Posts Tagged ‘Continental Baths’

Spending Christmas 1971 at the Continental Baths

December 23, 2013

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

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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.”

The most infamous sex club of the 1970s

April 27, 2011

Lots of legendary New York clubs were born in 1970s: CBGB on the Bowery, Studio 54 west of midtown, Paradise Garage on King Street.

But lets not forget Plato’s Retreat, the notorious swingers’ club that epitomized the free-sex atmosphere of pre-AIDS New York.

Opened in 1977, Plato’s Retreat held court in the basement of the then-crumbling Beaux Arts Ansonia Hotel on Broadway and West 74th Street.

Management laid out strict rules: No gay men, couples only (though women could have sex with each other), no drugs, no booze.

Celebrities indulged in orgies with regular joes and janes from the suburbs. A “mat room” was for exhibitionist sex. Clothes were optional. Guests could bump uglies in the disco, the Jacuzzi, and the huge swimming pool.

Of course, it wouldn’t last long. In 1980, Plato’s Retreat moved out of the Ansonia to a much bigger space at 509 West 34th Street. Owner Larry Levenson went to prison for tax evasion in 1981.

And then AIDS hit the city. Mayor Koch ordered the health department to shut down gay bathhouses as well as straight sex clubs like Plato’s Retreat. By 1985, it was over.