The following is an unedited (apologies for crappy grammar) excerpt from my memoir, SEXUAL CONTENT. Most of the names have been changed to protect the semi-innocent.
To see some actual photos from behind the scenes, click here.
"I have become Dian Fossey but instead of Gorillas I am now living among Swingers. I do not fear for my life but I do fear I will run out of Purell."
My new show about the swinging lifestyle is slowly moving forward. To host the show, we've lined up an 80s TV star who's also a swinger in real life. But we aren't allowed to tell anyone he's a swinger. We've also lined up an A-list production company that produces huge network TV shows. But they won't put their name on it. Gosh, this all makes me feel so good about where I work.
Despite the fact that I live in the San Fernando Valley, I know very little about swingers and the lifestyle. My exposure is limited to seeing hairy hippies on HBO’s Real Sex and watching six minutes of The Ice Storm also on HBO. I realize if I’m going to produce and oversee a show all about swinging I have to do some research. I’m told to talk to a Playboy coworker, a guy in another department who claims to know everyone and everything in the sexual underworld. A self-proclaimed Smut Sherpa with an unmistakable air of sleaze, I’m going to say he was wearing a Members Only® jacket whether it's true or not.
SMUT SHERPA: If you want to learn about the lifestyle the best way would be to attend a swinger party.
ME: Okay. How do I find one?
SMUT SHERPA: There’s a regular party in Bakersfield. I’ll get you in.
Bakersfield? That's an hour away on a good day! If I’m going to avoid sex with strangers, I'd rather do it closer to my house. Then one afternoon, the Smut Sherpa hips me to an upcoming lifestyle party in the quaint bedroom community of Woodland Hills, not too far from my house. I ask Taye if he wants to accompany me.
TAYE: Do I have to go?
ME: No. It’s just going to be a bunch of girls from work going to a party full of people who like to have sex with strangers. We’ll be fine.
TAYE: I’m going.
So, Hannah Park, her husband James, a class action litigator with a vintage Bob Fosse beard that tells you he’s a lot groovier than his job, our germ-phobic head of research Cara Reingold, Taye and I all rendezvous at the Valley Flirts party taking place at a major chain hotel in Woodland Hills that deserves its 2.5 star rating on Yelp. Swingers are asked are to gather in the hotel’s lobby bar – an achingly generic joint that could easily be named Achingly Generic McGee’s. Each couple is asked to pay a $40 entrance fee but single ladies get in for free. Score one for Gloria Steinem! We're all handed room keys to the Presidential Suite and told we can't go up there until after midnight. It's only 10 o'clock. So everybody gets two hours to hang out in the bar, do some socializing and hopefully find other strangers you'd like to fuck later upstairs. The sizing up and STD status sharing begins.
The five of us make our way through the bar and find a long table at the edge of the dance floor, overlooking a live episode of National Geographic: After Dark. The seating order at our table is me, then Cara, Hannah and James. Sulking at the far end of the table is Taye. Cara, as usual, has taken discomfort to a whole new level. A chronic germaphobe, she carries dozens of bottles of hand sanitizer with her wherever she goes. She’s the only person I know who looks forward to going to the supermarket just so she can grab one of the disinfecting wipes they offer by the front door. In her late 30s, tall, blonde, pretty, and as single as she is paranoid, Cara fights through every day as if she's in the film Outbreak. As head of research for Playboy TV, she asked to join us at the Swinger party in order to gain a better understanding of the lifestyle. I can’t help but wonder how someone so germ phobic can work in such a dirty place.
After we settle in she leans over to me…
CARA: I have to go to the bathroom but there are so many germs here I’m afraid I may get an airborne bladder infection.
ME: There’s no such thing as an airborne bladder infection. If you’re so freaked out, don’t use the bathroom.
CARA: If I don’t use the bathroom, I’ll also get a bladder infection.
Having a somewhat more manageable crisis at the far end of the table is Taye. I check in with him.
ME: You okay?
TAYE: Yeah, I'm checking out the room but I'm trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone. I don't want them to get the wrong idea.
The wrong idea? Taye has EVERYONE STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME written all over his face. I don't think there's much risk of unwanted attention. Even I was afraid to talk to him.
I’m really distracted by the scene that’s unfolding before me. Yes, I’m trying to do research for the show we’re going to produce but, full disclosure, I have an ulterior motive as well. I was pretty sure this would be a totally safe thing to attend without my husband but I really wanted him to be there with me. Spending a few hours in a sexually-charged environment with him could only have a positive effect on us. Don’t get me wrong, we’re doing just fine. But I have to admit I’m actually pretty excited about what we will be seeing tonight and I have a good feeling that spending time in a sexually charged environment with him will pay off for the two of us later.
Most hotel bars are, by nature, sex-charged environments and this dump is no exception. Except everybody inside is already DTF, so it’s not so much about the Hunt as it is about the Who. The industrial speakers randomly placed among stained ceiling tiles blare the disco tune I Feel Love by Donna Summer in hopes of luring people to the 8’ x 8’ parquet-inspired, vinyl dance floor that's held in place with fraying duct tape. The bar is dark, creating a world of mysterious romance while at the same time masking cold sores. Some couples hold court in secluded booths while others gather at the bar. Single men are typically not allowed to attend lifestyle parties without a female date AKA “a ticket” but single women are always encouraged to attend which is why they’re allowed in for free. Females outnumbering males at these parties is preferred for obvious reasons. Both men AND women are frequently looking for another female to join them and if unlimited single men were allowed to attend lifestyle events they’d turn into raging sausage parties. No one wants that – well actually one person in the room does but I’m getting ahead of myself.
As James enjoys his cocktail, Hannah, a culture and trend analyst who develops quantitative research and consumer profiles for Fortune 500 brands, goes into full on scientist mode. At the edge of the dance floor, she's taking mental notes and scanning the room to study mating rituals as she goes into full on Jane Goodall mode. Cara and Taye worry about airborne pathogens while I start to format sex with strangers as a TV show. A couple of pretty single girls begin to gyrate against each other on the dance floor hoping to attract attention. I can see that a lifestyle like this would be a complete impossibility for Taye and me. First of all, neither one of us is remotely interested in opening up our marriage. As I said, we have a fulfilling sex life. Sure anything can be improved upon and I freely admit that I dragged him along hoping there would be some sort of residual effect from this evening when we get home. Obviously I’m there for my job but when your job involves sex, it’s hard not to take your work home with you.
Then, without warning, a stocky, early 60s couple commandeers the dance floor. Both are a bad 50 pounds overweight, vaguely ethnic and their acid washed jeans aren’t helping anyone. He looks like someone who works in the stock room of a Van Nuys automotive parts store, while she resembles a disheveled, suburban Yeti in a New Yorker cartoon. As they attempt to groove on the dance floor, it’s obvious to pretty much everyone within a three-mile radius that Mrs. Yeti is aggressively scanning the room for supplemental male company. Things are bad when you come off as over-eager at a sex party.
Mrs. Yeti, unsteady and desperate, decides the best way to attract a fella is to flash some boob: A classic move for a 19 year-old girl at Daytona but a disturbing move for a drunk, 60-something Yeti. Getting an eyeful of this carnage, an event host immediately sweeps in and informs her that there’s no nudity allowed at the pre-swinging meet and greet portion of the evening. So, the Yeti re-furls her breast for later use.
James and Hannah cannot stop laughing at the raw ridiculousness unfolding before us. Of course, Taye, who wouldn't mind seeing a boob or two at this thing, is horrified because he's right in the Yeti's crosshairs. For fun, James starts to egg the woman on. At this point, Taye's penis has crawled up into his stomach out of self-defense. This experience isn’t giving him the reaction I hoped for at all. Instead of an erection he’s getting a raging de-rection.
Finally, it’s midnight and we are told we can go upstairs to the Presidential Suite where the swinging will be taking place. I’m excited because I’m about to witness something very hot I’ve never seen before. The five of us pack into an elevator along with some background swinger types and ride upstairs. I smile at Taye with a glimmer of excitement. He leans over to me and whispers, "There is not a single person on this elevator I want to see with no clothes on." I try not to take that personally while Cara applies a last minute coat of Purell.
Seconds later, the elevator doors open to a dark hallway. Right before us, a nondescript hotel room door is wide open with people already mulling in. Stepping into this Presidential Suite, I think to myself you would have to be the President of Irritable Bowel Syndrome to be relegated to this dump. We walk into a small living area with all the charm of a dentist's waiting room. It's furnished with a curbside quality, upholstered grey sofa and two nondescript side chairs. Situated between them is a beat up coffee table. On the wall is a television not turned on. All of the lights in the main room are off except for two sconces on either side of the TV that have had their standard bulbs replaced with red light bulbs. This is some serious Fuck Shui.
There are about ten people walking around this sour Suite but I can’t be sure since it’s quite dark and I’m easily distracted by bad decor. The place reeks of industrial carpet cleanser and bad decision making. Stacked on top of a small dinette table in the opposite corner of the room are piles of cheap, white hotel towels and about 15 rolls of toilet paper. It looks as if the table has been set for a dysentery party.
TAYE: (ANGRILY WHISPERING) This is disgusting. There’s no music. The TV is off. All of the furniture in here should be covered with sheets! What are they thinking? We are never sitting on hotel furniture again! Everything in here should be covered with sheets!
Having weathered this level of outrage many times in the past, I nod in agreement. I’m just glad they chose red lights and not black lights because I really don’t want to see what kinds of fluids are all over this dump.
On the other side of the living room I see a few people standing in an open doorway, which I assume is the entrance to the bedroom. They appear to be sipping cocktails and watching something. If the regulars at a sex party have clustered somewhere and I’m there to see how these things work, I have a feeling that this is something I should witness.
ME: Hey look! A bunch of people have gathered over there in that doorway to look at something. Wanna check it out with me?
TAYE: Do I have to?
ME: No. I’ll go alone.
Taye reluctantly shakes his head in disbelief at my side as we both cross the room, walking past all of that unsheeted furniture! We step through the doorway into what turns out to be a small, darkened bedroom. Everyone is watching four naked people having sex on a queen-size bed covered with only a white fitted sheet. No top sheet, no pillows, blankets, no headboard or even a bed skirt. An exposed box spring and metal bed frame with a mattress on top holds four people going at it. Remove the top sheet and you’re in a crack house. But there we are standing among 5 or so people watching a quartet of somewhat attractive people having sex. It's almost like a performance. I didn’t recall seeing these four people downstairs. For a moment, I think they’re ringer swingers -- professional sex havers to get the party started. Sort of like kindling for your genitals. I make a mental note for the TV show.
This is the first time Taye and I have ever witnessed live sex. Much to my surprise and disappointment, there is nothing sexy about it. No offense, four random people fucking on the bed, but right then and there I realize watching strangers having group sex in a dingy Presidential Suite in Woodland Hills is not a turn on for me. Who knew? I turn to look at my husband who has plummeted to an all new depth of horror and disgust.
Wow. This party is working wonders for the two of us. At least I'm getting some work done.
We slowly back out of the bedroom and return to the Dysentery Dinner Party area where the other people in our group haven't moved. Hannah is probably building a complex statistical analysis in her head while James is thrilled not to be in a courtroom. On their left, Cara is 100% certain she’s caught Hepatitis A-Z.
Suddenly we hear a drunken voice bellow out, “I want some cocks in me!” I reel around and to my horror see the Yeti, now completely naked, blasted drunk and refusing to get dressed despite the protestations from all humanity. She is certainly communicating her desires well but everyone there desires she was somewhere else. Taye stares at her in abject horror. He’s never been part of any deviant scenes whatsoever. This is a very honorable and upstanding child of teachers who never drinks and always makes sure to do the right thing. In the 17 years we’ve been together I’ve never heard him swear. Once or twice when he got really angry he muttered “God Bless America!” under his breath. But that’s when things got particularly intolerable. Taye is not someone you’d ever expect to find in this place. It’s as if I dragged Donny Osmond to a sex party.
The Yeti becomes more and more belligerent, demanding booze, cocks and more cocks. In her. Not necessarily in that order. Mr. Yeti stands next to her, shrugging helplessly to the gathering crowd the way a helpless parent surrenders to a toddler having a nuclear meltdown in the mall. Only this is no toddler. This is an unattractive, drunk, middle-aged, loud, lumpy, naked woman screaming for cocks to be inside of her NOW. By the way, if you ever find yourself wondering what would be the single best ever buzzkill for a swinger party…or any party for that matter…I can assure you this is it.
Mr. Yeti works desperately to get her back into her acid-washed jeans but Mrs. Yeti is not having it. She keeps pushing him away calling for cock. It’s the loudest, most awkward and humiliating situation you could ever imagine. Even though it’s horrifying, nobody can stop watching, including Taye. He cannot entirely process what’s unfolding before him other than knowing that it’s very wrong. I turn my back to the drama and facing Taye decide to check in with him AGAIN.
ME: Are you okay?
ME: Do you want a blowjob?
OH MY GOD! I can’t even believe I’ve just said this. Who am I? We’re at our first sex party ever and I’ve just offered my husband a consolation blowjob? On a chair with no sheets!! Who am I?!? So clearly out of my realm I’ve overcompensated way too far to the other side. Talk about taking the professional rule Act As If You Belong There way too far. The more Taye has unraveled, the more I’ve overcompensated in the opposite direction, acting as if this sex party/horror show is no big deal. Only it is a big deal. And now I’ve completely lost my mind by casually offering my husband a public blowie. Clearly, something crazy is happening to me. Trying desperately to prove that I can easily navigate this scene, I have overcompensated in the most horrific way. What if he calls my bluff and says yes? I have to go through with this. In front of my coworkers, the Valley Flirts, and the Yeti?!? On a chair with no sheets!!! What the hell have I just done?