The Baths, Beats & Beyond

Any gay man worth his lube knows Bette Midler got her start as a solo artists performing at the gay baths in New York City with Barry Manilow on piano.  Other great female singers also worked the baths like Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight.  What’s been all but forgotten is the influence the DJs at the baths had and their far reaching influence on popular music.


“The Musical Legacy of Gay Bathhouses” is a new and thoroughly fascinating look at the evolution of “classic” gay music by Mark B. writing for   From the Continental Baths to Steamworks Chicago, he explores the sexy sounds of the gay sauna and how they made their way out in to the public and on to every gay dance floor in America for decades.




“Sex usually comes with its own soundtrack, natural or synthesized, but the music of gay bathhouses, saunas and sex clubs in the 1970s has had an uncommon pull on contemporary dance music. Dropping its little terrycloth towel at the intersection of classic disco, extended funk jams, smooth vocal R&B, spacey jazz and early electronic experimentation, and now streaked with the nostalgic gleam of outlaw sexual liberation, the cruising culture of the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS gay era has become a free-floating metaphor of sorts for unfettered physical communion, subcultural freedom and wild, wild nights. When gay men steamed up, society’s shackles slid off.”

“The bathhouse was a social space where lust could mix with camaraderie – and even spark romance. “A lot of sex happened there,” said [DJ Steve] Fabus, “But these were rare places where gay men could come together freely, so a lot of relationships started there, too. With the music, you could get intimate, you could get spacey.” BPMs could linger in the 90-100 zone, and 10 minute tracks were common.”

Read the Mark B’s full article from Red Bull Music HERE

For your listen pleasure theOUTfront presents these classic tunes!



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