(Or, A Well-Deserved Practical Joke About An Alleged Wasted Evening at a Legendary New York Sex Club)

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A few days ago I was spring cleaning, and I found the following article. Allow me to set the table. The year was 1994, some 25 years ago and I’ll warn you, nothing of what follows is remotely politically correct.

The concept didn’t exist back then.

I was a special education teacher. My principal was female; she invited me to her summer home once her child was old enough to no longer require her company. I was flattered but turned her down for the right reasons. My assistant principal possessed, shall we say, a quirky sense of humor. He was, I believed, more in need of proper care and nurturing than the students.

They were fire and ice, those two, and the teachers who worked for them comprised the knot in the rope of their ongoing tug of war.

As typical when one taught in the New York public school system back then (as now), downtime was essential. My assistant principal was the inveterate practical joker to the principal’s Vulcan-like stoicism and yet occasionally kinky demeanor. They fought a good deal but the students — and their teachers — enjoyed their interplay. Most importantly, as the school was never boring, the students tended to enjoy being there and generally performed very well.

I was obsessed with exacting revenge on the assistant principal, who played a fierce trick on me the week before. Well, fierce to my mind anyway. He told me he had heard through a “well placed source” that Star Wars was coming back, and they were killing off Luke Skywalker. He swore me to secrecy, and I was foolish enough to fall for it when he put me on the phone with said source. (To this day, never mess with my Star Wars. I’m religious, there.)

I believed him because he was legitimately highly-placed in certain circles due to the source— a particularly renowned world figure — as a close cousin. When the assistant principal burst out laughing days later, unable to further contain the great secret, I knew what I had to do.

He was the king of dirty jokes; his repository of pent-up temptation never left the gutter. I knew where I would start. I’d call a spade a spade and, since I had recently dated the teacher that many of us men — and women — expressed none-too-discreetly that they wanted to date, I’d begin there: with a sex club.

The following article was written on 3–23–94, and shown as is to that eccentric but well-meaning AP. He knew I was an aspiring writer, and I told him I was “on assignment with Jan” (name changed to protect her identity). I needed to be careful, though. I indeed did visit the sex club in question. I needed to in order to gain a true sense of the place and make this work. I’ll tell you I did so for research purposes only, and that’s the truth, but you’d never believe me. If I told you I did not partake, which is also the truth, you’d equate it with Bill Clinton not inhaling. So believe what you want.

Regardless, I wrote the piece and hid the fact that I was a teacher. I did not visit the location with “Jan” or any other companion despite the storyline, though her real life counterpart was both a willing participant on paper and in my vengeful plot. A bit of a necessary disclaimer: The piece is at times misogynistic. I wrote it that way deliberately as I strived to appeal to my assistant principal’s baser instincts and hence exaggerated my visit. We were close so I did not fear any reprisal. No one twisted my arm in writing it. But nonetheless in the span of time people grow. I share this piece in the spirit intended, to elicit some laughter at an immature receipt for a halfhearted practical joke that I had completely forgotten about until 72 hours ago ...

As a relatively-respected member of an unidentified New York City bureaucracy, assigned off-site meeting time is considerable. The question, then, becomes not “When is my next day off?” but rather, “Of what frivolity can I partake on the splendid spring eve before?”

Wednesday, 3/23/94. 2:50 P.M. Homeward-bound from a thankfully brief overtime, with my eminently seductive, newly-platonic ex-lady friend in tow, we elected to visit one of Manhattan’s more notorious sex clubs as a late-evening nightcap. Hell, as ‘Jan’ and I have developed some sort of … explicitly sexual phone relationship of late — and the resulting tensions between us have become nigh-unbearable — we figured we’d enjoy each other’s company for one last hedonistic night. What the hell; we’re both fairly adventurous, though all too often more bark than bite. Some months back I was offered the chance to write this story and I turned it down. Today, it’d be a great release.

New York City. 8 P.M. Lower-west side. As per earlier directions, we park the car, and walk up two flights of a dingy, faintly-eerie stairwell where a wall-hung video camera tracks our every move. As we reach our destination, a middle-aged woman, probably in her late-40s to early-50s, with a heavy Russian accent, greets us at the door. “Hello friends. Your names?”

“Uh, ‘Steve’ and Jan. We spoke earlier,” I remind her. “I’m here to do the ‘High Society’ article.”

“Oh, welcome, welcome.” Sure, after forking over $75, we should be greeted like royalty. Anyway, after some brief, meaningless chatter, we are instructed to “go to the dressing room, remove all of your clothing and put on towels.” No problem …

We squint our way through a rather darkened area, as strains of The Village People’s “Macho Man” blare on an overly-loud stereo system, and a migraine-inducing disco ball spins feverishly overhead. Along the way I spot, surprisingly as I really did not know what to expect, a quartet of gorgeous, racially-mixed younger women, sitting on a single couch, conversing with single guys and couples of all ages seated across from them on similarly-homey furnishings. Two in this group flash me smiles as I pass, while Jan is ogled as pure wish-fulfillment by a cretinous, 6'3" (or so) bodybuilder.

Hands off, pal. Tonight, she’s with me.

Once in the dressing room, we are handed our ‘clean towels.’ As we fold our clothes into neatly-arranged garment bags, realization hits that it’s the first time in weeks either Jan or myself have seen each other nude, and, frankly, neither can contain our obvious states of arousal. In the end, she reminds me that I’m there on assignment, of course after teasing that “a blow job is not entirely out of the question.” I want her right there, but she exits first. My ex can be a real bitch.

Moments later, we are offered the grand tour by our eager to please hostess. Her sharp, acute accent has become sensualized. This is a woman who clearly enjoys her gig and is certainly anxious for some favorable publicity. Actually, ‘Ingrid,’ as she prefers to be addressed, is identified as one of the two co-owners of this unique establishment, the other being a ‘silent investor.’ Advertising, she explains, is minimal — monthly capsule reviews in a few of the city’s specialty swinger publications and, as its sole mainstream outlet, a regular two-inch by two-inch ad in ‘The Village Voice’ under the banner ‘Adult Entertainment.’

“We’ve been here for over seven years,” she elaborates, lifting her non-surgically-enhanced, still-perky breasts swelling with pride (I swear, she asked me to write this). “Keeps me young.” As Jan holds my waist for dear life, Ingrid takes us back to the “Meeting Room,” where pretzels, chips and soda abound. (“Never alcohol,” Ingrid explains. “It encourages violence.”) A large-screen television attuned to MTV hangs from the wall across the greeting couches. (“Our favorite station is MTV,” she says. “Music is a universal aphrodisiac.”) This is the area to make the acquaintance of “like-minded adults who work very hard during the day, who need to unwind at night.” I am introduced to the two girls I noticed on the way in. ‘Candace,’ the busty Italian number, asks if I’d like to “go in the back” with her and her girlfriend. I respond, taken aback but flattered. “Maybe in a bit. I’d like to look around first.” Jan slaps me on the shoulder.

“Your woman can join us too,” Candace adds.

Some yards farther, down a narrow corridor, is the sole (open) bedroom, itself equipped with a 30-inch television and a king-sized bed. Now ‘this’ is the real thing, I thought. As “Romancing the Bone, Part Three” kicks into another climatic scene, the bodybuilder from hell is coddled dry by two women wearing only glitter masks, neither of whom could be older than 20 years. As he’s then straddled doggie-style by the pretty blonde, the more full-figured brunette licks his condom-protected shaft. “We must always use condoms here,” explains Ingrid. When I ask, through voyeuristic gazes at the menage in front of me, whether any sex acts here are banned, she replies, matter-of-factly, “No anal intercourse or oral sex on a woman. A woman can give oral sex to a guy so long as he’s protected. Also, we do not encourage tongue-kissing or any exchange of bodily fluids, unless you come (no pun intended) with your own partner.” Hmmm. There’s something incongruous about a responsible sex club to a layperson, but hey. It’s time to go on. Jan is transfixed; she decides to stay, and watch, when she’s joined by three guys who do the same.

No one touches her. In fact, I notice that everyone asks for permission to touch. Apparently, respect is de rigueur in this establishment.

Ingrid brings me to the “Curtain Room,” where again, a gathering of men ogle with great interest as a mini-orgy takes place inside, on mats. Throughout this Roman-style enclave, baskets-full of condoms have been placed with great care, and convenience. “You see,” says my mindful tour guide, “we’ve stayed in business all this time because we’re the only club of its kind to allow single men. Most of these establishments are for couples only.”

I already knew the answer to this next, but I ask anyway: “Does the price range differ?”

“Of course,” Ingrid replies. “We provide a service for single gentlemen at $120 for the first visit, $100 thereafter, $75 for couples and $20 for single women.”

“Why the — ”

She cuts me off mid-sentence. “As a single gentleman, you do want women here, do you not? We are not a club for gay men.” She laughs, then takes my hand. We are en route back to the “Meeting Room.” “Enjoy, Steve,” she says. “I’m here if you need me.” Thrown to the lions, at last.

As I partake in my first-ever encounter session, so to speak, with my new open friends, Jan rejoins me and doesn’t leave my side. She’s as flushed as I am, though adamant that she was never truly tempted. Okay, fine. “I’m just kind of shocked,” she whispers in my ear. She then rubs the back of her hand against my toweled crotch, not yet fully recovered. “You’re as human as I am … Steve.” She’s definitely gonna pay for this. I’m driving home …

I ask the 40-something couple on my right, explaining that this is the first time my friend and I have done anything like this. After identifying myself as a “journalist on assignment,” I asked how they got into “the scene.”

Charlie relays the life story: “Charlotte and I have two kids away at college, and now it’s time to enjoy ourselves. We’ve always had an open family, and what two consenting adults do in their own private time is their own personal business. We saw an ad once, came down, and have swapped partners ever since. It adds spice to our marriage.”

“That’s for sure,” Charlotte adds, reaching for her lower regions and having second thoughts when she catches my gaze. “Sorry, don’t want to make either of you uncomfortable,” she says. “Unless — ”

“Thanks for the information,” I said. Jan and I walked towards another room.

Tidbits from others prove equally revealing. “It’s the only place in the city where horny single guys can get off with any number of available women for less than the price of a hooker,” a middle-aged, man explains. “Swapping partners is a safer-sex alternative,” says a woman north of 50. “Most of the men here are respectful and use protection outside of the clubs,” she adds. “Sex here is a bonus,” says a guy who identifies himself as a stock broker. “You meet many wonderful people along the way,” he claims. And, my personal favorite: “I don’t drink, so I don’t have to tip.” Everyone’s a comedian.

Candace asks me again if I care to rendezvous with her and her pal. God, do I want to — me, Candy, her bud ‘Sue,’ my bud Jan … the possibilities are endless. Having been reminded by my friend that this trip is, in fact, business to enhance my writing career in progress, I’m compelled to address a nagging question: “Candace, how long have you been working here?” Needless to say, this does not go over well.

“I pay my money just like everyone else to be here … Forget my offer. You should have checked your ego outside.” She disappears with someone new seconds thereafter. Sue approaches us, but we turn and quickly walk away. I’m sincerely sorry for my misstep, though Candace will never know.

By way of explanation, prior to our visit I was informed by a usually reliable source that some of these women are, in fact, paid escorts, hired to maintain a balanced male/female ratio. When queried, Ingrid requested that I “find a good girl for a nice, simple massage, and relax.”

Maybe she knew something about me that I didn’t know about me.

It’s close to 9:30, and Jan and I have had more than our share of thrills for the evening. We head back to the dressing room, together, while we’re stopped at the door by our favorite bodybuilder and his two ‘partners.’ “Leaving already?” he inquires of Jan with regret. “You have up to three hours here. You just arrived — ”

I pick up from there. “We’re going to spend some time by ourselves.”

We ignore his last words as we head towards a private room: “Can we watch?”

This time, Jan enters first. I follow. Alone again, naturally. Just her and me. Now, about that blow job …

And that, my friends, was that.

When I found my old article during spring cleaning, I figured I’d digitize the typewritten manuscript into my computer. That done, I suspected I’d be compelled to share it. That done …

Where do you land with this? In the modern era of #MeToo, is sex positivity a bad thing? Was it back then between consenting adults? Is the practice of attending such clubs somehow immoral? Receipt for a practical joke aside, this club was interesting to me for several reasons. I never went back; I’ve always been a monogamous guy and this was emphatically not my scene, but I never begrudged those who paid their money and enjoyed it.

I’m being honest, regardless of how the admission will make me look to you.

Finally, regarding my AP, he wouldn’t stop asking “Jan” and I questions about it for a week following his read. When we both had enough, we let him down gently, laughing hysterically. He threatened to withhold our next paychecks.

The principal walked in and asked what was going on. “They lied to me!” the AP complained.

“Is this about the sex club thing?”

“Yes!”

She slapped us five and walked out of the room, promising to pay us double-time for shutting him up.

She still owes us $959 each for the pay period.

Finis

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