Inside The Mind of A Writer: Real Life Experiences That Shaped my Art
In the days before the web and phone apps gave us at least the potential of hooking up almost anytime we wanted it (an art quickly disappearing as more and more guys use the web and apps for virtual sex), your chances for M2M contact, unless you had some scheduled fuck buddies, were either a bar on a weekend or one of those male whorehouses that, while most popular on Fridays and Saturdays, could still pull in a brisk crowd on half price locker or room weekdays. Most of the sex I include in my books, until the web afforded me more flexibility, was had there.
In fact, I’ve been a sex clubber and bath house goer for so long, I think I could buy a fully loaded Lexus outright for all the dough I dropped on rooms, lockers and three month memberships. Christ, just the other day I calculated that I go through $60 a week just visiting my local sexual haunts, as much as I’d like to fool myself into thinking
I’m above paying for sex (not quite yet, that is). But I guess that’s the price for non-committal, drive-by, hit-and-run, slam-bam-thank-you- ma’am penis romps.
You don’t even have to know his name.
So who hits up these places? Vacationers, bi-marrieds who can only do it after work or afternoons, guys with family or lovers and no place to take someone home, guys who don’t want to wait until “Last Call” at the bar to connect, or guys just looking for some fast, convenient, no-strings action. Occasionally, a good slam-bang can morph into a fuck buddy relationship, either when the two of you run into one another at “The Place” or outside. But though it’s nice to have some regulars to rely on on a slow night, most of us who are committed sex club/bath addicts go for one fantasy reason. We’re constantly on the prowl for fresh meat.
Now, I’ve checked out sex clubs and baths across the country and, in fact, won’t visit a town without one, my own form of sex insurance you might say. (Bars today are chancy for picking up guys at best.) But while there are a handful, like some of the Club Baths, that are kept squeaky clean and mod, most look pretty seedy, with a retro 70’s look, the heyday of baths, and all that fantasy gay art, plus steam rooms and saunas that resemble a Centers for Disease Control lab for breeding Legionnaires Disease. P.S.: That’s why I always wear my boots, if nothing else.
Yes, even in the steam room.
Another peculiar commonality I find is that if a city is large enough to support two baths, invariably one, the spiffier of the two, caters to, and attracts a younger, body-boy crowd, while the other is filled with the dregs of gay society: the homely, the dwarfs (I kid you not), and guys so ancient they need a walker to get around. One look at their sagging asses and I don’t need any aversion therapy from the Religious Right to cure me of my kink. (God help me. Be merciful and let it just fall off when I get to that stage.)
However, now that I’ve slammed them, I have to confess I have my better successes at the Dreg Hang-outs, where the guys are more real or more desperate, and where you can find a few Rough and Ready Rebel Boys among the shit if you hit it right. A bi-married man who doesn’t have time for bullshit doesn’t hurt either. By contrast, the pretty boys at the The Squeaky Clean Places seem like they’re there to just stroll around and show off their steroids (We’re walking… and walking … and walking). Hell, guys, I can see more on the beach for nothing. One night I got so frustrated at a Club Bath loaded with these shaved, hairless mannequins that I yelled out, “Do it with somebody already!”
My biggest kick is those signs on the room doors, “Single Occupancy Only.” Huh? So, I guess guys are here to benefit from the medicinal, healing effects of the waters, like at Lourdes? Or, then again, maybe some guys actually take those signs seriously.
We all know that there’s no guarantee just because you’ve plunked down fifteen bucks, thirty bucks or more for a spell at a sex club or bath house that you’ll get any action. It all depends on the time of day, and day or night of the week, though some places like to drum up business on off nights with discounts for guys wearing leather or who show their gym membership tags. But as somebody who has played this game longer than I’d like to admit, the heyday of the baths and sex clubs was that pre-AIDS era where people didn’t know what lay around the corner. Back in the ‘70’s, there was a bathhouse in downtown Manhattan called Man’s Country where, on a Tuesday night, $2 would buy you a locker and four hours of almost nonstop fun. It was there that I was introduced to poppers which I have been psychologically addicted to, and associate with sex ever since.
Twenty years later, Wally, who owned the late beloved Lure, NYC’s premiere leather bar, turned a warehouse in the West 20’s into a whorehouse for men par excellence. There you could play on a Wednesday or Sunday evening (after hitting the Village bars) and leave ninety uncivilized minutes later like a choir boy with caked cum on your goatee.
I wrote about it fondly in one of my short stories, “Vanilla – No Sprinkles” in my Basic Butch short story collection:
It was still a little early—prime time didn’t begin until ten thirtyish—and there were only half a dozen or so guys ahead of him on the line to get in. Harry, as usual, was there himself to collect the ten bucks. Harry, a fat, suspendered Santa Claus-bearded six footer, looked more like a Minnesota farmer than the proprietor of a whore house for men. In minutes Zac was minus his money and his clothes, except for his jockey briefs and shoes, and through the old shower curtains that separated the “lobby” from the inner sanctum.
Dark and shadowy, the guts of the warehouse-like room were empty, lined with men on each of its perimeters. A few early birds were barebacking under the spotlights that crisscrossed the concrete and a token piece of smelly, gritty, semen-stained, lube-caked Salvation Army furniture. But for the most part, evenings always began like some high school dance with the “boys” on one side and the “girls” on another and ended like a scene out of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.
Zac searched through the shadows for some fellow veterans. While every night had its share of new meat—after all, wasn’t that the draw?—80% of the guys were regulars like him. You could almost always predict whether a fellow regular you had had a decent time with before was willing to play again if he acknowledged you in some way. If he looked the other way when you passed, or barely nodded when you gave him a butchy “Hey,” you knew he was strictly out for new meat that night and you were just another competitor—at least for now.
Fifty or so men, naked or near naked men, old fucks with wrinkled asses and seasoned men with rugged looks and tight bodies were all there, along with the bubble-butt gym boys with their pregnant bellies and veiny legs that gave away their HIV status, extremos with their tattooed cracks, P.A.s and buzz cuts, and those hairless young boys with chicken chests. Milling around, window shopping, with that modest “Ain’t-I-hot-shit-OK-Mr-DeMille-I’m-ready-for-my-close-up” smirk on their faces, but with ever an eye to begin, at a moment’s notice, the dance.
O.K., so much for Gay Nostalgia and a Walk Down Memory Lane. You need it NOW, RIGHT NOW. So, where do you play and how do you play today’s sex club/bath house scene?
Well, my vote for the best bath house in the country is, hands down, Chicago’s Steamworks. Located in funky Halstead, north of downtown, Steamworks is a modern phallic temple with three floors, dozens of rooms and almost as many booths and glory holes, all sorts of nooks and crannies, all dedicated to the glory of dick. Clean and popular, it’s what makes Chicago for me.
And when it comes to sex clubs, nothing beats the efficiency of Slammers which, as a bi-coastal enterprise, maintains a whorehouse in L.A. and one right here in Lauderdale that has given the bath houses a run for their money and has even put a dent in the bar scene. Hey, you can walk in in street clothes, don’t have to strip, stroll around till the rhythm is right, then grab a first come, first served booth with a latch for privacy (unless you’re an exhibitionist and prefer the few with peepholes in the doors). And for those into oral games, there’s the two level suck-a-rarium, lined on all sides with gloryholes.
So, bath house or sex club, what works and doesn’t work?
First, you need a critical mass of men for stuff to start happening. Too few a universe of men, and guys wait for the next best man to walk in before they “commit” themselves; too many, even the lowly are waiting for God, that is until their time or patience or Viagra has almost run out. Then they’d do a pursy lipped Lutheran minister to get their rocks off.
Time of day and day or night of the week also has a lot to do with success and size and quality of the crowd. Though nights, especially Fridays and Saturdays, are traditional hotbeds, mid or late weekday afternoons can witness some brisk business from bi-marrieds, college kids, or retirees, in-shape or otherwise. Thursday nights at Slammers where you get a few bucks off if you wear leather are surprisingly lively with non-nonsense hot men.
Being in the right spot at the right time is also part of the game. Sometimes everything’s in sync and you and your soon-to-be paramour for the next seventeen minutes fall all over one another. Other times it’s a waiting game, to a point you feel more frustrated at 3 a.m. when you leave than at 10 p.m. when you came in.
I also find the guys, solo or paired, who keep passing your room at the bath house with your door wide open time after time after time for half the night, staring right at you each time they pass, never close the deal. The best guys are the direct ones who just walk right in, grab your cock and take it from there.
And, of course, the baths, in particular, have a silent language all their own. If you grab a room (I do whenever I can though it costs more; you, in theory, have a better chance of netting a catch), the position of the body is all important: ass up or dick up. A can of Crisco on the end table. A whip at the foot of the bed. All can speak volumes to you or your would-be suitor.
One big advantage that clubs and baths have over picking somebody up in the bar is that, if after ten seconds you realize it ain’t gonna work, he wants to fuck and so do you, well no hard feelings, you or he just move on. Not like picking up the love of your life in a bar when you and/or he have had a trio of $3 Long Island iced teas and find that great chest in his T becomes two mounds of jello when he takes it off. In your bedroom. And, as we all know, that can be just the start of a string of unpleasant surprises. Even if you go over the check list on likes and dislikes before the two of you exit the bar, it’s funny how suddenly he has amnesia and changes his mind in midstream after you’ve gone through the trouble of unlacing your damn boots.
But the one hard (no pun intended) fact of sex club/bath life you have to accept is that it’s all about “The Bod.” Personality, torn, piss-stained jockstraps, and material success in the outside world (unless you discreetly have a hundred dollar bill tucked between the cheeks of your ass) are all secondary to “The Bod.” And I’ll take an ugly, pock-marked guy with a terrif tight bod any day of the week over a pretty boy who’s either ironing board thin or The Blob. But whatever you got, whether it’s a hairy chest, great legs, a tight ass, or a dong to the floor, sell it.
Me? I lay in my room stark naked, propped up on my pancake of a pillow, dick Viagra hard, with only my work boots on. You know: the porny look. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but, hey, it at least puts ME in the mood.
In the sex club where guys tend to keep their jeans or shorts on, strip off the shirt if you got something to show off, and don’t bother with underwear. It gets in the way when a quickie is available for the price of a lascivious grin. And please! No cologne. He wants to smell your sweat, not the Calvin Klein.
No bod? No looks? No youth? No dick? Just the urge? Well, that’s why the Gay God created dark orgy rooms or glory holes. I chuckle when guys look on the other side of the wall to see who may be waiting to suck their cock. Does it matter? Some of the homeliest guys are the best cocksuckers.
Me? I just pretend he’s Brad Pitt or my heart throb of the night and let it all hang out for his, and my pleasure.
After all, guys, isn’t sex seventy percent fantasy anyway?
Tuesday: This Hand Belongs in the Fister Hall of Fame