Swap Talk

Waited too long at Scarlet Ranch on 6/10... Couple near the play bed/swing wearing a see-through black top and short skirt. You kept smiling at us and we were too shy to come over. We were the couple sitting on the edge of the massage table. We waited too long to introduce ourselves and then you were gone. R & L. -- from Missed Connections on craigslist.org

When preparing for a large-scale swingers party, it's all about the details, details, details. Is the heat pump for the hot tub working? How many platters of cheese and crackers should you prepare? What's the right brand of pineapple juice? Is the lube drawer stocked? And then there's one need that's critical to anticipate:

"Towels," Megan says. "Lots and lots of clean towels."

Scarlet Ranch has plenty of towels. They are white and rolled up and neatly stacked on racks for convenient access. The racks are located throughout the "back room," which isn't actually a room, but the rear half of a renovated glass shop that since January 2005 has housed Colorado's largest swingers club. This isn't obvious when you approach the signless, worn-down brick building at 424 Broadway, wedged between a Family Dollar and a folk-art store. Inside, the front half of the room looks like any other hip lounge in Denver: high ceilings, a long bar, candlelit tables, a dance floor.

"Every aspect of the club has to appeal to the girls," says Megan, who helps run the members-only Scarlet Ranch with her boyfriend, Kendall Seifert. "We cannot be seedy; we have to be ultra-clean. Everything that your most anal-retentive woman would worry about, we've got to worry about."

Earlier this month, hundreds of members showed up for the monthly foam party and flopped around the dance floor, naked or mostly naked, while massive television screens flashed art-house erotica. Fortunately, Scarlet Ranch has a brand-new industrial washing machine and dryer that could handle all the towels from that night.

Like many adherents to "the lifestyle," Megan doesn't want her real name used. She is in her early thirties and has a soft, round face and upbeat demeanor that often get her described as a "girl-next-door type." Tonight she is wearing high heels and a pink lacy blouse with ruffles that flounce everywhere as she moves across the threshold separating the front lounge from the back room. The decor is supposed to be tropical, but she admits they still need to work on it, adding ferns and making plans for a waterfall.

"A lot of on-premise clubs you walk into, it's like a hallway with closed doors," she explains. "We are very different than that. We've got this open feel."

Anchoring the center of the back room is a grouping of white leather couches, "for chatting," while the "other stuff" occurs in the six canvas cabanas that each contain a bed. The cabana with the tree-trunk bedposts is the mountain lodge, while the cabana with the glowing red lights and the little wooden dragon on the wall is the "Asian" room. By far the most popular cabana is the one that contains a bed equipped with specially made elastic tie-downs for basic bondage exploits. Patrons can close the flaps of the cabanas if they choose, Megan points out, "so you've got the privacy of the rooms without losing any of the openness we were going for."

Seifert overhears this. "If you want to be private, you should go home," he says, half joking and half serious as he places fresh trash bags in the wastebaskets outside of each cabana. At 42, thin, with sloping shoulders, Seifert looks more like the tech junkie he is than some kind of libido-infused porn star.

While he freely admits his disdain for the nightclub scene, he says he enjoys operating his club because the candor of the lifestyle "fits my personality more." Formerly a video producer and IT guy, Seifert installed top-of-the-line sound and lighting systems at Scarlet Ranch, which he thinks could go head to head with some of the best small music venues in town. But trash bags need to be replaced, too. Once the party really starts hopping, sometime after midnight and before the 4 a.m. closing time, this task will fall to Casey, a kind of all-night cabana boy whose job description involves changing bedsheets after each use, mopping up spills, refreshing the condom supply and, of course, restocking towels. The club also features a massage table, a group-play area, a sex swing and a smoking lounge.

"Actually," Megan says, "running a swingers club is a lot like running a hotel."

And with approximately 4,700 members each paying in the vicinity of $450 for a one-year membership -- or $850 for the Gold Pass that gives exclusive access -- running a swingers club is a growing, ever-evolving business. While the stereotypical impression of swingers is still stuck on images of suburban casseroles, bristly mustaches and bowls filled with keys, swinging has become much more widespread and sophisticated than it was in the days of rumpus-room wife swaps. An estimated 400 "lifestyle clubs" operate across the United States, according to the North American Swing Club Association, catering to a projected 3 million swingers. While that number may be calculated more on wishful thinking than hard data, swinger conventions in Las Vegas regularly attract 4,000 couples, and "swinger friendly" resorts such as Hedonism II in Jamaica boast a 90 percent repeat guest rate.

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Jared Jacang Maher

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