After years of indulging themselves at a relatively discreet location east of the downtown core, Toronto's swingers are sashaying out of the closet and into the big wide open: Wicked, the city's pre-eminent hedonistic club, has carved out a visible street presence on the see-and-be-seen strip of Queen West.
Owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Shlomo and Aurora Benzion, both 34, Wicked has for the past two years operated out of a tucked-away location at the corner of Richmond and Church.
But having grown from an original core membership of six heterosexual couples to today's bloated database of 15,000 dabblers of various sexual persuasions, the club needed a larger location to accommodate what Mr. Benzion calls "Toronto's growing taste for sexual pleasure."
And so a move -- to a 12,000-square-foot, three-storey building west of Ossington, near the strip's trendy Drake Hotel -- was necessary. But not necessarily good for the neighbourhood -- at least, not in the minds of people who live on some of the residential streets off Queen.
"It's a dirty club," long-time Brookfield Street resident Maria Moniz, 30, shouts when asked how she perceives the club, located in what was once a Polish church.
"It's no good and no good for the street. It's no good for the kids. Why not take a club like this far from the city? Why put it on the corner of all the houses? There's a Catholic school here, Jesus Christ. I don't like it and I am going to sign the petition to make it stop."
But the Benzions say they have nothing to hide. They have been careful to make sure they are operating within the law. And to make sure that their establishment "is fun and safe," they have instituted a number of rules that are strictly enforced on-site.
"There are a few no-no's," cautions Ms. Benzion, a gregarious bottle blonde with feline eyes and a lilting French accent from her upbringing in Belgium. She is reclining on a queen-sized bed -- one of several that adorn the venue -- in front of a two-way mirror in the "voyeur room." It's one place where the club's fantasies are played out -- "both wild and mild," she says with a Cheshire Cat smile.
"There is zero tolerance for aggressive behaviour. There is zero tolerance for drugs. There is zero tolerance for prostitution. Men have to be accompanied by a lady. Single guys can't come by themselves. The women call the shots."
Down the street at the Knit Café, a cluster of women giggle over their stitching as they talk about the beds they saw rolling off a truck earlier in the day in anticipation of today's launch.
Lola MacDonald, 32, says she isn't likely to sign up for a one-night membership ($20 per couple for mingling in the more public areas, which are equipped with beds -- and a cage -- or $50 for access to one of the private rooms upstairs, painted vixen red). But she says she isn't concerned about the club moving into the area. "It's part of the diversity of the neighbourhood, I think. And really, if they are not making you participate, what's wrong with it?"
Anna Bencsik, 24, adds, "I mean, it's not like it's a strip club. It's adults doing what they want behind closed doors so I don't mind it at all."
But as for much of Toronto, a main problem for at least one resident is parking.
"15,000 members?" exclaims Tony Ferreira.
"Where will they park? And where will the people who live here park? That's what I care about. Not the sex."