New York’s Continental Baths certainly gave gays bang for their buck during its 1960s and ’70s heyday: Besides providing a grand space for liberating homosexual sex and socializing, it hosted Patti Labelle, Bette Midler, Gladys Knight and other rising stars between (and during) all the action.
Director Malcolm Ingram is chronicling the legendary bathhouse’s infamous history in his upcoming documentary, Continental. He says he’s “surprised” no one made this film before. (The Continental did appear in the 1975 feature Saturday Night at the Baths, but the cut-rate flick hardly does the place justice.)
“The story is so incredibly rich: The place had a dance floor, a restaurant, a bar, a beauty salon and a boutique. It was one of the first establishments to introduce convenient STI testing, and its cabaret shows are now legendary,” says Ingram. The Continental was also one of the first places straights and gays mingled openly, years before Studio 54.
“Celebrities like Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol and Rudolph Nureyev felt comfortable enough to go there,” says Ingram. “It was truly a moment in history where gay culture was feeding directly into the zeitgeist and the Continental was the conduit.”
He managed to snag extensive interviews with those who were there, including the Continental’s owner, Steve Ostrow, but Continental is still shy of his $12,000 goal, so if you want to support this chronicle of LGBT history, visit the film’s KickStarter page before the campaign deadline on Monday, August 13.
“It’s impossible to stress how important it is that we record our history,” says Ingram. “And it’s an honor to be the one that gets to tell this incredible story.”
If you’ve seen Ingram’s previous efforts, Bear Nation and Small Town Gay Bar, then you know this will be a film not to be missed.
For a taste of the old Continental, check out this vintage clip of Bathhouse Bette herself: