Continental Baths  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In the late 1960s, Steve Ostrow opened the famous Continental Baths in the basement of the landmark 1903 Ansonia Hotel, New York City. Famous for its gay clientèle, lavish accommodations, the Continental Baths was advertised as being reminiscent of "the glory of ancient Rome." In 1973, before he would become resident DJ at the Paradise Garage, Larry Levan debuted as at the 'Baths.

"The first place I played at was the Continental Baths. I was doing lights and the DJ walked out."

Larry Levan was given six hours to find a record collection.


The Continental Baths suddenly lost much of its gay clientèle by 1974. The reason for the decline in patronage was, as one gay New Yorker was quoted, "We finally got fed up with those silly-assed, campy shows. All those straight people in our bathhouse made us feel like we were part of the decor, and that we were there for their amusement."

By the time 1974 had ended, patronage was so low that Steve Ostrow had decided to discontinue the lounge acts. He focused, instead, on resurrecting his business by making the baths coed. He even advertised on WBLS, but to no avail. In the end, Ostrow closed the Continental Baths for good. The facility, however, was reopened in 1977 as a heterosexual swingers' club called Plato's Retreat, but it was shut down by the City of New York at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Continental Baths" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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