History on Film: Bette Midler At the Continental Baths!
Sept 22, 2010
Not all the ‘History on Film’ posts have to be super serious and about war, funerals and betrayals! Before I leave on vacation, thought I would share this video of the great Bette Midler in her salad days at the Continental Bathhouse in New York City from the early 1970’s. Midler, who was then performing as one of the daughters in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF on Broadway, would hop in a cab after the show came down and head uptown to sing for the boys.
According to gaytubs.com, the Continental Baths was founded in the late 1960’s in the basement of the famous Ansonia Hotel on the Upper West Side in New York. Make no mistake about it, the bathhouse was intended for sex but in this case in high class surroundings. This huge monument to the days of Rome would see over 1,000 men passing through its doors in a day. Steve Ostrow was the owner and hit upon a unique idea. How about having a cabaret in a bathhouse? He booked such pioneering acts as Melba Moore, Wayland Flowers, Manhattan Transfer and finally Bette Midler with her piano player…Barry Manilow who one night performed in only a towel! Performing to crowds of men wrapped in towels and sometime not wrapped in towels, many careers were started in this bathhouse for gay men.
Gaytubs.com about icon writer Edmund White’s reaction to Midler being at the baths.
Edmund White, always seemed to be “exasperated” by the concerts because they distracted the regular patrons from the more important task of cruising for sex. “I was so sex-obsessed that I found it irritating,” said White, “because everybody stopped their sexual activities to listen to a person fuming away in the background, hoping everybody would hurry up and get back to work!”