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In 1968, homosexuality was illegal in New York State. Business at New York City’s Everard Baths was booming. Lines snaked around the block. Bathing was big business at the ‘Ever-hard’. Sensing an opportunity, Steve Ostrow and his wife, Joanne, that same year opened the Continental Bathhouse in the basement of the faded Ansonia hotel on New York’s 74th Street and Broadway. In order to succeed at business, “you can either fulfill a need or create a desire,” wrote Continental founder Steve Ostrow in his book Live at the Continental. “If a business can create a desire that fulfills a need, how can you lose?”

The Continental Baths boasted 400 private rooms, a sauna, a swimming pool, vending machines full of drinks laced with acid and ecstasy, and – get this – a dancefloor, where beginning in 1974 the likes of DJs Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, Bobby “DJ” Guttadaro, David Rodriguez and Joey Bonfiglio worked the crowd. Bette Midler (“Bathhouse Betty”) accompanied on piano by Barry Manilow, New York Dolls, Patti Labelle, Nell Carter, The Pointer Sisters, Cab Calloway, The Andrew Sisters, Lesley Gore, Peter Allen, Sarah Vaughn, and Andy Kaufman all performed at The Continental… read more >

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