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Forty years ago, David Dollahite and I liked to give our San Diego fuck-buddies time to recover😄, so we would take one weekend off per month. We'd head up to the 8709, which was one of the hundreds of thriving 1970's gay bathhouses in and around the United States. In the late 1970's, there were so many bathhouses, they could afford to specialize in which clientele they encouraged.
There was a club in LA called The 8709. It was on the second floor. In its day, there would be a line down the stairs to the street, and you'd wait and you'd climb all the way up, and if the attendant didn't like your looks he wouldn't let you in. I got rejected there once, but I got let in three or four times, and I remember the process quite well. But if they thought you weren't attractive enough they wouldn't let you in. – Interview on Vice
The tubs at 8709 Third in L.A. are long gone, replaced by this building.
I remember attending the bathhouse. It had a rickety wooden stairway up to the entrance on the second floor. As you stopped at the entry, there was a spotlight above you.
If you wanted to go any further, you had to lift your shirt and flex your abdominal muscles under the harsh overhead light. This was to prove that you had a six-pack, before they would take your money and let you go in. Another bathhouse had an entryway that was narrow - If you didn't fit through, you weren't welcome. This was balanced by Bears bathhouses elsewhere.
The 8709 was legendary. On a typical weekend night, there would be around 400 men at a time, and the sexual action was INTENSE. Everything was going on, everywhere… in the hallways, in the Dark Room, in the showers, in the gym. I still have images from that place burned into my retinas. I remember a sex-maze made of mirrors.
David and I would arrive on a Friday afternoon, in order to get a room at the 8709. Then, he'd go one way, and I'd go the other. He was a bottom, I was a Top, and we had monkey business to attend to. Later on, we'd meet at our room, insert earplugs, and sleep until the morning. Why earplugs? Because the walls were rickety, and there was no ceiling above each room.
The disco music would be pounding away at all times, and the men in the next room over could easily wake you with their orgiastic cries and grunts. Wearing earplugs was a LOT less expensive than spending the same time sleeping at a nice, quiet hotel.
David and I realized that we had both received invitations to the party. We decided to attend the party, since we WERE up in the area for fun.
The next evening, we followed the turn-by-turn instructions written on the invitation. We drove up, up into the Hollywood Hills, up into the Bel Air neighborhood. We came through the gate to find around 120 cars parked on the front lawn of an immense mansion.
Not the same house, but VERY similar.
If you’ve ever watched re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillies, then you would know the style of mansion. Two stories, and immense, with a huge front yard.
We never went inside the house itself.
The entire, massive basement was a third floor belowground - a separate fuck-palace.
It was rectangular, divided into three rooms, with a hallway at one end. Men arrived in the first room to find seven slings hanging from the ceiling, and seven fuck-mats (mattresses covered in Naugahyde). Each sling had an open can of Crisco hanging next to it, supported by macramé, which was very trendy back in those days.
There were lots and lots of raunchy posters on the walls, coming from worldwide bathhouses and bars.
In each of the four corners of the room was a Magnepan Magneplanar speaker. These cost $15,000 a pair at the time, and there were FOUR of them, playing Disco music. Most impressive of all, there were color televisions hanging near the ceiling in each corner. And, they were playing GAY PORN.
Back in the late 1970’s, the only people who had video-recording and playback capability were the very richest folks. The owner had clearly hired somebody to project 16mm porn films onto a screen, and recorded it with a video camera attached to a Sony U-Matic videotape machine.
I was thoroughly impressed. Clearly, this idea had potential! Porn on tape!
In one corner of the room was a bodybuilder wearing nothing but a bow tie and a smile, standing behind a bar. The drinks were free, so everybody grabbed a beverage and continued to explore the basement dungeon.
The next room was brightly-lit, covered in white tile. There were racks and racks of clean, white fluffy towels. There were shower heads, douche hoses and toilet seats. The only thing missing was partitions and dividers. What’s the point of privacy in a fuck-palace?
The last room was the biggest. It was dark. Everything painted black. One eighty-foot-long wall was entirely covered in perf-board... covered with holes to hang with hooks that were holding floggers, whips, clamps, chains, ropes, ball-gags, dildos and every other kind of kinky toy. The only lights were spotlights for the St. Andrew's crosses. Excellent aim while throwing kinky whips and such is crucial, dontcha know.
The men explored the slings, crosses and other delights, and then went back to hang out in the first room. This was winter-time in the Castro Clone era of the late 1970's, so these men were bundled up in Cop Drag, Lumberjack Drag and High Cow (head to toe black leather).
Remember the Village People? They didn’t influence my Tribe, they copied us. At some point, I suggest that you watch the Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo. In it, he makes it plain that the culture around us had portrayed all homosexuals as sissies, perverts, murderers and objects of scorn.
We didn't fit into this ever-present stereotype, and it pissed us off.
Once the hypermasculine gay males finally found each other in constant close proximity, the pendulum of our lives swung HARD in a reaction against the sissy stereotype. We were attracted to strong male archetypes, and we wanted to define ourselves in our preferred manner.
Getting Back To The Party
So, here are well over a hundred men, fully-dressed in gear… standing idle and tense. Nobody knows each other, except for me and David. Nobody's talking. The owner of the place never showed up.
The music finally dies down, and in the silence, one man unzips his jacket. It's loud. It's also a signal to get the party started, so men sit down on the ground to pull off their boots, and all around me I could hear zippers and snaps being opened as those silent men got naked.
I had a sudden impulse, and stood with my arms crossed, with my legs apart. In a deep, booming voice, I said
"Uhh - Where's All The Women?"The place got VERY quiet, and every man froze in horror. I could hear them swallowing their gum, as they each thought "Who is going to deal with this idiot?"
I let them stew in their own juices for about fifteen seconds, and then let out a roar of laughter as I grabbed a man and kissed him. The crowd exploded with relieved laughter, and the men had something to talk about. The party was suddenly a success!
All night long, I'd be fucking or flogging a man, and another one would slap me on the ass and say "Save some of that for ME, stud!" I was the de facto host, and it felt right.
I like to tell this story, because it is an example of taking responsibility for the safety and success of a space, even if it isn't YOUR space.
David and I had a favorite fuck-buddy nicknamed Piggy George. "Piggy" was a huge compliment in our crowd in that time. It meant "uninhibited and playful." After a lifetime of repression, we admired men who could let go of the shame that we had all endured.
The reason why we call it a "Pride" festival, is because "Pride" is the opposite of "Shame."
So, one morning, we got a panicked phone call. George's mom was coming over at any minute, and he needed help to remove the dildos, kinky gear and porn (consisting of magazines, posters and calendars, back then).
This process is called "Straightening Up."
We arrived, loaded everything into boxes, and got it all whisked away, just in time. After George's mom left the next day, George told us what had happened:
He had slept in on Sunday morning, and was woken up by his angry mother, shaking a can of Crisco at him. "You need to learn how to cook! Use a spatula!"
She had intended to make George some waffles, and had found finger-grooves in the grease!
Crisco was everybody's favorite sexual and fisting lubricant in those days. Forty years ago, supermarkets would limit purchases of one can per customer per day, in gay neighborhoods.
Personally, I NEVER liked to use Crisco for sex, because it's shortening!
For six months, I was handed a wonderful job on my ship in the Navy. I was given the pleasure of being a Fire Control Technician. Everybody wanted that job, so it was limited to six months per person.
This meant that I was free to spend the work-day as I pleased, as long as I did my rounds of inspecting all of the ship's fire-safety equipment. I took this job very seriously, particularly after watching the Forrestal fire film.
The Chief in charge of me liked me a lot, and was an early ally of this young, openly-gay sailor. He was testing me on fire safety, and after putting me through my paces, he asked "and what do we do with the loose communications cables after a fire?"
I said "We loop them in ten-inch coils," as I began to do so.
He asked "And, how do we know that they are TEN-inch coils?"
I dropped the cable and said "Oh! That's easy…" as I stood up straight, and began to un-zip my pants.
He said "NEVER MIND, Lindsey!"