Photo by James BunoanA couple of weeks ago, the INS arrested nearly 70 foreign-born security guards and drivers working the Super Bowl. The INS guy in charge said you can never be too careful, that "in the aftermath of Sept. 11, our priority is to take appropriate action."
Well, what took ya? Long before Sept. 11, about 30 years actually, Lee and David Lundy, who to our knowledge have never hosted a Super Bowl, have been taking appropriate action at the Riviera Adult Motel, which, for those of you who attended Quaker school, is a motel specifically designed for and catering to consenting adults who want to have sex with each other.
A lot of people think that's a great thing, which explains why the Riviera has been in the same San Clemente location for 30 years—the motel's sign still trumpets that there are water beds and color TVs. It's also why you're advised to call at least two weeks in advance for a weekend reservation. (Business has been especially good lately what with all the couples from nearby Camp Pendleton springing for a night of fun before one of them has to ship out to the Persian Gulf.)
They come from as far away as New York to play on the table-sized swing in the Kings Crib room; to step down into the sunken waterbed of the Tahitian Paradise; to loll, or something more than loll, in the small swimming-pool-sized bath tubs.
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And then there are the mirrors, mirrors, mirrors and the complimentary adult movies and the shag, shag, shag that just lends itself to an overall feeling of fun, funk, freedom and—David and Lee stress—safety that lends itself to getting it on majorly.
Problem is some people think an adult motel is a great place to bring a hooker. Others believe it's a fabulous spot for their spouse and the recently relocated German civil engineer they met through the personals to engage in a little swinging, which, William Penn, means multiple sex partners in various combinations and sounds kinda hot until you consider that most swingers look like German civil engineers (think Helmut Kohl, just naked and all up into your junk). The Riviera is not that kind of adult motel, which is why when you arrive at the Riviera, you see a large iron gate with a big STOP sign on it that can be opened only from within. And why when you try to enter the small office, you find it locked and have to ring a bell to be let inside. And once inside, why David and/or Lee will ask to see some identification from both of you. Why?
"Because Johns [prostitutes' customers] won't ever show their IDs, and neither will women who show up with their gigolos," says David. "When they find out the policy, they'll always pretend like they can't find it, then they'll say, "Oh, I must have left it out in the car. Lemme go get it.' We never see them after that."
David and Lee aren't judging anyone. They'll let any couple into their motel—married, engaged, dating, just horny; gay, straight, lesbian, doesn't matter. "We don't judge," says Lee. Not allowing the hookers and swingers is purely a business decision based on the belief that the first thing a couple wants in a sex motel is the confidence that what they do there is private, safe and done in a clean environment. "The life span of most adult motels is about five to six years because they don't control their environment," David says. And so they not only check IDs, but they also have numerous cameras set up around the grounds to make sure no one tries sneaking in a third or fourth party. If a couple is going to have a good time, they have to feel safe. You don't want people wondering who has been there before.
"Our customers are ministers and schoolteachers—regular people," says Lee, standing in the gated motel parking lot replete with aforementioned cameras, foreign-made sedans and at least two vehicles—one truck, one blue van with a racing stripe—flying the reclining naked metal woman insignia from their mud flaps. "They're not going to come back to a place with a lot of that garbage going on."
Lee says she knows that the first question a woman asks about the Riviera is "Is it clean?"
"It's the first thing I'd ask," she says. "It's why we skip ammonia when cleaning the rooms and jump right to sterilizing everything with chlorine."
Lee knows this is what people expect, and she's happy to do it, but she also knows from a lifetime in the motel business that any hotel/motel room, tagged as adult or otherwise, is going to see its share of coupling and/or bodily fluids. The Riviera only has the advantage of knowing it goes on and how to take care of it. "There's nothing that goes on in this motel that doesn't go on in and around Disneyland," she says.
She should know since her parents, Pete and Norma Marino, used to own the Princess Motel across the street from Disneyland. "The only difference back then was instead of couples, we had congressmen and their hookers," she said.
Pete and Norma sold the Princess back in the late '60s and took over the Brisa del Mar in San Clemente. Wedged among the other motels along the El Camino Real that runs along the San Diego Freeway and with nothing like a theme park to attract patrons, the Brisa soon floundered and seemed on the brink of going bust. That's when a friend of Lee's suggested turning the thing into an adult motel. Pete and Norma liked the idea—as long as they kept out the riffraff—and in 1975, the Riviera was born. Having become a part of the community in that time, Lee, who looks like a nurse and is sometimes mistaken for one in her pink smock, says she loves it when she's stopped by a neighbor at the local Stater Brothers who says, "Oh, I've been meaning to come see you guys."
What they get when they arrive is a full slate of rooms, individually decorated and themed, ranging in price from $55 to $100. Lee and David, who live with Pete and Norma in the small quarters behind the office, decorate the rooms themselves, taking time, Lee says with a grin, to "test" the rooms for quality control.
"There isn't a manual for doing these kinds of motels," she says. "We'll get an idea, and then we'll just try it out. In the end, we ask ourselves is it safe, can it be insured, will they kill themselves on it, and, most important, can it be cleaned?
"That's why we don't have hammocks," she says. "You can't get hammocks clean."
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