Friday, April 23, 2010

A Toronto Bathhouse Throws in the Towel

I'm sorry to see this gay bathhouse is all washed up, and I bet lots of men who visited the establishment over the decades are gonna miss the joint.

Gay sexuality is always evolving, and even with the advent of the web and easy online cruising, there is still a strong need for bricks-and-mortar venues where we can gather for sexual pleasures and socializing.

From an Xtra! column by James Dubro:

On April Fool’s Day, a hand-written note appeared on the red door of Club Toronto reading simply, “Closed forever.” It was no joke. After 37 years as a bathhouse, the large brick house at Mutual and Carlton streets is being gutted to make way, according to the landlord, for an upscale swingers’ club.

When it opened in the summer of 1973 as the Club Baths, it offered a unique blend of sexual and social interaction for gay men.

“It was a great place to be in the 1970s and ’80s,” says former regular Freddy Strickland, a retired meat inspector. “It was my home away from home — movies, saunas, meeting interesting people and relaxing in the whirlpool. It was one of the most important places for me then.”

This is just too special. A meat inspector was an habitue? I'm sure there were plenty of others. ;-)

“What many people don’t realize was that for many closeted gay men, Club Toronto was as much social-psychological refuge as it was a place to get off,” says Rick Stenhouse, who worked at Club Toronto in 1973. [...]

[Founder Peter] Maloney raised the money to open the Club from US Club steam bath owners Jack Campbell and Ray Diemer. [...] But it was Maloney’s unique idea to offer a social outlet — an area where people could sit, have coffee and talk. It was a simple but revolutionary concept. [...]

But Club Toronto will forever remain in our collective memory for its many innovations and achievements, not least of which was successfully fighting the cops after decades of harassment and prosecution.

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