Lots of legendary New York clubs were born in 1970s: CBGB on the Bowery, Studio 54 west of midtown, Paradise Garage on King Street.
But lets not forget Plato’s Retreat, the notorious swingers’ club that epitomized the free-sex atmosphere of pre-AIDS New York.
Opened in 1977, Plato’s Retreat held court in the basement of the then-crumbling Beaux Arts Ansonia Hotel on Broadway and West 74th Street.
Management laid out strict rules: No gay men, couples only (though women could have sex with each other), no drugs, no booze.
Celebrities indulged in orgies with regular joes and janes from the suburbs. A “mat room” was for exhibitionist sex. Clothes were optional. Guests could bump uglies in the disco, the Jacuzzi, and the huge swimming pool.
Of course, it wouldn’t last long. In 1980, Plato’s Retreat moved out of the Ansonia to a much bigger space at 509 West 34th Street. Owner Larry Levenson went to prison for tax evasion in 1981.
And then AIDS hit the city. Mayor Koch ordered the health department to shut down gay bathhouses as well as straight sex clubs like Plato’s Retreat. By 1985, it was over.
Tags: AIDS in 1980s New York, Ansonia Hotel, CBGB, Continental Baths, Ed Koch mayor, Larry Levenson, New York in the 1970s, Paradise Garage, Plato's Retreat, sex clubs in New York City, Studio 54, Swingers Clubs NYC