The New Hugh Hefner of Chicago: Randall N Mel of Invite Only Chicago Interview

The Midwest is an interesting demographic. No coastal beaches to hang out at, middle of the country, flat lands…and then there is Chicago. The fly over city between New York and LA. Chicago is known for it’s sports, hard working unions, house music and…now sex clubs. There are many spots to choose from, but Invite Only has been growing and making it’s mark on the Chicago swingers scene for the past 8 years. We caught up with Randall from Invite Only to get his take on the scene, married life and what’s next for Invite Only in 2019:

The Red Couch: Tell us the back story on Invite Only. What started this whole thing?

Randall: Back in 2008 when my partner and I first got into the lifestyle we went on all of the websites. We noticed hundreds of couples our age (mid 20’s) looking for somewhere local to go. Based on what I was hearing, the suburb clubs were too far away and had a much older crowd, while the promoters in the city were throwing a style of event that catered to the hosts and their group of friends but left a vast disconnect between what the over all community was looking for. After years of similar experiences and hearing people pine for a better alternative we decided to step up. At first there was never any intention of making it a business, but I knew without a massive effort it would never get off the ground. We started hosting free events, every week or two, for six months sacrificing an enormous amount of time and money. After a while, the group grew so big that someone suggested we host a paid private event so people could be a little more wild. Utilizing connections I had made and the knowledge I had gained from a lifetime of other careers in music, entertainment and technology, I launched Invite Only and it took off. Our first event sold out weeks in advance. By the end of the first year we were throwing more events than anyone else in Chicago, and by the second year, we were throwing more paid events than all of the other Chicago promoters combined. After year three it was clear we were on to something big, and by year four I quit my full time gig and focused exclusively on IO. Since then we’ve grown even larger throwing about 40 events of all types per year (both paid and free) and in 2018 we reached attendance and financial milestones we never dreamed possible when we started this side project back in May of 2012. To this day 19 out of 20 paid events still sell out before the doors even open. We’ve also launched a second brand called HerPleasureParties.com which focuses on singles looking for other singles and couples looking for them.

The Red Couch: What do you feel makes Invite Only Parties unique?

Randall: Our venues, our staff, and the people who support us are what set us apart. So much of what we do behind the scenes makes us unique, but mostly I would say it’s our attention to detail and willingness to offer a variety of events to our community. We host free meet-ups at a variety of locations, private house parties, travel, and full-scale takeovers of large event spaces or hotels. We do it all because no single type of party is going to satisfy everyone the same way and even if it did, we’re all in this for the same thing, variety. The lifestyle community is evolving rapidly, and we recognize the importance of evolving with it. Luckily we’ve grown large enough that we have actually been able to affect some of the trends and in some cases we’ve seen our practices become the standard for our area. That’s an amazing feeling.

The Red Couch: You’re part of a married couple. What are some of the unique challenges you face as a couple that runs Invite Only parties?

Randall: For the most part hosting Invite Only hasn’t created any additional challenges to our relationship that we would not have already faced from being in the lifestyle. One thing that was challenging at first was the attention that comes with being the hosts of a large group like this. My partner and I seemed to always have a spotlight on us whenever we were at community related functions which meant that every facial feature or over heard snippet of conversation between us could be spun off into front-page news by the rumor mills and gossip circles that exist in niches like this. We have even had some saboteurs befriend us for an opportunity to get juicy gossip which they then spread around to everyone in an altered version that stirred the pot to their advantage. That caused some early stress, but mostly it was from dealing with the fall out of people attempting to bring us down and not any issues between us as a couple. If anything, that adversity that brought us closer together. That said, we learned quickly that we had to play our cards close to the vest if we wanted to be successful and that became even more important as Invite Only grew to where it is now. Another challenge was our inability to step away. For most people, if they’re tired of the scene, they can take a break. For us, we were married to it for the first six years and that got a little exhausting especially when it really started gaining momentum in year three. Now that we have an amazing staff that we trust to run the day-to-day operations, we’ve been able to take breaks, travel during holidays, and even attend our own events as guests! That has been very rewarding.

The Red Couch: What is your take on the swing/kink scene in Chicago?

Randall: The scene is amazing, friendly, open and supportive. The laws here are what need to be improved. I’ve been to most of the bigger cities in America and I have to say, based on the number of physical clubs and laws catering to the Sex Positive community, we are the most prude big city in the nation. Invite Only has already invested tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys and real estate efforts to try and open a club here and we get push back on every level. I’m confident we’ll get something done, but it’s been years since we began looking into opening our club in the city limits and we’re still a ways away. Based on the growing number of people coming to our events and the number of smaller boutique-event promoters popping up all over the place, I’m happy to report that the scene is growing, and that gives us hope.

The Red Couch: What’s next for Invite Only?

Randall: Last year our goal was to double the number of events we host. I am happy to say we’ve achieved it! This year our goal is to focus on growing the number of attendees per event so that we can start doing more exciting things on the production side. We are also excited to grow our HerPleasureParty.com brand this year as we’ve seen an up-tick in the number of singles interested in the lifestyle. After our new manager has completely taken over the local operations, we plan to move to a new state and start another IO branch there.

It’s quite possible Randall and Invite Only could be the next Hugh Hefner of Chicago. With the Playboy icon gone, his spot will hardly be replaced, but his mantle is for the taking to carry on the lifestyle tradition of love, beauty and sexual freedom. If you haven’t checked out Invite Only Parties yet in Chicago, we encourage you to take a look. You’ll have an amazing time. https://inviteonlyparties.com/sessions/new

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