Still got your libido at 71? Party on...

Richard Kelly Heft meets the wild man who is still swinging after all these years

For most of his 71 years "Wild" Bill Goodwin says he has been "a good stud". Although his body is not what it was - he's a bit creaky and his false teeth have been giving him trouble lately - he still likes to party. He still loves sex.

"I can go four or five women a night," he says proudly. "You know, your desire gets better as you get older. It's like good food - you think you stop loving good food? The key is variety."

Variety is something Goodwin has certainly known during his lifetime: he has been a part of the "swinging" scene in southern California for about 25 years. Along with his wife Dottie who died last March after a battle with breast cancer, Goodwin has hosted hundreds of swing parties at his home, about 45 miles south of Los Angeles.

On the first and last Sunday of every month, Goodwin's house, the "Panther Palace", becomes a meeting place for couples to socialise, frolic in his massive hot tub, and, well, have sex. "We don't fall in love or anything. It's just good clean sexual recreation," he says.

Recently, however, a neighbour's complaint brought the Palace under the scrutiny of the local council. Naked revellers had been seen scrambling round the property and discarded condoms were found among the festivity litter - charges Goodwin denies. Officials could do little about the parties: there are no laws outlawing orgies in the city. And since Goodwin does not charge for the parties, asking only for a $30 contribution to defray costs, the Palace's doors have remained open.

One result of the council's investigation has been to move to daytime parties rather than Saturday night. Goodwin typically has about 40 couples to his parties and for special occasions, such as Hallowe'en or New Year's Eve, as many as 100 or more will turn up. Wild Bill isn't even close to being the oldest of the Palace regulars: there are couples in their eighties and nineties, he says.

Swinging, often thought to be a relic of the Seventies seems to be on the rise across the United States. Although statistics are hard to come by, Dr Robert McGinley, president of the National Association of Swing Clubs of America, claims the practice has never been more popular. McGinley, who wrote a doctoral thesis on swinging, points to the explosion in publications devoted to "play couples" and to the growth of swing clubs, which number about 300, up from about 100 in the mid-Seventies. He estimates there are between 1.5 million and 2.5 million American couples who have dabbled in swinging or are long-term devotees.

"Almost by definition, swinging is a secretive activity," McGinley says. "So getting an accurate read on the number of people involved is almost impossible. But there's no question it is more popular today than it ever was. It just continued on its merry way, ignoring the pundits who said it died off years ago."

McGinley claims the only downturns in popularity came at the height of the Aids scares. Surprisingly, most swinging couples do not practise safe sex. McGinley himself is opposed to protected sex, and says that government statistics show extremely low rates of heterosexual transmission. "What's safe sex really telling you? The message is that sex is dangerous and as long as you are not a homosexual or an intravenous drug user there is no danger whatsoever. You are far more likely to be hit by a satellite falling out of the sky."

Although health officials agree that in the West, the rate of transmission of HIV among heterosexuals has been lower than anticipated, they warn of the dangers of unprotected sex. As one San Francisco Aids researcher says: "If you get one person into a swinging group who's recently been infected, he could infect everybody."

Most of the Palace regulars remain unconcerned. June Thomas has been partying there for years. She doesn't like condoms and doesn't use them. "Most people are very clean," she says. "I'm not afraid of catching a disease. Hey, life's a chance."

Most weekends, she and her husband Ron attend a swing party. There is no jealousy between them because everything is out in the open. "It brings you much closer together," she says.

Goodwin agrees. He has been married five times, widowed twice and during his swinging days has slept with over 5,000 women. His best marriages though, were with swingers. "My first two wives were jealous - they weren't into swinging," he says. "Once I married women who liked swinging, those marriages were really good."

Goodwin cared for his wife Dottie for two years as she became increasingly ill. In her last year, as the cancer moved into her spinal column, she became paralysed from the neck down. The parties went on around her as she lay in a hospital bed set up in the Palace's living room. "They were all her friends at the parties," says Goodwin. "She felt real comfortable with them around."

After sleeping on the couch next to Dottie for months, Goodwin can't bring himself to move back into the bedroom; his eyes well up at the mention of her. In a house full of beds, he spends every night on the couch. The man who says he "hasn't slowed down a bit" since he was 25, is now lonely without his wife of 20 years: "The parties are great. But after they're over, I'm left all alone again."

The phone rings but Goodwin ignores it. "Just someone calling about the party next Sunday. It'll be a good one," he says brightening at the thought. "All sorts of beautiful women - you really ought to check it out some time."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine