Swapping. Swinging. Hookers. Johns. Group sex. Adult situations.
Good God, could it be true? And all going down in a defrocked VFW lodge on Apache Boulevard in Tempe? And next to a bowling alley at that--what a slap in the face of wholesomeness! What sort of wicked whore lords would mastermind such an operation? Exactly! A couple whose combined age is 150!
Is there something wrong with this story? Something that's, oh, I don't know, perhaps just a wee bit utterly ridiculous? You bet there is. But if you've read the papers recently, you'll know that police and zoning officials in Tempe took it all pretty darn seriously, responding to complaints about the Get-Acquainted Social Club (who couldn't see through a subversive name like that!), which opened its friendly doors some six weeks ago.
But now they are closed. Closed on the big "Main Room" full of thrift-store couches, lamps, coffee tables and starving-artists-quality work on the walls. Closed on the "Aerobics Room," featuring a treadmill and a couple stationary bikes, closed on the wide and airy "Ballroom," closed on the "TV Room," and, alas, closed on the so-called "Orgy Room."
Not as a result of any alleged lascivious high jinks, but because of zoning problems. See, it's not illegal to open a private club where members pay dues, show up and perform exciting, nasty acts upon one another. But a "sexual encounter center" can exist only in a properly zoned area.
Not to imply that GASC was anything of the sort--undercover cops saw no sex acts whatsoever, no one has been charged with any crime. It's just that in the eyes of the authorities, what was allegedly going on at the club did not match what Donna and LaMonte Githens applied for on their permit.
Oh, yeah. Donna, 69, and LaMonte, 81, are the couple behind this controversial scene. And since the cinder-block walls of the lodge can't talk--and don't you wish they could?--we'll head down to the Get-Acquainted to do just that.
That's LaMonte over there sprawled out on the long couch. He wears his red jumpsuit, has a full head of hair slicked back and is in his 67th year of puffing on nonfilter Camels. He likes to be called "Monty"; Monty of the razor-sharp wit, ex-professional gambler, ex-Hollywood actor. The last, of course, was a short-lived deal that began in 1935--"They starved me out after two and a half years. I realize now how stupid I was, but at the time I thought I was as good as Gable!"
He's a rogue, a charming devil, likes the ladies and isn't afraid to let passionate compliments to the female gender slip out in wonderfully horrible un-PC fashion. Can this guy actually be 81?
Yes, Donna will tell you; she's fondly sick of people telling him he looks like he's 51. She's here at the club, too, cracking up, tossing in barbs and insights, a Minnesota girl who clearly gets a kick out of her husband. Even when he starts describing the physical attributes of various female media personalities he's encountered since Acquainted-gate began.
"Oh, that one gal, she was a hell of a gal, she'd a been a member of the club, if it'd a been a whorehouse!" exclaims Monty. "What was her name--oh, yeah, Donna Rossi. She laughed like hell when I told her that."
Now here's Monty's side of the story:
"This club was exactly what we applied for on our permit; it was a social club for mature adults. And we have lived very closely to our prospectus, the only difference being that we have a neighbor that seems to resent our being here. The reason being that she is trying to improve the neighborhood, and she thought that because we had single men and single women and couples that we must be doing something that she didn't want in the neighborhood. This woman has a lot of political clout and therefore she made an effort to call the Tribune and the city and told them she suspected we were running a whorehouse. And I was very much offended by that particular term, because that's the last thing we were doing."
So what were you doing, Monty?
"We were simply supplying a place where people could come and meet, get acquainted--just as the name implies--the Get-Acquainted Social Club. We had picnics, barbecues, dances, parties, we had an ongoing bridge tournament, and such things as that."
Tempe police Sergeant Toby Dyas confirms that the complaining "neighbor" is "from the bowling alley" next door, Tempe Bowl. Dyas says there were reports of nonbowling women--suspicious-looking ladies who might have emerged from the club after an intense session of getting acquainted--using bowler-only rest rooms.
Terry Mullens, deputy director of Tempe's Community Development Department (the zoning-permit people) adds to the tale: "The neighbors, who actually supported that [social club permit] request, complained that when they went in there to welcome them to the neighborhood, it appeared to them as though it was something quite different from that. It smacked of a place for sexual encounters. The police went out there and filed a report that it appeared to them that there were sexual encounters occurring."
Back at the club, Donna is nonplussed. "I think what she [neighbor] drew her opinion from was she came in here one day with her night manager and they saw a Playboy, maybe a Penthouse magazine laying around and she said there was porno. I mean, Playboy is not porno. Penthouse, maybe a little bit."
Judy Graehling, manager of Tempe Bowl, confirms that she and owner Christine Zahn did indeed observe a thing or two. "[Monty and Donna] took us on a tour, there was a lot of porno movies, Hustler and Penthouse . . . we asked what they do and they said they do whatever, it's a club for mature adults."
I look at Donna plopped down in an easy chair. Donna is Minnesota-charming, friendly, open, 69 years old. Donna as a supercharged sex barker? An agent provocateur of lust in cahoots with jumpsuited, libertine octogenarian Monty?
Well . . .
The question remains: If things were so innocuous down at the club, how did undercover police come to the conclusion that this was a burgeoning center of touchy feely?
Because Donna and Monty guessed that these prospective "members" were police, and Donna and Monty told 'em that was what was going on!
Why? Why else--for laughs!
"Oh, we put it on real good when we figured out who they were," says a chuckling Monty. "You see, what they didn't know was that we had already given notice to our landlady that we were going to leave at the end of this month." (A dispute over air conditioning was the catalyst for the lease-busting.) Monty points his cigarette at Donna. "She did a hell of a job!"
"I just told them [cops] that we had people that were coming in here and if they wanted to have sex, we'd let 'em. I told 'em that we had old people that came in here and did this or that, and there was a couple of women that went here and they ate each other."
This activity would have happened in the "Orgy Room." Donna takes me there. As we cross the floor of the huge "Main Room," Monty yells, "We sold tickets at the door! 'Take a number, folks, it's a small room, you have to wait!' Hey--if you see any spots on the floor back there, they're foodstuffs!"
What I see in this windowless cell are two twin beds, a lamp and an AC unit that doesn't work. "There's a couch and a chair," joshes Donna, so folks could "sit down and watch."
On our way back out to the Main Room, Donna explains that the beds were used by friends from Rainbow Valley who would spend the weekend. Monty continues: "The [officer] made a mistake. He might be a smart kid, but he was a little too nice, and his questions were a little too pointed. He was here twice with the story that he wanted to get his girlfriend in, she'd really like it. He finally brought her in and she was a good-looking little bitch and built like a Varga drawing. (It should be noted that this comment was made in tones of sincere admiration). We have since found out--I got this straight from a Tempe policeman--that they use her for prostitution busts and they say she gets a lot of johns. I'll bet she does!"
After six weeks in the social club business that have included run-ins with the law, the zoning department, the landlady and the neighbors, the Githenses are calling it quits. They are not going to appeal the ruling. Monty says he's sick of the fight, says he went into this whole thing with nothing more than good intentions.
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"For $60 a month for men and $10 for women, you could come as often as you wanted, five days a week, from one in the afternoon 'til whenever at night," Monty clarifies. "A lot of people, this was their home away from home. They would come in and just lay back all afternoon, talk to people and watch television. I promise you, it wasn't a profit-making thing; we've been here for six weeks and it cost me 16 grand."
So just who forked over the bucks to get acquainted? "We didn't have any dopers, we had no trouble with alcohol, we didn't allow any prostitutes, we didn't allow any freak sexually oriented people or anything of that kind, and as a result we had some good people," Monty says. "We had three university professors, four doctors, 12 or 14 nurses, several elementary school teachers, a high school teacher, good people. We interviewed people before we accepted a membership so we wouldn't have freaks.
"And that's exactly why we named it the Get-Acquainted club. It was get acquainted to get to know people, to party with people. It wasn't to get acquainted to get laid."