Poof! You’re suddenly gayer…

Nightcharm publishes fun topics relative to gay guys: Art, sex, humor, fashion, erotica and spirituality. The site was founded in 1998 by David K. Its current editor is Matt Pizzuti.

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Baths, Trucks & Piers: When New York Was Really Hot!

by John Calendo

Stud Magnet“I felt a hand draw closer to my zipper,” the excerpt begins — a memory of sex on the subway that appears in the “Sex Issue” of HX, a glossy New York bar guide.

“He, with his banker’s cut and pinstripes, oh so slowly pressing against my stuff; no accident and my body knew it. Train frottage! I screamed internally as my bulge grew in excitement …”

Those were the days, my friend.

Pre-Rudy Giuliani and his Death-to-Sex squads. Pre-AIDS, which convulsed the city, swelled emergency rooms, and made stopping the transmission a city priority, resulting in the shut down of baths, theaters and backrooms.

Oh — sigh! — how we miss those lusty, free-for-all days! When we were all Tom Selleck clones, with gay wardrobes full of interchangeable man-gear, like Troy, above, a Stud magnet from Xodus.

Judge us if you like: Silly, irresponsible, politically incorrect. Yes, yes, guilty on all charges. But those were the days, my friend.

And HX (short for Homo Extra) does a brilliant, knowing job detailing the changing sexscape of Manhattan, then one of the ultimate gay destinations (now sadly as sex-monitored as a monastery– however sex-monitored that may be!)

Asses in Levi’s , from the" Gay Picture Book"The “Sex Issue” brought it all back to me: How well I remember the abandoned piers that once lined the dark meat-packing district of the West Village. By day, you could see their stark, corroding hulks ripped open like sagging iron beasts that had had their lungs pulled out, a strangely beautiful sight equally suitable for mob hits or forward fashion shoots (as, in fact, they were used in the Faye Dunaway thriller Eyes of Laura Mars. Today the film’s main value for me is as a document of the gritty industrial chic that was the sex heyday of the piers).

But at night, the rusted iron disappeared in deep shadow and the ruined structures became a labyrinth of cul-de-sacs and sudden open vistas where the walls had collapsed and the moonlight on the Hudson flooded through, backlighting erotic silhouettes. But nobody was there for the ambiance. Everywhere, touching, sucking, shifting — it was a packed hall of total man-sex.

Young readers may think this is an exaggeration. Something out of a porn movie. No, porn movies tried to approximate the true abandon of the abandoned piers.

Those who know, know.

HX remembers:

Each night, the semi-abandoned piers along the Hudson below 14th turned into makeshift orgy rooms. Things got so humming that enterprising immigrants sold lube and poppers from pushcarts. Men also used empty trucks alongside the Meatpacking District. “The Trucks” became a byword for hot public sex. One bathhouse, Man’s Country, even offered a truck on one floor, just to recreate the horny atmosphere.

Ah yes
— there was once a land of leather chaps and flannel shirts called the 1970’s. Here in this pretty world, gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Vassals Fair, of Master and of Slave, of Backrooms and Gloryholes.

Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A civilization Gone with the Wind.



HX cover


Also of Interest:

The complete Manhattan article in HX
Stud magnets from Xodus
The Gay Picture Book , an out-of-print gem
from 1978, still available on Amazon,
and the source of our Asses in Levi’s photo.

©2006 Nightcharm

  • http://www.tomsbodypix.com Tom

    You know, I missed most of what you’re talking about here – I was making my entrance onto the scene at about the same time as AIDS was. But I got in on a little bit of the tail end of the fun at 8709 in Los Angeles and have some fond memories of those days of wild abandon and sex without boundaries. I’ll never forget how insanely wicked and even a little scary it felt to be making my way naked down 8709’s dark stairs with the sound of Billy Idol’s White Wedding thumping at me from the black walls – down down down into its steamy, sweaty, seething bowels where an infinite amount of sex with strangers was waiting for me.

    It was good and it was scary and it was deeply deeply satisfying. It didn’t last for long but it was good while it lasted.

    The one memory that still stands out above the rest though, is the very first time I discovered there was even a gay world at all. It was the summer of 1977 and a friend took me out to Studio One in West Hollywood where I danced shirtless for hours in my tight Angel Flight bell bottoms, sucking down bottled beers on the dance floor surrounded by hundreds of gorgeous guys and feeling for all the world like I’d found Shangri La. Pretty heady stuff for a Mormon boy who didn’t even know what the word gay meant a few months before. The night ended with some rowdy rubberless sex and with me finally knowing who I was.

    Those heady days of the late seventies are probably never coming back again, at least not in my lifetime. But it’s nice to have the memories and I feel really lucky to still be here and enjoying them.

  • sz

    I was there and around then, and it was not so great. It was rather disgusting and repulsive. It was not healthy even before AIDS, and so raunchy in a bad sense. You really needed to have low self-esteem or self-value to participate. Unfortunately, it only made life harder for everyone else. It was destructive to love and relationships. Being that love is one of the most powerful forces on earth, going against it is asking for trouble. Hardly anyone had relationships or could get them going because the endless availability of men in Manhattan was a constant distraction. It was all just so immature. What is the thrill of a stranger groping you, really, compared to someone you like or actually know? What is the thrill in being watched? I thank God and all those guys who said I wasn’t in that league, I wasn’t low enough, dirty enough, debauched enough to participate, because I am alive today. Too bad most of my generation isn’t.

  • Whiskers

    Wow, it’s really good to know that the place that I used to dream about in my mid to early highschool years really existed, a place where man-to-man loving was… embraced regularly and appreciatively, that place that I used to wake up from unwillingly and thought would never exist in America, actually *did* exist. Even if it doesn’t exist anymore, tragic though that is, the knowledge that at some point gay Americans got to enjoy such a place is, well… I don’t know, reaffirming.