Lessons from another era
The 70s was a time of sexual experimentation, drugs and underground clubs. Capturing the true essence of the time was the American classic Saturday Night At The Baths and this year marks its first birthday since its release on DVD.
Filmed at the Continental Baths in New York, the movie is based around the twists and turns of a bisexual relationship and real-life characters.
Co-producer and Baths owner Steve Ostrow, founder and project officer of Sydney’s Mature Age Gays group, said the movie was the first feature film made on the gay scene for national distribution.
“This movie was made in 1974 when homosexuality was still illegal and the Baths were instrumental in having the laws regarding homosexuality in New York City changed,” he said.
“Once it became legal it became an institution and also instrumental in the rebirth of cabaret, with Peter Allen, Patti LaBelle and Bette Midler regularly performing.”
The Continental Baths were a resort with more than 400 rooms, a nightclub, a bar and they even had a clothing boutique.
“Sydney is a lovely place, but New York is a concrete jungle. I wanted to make a place with a beautiful interior and make people feel safe – we were the first place to have a sexual health clinic,” Ostrow said.
“There was also an orgy room, steam room, restaurant, and 2,000 lockers. More than 20,000 people visited the place each week.”
The movie was also filmed at various New York locations including Greenwich Village.
“Unfortunately, after the laws were changed, it became an era of sexual liberation and the Baths eventually had to close,” Ostrow said.
“Also, because of the drug problem, I was walking over two bodies a night.”
Ostrow said the movie was still relevant to today’s gay community.
“It deals with acceptance, coming out, homophobia and STIs,” he said.
“Also, it gives an insight into the subculture of that era.”
Saturday Night At The Baths can be bought from The Bookshop Darlinghurst, Oxford St. Proceeds from the sale are donated to the Chula DeJahn AIDS Trust Fund.