Gay bathhouse  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Gay bathhouses, also known as gay saunas or steam baths (and sometimes called, in gay slang in some regions, "the baths" or "the tubs"), are places where men can go to have sex with other men. Not all men who visit such bathhouses consider themselves gay. Bathhouses for women are much rarer, though some men's bathhouses will occasionally have "lesbian" or "women-only" nights.

Unlike at brothels, customers pay only for the use of the facilities; sexual activity, if it occurs, is not provided as a service by staff of the establishment, but is between customers, and no money is exchanged. Many gay bathhouses explicitly prohibit or discourage prostitution and ban known prostitutes.

Celebrities and the Continental Baths

Singer Bette Midler is well-known for getting her start at the famous Continental Baths in New York City the early 1970s, where she earned the nickname Bathhouse Betty. It was there, 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."

On getting her start in bathhouses, Midler has remarked:

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. Other famous performers who appeared at the Continental include Melba Moore, Labelle, Peter Allen, Cab Calloway, The Manhattan Transfer, John Davidson, and Wayland Flowers.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Gay bathhouse" 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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