Tag Archives: bathouse

Gay History – June 12: The Murder of Philip Walsted, Loving v. Virginia, Happy Birthday Buddy Cole, and HRC Drops the “T”

June 12th .

1892 – American Feminist writer and illustrator Djuna Barnes is born. Her writings are believed to be the first English language poems with lesbian content.

Barnes played an important part in the development of 20th century English language modernist writing and was one of the key figures in 1920s and 30s bohemian Paris after filling a similar role in the Greenwich Village of the teens.  Her novel “Nightwood” became a cult work of modern fiction, helped by an introduction by T. S. Eliot. It stands out today for its portrayal of lesbian themes and its distinctive writing style. Since Barnes’s death, interest in her work has grown and many of her books are back in print.

1950 – Birth date of Nick Brown, British Member of Parliament. He was forced by the “News of the World” newspaper in 1998 to announce that he is gay. This he did with characteristic good humour, telling an audience of farmers: “It’s a lovely day. The sun is out – and so am I.”

1959 – Birth date of Scott Thompson, openly gay actor 1967.  

Thompson is best known for the character he created of Charles Budderick “Buddy” Cole an effeminate, scandalous, gay socialite, made famous on The Kids in the Hall, a popular Canadian sketch comedy series and troupe of the same name. The character also had a recurring role in The Colbert Report .

1959  – The US Supreme Court issued its ruling in Loving v. Virginia. The case was brought by an interracial couple who challenged the constitutionality of laws banning interracial marriage. The court ruled in favor of the couple, and ruled marriage to be a civil right.

1970 – Neva Joy Heckman and Judith Ann Belew attempted to become legally married. The ceremony was held at Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles and performed by Rev Troy Perry, the founder of the denomination. Under California law, a couple who has lived together at least two years can be legally joined without a license by having a church ceremony and being issued a church certificate.

1975 – The Austin Lesbian Organization was given airtime on the Texas public interest interview program “For Your Information.”

1981 – A Provincial Court judge in Toronto found two employees guilty and three owners not guilty of keeping a common bawdyhouse. Charges related to the Barracks steambath, raided by police December 9, 1978.

1983 – “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker made its appearance on the New York Times bestseller list.

1989 – A rally was held outside the state house in Boston to demand approval of a gay rights bill. 300 people attended.

1995 – The Employment Non-Discrimination Act was re-introduced in Congress. Transgender individuals were purposely excluded from the official bill presented to Congress  because it was thought to be too risky in getting the bill to pass. Congressman Barney Frank and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) were behind the exclusion as they saw this reframing as a way to make the bill more marketable. However, 350 national queer organizations opposed the exclusion of gender identity from the bill in an act of solidarity with trans communities.  To this day HRC is resented by many for this cowardly act and helped create a rift between the Trans and LGB community that still has not been repaired to this day.

1997 – San Francisco Human Rights Commissioners voted five-to-one to retain laws regulating sex clubs and bathouses, including the banning of private rooms. Because we all know a banning a private room stops AIDS not education and condoms.

1997 – A New York appeals court revoked all legal rights as a parent from a lesbian who had been granted limited visitation with a child born to her ex-lover.

2002 – Philip Walsted, 24, was beaten with a baseball bat and robbed on a downtown Tucson street.  

Walsted was walking home on June 12, 2002, when he was attacked and beaten with a baseball bat by 22-year-old David Higdon in the course of a robbery. Walsted was struck in the head with the bat up to 20 times, and received more than 50 wounds as a result of the attack. He died later that day at University Medical Center. 

David A. Higdo, an avowed neo-Nazi  was sentenced to life without parole

2003 – Philadelphia’s Boy Scout council, which defied the national BSA organization in May 2003 by promising not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, ousted a Scout, Gregory Lattera, 18, for publicly announcing he is gay. The same council, the nation’s third largest, voted May 28 to add sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy.

2006 – Australia’s Attorney General, Phillip Ruddock, overturned a same-sex marriage law in the Australian Capital Territory.

2011 – On this date, Episcopal clergy in the diocese of San Joaquin, California, officially recognized gay and lesbian partnerships as “sacred unions.”

Who Will Buy? – One of the Few Remaining Gay Sex Spaces Seattle’s Bathouse Club Z for Sale

One of the few remaining gay bathouses in America, Seattle Washington’s Club Z in the Capitol Hill section is up for sale.

Here is the realtor’s description for the $2.15 million listing for 1117 Pike:

Built in 1906 this three story commercial building is for sale for the first time in almost 40 years. The Pike Building is located just above downtown Seattle in an A+ Capitol Hill location. This offers a Buyer the rare opportunity to purchase a pride-of-ownership property located only 3 blocks from downtown Seattle.

“The property offers endless potential for an investor to redevelop the property or maintain the existing use,” the marketing copy concludes.

The building has been home to a gay bathhouse for decades. Today known as Club Z, (originally called the  “Zodiac Social Club”) the sex club is one of the few left in the country.

The Stranger’s Christopher Frizzelle wrote a rather sex-negative history of the Club Z building’s place in Seattle — a mix of early 20th century hotels, World War II internment, AIDS, drugs, and sex — as the property was being planned for demolition and development in the early 2000s. A project to create a multi-story condominium development began the permitting process but never made it past planning phases. The property continues to be held by the same real estate investor who purchased it in the 1970s.

In January Chicago’s landmark gay bathhouse Man’s Country closed after 44 years in business.

Shall we start a $2.15 million dollar GoFundMe campaign to buy it and save our historic gay sex spaces?

Gay News Flashback – New York Times 11/14/1985: “BATHHOUSES REFLECT AIDS CONCERNS”

Reprinted from New York Times 




Attendance has declined at the 10 homosexual bathhouses in New York since the onset of the AIDS epidemic, according to the city’s Department of Health. But some of the owners report that business remains profitable despite mounting public pressure that the baths be closed.

”I’ve gone through my own particular moral crisis with this,” said Bruce Mailman, a homosexual and a Lower East Side real-estate entrepreneur who owns the St. Marks Baths, as well as the Saint, a homosexual discotheque. ”Am I profiting from other people’s misery? I don’t think so. I think I’m running an establishment that handles itself as well as it can under the circumstances.”

Mr. Mailman reports a 50 percent decline in attendance since 1982, while Jim Schwartz, who describes himself as a minority stockholder at the East Side Sauna, one of the city’s smaller bathhouses, said business had declined 25 percent, from nearly 2,000 customers a week to about 1,500.

Neither of the owners was willing to describe his profits in detail but both said that if they were not making money they would close their doors, as five other local bathhouses have done in recent years.

Forums for Education

With nearly 14,000 cases of AIDS reported nationwide, 6,700 in New York, homosexual men are increasingly calling for the closing of the baths, and many are criticizing homosexuals who profit from their operation.

Both Governor Cuomo and Mayor Koch are reconsidering their positions that such places, licensed by the city’s Health Department, are useful forums for educating homosexuals about the sexual practices that spread acquired immune deficiency syndrome, which is usually fatal.

”Because the circumstances have changed, because political opinion makes us bad guys, that doesn’t mean I’m doing something morally incorrect,” said Mr. Mailman. ”In my own terms, my behavior is correct and I’ll do what I believe as long as I can do it.”

At the St. Marks Baths, for the price of a locker or a room, patrons now get a free condom, enclosed in a package that bears the legend ”the contents of this envelope could save your life.”

Complies With Guidelines

To Mr. Mailman, this is evidence that he runs a ”beautifully maintained facility” that the city or state should inspect like a restaurant and only close for specific violations.

”I’m tired of the seamy notion of this,” he said during a recent tour of portions of the St. Marks Baths, at 6 St. Marks Place, off Third Avenue in Greenwich Village. ”It’s quite beautiful, expensive and well done.”

According to dozens of men familiar with bathhouses around the city, only the St. Marks and the East Side Sauna, at 227 East 56th Street, between Third and Second Avenues, are currently in compliance with guidelines drafted by a homosexual group called the Coalition for Sexual Responsibility that were recommended to Governor Cuomo by his AIDS Advisory Council as an alternative to closing the bathhouses. Both baths are owned by homosexuals, which is apparently the exception rather than the rule in a business where owners rarely make their identities known.

Michael Callen, a member of the advisory council and a bathhouse patron until he contracted AIDS, gives credit grudgingly to the bathhouses that comply with the guidelines. The guidelines include the distribution of free condoms and so-called safe-sex literature, the use of high levels of chlorine in swimming pools and the availability of lubricants and soap in individual packages or pump-top dispensers.

”They did it with a gun to their heads,” Mr. Callen said. ”They didn’t do it for the clients.”

A Safe-Sex Pledge

Mr. Mailman and Mr. Schwartz said in separate interviews that they might band together with other owners in legal action should the baths be ordered closed, but would not protest the closing of establishments that failed to abide by the guidelines. ”I’m not going to defend their right to be sloppy,” Mr. Mailman said.

At the St. Marks Baths, patrons also are expected to sign a pledge that they understand and will abide by the safe-sex guidelines, which are largely designed to eliminate the exchange of body fluids during anal intercourse or oral sex, two practices linked to the transmission of AIDS. Patrons and owners say that the vast majority of men are now practicing safe sex, but acknowledge that it is impossible to know for sure what goes on behind the closed doors of the private rooms.

In different ways, both Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Mailman argue that bathhouses are a necessary element of the homosexual lifestyle.

Mr. Schwartz said he viewed the East Side Sauna as ”so much less intimidating than gay bars” and thus a more sympathetic meeting place.

”We do not condone multiple-partner sex,” he said. ”If we found somebody being a real pig, we would ask him to leave, which we’ve done. From a business point of view, we make as much money from one person having sex with one person as one person having sex with 40.”

Baths Called Safer

Mr. Mailman, however, staunchly defends what many consider promiscuous behavior.

”Theoretically,” Mr. Mailman said, ”you could have sex safely with 100 people or unsafely with one. I keep hearing, ‘I’ll cut back; I’ll just go out every six months.’ What good is that if the one time you go out you have unsafe sex? You’re better off in the baths.”

As a rule, bathhouse patrons can choose between a locker, which costs about $7 for eight hours, or a private room, which costs several dollars more. At the East Side Sauna, which occupies parts of three floors in an office building, there is a steam room and sauna, television and video lounges and what is known as ”the group room.”

”How do you say this nicely?” said Mr. Schwartz. ”Basically, it’s an orgy room.”

Increased Lighting

At the St. Marks Baths there is a restaurant, a tiled swimming pool and hot tub, a steam room and sauna, and a room known as ”the dormitory,” where Mr. Mailman said he recently increased the lighting to discourage group sex.

The four-story building on St. Marks Place was a Turkish bath from 1906 until the late 1970’s, when the elderly of the Lower East Side briefly shared the facilities with a nighttime clientele of homosexuals. Those days are long forgotten by Mr. Mailman’s patrons, but an even earlier manifestation of the St. Marks Baths is preserved with a plaque on the building’s brick and aluminum facade.

”On this site,” the plaque reads, ”stood the winter residence from 1834-1836 and the last New York City home of the novelist James FenimoreCooper.”


The St. Marks Baths was closed on December 6th. 1985 after city inspectors at the bathhouse reported seeing 50 acts of ”unsafe sex” involving more than 80 men which violated unsafe, or high-risk, sexual activity as defined in New York State’s newly mandated regulations against sex in business establishment.  

In the court papers, the city emphasized, as it has in the past, that it was seeking not to single out homosexuals but ”to protect the public health.”

Jack Stoddard, a manager of the bathhouse, called the state rules ”very anti-homosexual.”




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35 Year Later Toronto Police Apologize for Canada’s Stonewall: The Toronto Bathhouse Raids of 1981 aka “Operation Soap”


Operation Soap - Toronto Bathouse Raid 1981


On February 5th. 1981, more than 200 plainclothes police officers raided four Toronto bathhouses leading to the largest mass arrest since the October Crisis ten years earlier. In total, 289 were charged with being “found-in a common bawdy house”  and 2 men actually being charged with “buggery”.

This week speaking before Speaking before Toronto Mayor John Tory and leaders within the gay community Toronto police chief Mark Saunders issued a long overdue apology for the bathouse raids of 1981 which th Toronto PD called “Operation Soap”.

“The 35th anniversary of the 1981 raids is a time when the Toronto Police service expresses its regret for those very actions,” and called the raids “one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history” and acknowledged the “destructiveness” of the police action.

“It is also an occasion to acknowledge the lessons learned about the risks of treating any part of Toronto’s many communities as not fully a part of society.” Saunders recognized the successful efforts within the gay community to fight against the long list of charges. Almost all the charges against those arrested were eventually dropped.

“An extraordinary community response led to the eventual acquittal of almost everyone arrested that night,” Saunders said.

Men speaking out in the aftermath of the raids described severe misconduct on the part of the police. Some reported being photographed naked, others said police took down their employers’ names and phone numbers and several men stated that police had referred to them as “queers, faggots and fairies”. Moreover, one man reported that several officers used sledgehammers and crowbars with abandon, smashing windows and breaking down doors. This last fact is corroborated by the $38,000 in damages reported by the four bathhouses after the raid (nearly $100,000 in 2015 dollars). In contrast, the police report stated that the officers behaved in a “professional manner.”

Following the raids, thousands of people rallied outside police headquarters and marched down Yonge Street in a defiant statement of solidarity.

“That was the takeoff point for the takeoff of the Toronto gay community that we know today,” said Brian Mossop was inside a bathhouse that night. “Before that, the gay community — at least the out-of-the-closet gay community — had been very small, only a handful of gay activists. But suddenly vast numbers of people decided they wanted to get involved, and many, many people decided that it was time to come out of the closet.”

The community quickly united. A committee was later formed to help cover legal costs for the 286 men who were charged, reach out to the media and plan further protests. Literary heavyweight Margaret Atwood made headlines when she weighed in on the raids, famously saying, “What do the police have against cleanliness?”

Some newspapers later published the names of the men arrested in the raids.

You can read more about the 1981 Toronto Bathhouse Raids by CLICKING HERE.

Club Dallas Gay Bathhouse Raided, 11 Arrested For Public Lewdness and Indecent Exposure

What year is this 1965?

On Friday night police raided The Club-Dallas, a gay bathhouse in the Deep Ellum district of East Dallas, and arrested 11 people.

Why the raid?  “When somebody complains we have to go in, just like when someone calls 911 we have to go to the call,” Laura Martin  the DPD’s liaison officer to the gay community, said. “Now that so much activity was found there, they can probably expect more vice operations there. … I’ve certainly never been there, but I’ve heard that public lewdness does go on in the club. All you have to do is keep your ears open.”

Ten patrons of The Club reportedly were charged with either public lewdness or indecent exposure, while one employee was charged with interfering with police. DPD would only release records related to three of the 11 arrests, according to the Dallas Voice which broke the story needs to file a freedom of information request to obtain additional details.

The Club Dallas issued a one-sentence statement about the raid. “The Club Dallas management is committed to pursuing justice for and defending the rights of each of its members,” The Club helped bond out arrested members from jail and has offered them legal representation.

One member who was present during the raid but was not arrested, accused police of harassment and intimidation. According to police reports, two undercover officers paid their way into The Club and gathered evidence, before additional officers came in and helped execute the arrests. The member said the officers were carrying plastic flexcuffs and detained him for 45 minutes even though he was just working out in the fitness area. He said he believes the city is trying to shut down The Club to make way for redevelopment around the new DART station that sits next door.

At one point the member said he heard one of the officers remark that, “I’m going to have nightmares forever after this.”

This whole raid sounds like a set-up.  One complain sparks a major vice raid?  Dallas has a high crime rate people are getting shot and killed, beaten, raped, kidnapped, and robbed in the Oaklawn area, not to mention other areas of Dallas; and the DPD has time to have vice officers raid and arrest people in Club Dallas?

I cannot tell you how much this distresses me.  Now no matter what your opinion of bathhouses are this is a direct throwback to gay harassment of the 1960’s.  In recent months we have had gay bar raids, bathhouse raids, rabid anti-gay talk from politicians,  a spike in LGBT hate crimes and murder, an epidemic of LGBT teen suicides, LGBT books being banned from libaries, and people being fired for just being gay. 

This is a very serious situation .  And we need to do something about it.  Its like time is marching backwards.

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