Plato's Repeat owner, Claire Pernice, is sitting at the end of the bar outside the Jacuzzi doors. Her big, blond, curly hair tumbles down around her rimless, tinted glasses while she talks to a tall, thickly built, bald man in a floral print shirt. They are not distracted in the slightest by the sex. People do the same thing here, and more, most nights of the week.
This is, after all, a swingers club.
There are and have been many people, notably the Broward Sheriff's Office under the direction of Sheriff Ken Jenne in early 1999, who find this behavior far more distracting than Pernice and her friend. Back then, deputies went undercover in two local swingers clubs (Athena's Forum and Trapeze II) and observed romping flesh. The subsequent raids on those two clubs led to the arrest of tens of participants. Hundreds of thousands of tax dollars went into prosecutions; reputations were ruined, but all the charges were eventually dropped.
That seemed like a lot of fuss over something that is not technically illegal, but there is something off-putting about the idea of entering a swingers club, which is exactly why my curiosity led me inside: to see whether it was as shocking as BSO and others once seemed to think it was.
So late last month, I ventured into one of the many centers of profligacy that advertise in local newspapers (including this one). When I heard that the upbeat, funky, Miami-based rock band DC-3 was to play a gig at Plato's Repeat on Wednesday, March 25, it seemed a good opportunity to baby-step into that world.
Accompanied by three other women, I drove toward the mysterious, upside-down-horseshoe-shaped sign that is propped up on a pole out front. Just as we were about to pass through the gates of the little, beige, nondescript building on the north side of Sunrise Boulevard, Betty, a decidedly nonprudish woman with vamp style, said: "I'm feeling sick. Let's turn around and go home."
"No, you don't get off that easy," the Night Court mobile seemed to huff as it dragged its sorry ass toward the valet.
Betty and I looked around wide-eyed as we entered the club's antechamber. There was a window, and we each passed $5 through to the lanky woman with short, dark-brown hair. She pressed a buzzer, and a set of tinted double doors opened to reveal the interior. We handed our six-pack of Michelob Ultra Light (BYOB, boo-yah!) over to a man with long hair and sunglasses, and he took it to the large, U-shaped bar.
Fifteen or so people were mingling beneath a television. It seemed surprisingly normal at first. On one side of that bar, a mixed-gender crowd of people -- swinging patrons, apparently -- from their 30s to middle age were talking quietly. Most of the men were grizzled, well-dressed chaps, and most of the women were blond, dressed in skirts and sexy tops.
On the other side of the bar, the crowd was far younger. And there, amid some long-haired ladies who'd come expressly to see the show, stood Tony Medina (guitarist) and Fernando Perdomo (bassist) from DC-3.
Betty and I strode up to the bar, cool as cukes, asked for our cold ones, and cracked them open. After a few sips, we realized that the television was showing some seriously hard-core porno. A blond woman whose breasts were propped up by a linen strap was bouncing around the screen, enduring the kind of thrusting that only bull riders and porn stars know. The episode ended, and another began, with a woman getting filled out like an application.
"This is serious shit, huh?" Betty asked.
We headed to the dance floor in the spacious, red-brick main room with wood beams and a large fireplace that, quite appropriately, makes you feel a thousand miles from home.
When the band went on at 11 p.m., we crept down the hallway that leads to the back to get a peek at the three private, bed-to-ceiling-mirrored rooms, which were big enough only for the zebra-striped beds that occupied them. Across the hallway from the rooms was a large, black-lit rumpus room -- the "Luvnasium" -- with about 16 beds of various sizes, also zebra striped, that were pushed together to accommodate heaven knows how many couples. There were leather couches and a couple more beds on the other side of the room. At this hour, all the rooms were empty.