You walk past the sign on Queen West with the Purple Rain font. Eagerly waiting underneath it is a lineup of bronzed, pneumatic hedonists. Admit it, you're just a little curious about what goes on at Wicked, the on-premise swingers club that had the chutzpah to move the Lifestyle out of Mississauga and plunk it down in the middle of an area lousy with hipster clubs, art galleries and cafés.
Wicked is one of a couple of on-premise sex clubs in Toronto's downtown core and is also, in the parlance co-opted with unintentional irony by such venues, the classiest one. By this I mean it provides decadence on a petit bourgeois scale - nothing truly palatial, but a grasping nod to it.
Downstairs you can flirt, dance, break your skull open on the stripper poles and have the worst dry martini in town. Membership is required upstairs, where all bets and street clothes are off. The lighting is compassionate, the stations making token references to international erotic cultures: a Jacuzzi, a sauna, a Bedouin tent for group play, a mirrored room, a dungeon, rooms both semi-private and private, glory holes and sex furniture.
Single women and straight couples are the rule, and the crowd is fairly young - 20s to 40s, and generally attractive. Try as they might to get away from the label, these folks are swing, swing, swingers, but conform less to the 70s definition than to the What Is Love (Baby Don't Hurt Me) sense.
I've been to this place only once, and I might have been tempted to stay and play if my date hadn't had some mescaline and Elia Kazan's midlife crisis film The Arrangement at home. At the time, that seemed like way more of an adventure than getting down with some hunky couples.
But if you're new to the idea of group sex and you feel a slightly laboured atmosphere might turn your curiosity into an actual caper, this could be the place for you.
Then there's Goodhandy's. What can I say? I enjoy a club where one night you can be hand-jobbing a linebacker named Tina who's wearing a mesh top, Lucite heels and a Louise Brooks wig and the next, while a couple of trannies hump each other on the floor, having a heart-to-heart with an ex-porn star who now does bookkeeping for an American mega-church.
I love the variety, the possibility, the total disregard for mainstream standards at the door. If Wicked lures its crowd with strained sophistication, Goodhandy's does just the opposite. It knows what you want and doesn't dress it up all fancy and shit.
The rooms are unpretentious and stocked with minimal safer-sex amenities. The vibe and the staff are queer, the owners congenial yet raunchy. And this is precisely what appeals to me - it feels like a taste of gay cruising culture for everyone, but not so scripted and officious and status-oriented as Wicked. Grope sex, so to speak.