The Legend of Cum-a-Lot (Pt 4) – Controversy, Sexuality, and Rebirth

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Swinger ResortRead part three of The Legend of Cum-A-Lot here!

Two of our frequent visitors were a lovely paralegal named Ellen and her attorney husband Mark. One Saturday night, while a slow song was playing and people were circulating, Ellen and I, both nude, crossed paths in the middle of the salon floor. Spontaneously, we began a slow dance and we both quickly became aroused. As it happened, we were similarly proportioned and our legs were precisely the right length to permit effortless intercourse as we kissed and gently swayed to and fro. Arthur Murray might have frowned.

Meg and I became involved with a delightful young couple that had recently moved to L.A. from Salt Lake City, Utah. They had been raised in polygamous Mormon families and had rebelled against the authoritarian structure and fled. The irony was that their upbringing had prepared them very well for the Sandstone experience. For several months we were inseparable as we frolicked and slept together in our king-sized bed.

There was also a serious side. Sometimes our Monday night community meetings became heated, with jealousies and rivalries occasionally erupting. For never having been trained as a therapist, John proved to be the consummate arbiter and peacemaker.

Sandstone started receiving good publicity from reporters coming to visit and I began going to colleges and civic organizations explaining our work. Having been interviewed on TV by Tom Snyder and others, I achieved some notoriety, which helped in getting new members. The local Sheriffs and especially the hunky, handsome L.A. County Firefighters were now our best friends. We occasionally welcomed even the charming, well-behaved local Hell’s Angels. Then came the celebrities, the actors, entertainers, movie stars and superstar academics, too numerous and too many names to drop in such a short article.

It all may have been too good to be true, because that’s when the troubles began.

On August 28, 1970, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance aimed at Sandstone and Elysium requiring a $10 license to operate a “growth center,” defined as a place where “three or more persons, not of the same family, congregated for the purpose of exposing their bodies in the nude.” On October 7, we went in front of the County Public Welfare Commission to request a license and were denied as a “detriment to the public welfare” and they filed a criminal case against us. The crowd, resembling a lynch mob, chanted and carried picket signs out front, such as “NO NUDES IS GOOD NUDES” and “SANDSTONE MUST ATONE” and overflowed the large hearing room.

[I won’t bore you with any more of the infuriating details. If you’d like to know more about the case and the successful appeal, email me and I’ll send you the press coverage.]

Just a few days later the fires came. For two weeks we were closed down and beset with flames from all directions. The County Fire Department saved us and we awarded each of them an honorary membership. Four of them later went on to make good use of it. But nobody was coming up anyway – many thought we were about to be raided and that they would be carted off to jail and booked as perverts. Our income seriously dropped off.

We never fully recovered. By the middle of 1971 we were hanging on and growing the membership, but John and Barbara’s capital had all been spent on the case and keeping us afloat and operating costs were going up dramatically. But the place looked good, the community was thriving and the parties were rollicking. Filmmakers from San Francisco named Jon and Bunny Dana set about planning a documentary about us and an author from New York named Gay Talese visited to interview us for his book about sex in America. Then we hosted Dr. Alex Comfort for several months as he researched his Joy of Sex.

*****

In September, Meg told me that she was leaving with one of the film crew and wanted to go back to school and pursue her career in teaching. I went to the closet and began packing to go with her and she told me I couldn’t, I had to stay and keep Sandstone going. I collapsed in tears and she held me and she left for San Francisco the next day. Meg became a heroic award winning paramedic then went on to chair the science department at a gifted magnet high school. She has since retired and heads a private science academy.

My next love, the girlish blond Sue Bottfeld, was also a student – of philosophy – which eminently qualified her to help run Sandstone. Our situation was unique in that we had met there and had experienced the straight-forward openness of the process from the beginning. We learned many things about our jealousy and possessiveness.

We never reached out for others during our periods of tension or adjustment. When the feelings were good we were secure in our outside explorations. We insisted on getting to know our lovers together; generally not sexually but as friends and open confidants. It was important that others completely understood our relationship and would not be surprised or hurt by its primacy. There remained a gnawing feeling of distance and being left out that occasionally showed up. There was no way to alleviate that as far as we knew. We all feel it and wonder at it. Only a sense of personal worth and sure knowledge that we are indeed secure in our love helps to diminish this emotion.

In a pyrrhic victory, famed First Amendment attorney Stanley Fleishman prevailed for us and on April 16, 1972, the Court of Appeal, Division 3, ruled 2 to 1 that the county regulation violated the First Amendment and that “operating a nudist camp [sic]is an exercise of the right of free speech.” Ever the perfectionist, Fleishman was disappointed because he had rather wanted a ruling based on the right to assemble.

By the end of 1972, most of the original group had gone and the writing was on the wall. Sandstone was sold to a dicey rehab operation and Sue and I moved back to Santa Monica. John and Barbara bought a large motor, refunded money to make the last members whole, gave us a generous portion and headed to Montana, finished with Sandstone. I kept the books and records hoping that one day they might prove useful.

In late summer, 1973, Sue and I were walking around the 3rd Street Promenade when I heard my name called out from behind. I recognized the caller as Paul Paige, a psychologist and former Sandstone member. Paul came running up to us breathless and began saying that he had been looking for Sue and me for months. He went on to say that he and several partners had raised the capital to buy Sandstone back, remodel it again and reopen it the next spring. He intended to raise the fees as well. Were we interested?

Yeah, we were and we got busy re-contacting several thousand former members and guests and visitors and putting together a new mailing list. After a long and difficult escrow which closed on Christmas Eve, Paul’s lover Theresa Breedlove and I went up the next day in her pumpkin-colored Corvette to take possession. As we parked outside the lodge we could hear the remaining rehab inmates screaming and arguing. To our great relief, the last few of them emerged and drove away. We then began the massive cleanup effort.

June 1, 1974, was set as the official gala reopening date. It would be called “A Day with Gay (Talese) and an Evening of (Alex) Comfort,” both being high profile supporters of Sandstone. We would also have the charming and witty Theresa, the eminent Dr. Sally Binford, Meg’s former UCLA anthropology professor, Playboy’s Nat Lehrman, and Screw Magazine publisher Al Goldstein on the dais to present to a crowd of some 300 what turned out to be an outrageous and hilarious seminar in everything you ever wanted to know about group sex, comparative genitalia, and female sexual arousal.

We planned a music and art extravaganza and entertainment by the brilliant comedian Orson Bean who had given Sandstone the nickname Cum-a-Lot, and in his best Richard Burton tenor sang:

“In Cum-a-Lot,
We cum a lot,
That’s how conditions are…”

The Los Angeles Times covered the event in a straight-forward manner under the headline “Open Sexuality Reopens at Sandstone.”

Sandstone began again better than ever but this time with a full menu of programs and workshops to bring in revenue beyond the membership. We were now attracting a large number of therapy professionals, including psychiatrists, who wanted to enjoy Sandstone for themselves and to refer client couples who they thought might benefit from the experience. We offered a full daytime residential program and such exotica as: Gestalt Training, Bioenergetics, Rolphing, Pathways to Sensuality, Tai Chi Chuan, Sensual Massage, Touch for Health, and that perennial favorite, Naming Your Sexual Personalities.

Paul had promised us that Sandstone would be chartered as a nonprofit research institute so that we might also seek grants and permit membership and referral fees to be tax deductible and that he would draft a long-term lease to the corporation that would give us an option to buy the property. That, I thought, would establish Sandstone in perpetuity.

But it was not to be. After much discussion Paul tearfully informed us, in spring 1976, that his two silent partners had run into desperate financial problems and had already sold the property to a private party developer and that we had to be out by year’s end. Sue and I moved back to Santa Monica in May and for us Sandstone had met its final end.

Sandstone closed on the brink of the advent of the horrors of the HIV/AIDS era. Notably, during its entire time of operation not a single case of sexually transmitted infection or disease was reported to us nor even, by virtue of almost universal use of the pill, one case of unintended pregnancy. In recent years the egalitarian term polyamory, many loves, became more popular and people continue living in alternative lifestyles.

Until all those inconvenient party-pooping ailments are finally vanquished, prospective polyamorists must bear in mind the essential precautions of understanding the known risk factors, using condoms and helpful STD testing services such as the now evidently defunct SafeSexPassport.com, and the more demanding interpersonal dynamics of polyfidelity.

The End

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In the late 1960s and '70s, my then-spouse and I were a happily married young couple living in West Los Angeles. When we became involved with Sandstone Retreat we made several thousand new friends and, like they, became convinced that the universal acceptance of open but selective sexual sharing was going to change the world and much for the better. My conviction has not changed.

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