Thursday, 9 September 2010

Rio's Naturist Spa

I satisfied a long-held curiosity about this place last week.

Rio's was on two major bus routes I used to take as a teenager. I passed it often. The windows filled with cut outs of palm trees shut out the world but hinted at exoticism and - somehow - long-haul travel. Its perspex facade showed tropical palms and setting suns. Red brush-font lettering read: Relaxation Spa - jacuzzi, sauna, steam, plunge pool. It didn't look like a health or beauty spa. What could be so secret and so fun?

My mad friend Prem in our early twenties told me: it was full of dirty old men and you could have sex but (for women) if you went during the day it was free. You could take in food and use all the facilities. Prem visited regularly. I don't know if she had sex there. She said not but I have my doubts.

The next time I thought about Rio's was when I picked up Suzanne Portnoy's first book, The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker, a memoir of how she became a swinger. It begins with a lengthy description of Rio's frontage and, more interestingly, what the author got up to therein. I read the whole book in a day and learned about the etiquette of the place, the best times to go to hook up, and the private rooms in the back with locks on the doors and wipe-clean leatherette mats.

Years passed.

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