WARNING!! The article about the Lifestyles Convention deals with adult subject matter and, although there is no explicit or pornographic language, it may not be appropriate for all readers.

Free your mind at the Lifestyles Convention
By Dave Schwartz   
and Naughty Mickie
The Lifestyles Organization and Dave Schwartz

It was another one of those late nights that publishers can never seem to avoid. It was 4 a.m. and I had been awake for nearly 24 hours. It had already been a long day twice and there was no end in sight. Slaving away over the computer, it was time to do monthly assignments. It went something like this:

Let's see, assignments for the month. We've got the music requirements covered-- Joe Satriani and Darwin's Waiting Room should make a great one two punch. The columns have begun trickling in. Wait a minute, what's this? Lifestyles Convention. I've got two passes for the Lifestyles Convention in Las Vegas! It seems almost too good to be true. But who can I send to this? Let's see, description. "Thousands of couples from around the world attended the four day event with the majority arriving early and staying late. Hosted by The Lifestyles Organization in Anaheim, California, this has now become the planet's largest gathering of people who agree with author Jack London who wrote: 'The proper function of Man is to live, not to exist.'" This is a "swingers" convention! And it's in Vegas! Woo Hoo!

I can only justify my actions by telling you that a good leader leads by example. Never send your troops to an assignment that you wouldn't do yourself!

Now who can I take with me, my lovely wife, the mother of my children and lifelong companion? Ooooh, swing and a miss (forgive the pun) she's busy. Too bad too, we could use a weekend away together. Male writers on the staff, I don't think so! Male bonding is the last thing on my mind. That narrows it down considerably. Let's see, we have Ceara, Michelle, Stephanie, Carin, Naughty Mickie. Naughty Mickie! Anyone with the moniker Naughty for a first name has my vote!

Mickie: I was soaking in a bubble-filled bathtub when I got the call. It was my publisher, Dave, and I was sure he had another weird assignment for me-- that's the only time he ever calls. Sure enough, he wanted to know if I wanted to go with him to the Lifestyles Convention in Las Vegas. What does he think I am?? Stupid?!  Of course I want to go! But what to pack? Leather, lace, heels, a bathing suit... I'm halfway there!

"Oh-Dark-Thirty"

The alarm sounded at 4 a.m. and with blurry eyes and little knowledge of what we were getting into, I climbed into the car and headed for Mickie's. I was surprised to find her wide-awake. She never struck me as a day person, but then it was still dark. She must have slept better than I did. In fact she almost seemed chipper when I arrived at her house.

Mickie: Couldn't sleep all night. I'm not sure if I was excited or anxious, but I was ready. I got in the car and Dave looked like morning came way too soon.

Mickie and I set out for Vegas long before the sun came up. As we drove across the desert from Los Angeles we had plenty of time to discuss our expectations of a convention that neither of us had ever attended. We had been over the itinerary and you can say that we were both slightly apprehensive. Press junkets are always interesting, but for this one Mickie and I had an additional problem. In order to experience the Lifestyles Convention first hand, we were going to have to pose as man and wife. Being married, I knew that I could fake it as well as the next guy, but Mickie on the other hand, you were never sure who she was going to appear with. Perhaps Mickie was better suited for this convention than I had realized!

Mickie: We arrive in Vegas, one of the cities that never sleep. Sounds like a perfect getaway for me, except for one tiny itty bitty thing-- Dave and I are supposed to be posing as a couple for the convention, since it is a "couple's only" event. I guess I'll get over this, but if he expects me to rub his feet tonight, he's outta luck.

As we stepped away from the registration desk, it was clear that we had stepped right into a world where the threat of reality didn't exist. This was a world where many of the sexual and social paradigms of everyday life simply didn't apply. The women were dressed casually and often erotically. It was a world where a person's sexuality was celebrated, not repressed. We were beginning to understand what Jack London was talking about.

Our first impressions? How about that little blonde walking past in the green see-through top and matching tap pants. That was impressive, but not nearly as impressive as her utter comfort in her attire, as well as the almost lack of reaction from everyone in visual range. The few comments that she did receive were of admiration. She was confident and that was the quality that made her even more attractive. But perhaps the most impressive thing about this lovely creature was that, like us, she was heading for the first seminar of the morning, "Women Who Seek Gang Bangs: A Nation Wide Study" presented by Joan Dixon, PhD and Dwight Dixon, PhD.

Mickie: Dave was looking hard to find someone dressed provocatively, but it looked like a bunch of way too normal people to me. I had gone casual in jeans and a red T-shirt, so I blended in perfectly. Okay, okay, there were a few women who were dressed in what could be considered a little wild, but no more than I've seen in any clubs in Hollywood, or casinos in Vegas for that matter.

"Miss Congeniality"

It's 9:30 a.m., and as Mickie and I settle into ours seats, we hear, “Welcome to 'Women Who Seek Gang Bangs: A Nation Wide Study'.”  Am I in the right room?  Did I bring the right person?  What twist of has fate brought me to another state with a woman other than my wife to hear a lecture on women who enjoy sex with three or more men at a time?  I’m concerned and should be.  I think Mickie was taking notes!

Mickie: All the way here Dave was saying it was important for us to get to the first lecture. As we sat in the meeting room, I looked at him and whispered, "You said this was what?! Gangbangs and the women who love them? Geez, Dave, I need some coffee for this first thing in the morning."

It turned out to be an interesting lecture. The subject was presented maturely and I could understand why someone would want to study this topic. It may only apply to what one may consider a sub-culture in our prudish nation, but it seemed to be a happy one.

So have we learned from our lecture?  Yes, at this convention the only appropriate pseudonym for Miss Congeniality would be slut.  Now it’s easy to misconstrue that as an offensive statement or even an insult, but it’s not.  As I had suggested earlier, the sexual and social paradigms of everyday life simply didn't apply here.  To better clarify I will take my assertion a step further and add, the only appropriate pseudonym for slut would be queen.  And here, those who might be called sluts in the outside world are treated as queens!

Mickie: Since Dave and I were first-timers to the convention; we decided that we had better brush up on our etiquette. The next stop for us was "Systemic Sexuality: An Introduction to Swinging" with TL and Suzi Wahl. Again, the topic was presented in a very mature manner. The basic idea was you don't have to do anything you don't feel comfortable with and you must always respect other people's feelings. Sounds about right for most things in life.

“Swinging 101”

Welcome to the land of the newbie.  We were learning that these seminars were well attended and this one was no different.  I thought that I would feel a bit awkward walking into this workshop because by default you are announcing to the “world” that you are new to this lifestyle and for the most part may not have a clue.  Like the other seminars, I felt completely at home here.  No funny looks or paranoid couples, just a sea of smiling faces.  It was comforting to know we were not alone with our newness.

TL and Suzi Wahl conducted the lecture.  They did a great job answering some of the more awkward questions and offered a wealth of information for the first-time explorer.  In future articles we expect to be hearing more from this couple.

And now, it’s time for our first break of the day.  We’ve spent most of our time learning and haven’t yet explored and mingled with our other new found friends.  Where do you think Mickie’s first stop was?

"Tool Time"

Mickie: This bazaar is a blast! There's tons of clothing, a terrific round bed, a nice selection of whips and floggers and all kinds of things. I finally settle on a terrific nightgown of black lace with silver highlights. It's cut low and slit high and flows beautifully-- I'll wear it tonight under my leather bodice for the evening's event, "A Very Naughty Nightie Dance Party." I also can't resist a black leather paddle-type flogger-- it will go great with my outfit!

Let me just say, this place had some stuff!  Let your imagination run wild!  One of the more impressive items for sale was the “Drilldo”.  I won’t explain it, nor should I have to.  Suffice it to say that lubrication would be the prime concern of every woman.  And judging from the demonstration video…  Never mind, some places you really shouldn't go!

Although our break was several hours long, we never seemed to find the time to eat.  There was so much to see and do that, before we knew it, it was time for our next seminar.

“I’ve been a bad boy…”

"Erotic Spanking: A Multidimensional Perspective" with Mark Ostrom PhD was a bit more clinical than I expected.  Come to think of it, I don’t know what I expected.  Obviously there is more to this than just smacking someone around, I could get my head around the pleasure aspects too, but I wasn’t certain what angle Ostrom would use to approach the topic. Since he was a PhD, the clinical method was best.

Mickie: "Erotic Spanking" was presented like a formal college lecture. We learned the history of spanking, technique and dos and don'ts. An intense-looking muscular man and I got into a discussion about S&M (sadism/masochism) with the Ostrom. It seemed that the Ostrom didn't consider spanking to be in the genre of S&M, while we did. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

This was also the place we met Malcolm Arnold.  Tall, dark and muscular… Hey, why am I describing his looks? Mickie was the one squealing about him.  In fact, I haven’t heard the end of him since we first met the guy.  He had a knack of looking into a person’s eyes when you spoke that left both of us wondering which of us he was more interested in.  I had little doubt that if Mickie had her way we would be running into him again.

"March of the wooden soldiers"

It was time for "A Very Naughty Nightie Dance Party" or, simply put, the lingerie ball. We set out. Luck of the draw, our room was on the far side of the hotel, away from the dance. Down the hall, through the casino, it wasn't long before we had attracted attention. The whispers and pointing had started. I leaned over and whispered into Mickie's ear, "I wonder if Stephen Mason (Public Relations) is pulling a joke on us!" She smirked, "It's probably a cruel trick that they play on the media every year." The longer we walked, the more obvious it became that we were the only ones dressed for the occasion. We began to laugh. In my bathrobe and slippers, I looked like I was heading for the pool, but in her cape, Mickie looked totally Goth.

Mickie: Dave and I are the only "strangely" dressed people marching through the casino. People may think that Dave, dressed in a robe and slippers, can't find the pool or his room, but I'm sure I look creepy in my big black cape, fishnet stockings and studded red platform heels. I'm not really bothered by the attention, I'm just nervous that we've been hoaxed into dressing this way. If it pans out that just the media is in lingerie, I know I'll just laugh and go on to enjoy the evening, but how will Dave react??

Out of the casino and down the long walkway over the pool. There were plenty of people, but we still hadn't spotted anyone else dressed even remotely like us. By this time, we were really laughing. If this was a joke, we were going to revel in it. Through the bar and down the remaining length of corridor, the black curtain was in sight. Finally the moment of truth, as we pass through the curtain we smile. We have found our people!

Mickie: Through the curtain and here we are-- home at last. It hasn't been a joke; we are part of the group. We step into the ballroom and I feel immediately comfortable. Everyone is having fun. There's a large crowd dancing and others milling around chatting with people. We meet a lovely couple, Ricky and Lisa, from Kentucky. Lisa is in a white camisole and has a beautiful smile. Ricky is in pajama bottoms and is a little more reserved. It turns out that they're first-timers too and they're having a great time.

A little later, the intense guy from "Erotic Spanking" walks by and admires my leather bodice. He stops to tell us about his class, "Erotic Candle/Wax Play," tomorrow and looks deep into Dave's eyes as he speaks. I learn that his name is Malcolm mmm.... I could have a good dream about him. When Malcolm leaves, Dave says that he thinks the guy was hitting on him. "Why do you think that?" I ask. "After all, he's teaching a candle class, he was wearing a leather vest with leather shorts and he's from San Francisco?" Dave glares at me. Really, Dave, I still think he is just one of those people who when he's talking to you, you have his total attention. And if that doesn't make you feel better, at least he's very good looking.

My memories of the dance?  Let me just say two words: Mal-Colm.  There he was in his black leather vest and skintight black short shorts.  And the women?  Some wore virtually nothing, but most wore slightly more than nothing.  It was a great visual and a great time!

Mickie: Throughout the dance, one thing gets my attention-- the vibe. It seemed more like a high school dance or perhaps even an office party. Everyone was wandering around in various states of dress, depending on the lingerie they selected, but there wasn't any groping or staring or anything rude. I get treated worse on stage at some of the clubs I frequent in Hollywood! Miss Manners would have been impressed. The group was there to have fun and we did.

After the dance, we go back to the room and change for the pool soiree. Dave and I lay down on lounge chairs at the edge of the sparkling blue water and watch people swim and laugh. What's that?! Dave's snoring; I think it's time to go. I poke him in the ribs and we return to the room to crash. Instead of sleeping right away, we talk and talk and talk about what we've learned and what we plan to do tomorrow. Good night!

Day Two

Morning comes and it just doesn’t seem fair.  The last thing I remember was lying in my bed and chatting with Mickie.  Oh yeah, and there was the sound of the woman next door.  I swear they were moving furniture over there.  I don’t know how many people were in there, but they were making use of every inch of that room.  I think I passed out just before 3 a.m.  Now it’s 7:30 a.m. and Mickie is sitting out on the balcony in her underwear.  Did I miss something?

Mickie: Nothing like greeting the morning with a cool glass of water while sitting on a balcony overlooking a picturesque garden. It's so private that I didn't even have to get dressed-- except for my undies, gotta have some modesty. So relaxing... until a pesky persistent hummingbird decides to yell at me. I think I'm sitting to close to his tree or something. Don't you have something better to do? Go find some nectar or a friend you nasty critter. Maybe you're just not a morning person-- Dave sure isn't. I think I'll go and jump up and down on his bed until he wakes up!

“S&M with Nina”

Mickie: Is it really ever too early for S&M? Maybe. 9:30 a.m. came quickly today and I wasn't quite awake enough. Then Nina Hartley walked in. She looked great, long blond hair, a petite figure and long legs. She and Ernest Greene (of Taboo magazine fame) led "S&M and Romance: What Every Swinger Should Know." The talk was straightforward and basic. Hartley and Greene covered topics such as the proper time and place for a "scene" to how to bring up the idea to your partner. We learned that this lifestyle is much more prevalent than most people think. The other surprising element is that it is a lifestyle that draws many intellectuals. It is often said that the most powerful sex organ humans have is their mind and I have to agree.

“The Toy Box”

 Mickie: I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but I wish that this talk, "Toy Time! Tool Time with a Twist'' by Terri Galietta, had been presented in my college Human Sexuality class, it could've helped a lot of people. For a short time, I worked a day job in the medical field, and I learned that people would do a lot of strange things for sexual pleasure. Most of the things they do are because they are ignorant of what damage they can do to themselves or don't think clearly while in the throes of passion. The class covered serious stuff, such as condoms and safe sex, as well as fun stuff, adult toys. Galietta explained which toys could actually hurt you because of their poor manufacturing and which toys were better. She also explained how to care for the items, how to clean them properly and avoid bacteria or disease. This sounds very dull and clinical, but it really wasn't. An earth-mother type, Galietta, was a hoot-- she should take her act on the road. Everything was presented clearly and sliced with humor, the perfect way to approach this topic.

After Galietta's lecture, we have an opportunity to purchase some of her wares. On the table I spy a clear acrylic dildo, it's so beautifully made that it could be a work of art. The women are clamoring to get at it, but I'm in front and something in me says, "Buy it." So I do. It's not like I need one. I think I'll take it home and put it on the coffee table in my living room-- now that should spark a conversation. And if one of my dates gets too fresh, I'll chase him out the door with it!

"Tool Time Again"

Time for us to make purchases for our loved ones.  They have been very generous in allowing Mickie and I on this little adventure.  Yes, we owe them, but I think we would rather they could’ve joined us.  Off we go to the bizarre.  The day before we both spotted a selection of toys that piqued our interest.  As we walk around, it's not uncommon to see women trying on clothes right on the sales floor. There are changing rooms provided for the more modest, but this was a swinger’s convention.

 Mickie: I take this last opportunity through the marketplace to roll around on the round bed, try out the "massage" table, play with the whips and just enjoy having some time off. We wander through the art gallery and I find several works that I like, but can't afford today. The sculptures are wonderful and detailed; there is a painting for every taste and the photographs are intriguing.

As we continue through the bazaar aisles, I spot Nina Hartley. We wanted to get a photo of her for DaBelly. Nina's busy talking to a couple who are considering bringing another women into their relationship. I stand quietly nearby. "Can she feel your breasts?" Nina asks. Surprised, I say, "Okay." The woman tentatively places her hands on my chest. "Really feel them," Nina says as she gently guides the woman's hands which slide slowly under my shirt. They discuss my attributes as though I'm not there. I look over at Dave and he's laughing. Nina explains that it was important for the woman to feel my breasts, as they are natural rather than enhanced by silicone. After the couple leaves, I realize that Nina, who is seated on a table, has wrapped her legs around me and crossed her ankles. I turn to her and say, "Well? It's only fair." She says, "Of course." And there we are, in the middle of the busy marketplace, feeling each other up. What can I say? I always wondered what enhanced breasts felt like and now I know. Calm down-- they're only breasts. We pose for Dave and chat for a minute. Then Nina releases me to more adventures.

As we walked away from Nina, Mickie turned to me and gushed, “I made out with Nina Hartley right here on the bazaar floor!  Now I can put that on my resume!”  A little kissing, a little feeling… It was nothing that any of Mickie’s friends haven’t come to expect from her! 

"Candle in the Wind"

Our last seminar!  During the course of the day, Mickie and I had debated the possibility of leaving early. I had high hopes of getting back to Los Angeles before midnight, but it would seem that Mickie had bigger plans.  All day long she brought up Malcolm and his candle class.  Armed with her insider knowledge that he would be looking for an assistant, I had the feeling that she planned on volunteering.

Mickie: Dave and I sit in the front row of "Erotic Candle/Wax Play" with Malcolm Arnold. I keep teasing him that he should be the model, after all Malcolm liked him best-- ha ha ha! Arnold proves to be very professional. He has a beautiful young woman lay on the table and coats her naked body with dripping candle wax as he explains how a couple can explore their trust with each other and learn to become closer through this erotic play. As Arnold speaks, he keeps rubbing her tummy, her cheek and her leg. His hand never strays from her long and Arnold keeps his model relaxed throughout the talk. He explains the proper candles to use, different techniques and how to avoid burning each other. It's actually quite interesting and, like Malcolm, very intense.

“On the Road Again”

Mickie: We hit the road with a sigh. It would've been nice to stay for the dance that night, but Dave and I both had other obligations. I feel enlightened and impressed. The convention wasn't anything like I thought it would be and, yet, everything I did. People should be comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. They should also treat others with respect and maturity, as people did here. It wasn't some wild swinging orgy, it was educational and made you want to talk more about your inner feelings and discover more about yourself. It was definitely an event that couples should attend at least once so that they can learn how to be more open with each other. Most of all, it was fun. I'll be marking my calendar for next year.

I'm left with a sense of déjà vu. It's 4:50 a.m. and, again, I've been awake almost 24 hours. I'm slaving over my computer and it's another continuation of a long day. I made it home and things are back to normal, well almost.  During our last walk through the convention floor a guy handed me a viagra-type drug that he claimed was all natural and “would keep me up” all night.  Let’s just say that he hit the nail right on the head!  I mean the short-term results were nice, but it left me wide-awake when I really needed some shuteye. On this trip, I think Mickie and I both had our epiphanies.  It was refreshing to enter an environment filled with sexuality yet without sexual tensions.  A reality where people weren’t afraid to let their inner self out for the briefest of moments and take a walk on the wild side.  I enjoyed meeting Malcolm, Ricky and Lisa and all the others.  And, although Malcolm has become a point of teasing between Mickie and I, it is done with affection.  I am not a homophobe and I find a sense of irony in not knowing his orientation.  Mickie did make a point that I will stand with, “It’s all right if a man is going to find you attractive, at least he’s a good looking man!”

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