The Baths and Sex Clubs

I’ve been a sex clubber and bath house goer for so long, I think I could buy a fully loaded Lexus outright for all the dough I’ve dropped on rooms, lockers and three month memberships. Christ, just the other day I calculated that I go through $60 a week just visiting my local sexual haunts, as much as I’d like to fool myself into thinking I’m above paying for sex (not quite yet, that is). But I guess that’s the price for non-committal, drive-by, hit-and-run, slam-bam-thank-you-m’am penis romps.

You don’t even have to know his name.

So who hits up these places? Vacationers, bi-marrieds who can only do it after work or afternoons, guys with family or lovers and no place to take someone home, guys who don’t want to wait until “Last Call” at the bar to connect, or guys just looking for some fast, convenient, no-strings action. Occasionally, a good slam-bang can morph into a fuck buddy relationship, either when the two of you run into one another at “The Place” or outside. But though it’s nice to have some regulars to rely on on a slow night, most of us who are committed sex club/bath addicts go for one fantasy reason. We’re constantly on the prowl for fresh meat.

Now, I’ve checked out sex clubs and baths across the country and, in fact, won’t visit a town without one, my own form of sex insurance you might say. (Bars today are chancy for picking up guys at best.) But while there are a handful, like some of the Club Baths, that are kept squeaky clean and mod, most look pretty seedy, with a retro 70’s look, the heyday of baths, and all that fantasy gay art, plus steam rooms and saunas that resemble a Centers for Disease Control lab for breeding Legionnaires Disease. P.S.: That’s why I always wear my boots, if nothing else. Yes, even in the steam room.

Another peculiar commonality I find is that if a city is large enough to support two baths, invariably one, the spiffier of the two, caters to, and attracts a younger, body-boy crowd, while the other is filled with the dregs of gay society: the homely, the dwarfs (I kid you not), and guys so ancient they need a walker to get around. One look at their sagging asses and I don’t need any aversion therapy from the Religious Right to cure me of my kink. (God help me. Be merciful and let it just fall off when I get to that stage.)

However, now that I’ve slammed them, I have to confess I have my better successes at the Dreg Hang-outs, where the guys are more real or more desperate, and where you can find a few Rough and Ready Rebel Boys among the shit if you hit it right. A bi-married man who doesn’t have time for bullshit doesn’t hurt either. By contrast, the pretty boys at the The Squeaky Clean Places seem like they’re there to just stroll around and show off their steroids (We’re walking… and walking … and walking). Hell, guys, I can see more on the beach for nothing. One night I got so frustrated at a Club Bath loaded with these shaved, hairless mannequins that I yelled out, “Do it with somebody already!”

My biggest kick is those signs on the room doors, “Single Occupancy Only.” Huh? So, I guess guys are here to benefit from the medicinal, healing effects of the waters, like at Lourdes? Or, then again, maybe some guys actually take those signs seriously.

We all know that there’s no guarantee just because you’ve plunked down fifteen bucks, thirty bucks or more for a spell at a sex club or bath house that you’ll get any action. It all depends on the time of day, and day or night of the week, though some places like to drum up business on off nights with discounts for guys wearing leather or who show their gym membership tags. But as somebody who has played this game longer than I’d like to admit, the heyday of the baths and sex clubs was that pre-AIDS era where people didn’t know what lay around the corner. Back in the ‘70’s, there was a bathhouse in downtown Manhattan called Man’s Country where, on a Tuesday night, $2 would buy you a locker and four hours of almost nonstop fun. It was there that I was introduced to poppers which I have been psychologically addicted to, and associate with sex ever since.

Twenty years later, Wally, who owned the late beloved Lure, NYC’s premiere leather bar, turned a warehouse in the West 20’s into a whorehouse for men par excellence. There you could play on a Wednesday or Sunday evening (after hitting the Village bars) and leave ninety uncivilized minutes later like a choir boy with caked cum on your goatee. I wrote about it fondly in one of my short stories, “Vanilla – No Sprinkles” in my Basic Butch short story collection:

It was still a little early—prime time didn’t begin until ten thirtyish—and there were only half a dozen or so guys ahead of him on the line to get in. Harry, as usual, was there himself to collect the ten bucks. Harry, a fat, suspendered Santa Claus-bearded six footer, looked more like a Minnesota farmer than the proprietor of a whore house for men. In minutes Zac was minus his money and his clothes, except for his jockey briefs and shoes, and through the old shower curtains that separated the “lobby” from the inner sanctum.

Dark and shadowy, the guts of the warehouse-like room were empty, lined with men on each of its perimeters. A few early birds were barebacking under the spotlights that crisscrossed the concrete and a token piece of smelly, gritty, semen-stained, lube-caked Salvation Army furniture. But for the most part, evenings always began like some high school dance with the “boys” on one side and the “girls” on another and ended like a scene out of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

Zac searched through the shadows for some fellow veterans. While every night had its share of new meat—after all, wasn’t that the draw?—80% of the guys were regulars like him. You could almost always predict whether a fellow regular you had had a decent time with before was willing to play again if he acknowledged you in some way. If he looked the other way when you passed, or barely nodded when you gave him a butchy “Hey,” you knew he was strictly out for new meat that night and you were just another competitor—at least for now.

Fifty or so men, naked or near naked men, old fucks with wrinkled asses and seasoned men with rugged looks and tight bodies were all there, along with the bubble-butt gym boys with their pregnant bellies and veiny legs that gave away their HIV status, extremos with their tattooed cracks, P.A.s and buzz cuts, and those hairless young boys with chicken chests. Milling around, window shopping, with that modest “Ain’t-I-hot-shit-OK-Mr-DeMille-I’m-ready-for-my-close-up” smirk on their faces, but with ever an eye to begin, at a moment’s notice, the dance.

O.K., so much for Gay Nostalgia and a Walk Down Memory Lane. You need it NOW, RIGHT NOW. So, where do you play and how do you play today’s sex club/bath house scene?

Find out tomorrow …


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