This and That Blog

American Swing: gettin’ down and dirty

I went to Friday’s TIFF screening of American Swing because, let’s be honest, the topic of the sexual revolution in the States holds a certain amount of intrigue. Call me ...
September 8, 2008

I went to Friday’s TIFF screening of American Swing because, let’s be honest, the topic of the sexual revolution in the States holds a certain amount of intrigue. Call me naive (hey, I was only a toddler at the time), but I associate the ’70s swingers’ movement with that scene in Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam when Mira Sorvino and John Leguizamo take part in a coke-fueled orgy. Or the key party that takes place in The Ice Storm (one of my favorite feature films).

American Swing follows the launch and ultimate demise of Plato’s Retreat, a New York sex club that was closed down by the city in 1985. The film was a bit redundant (I’ve now seen enough grainy footage of naked frolicking bodies to last a lifetime), but it did give a good sense of what the swinging scene was all about. Plus, there were some memorable sound bites:

A woman with silver eye shadow and ’70s hair saying: “We have jobs. We pay mortgages. Just because we’re swingers, doesn’t mean we’re freaks of nature.”

Melvin Van Peebles, who frequented the club, saying: “Personally, I think with a little bit of encouragement, everybody’s on the wild side.”

Another club regular saying: “The jacuzzi was chemical warfare.”

Although some screen time was devoted to drugs and the impact of AIDS on the scene, the doc was more or less a lighthearted introduction to the birth of swinging in the US, complete with a disco-filled soundtrack. Did I want to douse myself in bleach after hearing about the crab-filled mattresses in the club? Yes. Still, I’m glad I saw what all the hype surrounding the scene was about.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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