Man’s Country was a wildly popular bathhouse chain that had branches in New York City and Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s and even had a commercial that played on Manhattan All Access Cable television.
Gay bathhouses emerged in the mid-20th century as private establishments where gay, bisexual, and straight men who played could socialize, relax, and engage in sexual activities. These venues provided a safe space for gay men at a time when homosexuality was heavily stigmatized and even criminalized in many places.
Man’s Country was founded by Chuck Renslow, a prominent figure in Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community. Renslow was an entrepreneur, activist, and publisher of gay-oriented publications. He established the bathhouse as a place where gay men could come together, explore their sexuality, and find a sense of community.
Man’s Country in NYC was located on a residential street in a former office building.
The most interesting thing about Man’s Country was that the main orgy room featured a full-sized tractor-trailer cab for us to fulfill your trucker fantasies and have sex on/under/inside, you name it. It was also famous for its $1.00 Tuesday night rates, that attracted mammoth numbers of men.
While popular Man’s Country never reached the same popularity level as the downtown St. Marks Baths or the uptown Everard Baths but it was well visited, to say the least.
Man’s Country in NYC closed at the beginning of the AIDS crisis in 1983.
Ultimately, in 2018, Man’s Country in Chicago closed its doors permanently. Its closure marked the end of an era for the gay community in Chicago, And the loss of one of the few safe gay spaces for men left.
The Windy City Times has written an excellent article on the history of the past 43 years that Man’s Country has existed.
One paragraph, in particular, serves as a wonderful summation:
“Renslow is rightfully proud to say that for a long while Man’s Country was the finest bathhouse in the country. After 43 years, the eventual closing of these doors will also be the end of an era. For generations, Man’s Country stood as a symbol for the evolution of gay liberation and consciousness. Though its original grandeur has tarnished, the value and necessity of this building and its place in the evolution of Chicago LGBT history cannot be minimized.”
The closing of Man’s Country was a true end of an era.
7 thoughts on “#FlashbackFriday – “Man’s Country” Bathhouse TV Commercial (1970s) – Video + History”
It was 8 floors and had an elevator and was always packed on weekend evenings. Of course, it was more than a gym (as the ad suggests). It was a gay bathhouse and sex club in the late 70’s to early 80’s. It was very hot before Aids reared its ugly head ! They had cages to screw in, dark grope-rooms, private rooms, lockers, deluxe rooms and secluded and darkened areas to do everything and anything ! There was a guy named Paul and he lived on Leroy Street in the West Village and he was a short and hot Jew bottom that took me there one night in 1979. He later died of Aids and in 1987 the city shut down all the bathhouses.
I really like this place. I was turned off back then by the poseur aspect of all the bars and the scene here was so much more unpretentious. Best time was meeting a real cute art history student about my age, 21,we met in the truck but then sat on the bumper and he told me all about the Chicago Surrealist school. We talked for hours in between very passionate kissing, the guy was so adorable I’ll never forget that. Five years later I got a postcard from him from SF that said “I bet you thought I forgot you”. I had not even remembered giving my address on Lexington Ave. It’s so much easier to connect to people when you’re already naked.
i remember this place well from the 1980’s. I was in my early 20’s and it had multiple stories and was one block from Union Square. The sex was hot and they had cages, a simulated truck-top and screw stables on varying floors with an elevator and loads of hot guys before Aids reared its venomous head from the stink-swamp and destroyed the party !
New York City had no fewer than 10 operating bathhouses simultaneously in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, as listed in the Screw newspaper. The city closed them all in 1985-86 as the looming Aids crisis got worse. They were a vibrant and tangible part of gay life and gay liberation in those days. Sadly, a deadly virus reared its ugly head and most were ambivalent to it,…because gay men were primarily effected. To this date, no vaccine has ever been developed to fight it and the drug companies want people on a life-long drug regimen to control it, not cure it. The financial implications are obvious ! Covid-19 got so much attention and multiple vaccines were developed within a year. Why ? Because the general population was at risk,….not primarily gay men. Has this cold, hard fact escaped the attention of many in 2022 ?
Yes ! It was on W.15th Street and as I recall, was 10 stories high. I was 25 in 1979 when I first walk inside this paradise of a gay sex-den! The looby had a sign in bold letter that read: “MEN-ONLY” There was one floor that had a full service gym.The place was packed on weekends with an endless stream of young,handsome and horny men lookintg to screw! They had simulated jail cells, a truck-stop, dark and gloomy grope-room,screw-stalls, BJ stands, glory holes,big and confortable private rooms and lockers,a restaurant, a lounge, and nude orgy room where anything went…and did! Hey, it opened in 1979 and lasted until the board of health shuttered it and all gay bathhouses in 1985 in NYC as the looming Aids crisis grew alarmingly worse. Oh yeah,baby…those were the days !!!
I sure recall all the gays baths of the 80’s in NYC. The most popular were The St.Marks Baths in the East Village, The Everard on W.28th off Broadway, The Club Baths on the lower East Side and Man’s Country on W.15th St.,but there were others,too. Sex was easy to find in those days of gay sexual freedom and before Aids destroyed the party, Today,as far as I know,the only survivor is The East Side Club on E.56th Street (there since 1976).However,I hear it is a ghost town and not even worth visiting nowdays.