Baths, Trucks & Piers: When New York Was Really Hot!by John Calendo
“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!)
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.
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. â€œThe Trucksâ€ became a byword for hot public sex. One bathhouse, Manâ€™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.
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