Then they'd tell a few of their friends. The majority of people in this subculture are middle-class couples who live conservatively in other aspects of their lives.
In researching his book The Lifestylepublished injournalist Terry Gould found that a third of the group-sex participants he spoke to had postgraduate degrees, almost a third voted Republican, and 40 percent considered themselves practicing Protestants, Catholics, or Jews. Says Monte, as he prepares for a busy weekend night that will include dozens of couples: "This is as liberal and open as it's ever been.
Mark and Karen, a couple in their 50s, have been coming here for more than ten years. His slicked-back dark hair matches his closely cropped beard, and his white, buttoned-down shirt is undone to his sternum, revealing a large dragon medallion. Karen, a short, shapely blond, has on a sheer, white Guinevere-style dress with a slit up the side and carries a silver lighter with the word Slave engraved across it. But we live in a time of birth control. As he speaks, he caresses Karen's leg. Susan is on her third drink, and she's still flirting with the young blond.
She explains that she came of age in the '70s and always had a bit of a wild streak. She got into "the lifestyle" — the most common term used to describe swinger culture — six years ago with her husband. They started "soft swapping" — when the women engage each Club hedonism broward but there is no interpartner intercourse.
In the beginning, they would swing only with single women. After a few years, though, there was a guy or two she "felt like going all the way with," and they began "full swapping. It was titillating to watch. Because of her work as a teacher, she was always terrified that someone might see her. But that was also part of the thrill.
Susan steps outside for a moment to smoke a t with her friends, then returns, still reminiscing about her husband. This used to be their favorite club. But one night three months ago, he suddenly died. They'd gone to the club that night. When they got home, they finished off a passionate evening in the bedroom. She recalls moments they shared here, some charming, some erotic, and some gross — like the time he dropped his ring and ended up digging it out of a trash bag full of used condoms.
Unlikely as it may seem, Susan says, fellow swingers have become some of her closest friends. Mark and Karen call her at home to see how she's doing. They get her out of the house.
As Mark hears Susan telling her story, he slides his hand over her leg. One of Susan's friends, Sandy, dances around the table in a short, white, tennis-style skirt and a vest with nothing underneath.