Here’s what Beck says:
Can you share one sexual fantasy that has come true- and tell me what made it good?
One weekend back in 1971 when Patsy my wife and I were in L.A. I asked Liz, my long-time buddy who was now running the Kairos growth center there, about this intriguing place called Sandstone because I had seen it in the LA Free Press. I had seen an ad for Sandstone, picturing a silhouetted man and woman walking up a path. It looked like they were nude and the copy said something very cool, different from some of the blatant sexual messages found in the Free Press. We used to get the weekly underground paper down in San Diego because L.A. was really where the major action was happening in music and lifestyle. The paper consistently ran sex ads in its classifieds — “couple wants to meet partners for erotic fun and adventure” and a score of other variations. There was no ambiguity here, it was what a lot of guys (and women it turns out) fantasized.
But the quarter-page ad for Sandstone stood out There was a full-on openness about it. We had been very involved in Kairos at there San Diego home base and Sandstone seemed to promise something like it — except the sexual experience was right up front. I asked Liz she had heard about the place she said that she hadn’t been there but friends had, and they came back with very sexy stories. Not really a big sexual experimenter herself, but Liz knew me well and said it was right up my alley, that I should check it out.
Patsy and I had both been in LA for a long weekend. we must have had something like a four or five days free because I remember we were there on a Thursday night walking along Santa Monica boulevard in West L.A. At that time the street was coming alive all kinds of massage parlors and porno movies and stuff so I was naturally drawn down there. I had known Santa Monica boulevard like the back of my hand because I used to hang around Sunset boulevard and Santa Monica boulevard and go to all these sleazy porno places for years ,and so I knew where all these funky little storefronts. So we were walking along and I was kind of introducing Patsy to the area. But I had never been a massage parlor guy particularly even though they were all over the place. My experiences in Japan and the Philippines had personally satisfied that desire. But with Patsy on my arm, both our curiosities were aroused. We entered one of them.
An attractive girl who looked like she might be a sophomore in college girl said. “Well what can we do for you? Both of you?” Confronted with the blunt question I stammered a bit, then said that were weren’t really wanting a message, whatever that might entail, but were just curious about the place. Patsy has a smooth natural way that invited honest conversation. I did too. With the commercial pitch out of the way, the girl relaxed into normal conversation, and we did as well. We asked how business was going, she inquired about where we were from, what we had planned for the weekend. She asked us into the back room where we could just hang out a bit, things were slow. Three other girls dressed in various styles of hippy sexiness were sitting around there and the greeted us, seemingly relieved for some non-business diversion, “What’s happening on the street?” We talked, laughed, got some background on where they were from and whether they liked the work. We said that we came up for the weekend and that we had telephoned this place called Sandstone up about Topanga Canyon and were going up the next day for an interview. It was some kind of a sex club or retreat. They had never heard of it.
We said we’re just checking it out, and then we started a friendly stoner conversation. They quickly realized where we were at and invited us into the back room to simply hang out. There were 4 or 5 welcoming young women sitting around waiting for customers. We got in a long conversation for an hour — where are you from, what do you do, and what’s happening on the street tonight? We got the feel of life at the message parlor, something in a couple years in the future Patsy would try out. It was one of those spontaneous weekends of discovery and surprise that happened often in the 60s.
So anyway we decided to call up this intriguing Sandstone telephone number and see what it was about. Sexual exploration was in the air. Sue, answered the phone said for us to come up on Friday and check out the place but before we could get involved they had to interview us. That sounded reasonable, good even.
So the next day, Friday, we drove up to Sandstone. After taking the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway to Topanga Canyon, we headed inland into hills that were becoming a haven for Hollywood drop-outs and wannabes, a mix of the cool people and the young hippies. But when you turned left on Pacific Fernwood Drive and started to climb that winding street, eventually the rest was left below and vistas of the ocean started showing up. Finally a gate with “Sandstone” appeared almost at the end of the road. and even then a long gravel driveway was ahead. By the time we got to this point our expectations were racing.
A series of one and two story buildings looked over a lawn and cliff, and in the far west, the Pacific. A majestic and surprisingly peaceful environment that seemed a thousand miles from crowded L.A. I had a good amount of sexual experiences but not in a kind of club that set itself up as a place that sex was the primary game that was being played. Before that time, I had to make up my own games, make up my own situations which I was reasonably successful at. But not anything like this. So this seemed like the Big Time.
Like a lot of guys. I desired sexual adventure but this put my fantasies on the line, it was a giant step into the uncontrolled. In other sexual encounters I had always had a good sense on the game being played, The heightened the energy of this was thrilling. Erotic images were tumbling around in my mind. Patsy seemed more curious than excited, but that was OK. We were on our way.
Marty and Sue greeted us after we parked the car and entered a small courtyard with a fountain splashing. Marty was an an thin fellow with a lively intensity in his early 30s. His partner Sue was quite his opposite, younger, blond with a sweetly sly smile. They lead us into a small office and for the next half hour interviewed us about our relationship, our feeling about sex and jealousy, our reasons for coming up. We were very confident about ourselves. I was in my early 40s, in excellent shape physically and the 1960s had transported me back into the energy of my 20s. Patsy was in her early 30s, quick-witted, tall and wiry but with very full breasts. We were, by most standards, a hot couple and we knew it.
Marty explained about Sandstone. John Williamson and his wife Barbara had begun Sandstone a few years earlier as an experiment in a new way to live communally, one that would be based on mutually agreed upon sexual openness. They were now opening the live-in community to selected couples (and some single people) from Los Angeles and beyond. There were large parties on Saturday nights, with smaller more intimate gatherings on Wednesdays and Fridays.
They then showed us the property. The main building was a very large rectangular two story affair created as the steep tilt of landscape gave its lower level a clear view of a wide lawn and ocean beyond. The upper floor was a very large open living room with a fireplace and sliding glass doors opening to a wide porch with a commanding view. A dining room, kitchen and private living space were also on that level.
They then lead us downstairs to where most of the sexual activity took place. The room was equal to the upper lever but it had no walls or partitions., just on long space with five low king-size framed mattresses on one wall and four more on the opposite side, plus a fireplace. Just outside a sliding glass door was a ample sized hot tub. At the far end of the room,around a corner with no door was “the ball room”, a bedroom sized place with wall-to-wall futons. Sue explained that whereas sexual engagements through the rest of the house was a matter of clearly defined mutual agreements that followed an understood sexual etiquette which we would learn by by experience if we didn’t already have the good sense for it, the ball room was a space that when you entered it was assume that you are saying “yes” to almost anything happening there. It was, simply, an orgy room. Of course you can always say “no” and leave the room, it’s your choice.
We then went out on the grounds , over to a glass enclosed olympic-size heated swimming pool. This too was a potential play area. Next to it was a big two-story residence for the staff. Trails ran off in several directions further up the hills. By the time we headed back to town we were sure that we had passed any unspoken test they had thrown at us. We knew our value.
The next day, Saturday, when we went up the mountain again. Marty had told us to come in the afternoon, not much would be happening but we could hang out and get comfortable in the environment. We got up there at about 2:30 and we walk in. Patsy was dressed in her funky sexy loose fitting no-bra style and swished into the front room. A couple, the woman topless, casually walked through a room from the porch. Did they just have sex? Two or three people were sitting on window seats and on small slender man his mid 40s, impeccably dress in sport ware, immediately greeted us with an intense direct welcome. In a decidedly New York accent announced,
“Hi I’m Gay Talese, who are you?”
The name resonated somewhere in my head, I knew that I should recognize it, but I was a blank. No problem, he was very taken with us, with Patsy. He had easily seen that we were virgins to the experience as he angled us to a couch. It felt great to have such a quick ice-breaker. Gay’s boyish smile and gracious attention quickly won us. I still couldn’t place him but he made it easy by saying he had worked for the New York Times and was living at Sandstone for the past few months doing research for a book on John Williamson and the Sandstone phenomenon he had created. He was actually building his book around an average but interesting couple from the Valley, John and Judith Bullaro, who became involved with the Sandstone experiment. In the process, he blended into the life himself, he said with a certain Talese twinkle that I later got to know well. It’s what endeared him to so many people throughout his life.
I suddenly made the connection. I had recently read “The Power and the Kingdom”, his popular history of the New York Times. The afternoon brightened. He was enthusiastically dropping bits about his original fascination with Sandstone, how he had first come upon what he felt was a radical shift in the sexual climate of the country in New York City, that he had discovered this new business called massage parlors even in his upscale neighborhood and then went on to investigate one by actually becoming its manager for a while.
But after establishing his credentials, Gay’s approach was not self aggrandizement. Being a great investigative reporter his style was to put the interviewee in the spotlight. He wanted to know every detail of our lives, especially how such a seemingly normal attractive couple would mutually want to explore this far out lifestyle. He gave us total attention, continually asking very provocative questions with endless follow-up inquiries, never letting us off the hook. It was all very complimentary. Here was this famous NY insider who had initially made his literary reputation with an Esquire piece titled “Frank Sinatra has a Cold”, truly a break-through in the genre of the biographical essay, now focusing on Patsy and me. It was hard not to be enamoured with the spotlight.
We summarized our lives and he continued to poke. Obviously our sexual draw to Sandstone was his biggest interest and that when the reporter and the horny Italian got blurred. He was clearly smitten with Patsy, this smooth, naturally sexy lady unlike any he’d come across. His sexual interest didn’t put either of us off — if we came all this way for a new sexual adventure, we too felt that we had hit the jackpot. Gay was impeccably curtious, sneaky funny, flashy bright, and rather handsome. He also said that his date would be showing up later and that we had to meet her, assuring us that we would really like this woman.
So then he started to show off the place, what Sandstone was about, John Williamson and the philosophy behind it, how it started and what the nature of its sociology. Then he said “I’ll tell you what’s going to happen here later.” He started laying out what this place is going to look like around 6 PM. “You’re going to see a lot more attractive people come in and they’ll mill around talking and flirting until the pot luck dinner starts. It’s not a place where people drink to cover up anxiety, they use that energy to create the sexual atmosphere for the evening. There will be a certain maneuvering for who couple eat with. It’s very informal, they sit on the carpet or in the corners, but connections will begin to be made. The the music is turned up, an invitation to get moving and partnering. Usually there are previous agreements between couple on where this will lead. One place is the jacuzzi.”
Gay guided us down an outdoor staircase off the porch to a large hot tub on ground lever. “This is one option in the next step”. Then he pushed sliding glass doors of the lower level opening to a very large rectangular room, the entire width of the building with a fireplace along the outer wall. Five very large wide beds, lined one wall, four on the other. “Later tonight this room will be transformed into some variety of a sexual orgy”, he predicted confidently. Already a couple was on one of the beds in the corner slowly moving into each other, seemingly oblivious of our presence. This is very cool, my dream. “The over here, though this door at the far end is “The Ballroom.” The room was not large, perhaps 18×18 with wally to wall futons and on one side an alcove/bunk that could be a more private spot for voyeurs. ‘The rules for the Ballroom are different, Here anything goes that is mutually agreed upon. ‘No’ isn’t a word you hear often in the Ballroom.”. The way he described things on the one hand put you on the edge, but it was like “okay I can handle this”, And it was nice to get that kind of blue print of what was going to happen.
So in fact, it did happen that way. At six, people came and the energy started picking up and picking up some more. Many people knew one another from previous Saturdays and touched with easy familiarity. Others were obviously new and looked a little lost. Patsy and I by this time, with Gay at our elbow, almost felt like insiders. The people arriving were very good looking, women very erotically dressed. It felt like the best of L.A., with a natural warmth the we don’t associate with that city. As we were introduced to many, it turned out that most were in the L.A. entertainment scene as writers, technicians, lawyers and usually a movie actor or famous media personality.
Gay was terribly turned onto Patsy and as the evening progressed it was clear that he was aiming in on her. I knew she was going to get fucked by some guy and Gay was a good initiation. Then Gay’s date arrived. she was really cute and intelligent, dark haired and slender. She had been to Sandstone before many times and her relationship with Gay seemed to be very practical. They liked each other a lot but being together was convenient way to explore the sexual landscape that Sandstone offered.
So the night went as Gay had outlined and everything felt easy but very exciting. We had dinner and we all sat around with conversation that was lively but underlined with a sweet sexual tension. How could my fantasy is so easily fulfilled — an glamourous L.A. sex party that seemed as easy as cruising down Sunset Blvd? The music started but Gay was anxious for the four of us to slide down stairs. The living room was quickly emptying, liaisons having been excitedly created. The possibilities seemed endless and it was probably good that the choice had been made for us.
Downstairs couples found their beds, the comfortable sheet-covered mattresses to make love on. Some were paired off, others in threesomes and foursomes. The soft minimal lighting created a space that was communal be at the same time quite private. The woman I was with, Kate, was as smooth as Gay. We found a futon in the corner and lay down. From that point on I was wrapped into Kate’s nude body, glancing over to Patsy & Gay at times to pick up on their building energy. Patsy was a woman who, when she decided to have sex would completely zone out on the act of making love with whatever person she was with. That was my first real lesson in the eternal issue of jealousy, possession and letting go. How could she just fuck this guy so completely, the same way (but differently) that she does me? The obvious answer which I knew in my heart’s logic, was “The same way you can, at some point, fuck Kate and blur out every other thing around me going on!” Either get all screwed up about it or let go and enjoy the exotic ride.
After we all came (or at least reached some sexually altered state), we relaxed together and started to whisper together about what a truly new world we were now a part of. The sounds of orgasms, in various states of building, were coming from men and women with a certain self awareness but genuine gusto. It felt like all the the frustration and celebration of the 1960s was being released in the room.
Anyway, That’s an answer to your question, I Hope.