Just a Minute With: the makers of "American Swing"

Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:00pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - There was a reason the 1970s were called "The Swinging '70's," and a big part of it was the rise of a New York City nightclub called "Plato's Retreat" -- a sort of disco for open sex.

Swinging had stayed mostly underground until the club, run by New Yorker Larry Levenson, became popular. Soon, Plato's was written about in Time magazine and Levenson appeared on Phil Donahue's television talk show touting the swinging lifestyle.

Eventually, the Internal Revenue Service came calling and jailed Levenson for tax fraud. The spread of HIV caused health officials to close the club in 1985. Levenson went on to drive a New York cab and eventually died after heart surgery.

Jon Hart and Matthew Kaufman have made a film documentary, "American Swing," about Plato's and Levenson. It opens in some U.S. theaters Friday. They talked to Reuters about their film.

Q: Matthew, you spent three and a half years and your own savings to make the movie? What about the topic interested you. Was it the swinging lifestyle or was it the club?

Matthew: This was a story that had never been told. It contained a fabulous protagonist, Larry Levenson, who had it all, from the highs to the lows. ... I knew people would gravitate toward the film initially because of the titillation but ultimately because of the story.

Q: So, it really was about the club and rise of club. It wasn't about the lifestyle.

Matthew: I'm not a swinger, I never have swung. But I am a voyeur of sorts and that also appealed to me.   Continued...