By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The Jet Set is one of five "off-premise" clubs in Dallas. In addition, at least five "on-premise" clubs advertise in adult magazines and the Internet, including the Cherry Pit, Midnight Rendezvous, and TLC Returns.
In order to weed out police officers and other unwelcome guests, the on-premise clubs require visitors either to be invited by a known couple or to complete an interview, via e-mail or telephone, before they will disclose their locations.
Each club has its own set of rules, and most follow the "NASCA Code of Swing Etiquette," which encourages swingers to be punctual and well groomed, and to bring a gift--"cheese or other snack"--as well as a donation to help with expenses. (Those donations can be a sticking point with the law, but more on that later.)
In all cases, no means no. While there is usually a large room reserved for group sex, most couples expect privacy when they retire to a bedroom. To be a bedroom "cruiser" (read: ignored single) is simply not tolerated.
"To go into a private swing area as a stag to see if there is something for you is a major breach of etiquette," the code states. "Should you become known for such behavior, you may find the party invitations become few and far between."
At TLC Returns, hosts "Lee & Dee Dee" throw parties every Saturday night that offers couples a nude-only hot tub, X-rated movies, and hot and cold buffets, according to an advertisement they placed on the Internet.
While most of TLC's couples are light drinkers, the club strongly discourages drunkenness, and it strictly forbids drug use. Anal sex, known as "Greek," is also prohibited, and the men must adhere to a 7 1/2-inch penis limit.
"Most women can not handle more than that," states the club's Web site, which includes pictures of smiling club members posing for the camera in their underwear with narrow black rectangles concealing their faces.
On-premise or hard-core swingers take their privacy very seriously, though it's not because they're ashamed of what they do. Even though the parties take place in private homes, the Dallas police are known to claim they are public in order to justify a raid.
"Cops bust orgy, gamblers," screamed one newspaper headline in the summer of 1996, after Dallas police raided an "on-premise" party at the Inner Circle club in residential North Dallas. In that case, police arrested 10 people on charges of public lewdness, gambling, and indecent exposure. One of those arrested was Drug Enforcement Agency agent Gary Alan Jackson, who was charged with public lewdness after allegedly getting a blowjob from 40-year-old Robin Avalos.
The bust represented the fruit of a six-week investigation, which ended when four undercover officers arrived at the house in a stretch limo and paid $30 a head to gain entry, according to news accounts of the raid.
Not surprisingly, the cops saw groups of people having sex in the common area. They also saw a slot machine and a pool table, where people were supposedly betting on games of eight ball.
The police argued that the house had become a "public" place because it was charging a $30 cover charge. They also claimed the owner was operating a gambling hall, based on the slot machine and pool table.
"That was not a private party," Capt. Walt says. "That was a case where they were inviting the public and charging admission."
Dallas attorney George White, who represented several of the people arrested at the house, including its owner John Ochs, says the case is the ultimate example of police seeking out behavior by which they are the only ones offended.
"You throw a party for 10 of your friends to watch the Super Bowl. You decide to charge them $5 each so you can buy food. Is that a public place?" White says.
In this case, the partygoers weren't the only ones who were imbibing. After the raid, Ochs complained that undercover officer James Collett, who was betting on pool, was intoxicated. Last November, Collett resigned while under investigation, and the department subsequently sustained Ochs' complaint. The department also concluded that Collett had improperly released a prisoner (a woman White says Collett brought to the party) and that he falsified a report.
The raid is an example of how the cases quietly go away once they enter the legal system. Earlier this year, the district attorney's office dismissed its case against Ochs, who was charged with keeping an illegal gambling establishment. Last month, Jackson pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct and received a $500 fine. In January, Avalos signed a plea bargain in which she pleaded no contest in exchange for 30 days of unsupervised community service.
As a result of that raid, on-premise hosts are more careful about the issue of money. Neil, who hosts Midnight Rendezvous, says his $30 fee is a donation, and he stresses that he does not require his guests to pay it.
"If somebody doesn't have it, that's fine. It's very simple," says Neil, who declined to give his last name. "We do everything on the up and up."
While that may be true, most clubs still expect their guests to pay a fee that covers the house's expenses. If the police wanted to, they could certainly make a living cracking down on swingers' parties from Oak Cliff to Plano.