Spending Christmas 1971 at the Continental Baths

I wonder how many people actually spent December 25, 1970 taking in the scene inside the Upper West Side’s infamous Continental Baths?

Contintentalbathsad122371

According to this Village Voice ad from December 23, “the world’s most liberated club” was hosting a special Christmas show (ladies admitted at 11:15!), and then a New Years’ celebration as well.

AnsoniahotelOpened in 1968 in the basement of the then-faded Ansonia Hotel (right) on West 74th Street, the Continental Baths was a “sexual Xanadu”—a place where gay men in towels could dance, socialize, and be entertained by not-yet-famous Bette Midler (and her piano player, Barry Manilow), Nell Carter, and Melba Moore.

The Baths operated until the mid-1970s, when it was rebranded as swingers’ paradise Plato’s Retreat. Perhaps they too had a Christmas Day special?

This New York magazine article from 1973 offers a detailed look inside “New York’s most Weimarian nightspot.”

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6 Responses to “Spending Christmas 1971 at the Continental Baths”

  1. velvethead Says:

    Liz Torres! I always enjoyed in All in the Family.

  2. realeyezlife Says:

    that’s the ansonia…love that building…many a gangster lived there…bugsy siegal had an apartment on the 9th floor 🙂

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I love the mafia angle, thanks. Here’s a little more about the Ansonia, when it was stripped of its cornices for scrap metal during World War II

    https://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/stripping-the-grand-ansonia-hotel-of-its-cornices/

  4. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    from Queer Street by James McCourt, The Rise and Fall of American Culture 1947-1985. 2004 Norton. A huge, thick book but very well worth it, I like it very much, still reading the 500+ pages..

    “Eleanor Steber, its star, a great gay icon right down to the 1970s when, a resident of the fabled Ansonia Hotel at 73rd Street and Broadway, she came all the way down in the elevator, in a gorgeous recital gown, and sang to the men in the then-regnant Continental Baths, joining such successor luminaries as Bette Midler and Holly Woodlawn to constitute a triple goddess of quality queer vaudeville.”

  5. Jaye Byrd Says:

    I remember well all the bathhouses that existed in Manhattan before 1986,when all were closed down by the city.They were the new St.Mar’s Baths in the East Village, The Big Apple Baths on W. 50-th.Street, The Club Baths on the lower East side,The Continental Baths in the Ansonia Hotel ,and The Everard on W.28-th Street off Broadway, i was a regular in the baths and have been in all of them from 1980 until the city closed them all down in 1986.This article mentions (5) of the most popular ones in Manhattan above. However, around 1981-82, in their heyday, there were no fewer than (12) gay men’s baths operating in the city…..as listed in the very popular SCREW weekly newspaper of that era. There were a total of (11) in Manhattan and (1) in Flushing, Queens.The others were, i.e., The Barracks on W.42nd St.in Times Sq.,The Beacon Baths in midtown, Mt.Morris baths on W.125th St.in Harlem,The Wall Street Sauna on Maiden Lane in the financial district, The Christopher Street Baths,a tiny one,located in the basement of a residential building on Christopher Street,just off 7th Ave. South, and The Keller Baths,located atop the Keller Hotel on West Street,one block South of Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.Lastly, located in Flushing,Queens was the Northern Men’s Sauna. This is gay men’s bathhouse history in New York City from the 1970’s right through 1986,whenthe city shuttered them all due to the AIDS crisis.

    • Nick R Says:

      Jaye Byrd, your comments are fascinating. Would you ever be interested in being interviewed about gay spaces of the era, including these baths? I’m a younger gay person interested in recording gay oral histories, especially related to the 1970-1983 period. Thanks for sharing your experience here!

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