Jan 10, 2016

The Top 10 Bathhouses in the World

I love bathhouses.  In the U.S. most gay guys shun them as sleazy relics of a closeted generation, but in Europe they're a mainstay of gay life.

It's not just about hooking up.  You can lift weights in a fully-equipped gym -- a plus in Europe, where gyms with day passes are scarce -- take a steam or sit in the hot tub, listen to live entertainment, read the latest magazines, chat with friends.  Where else can you get all of that in two hours, for a fee of five Euros?

 And for hooking up, they're far superior to bars and apps:
1. You can see everything the guy has to offer in advance -- no lying, no dissimulation, no hiding unsightly parts under heavy sweaters.
2. You don't have to interview him, call a friend to share, or do any of the other precautions necessary when you invite a stranger home.  The act occurs right there.

Here are my top 10 bathhouses, and the guys I met there:


1. When my friend Viju came home to Rock Island with me in the summer of 1983, I took him to Man's Country, Chicago, on Clark Street, in the heart of the first gay neighborhood I ever knew existed.  It looks like a haunted armory now, but in 1983 it was pristine, all black and chrome, with a maze, a wall of glory holes, and room after room of men.

We met an older guy named Mike, who took us to a gay bar with a picture of Yosemite Sam on the placard before going back to his place to spend the night.

West Hollywood

2. Banos Vica, Tijuana.  At least I think that's the place Alan dragged me to in the 1980s.

Talk about sleazy!  In a crazy galleria.  You undress, dump your clothes in a bag, and go upstairs and wander through creaking corridors, dimly lit by bare bulbs, paint chipping on the walls, trash on the floors, sleazy looking guys in the shadows.  I loved it.

We met Alejandro, a slim guy from Veracruz who spoke both Spanish and Nahuatl, but no English.  Alan wasn't happy with my ability to monopolize the conversation.

3, Lane and I went to Europe almost every summer from 1989 to 1996, and always looked for the bathhouses in the cities we visited.  My favorite was the Sauna Condal in Barcelona, probably the biggest bathhouse I've ever been to, spread over three floors, with a gigantic darkroom, rows of glory holes, and many theme nights.  We met Ramon, who was of Chinese ancestry but didn't speak Chinese.  Big into Catalan independence.

New York

4. Sauna Centre-Ville, Montreal.  Four floors, with a rooftop patio.  Playrooms, glory holes, dark rooms, a dungeon with a sling and bondage equipment.  I was in town for a conference in the summer of 1998, and met the Wing Man to the Muscle God.

5. In New York, I started making the annual Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam jaunt, and in Paris I always found time for Les Bains d'Odessa.  An ancient Roman motif.  A pool, live entertainment, glory holes, a lounge with drinks and snacks, bear nights the first of the month. Plus, around the corner from the Luxembourg Gardens.  That's where I met  Jean the Violinist who wouldn't let me touch his instrument, and Ludek, of the glory hole bait-and-switch.


6. Plus I lived about a mile from the Club (now known as the Clubhouse II), so I went at least once a week.  Mazes of private rooms, brunch every Sunday, tourists from around the world. I met the Intersexed Guy there in 2003, and Barney hooked up with the Jolly Green Giant.

7. During my terrible summer in Slovakia, my friend Doc and I visited the Sauna Labyrint in Prague.  Very bold color scheme, all in pinks and blues.  3 floors of dark rooms, mazes, and glory holes, plus a bar and video rooms.  No weights, but you can put off your workout until later.  We invited a very muscular Polish businessman named Bartek to our room.  He came to Munich with us.


8. While living in Dayton, I often made the two-hour trip to Indianapolis to visit my relatives, and then stopped in at the Works.  Rather small, no darkrooms, a giant steamroom.  But I managed to meet Jim, one of the youngest mayors in Indiana history, who invited me to visit his small town.


9. While I was living upstate, I often went to the River Club in Albany, rather small and sort of expensive ($20 for 4 hours), but immaculate.  The night I became a Creepy Old Guy, I met the 21-year old Peter.

10. And I started driving home to the Midwest every summer.  It was a two-day trip, with the Flex Club in Cleveland  as a convenient halfway point.  In a terrible part of town, but at least there was a good Thai restaurant in walking distance.  Full hotel facilities, plus video rooms, dark rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, a restaurant-bar, and a beautifully equipped gym.  Admission was so cheap that some locals came every day.  Like Lester, who bragged to all his friends about our hookup.

The uncensored post, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.