The Bliss Business

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From this modest beginning the mighty Pocono honeymoon industry grew until by 1977 it was expanding at the incredible rate of 22 per cent annually. “It is impossible from a business point of view, but we’re doing it,” announced Cove Haven’s publicist. Of the 2,500,000 American couples married every year, the Poconos today service 250,000. Eighty per cent of the guests come through recommendations from friends. They come, says the publicist, because there is “a lot of apprehension when you get married. These couples are almost strangers to each other.”

Honeymoons used to be sloppy, haphazard affairs, fraught with the risks of inquisitive onlookers, bad restaurants, and thin walls. The Pocono resorts provide an insurance policy against making choices, and therefore mistakes. The company is guaranteed not to gape, the food is reliable, and the rooms are soundproof. And as to why a newly married pair would want to be in the presence of hundreds of others in the same situation, another resort spokesman explains, “It’s a unique time of life, and the couples need a rapport with other couples. The bride doesn’t want single girls who represent a threat to their mate. There are no threats here; everyone has stars in their eyes.”

Since sex is generally a major honeymoon component, these hotels provide a one-size-fits-all ensemble of erotic notions. “Dive into devilish delight in your very own indoor private swimming pool completely surrounded by mirrored walls that reflect your every fantasy,” reads one racy advertisement under a photograph of a couple being playful in their tiny bedroom pool. The décor of these resorts, however, would considerably distract one from fantasy.

A typical suite at Paradise Stream consists of a bathroom, bedroom, and pool room, all decorated in a mode which could be described as Total Carpet. On the bedroom ceiling of one unit is a beige shag affair with what appear to be the marks of table legs from some earlier life when the rug resided more normally on a floor. The walls are covered with a gray and brown snakeskin broadloom, in counterpoint to a rug in a rusty-orange geometric design. Glass doors separate the bedroom from the pool room, where the motif continues with a greenish-blue pile around the pool. At the other end of the suite, from bedroom to bathroom, is a reddish deep-pile synthetic, in surprising contrast to the pink and red walls of something profoundly flocked.

The furniture is a baroque extravaganza come unglued. Ranks of cherubim lamps stand about clutching arrows and bows. Gilt filigreed mirror frames are inset with red glass baubles. Circular, royal-purple armchairs flank a white, gilt-edged coffee table. The bedroom’s centerpiece is a giant, round, red bed, all set about with smoky, gold-flecked mirrors.

Controlling the suite’s temperature is an important honeymoon activity. The bedroom has both thermostat and airconditioner dials. Next to the pool is a fireplace that burns wax logs available at the gift store. The brochure warns that “for safety reasons, wood logs or firewood are forbidden.” If the fire makes the pool room too warm, there is always air conditioning.

Oddly enough, the erotic core of the honeymoon suite is its bathroom. Sixteen years ago history was made in this resort world when a hotel advertisement first featured a woman in a foam-filled, heart-shaped bathtub. Suddenly Eros existed where before there had been merely plumbing. The industry is still talking about the response to that ad. It emerged that the bride’s primary sensual dream—and it is the bride, as every honeymoon entrepreneur knows, who makes the wedding-trip arrangements—was the chance to get extremely clean with her husband. Since then, every bathroom has been a showcase of American Standard.

The couples who come to enjoy these delights are often unsure of themselves and unaccustomed to each other. To make them relax, each hotel has a social director, invariably referred to as a “character.” He is gregarious and quick with a blue joke. At Cove Haven, the social director uses a bit of breezy obscenity first thing on meeting the arrivals. As the hotel’s publicist explains, this tells the newcomers that they needn’t “put on airs. It breaks things down to the grass roots of life.” Several days later, at evening entertainment, the social director instructs his honeymooners to echo this greeting in unison. Resort wisdom has it that the more enthusiastic the response, the more successful the honeymoon. “It’s a meaningful thing,” concludes the publicist.