Friday night in New York; time to pick yourself off the living- room sofa, turn off the stereo, pad across your knock-off Persian carpet - and head off to the sofas, stereos, boojy carpets and sinister mood lighting of the last word in New York night life; the erotic living-room. In the Seventies, New Yorkers glittered and hustled, dancing the night away in discos; in the Eighties, they coked themselves into a neverending cold-sweat fit of slam-dancing, hip-hopping and house funking; but halfway through the Nineties, Ecstasy, and lately Ketamine, a cat tranquilliser, have kicked in, leaving clubgoers far too whipped to shake their booty, too addled to think of picking up bridge, and too young to stay home. In London, someone in similar circumstances would throw a dinner party, but in New York a dinner party is an ordeal only the extremely rich, or masochistic, undertake. And so, revellers hurrahed last year when two party promoters, Michael Ault and David Sarner, solved Friday night. Their solution, which premiered at the Spy Bar in SoHo, was to create a chic new setting for New Yorkers to inebriate themselves in, filled with chaises longues, dark long bars, chandeliers, fireplaces, coffee tables and secluded nooks.

This would not be your average sitting-room; it would be the kind of place that would look as if Maltese falcons might be passed under tables, where the women would look as if they'd machine-gun acid ripostes and the men like they'd sauntered off the set of Guys and Dolls. In the words of Tony Theodore, who owns the newest lust lounge, Chaos, with Ault and Sarner, the idea is "sort of Damon Runyon". He elaborates, fascinatingly, "We like to have a lot of models and actresses, because people like to look at beautiful women." Thanks to such aggressive genetic engineering and elitist door policy, the dozen-odd lust lounges that have opened in the past year acquired instant cachet.

Terse and telegraphic, the names of the clubs sound like something that's been scrolled out of an Enigma machine; Spy Bar, Wax, Pravda, The Room, Liquids, Cub Room, and now, Chaos, which weeds out the riff-raff by posting no outdoor signs, and protecting the entrance with 20ft-high iron gates. Next step: a moat. One of the bouncers is the son of a Hollywood film director. Those he lets inside find three floors of red and black walls, sinuous staircases, hidden alcoves and postage-stamp dance floors, Martinis and Japanese/Deep South snacks, and enough velvet curtains to outfit a regiment of post-bellum Scarlett O'Haras.

In the few months of its existence, Chaos has booked parties for MTV, VH1, Alanis Morisette, Giorgio Armani, Mademoiselle and a list of movie parties. For a generation, Americans played at being children; now they are rediscovering the darker, less healthful pleasures of playing adults.