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c. 1980s

Offset lithograph

17 x 23 inches

Contact gallery for price.

The Club Baths was a chain of gay American bathhouses that operated from the mid-1960s through the 1980s. Founded in 1965 by gay activist and entrepreneur Jack Campbell, the Baths quickly became radical spaces that engendered political discussion, professional alliances, and helped foster the sexual liberation movement of the 1970s. Always the lightning rod for the religious right, venues that catered to acts of sodomy drew quick condemnation. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, is reported to have confronted Jack Campbell, stating, “[W]e have a hundred churches and a total of 30,000 members.” Campbell is said to have dryly quipped, “Well, although we only have thirty churches, we have 300,000 members.” In fact, so intertwined with gay male sexual identity is the lash of religious bigotry that friends often stated that they were “going to church” when visiting the Baths.

Most of the bathhouses were closed in the 1980s by city governments due to the accusation that they were contributing to the spread of the microbiological disaster. The facility at 24 First Avenue on NYC’s Lower East Side served as a sexual playground for many neighborhood artists, and is ground zero for the earliest clusters of NYC HIV infections.

G.E.

Work by Club Baths