Continental Baths  

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The Continental Baths was a gay bathhouse in the basement of The Ansonia Hotel in New York City, which was opened in 1968 by Steve Ostrow. It was advertised as reminiscent of "the glory of ancient Rome". The documentary film Continental by Malcolm Ingram covers the height of the club's popularity through the early 1970s.

Contents

Facilities

The features of this bathhouse included a disco dance floor, a cabaret lounge, sauna rooms, a narrow "Olympia blue" swimming pool, bunk beds in public areas, and tiny rooms as one would find in any gay bathhouse. The facility had the capacity to serve nearly 1,000 men, 24 hours a day.

One gay guide from the 1970s described the Continental Baths as a place that "revolutionized the bath scene in New York City."

Some features of the Continental Bathhouse included a warning system that tipped off patrons when police arrived. There was also an STD clinic, a supply of A200 (a lice-killing shampoo) in the showers, a mouthwash dispenser, and K-Y Jelly in the candy vending machine.

Entertainment

Template:Refimprove section An added attraction at the club was the first class entertainment provided by performers such as: Template:Div col

Due to her performances at the baths, Bette Midler earned the nickname Bathhouse Betty. It was at the Continental, accompanied by pianist Barry Manilow (who, like the bathhouse patrons, sometimes wore only a white towel)

that she created her stage persona the Divine Miss M. {{quote|Despite the way things turned out [with the AIDS crisis], I'm still proud of those days [when I got my start singing at the gay bathhouses]. I feel like I was at the forefront of the gay liberation movement, and I hope I did my part to help it move forward. So, I kind of wear the label of 'Bathhouse Betty' with pride.

Despite Midler's constant complaints about "that goddamn waterfall,"Template:Clarify her poolside performances were so successful that she soon gained national attention, beginning with repeat performances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Closure

The Continental Baths lost much of its gay clientele by 1974. The reason for the decline in patronage was, as one gay New Yorker was quoted, "We finally got fed up with those silly-assed, campy shows. All those straight people in our bathhouse made us feel like we were part of the d├ęcor and that we were there for their amusement."

By the end of 1974, patronage was so low that Steve Ostrow had decided to discontinue the lounge acts. He focused, instead, on resurrecting his business by making the baths coed. He even advertised on WBLS, but to no avail. In the end, Ostrow closed the Continental Baths for good. The facility, however, was reopened in 1977 as a heterosexual swingers' club called Plato's Retreat. Plato's Retreat relocated to W. 34th St. in 1980 then was shut down by the city of New York at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Police raids

In February 1969, the New York City Police raided the Continental Baths. Twenty-two patrons, whom an undercover, towel-clad policeman identified as having offered to have sex with him or actually had sex with him, were arrested. This happened again in December of the same year, when police entered the Continental Baths and arrested three patrons and three employees, charging them with committing lewd and lascivious acts and criminal mischief, respectively.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Continental Baths" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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