“Airlines and hotels now have their own alternative marketing departments to broaden their economic base,” says Bob Hannaford, 38, who was forced to retire from the Coast Guard for throwing swingers’ parties and is now acting president of the International Lifestyle Association, a trade group that advises clubs on legal and management issues. “It started with gay and lesbian markets and has now grown to include the swing market.” In fact, over the next few months, as the American Society of Travel Agents updates its consumer Web site’s search engine, it will look into breaking down its broad “special interest” category to include the terms gay, nude, and swinger.
Hannaford and McGinley believe that social objections to swinging are poised to crumble. They and other swingers make comparisons to the acceptance of gay culture in America over the past several yearsdriven not only by street activism and a gay-friendly media but also by economic power. “When someone’s livelihood becomes dependent on someone else’s lifestyle,” says McGinley, speaking by telephone from his 12,000-square-foot headquarters in Anaheim, “then that lifestyle becomes acceptable.”
On Easter morning, Dave and Michele and Ken and Valerie meet for breakfast in the hotel’s ballroom, which has discarded last night’s Playboy motif to make way for a brightly lit post-church Easter brunch for an expected 300 Batavia residents. Except for two nearby families in bonnets and bo-peep dresses, the couples have the vast hall to themselves. Two room-length buffet tables gleam with silver trays and inflated purple rabbits.
“This is nice,” says Michele.
Across from her, Valerie is wearing her sunglasses, looking morose.
Between trips to the buffet, I learn that after the incident last night the foursome returned to Dave and Michele’s room, where they smoked cigarettes and talked for an hour about their lives, their families, their work. Michele apologized for not asking Valerie’s permission before servicing Ken. Eventually, Valerie agreed to have side-by-side sex with the other couple while a porn movie played on the TV in the background, which their own sex outlasted. “It was more of a voyeuristic thing,” Ken tells me. “But it was pretty hot watching Michele.”
The brunch conversation is vague and restless, about the drive back to town, how cold it is outside. Michele fields a cell-phone call from her mother and tells her she was at a dance last night and to “kiss the girls.” When Valerie gets up to refill her plate, Dave and Michele bombard Ken with concerned questions and advice. Does she feel okay? Have you talked with her? Maybe you two should take it slower. We’d really, really like to see you both again.
At the buffet table, Valerie uses metal tongs to pick at a mound of French toast made from leftover bread. When I join her, she laughs about the whole Eyes Wide Shut feel of the night before. She explains that she was about to have an orgasm and felt such a strange rush that she had to leave the room. (“I tend to get noisy,” she says, ladling on the syrup.) She says she’s happy Ken enjoyed it and that the side-by-side swinging was “no big deal” since she had experienced plenty of it while sharing a dorm room with another girl in college.