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Swingin' in the New Year

The Gen-X swing craze is dead. Long live swingin', '70s-style.

Meet the Cosbys -- Walt and Chris, not Bill and Camille. They are a loving couple (34 years together now), joint entrepreneurs and pillars of their community. Then there's the fact that they swing about as hard as a horny-ass Tarzan looking for Jane in the jungle. Walt and Chris Cosby have been swinging for 15 years, often retreating to conventions to get their full freaky-sneaky on. "Swinging can enhance a very good relationship," says Mr. Cosby, 58, who swears that swingers are "a heck of a lot more fun, socially."

The Cosbys do not push their open relationship, although they are willing to talk about it -- in great detail, mind you -- to whoever inquires. "We've always been honest about who we are," confirms Mrs. Cosby, 53. They are just two people who feel that the thrill of the chase doesn't have to end for married or committed duos.

In 1992 the Cosbys started Cast Couples, a mobile, couples-only social club that rented out nightspots for parties. Three years ago the pair decided to open their own place, Club Connections (11211 North Freeway). "We just didn't like the scene," says Walt, referring to such long-ago Cast Couples haunts as Boogie Nights. "And we wanted to do something that was just couples, so we could dance and have a nice time and be with our friends, you know."

Located inside the Greenspoint Plaza Inn, Connections is a kitschy, airport loungey dance spot where, on weekend nights, couples can mingle and make some intimate new friends. For couples, anything goes, so long as they don't do the nasty on the premises. "There's a lot of flirting and maybe a little bit of…The guy might rub his hand against her butt when he walks by or something, but that's all," Chris says. "There's no more sexual activity than that. We just don't allow it."

Connections isn't the only club in the city inviting couples (and only couples; if you ain't got that special someone on your arm, don't expect any love from the doorman) to partake in some weekend licentiousness. When payday rolls around, many clubs, including Secrets (10900 Kingspoint), Pendulum (6009 Beverly Hill), Coach's (14448 Hempstead Highway), Wagon Wheel(12026 Hempstead Highway) and the newly opened Encounters (5718 Fairdale) welcome adventurous pairs.

The biggest misconception about these clubs is that they're suburban-style Caligula scenes -- open humping houses for the mousy and mild- mannered, places that magazine sexpert Anka Radakovich once described as "playpen[s] for naughty-but-nice accountants you might see at the mall, except everyone was in their underwear."

Now residing in the same space that once housed gone-but-definitely-not-forgotten freakhouse Tantra Lounge, Encounters (which is owned by the folks from nearby Rick's Cabaret, 3113 Bering) has been reeling in the young and the restless, as well as veteran swingers, since its November opening. "We have a much younger crowd here," says Rick's CEO/Encounters owner Eric Langan. "Over 50 percent, probably, of our business is that 25- to 35-year-old age group." While the patrons may be unwrinkled and Viagra-free, they still must adhere to the rules of the club: basically no hanky-spanky until you get home, or at the very least, off the property.

Langan, who began getting into the swing of things (along with the missus, of course) when he started working on Encounters this year, says that these clubs are just looking to bring a little buoyancy into some couples' stale social lives. "Everybody wants to remember the days when we all went to the college bar, chased the girls and vice versa," he says. "And when you get married, you have to stop all that. And what the swinging lifestyle says is 'Hey, we don't have to stop all that, you know. We just go do it together.' "

Last Call

For the six of you who looked to this column for a big, year-end, best-of, blowout article to sum up Houston nightlife in 2001, there's one simple reason for its absence: I was tired. Besides, if you went out at all during the past year, you know what happened: Traveling to downtown and Midtown clubs was a stress test, as traffic and constant Metro rail construction hampered many an eventful evening and patronage dwindled at even the most happening of hotspots. Tropical Storm Allison came and gutted a few downtown joints as well as the hanging-by-a-thread Shepherd Plaza, even leaving a lingering odor inside a couple of clubs (I won't name names). If you were a raver, you were piss outta luck as well, since authorities cracked down brutally (and prematurely) on all-night soirees last year. Parties with even the slightest hint of rave stigma became targets for shutdown, forcing the rave community to drop the R-word from circulation. If you endured all this, you were a braver clubhopper than most. You were much better off taking in the eclectic tastes of Montrose or hovering around the live music scene that was being revived all along Washington Avenue. But that's the year of Houston clubhopping in a nutshell. As we squeeze into our tight leather pants and shiny-ass shirts and roll out into 2002, we can hope that Houston's booming clubland will become a more pleasurable one -- but we may just get the same ol' bullshit we've always gotten. Whatever happens, it's best to be drunk while it's happening. Hell, it's best to be drunk, period. See ya at happy hour!

 
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