The Ansonia Hotel, second location of Plato's Retreat
|Location||New York City, New York, U.S.|
Fred J. Lincoln
The club, opened in 1977 by Larry Levenson, a high school friend of Al Goldstein, was popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was first located in the basement of the somewhat rundown Kenmore Hotel on East 23rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues before moving to the basement of the Ansonia Hotel, an ornate-19th century building on the corner of Broadway and West 73rd Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Prior to Plato's Retreat, the building housed the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse where Bette Midler provided musical entertainment early in her career. Plato's relocated to 509 West 34th Street in 1980.
Plato's Retreat, a members-only establishment, required everyone to follow the club's numerous rules. Levenson, determined not to permit his nightspot to become infiltrated by male homosexuals, insisted that only straight couples – and women, escorted or otherwise – be allowed to enter the premises, and once a woman left a room after a sexual encounter, her male companion had to accompany her. This rule was intended to ensure that women nearly always outnumbered men – Levenson strictly prohibited sexual activity between males but welcomed lesbianism. Drugs, including alcohol, were not allowed, though they were frequently used despite the rule. The club had a disco dance floor, an in-house DJ, sauna rooms, and a swimming pool with waterfalls.
During its heyday, Plato's Retreat was considered the world's most infamous sex club, popular with many celebrities, porn stars, and well-to-do couples. The clientele was described as "an assortment of kinky types from the suburbs: dry cleaners and their wives or fat men in toupees with their heavily made-up girlfriends." Many men attended accompanied by a prostitute.
According to an advertisement published in SCREW, June 18, 1979, the club offered, besides a heated swimming pool, a sauna steam, rooms, whirlpool baths, disco dancing, free bar and buffet, "cozy living rooms and lounging areas", a "variety of swing areas," and a backgammon lounge.
In 1985, New York City Mayor Ed Koch backed the New York City Health Department's decision to shut down the city's gay bathhouses, in response to concerns over the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, in closing the gay bathhouses while allowing the heterosexual swingers' clubs – most notably Plato's Retreat – to remain open, the city found itself in a dilemma when it realized such action would be a violation of the newly adopted anti-discrimination law. The Health Department, with Koch's approval, reacted by ordering the heterosexual clubs, including Plato's Retreat, to close as well. The club's Manhattan location was shut down on New Year's Eve 1985, ostensibly for violating public-health ordinances.
Plato's Retreat relocated to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where it reopened under the name Plato's Retreat 2. Located at 321 West Sunrise, the new location was in operation until 2006 as an on-premises heterosexual swing club, open Monday through Sunday from eight p.m. until the last person left. Saturday night was for couples only. Plato's Retreat in Fort Lauderdale was a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) Club, and no liquor was sold on the premises; however, it provided complimentary mixers, soft drinks, juices and ice.
In 2006, Plato's Retreat closed, and then reopened, keeping the same location and BYOB Club format, but as a sex club for men only. The club currently operates under the business name 321 Slammer.
In July 2012, Plato's Retreat former manager Jud Kirschner opened Plato's Spa, a swingers' club with full spa facilities, in New York City.
- Jean Heidenry, What Wild Ecstasy. The Rise and Fall of the Sexual Revolutoon, Simon & Schuster, 2002, ISBN 0743241843, p. 211.
- Fons, Mary K. (September 2005). "Inside the Ansonia". The Cooperator. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- "Other Legendary Clubs". Disco-Disco.com. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- Gaines, Steven (2005). The Sky's the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan. New York: Little, Brown and Company. p. 197. ISBN 0-316-60851-3.
- "Plato's Retreat". SCREW. June 18, 1979. p. 47. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
- Golubski, Suzanne; Kappstatter, Bob. "Swinging doors shut: City probe KO's Plato's". Daily News. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- Magnolia Pictures