Staff Reviews

Orgies for the Masses


Early in American Swing, a 2008 documentary about the Manhattan sex club Plato's Retreat, screenwriter and actor Buck Henry recalls the "free, third-rate buffet, which I always considered tempting but dangerous." That description fits the club itself. Yet even the photographer who picked up crabs in the "mattress room" looks back on her experiences fondly.

Through a deft combination of interviews, TV clips, and footage shot inside the club during its heyday, American Swing (now available on DVD) captures the tawdry appeal of the place. Larry Levenson, the Bronx butcher's son who started Plato's Retreat in 1977, welcomed people of all shapes and backgrounds. The club—which the city closed in 1985, ostensibly to prevent the spread of AIDS—was "a poor man's Playboy Mansion" where "even the ugliest person had a certain charm." Levenson, who died in 1999, was an advocate not only of swinging but of "a free society where people can enjoy themselves the way they want to."

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  1. would the writers at Reason mind NOT tarnishing the name of libertarianism by associating it with orgies? The general public has a hard enough time distinguishing between libertine-ism and libertarianism. And taking part in orgies is clearly NOT a healthy or appropriate way to behave - regardless of whether people ought to be ALLOWED to do so by the government; this article seems to be advocating the "should" along with the "should be allowed to"

  2. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there's more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I'm not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It's just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight...the Bible's books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on...the Bible's books were written by people with very different mindsets.

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