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The Denver area has become a hotbed of swinger activity, with five officially recognized swingers clubs that operate either "on-premise," with a home base (like Scarlet Ranch, which is open Wednesday through Saturday), or "off-premise," with members meeting at hotel banquet halls or bars and arranging later sexual rendezvous at private locations. There are also a half-dozen promoters around the city who host private lifestyle-specific events at local clubs and market directly to the swinging crowd via such websites as www.adultfriendfinder.com and www.lifestylelounge.com.
Even though they're devoted to bringing consenting couples together for evenings of hot action, the heads of the various swingers clubs have been less touchy-feely with each other, traditionally tolerating rival events with silent restraint. But recently, competitive tensions have gotten a lot less restrained. While the lifestyle tends to attract professional couples in their forties and fifties, newer clubs have emerged that gear their events toward a younger, more urban demographic. This has expanded the pool of swingers, but it's also created increased competition. And no competitors are more fierce than Scarlet Ranch's Seifert and Scottie Ewing, a former professional skier who owned the on-premise club Sindicate until it was shut down late last year.
Seifert and Ewing both label each other as the aggressor in a feud marked by fire-marshal raids, secret letters sent to neighborhood groups and landlords, threats of lawsuits and a not-so-hard-hitting TV exposé. But no matter who started the hostilities, everyone agrees that the battle for swing-club supremacy has caused bad vibes to spread like stale lotion across the ever-sensitive back of the local lifestyle community.
And, as with any good swingers party, it all comes down to the details.
As the Scarlet Ranch party gets under way, a competing lifestyle party is hitting full swing at a large, upscale strip club across town. Most Saturday nights are chaotic scenes outside this southwest Denver venue, as men and women pour out of limos and Audis and into the main entrance. But tonight, some couples are bypassing the front doors and discreetly making their way toward a side entrance. This leads to an upstairs space periodically rented out for gatherings of "professional, sexy and attractive lifestyle couples and singles" organized by lifestyle promoter JD Sweets Entertainment, according to the company's website.
Among the couples are "Regan and Anthony," the swingers behind the now-defunct Sindicate who have a company, 4Play, that continues to hold off-premise parties every few months in the Skybox nightclub at the Red Lion Hotel. As usual, Anthony -- the pseudonym that Scottie Ewing uses in the swingers world -- and Regan are late. As they approach, the doorman recognizes the two and lets them pass with a nod.
David Schisgall's 2000 documentary The Lifestyleis considered the definitive work on swinging in America -- a film that can be either traumatizing or empowering, depending on your feelings about uninhibited group sex between the elderly and the flabby. But Regan and Ewing are the physical opposites of the film's stereotypes. Tonight's party theme is "The Beach," and Regan is petite and beautiful in her tropical dress. The 36-year-old Ewing has an athletic build and hair cropped close to his skull. Beneath his collared shirt, three large tattoos run down his back: a snowflake, a flaming spade with two dice and an "XXX" with ski tracks running through it. They represent his three great interests: skiing, gambling and sex.
But there will be none of that at the JD Sweets party tonight. Because the off-premise event is at a location that holds a liquor license, organizers are bound by rules that allow people to be "flirtatious and risqué, but there can be no full nudity or sex ever," warns the website. No outsiders, either. As Ewing and Regan head up the stairs, the "J" in JD Sweets -- a tall, graying man with a thick mustache -- steps up and orders a reporter off the premises. Some clubs do not allow single males at all, while others put strict restrictions on who can enter on a given night, and then usually charge double or triple the entrance fees for lone wolves.
A BMX pro back in New York, Ewing moved to Crested Butte in 1991. Within five years, he'd become a professional skier, part of an up-and-coming set of extreme riders who brought a more aggressive and experimental style to the legendary mountain. Ewing's specialty was racing down mountain steeps and catching big air off cliffs, though he was never able to break into the top echelon of professional freeskiers.
"He was not at the same caliber as a Seth Morrison or a Shane McConkey or a lot of the other people that came out of that era," says Derek Taylor, senior editor of Powder magazine, who knew Ewing from his days in Crested Butte. Ewing's real assets were his gregarious personality and knack for self-promotion, which scored him a spot as one of Crested Butte's official mountain ambassadors. In 2001, Boulder-based Skiingmagazine gave a nod to Ewing for having the Best Skier's Business Card, which read: "Scottie Ewing - Male Prostitute." But within two years, the self-described "snow pimp" had moved on from his winters in Crested Butte and his summers dealing blackjack in Las Vegas, and was now operating an after-hours club in Denver.