I was really excited to go to the gay bath house for Brontez’s show. Steamworks is a legendary place in the East Bay, perhaps made more legendary by Brontez’s stories in The Gay Cruising Diaries and other published works. I’ve always wanted to go there, or at least since I read Brontez’s books. It seemed so seedy, so illicit. The type of place that a well behaved woman never goes to, mostly because it’s a men’s only club. So when Brontez announced that he was playing a show with the Younger Lover’s the night after Thanksgiving and cis women were allowed to go, I just knew I had to go.
We queued in front of the bath house, which is an unassuming building down by the Berkeley water front, on the other side of the freeway from the posh 4th Street shopping district. It was me, my best friend’s [straight] sugar daddy, Gangsta Boo and my gay friend who was basically acting as a gay guide to all of us straights. “I like that the cover charge for the show is the same that anyone would pay to get in,” my gay friend opined. Yup, $30 to get in for the show, which is I guess what anyone pays to get in on a regular night already, not like I would know. It seemed like some of our fellow revelers in line were deterred by the steep price, but, hey, it’s a punk show in a gay bath house, not a decrepit warehouse. I can get down for the culture.
Part of me wondered, ‘Am I problematic for being so eager to stink up the gay bath house with fish?’ Eh, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s not like I’ll be back here next week. I did, however, feel slightly guilty about being on my period because period blood would be the ultimate stain of womanhood inside this cum covered temple to male sexuality. Whatever.
As we stood outside in the winter cold, behind all the other queer looking cis women as well as the party appropriate gays, men continued to shuffle out, looking irked by the cis women eager to get in. Hey, I get it, it’s the day after Thanksgiving, time to de-stress from the family, and, what is this? The gay orgy is being tainted by real women? It must be a buzz kill. But it’s just this one time, promise. Won’t happen again.
I don’t know what I thought the inside of Steamworks would look like, but it lived up to all my expectations. It was a place that even on the brightest days was a sunless, thumping, sweaty maze of a place, filled with men of every ilk, from the young, chiseled gays to the old, drooping men. And Dicks! Dicks everywhere! All sorts of naked men with their dicks out, strutting around, prowling, flitting in and out of the private rooms that I knew I would never go into.
It felt really awkward being fully clothed, especially in our winter wear inside of a giant sauna. So we stripped down, put on towels, and headed to the back where the show was set up in, uh, a giant glory hole structure? There must be some properly gay word for it, but it was basically a bathroom sized space with urinal stalls that had no urinals in them and glory holes in the stalls. Yeah.
The Confirmed Bachelors and The Younger Lovers played over the pulsating techno music to a small set of music fans crammed in the back area as the regulars flitted around. One guy caught my eye as he stood at the periphery, stroking his cock and looking wild eyed while the nearby spectators inched away from him. It was definitely one of the most punk shows I had ever been to as the musicians and audience stood there, naked or in towels. The music was fast and spazzy, quick and rhythmic and belted out in a short fifteen minute set. It made me feel young again, like when I saw Gravy Train at The Gilman when I was in high school, or any time I saw a show at Sugar Mountain, or Ghost Town Galleries, or The French Fry Factory, or Lobot, or Full House House, or any of those other bygone old school Oakland party venues. Just this time everyone was pretty naked with their dicks out. My kinda party.
After the set was over, we milled about, poking around the bath house. Somebody even grabbed my ass! Which made me feel pretty flattered since I thought I was pretty untouchable in that place. Gangsta Boo did some pull ups, and the rest of us jumped in the hot tub for a bit. (Should I not have done that? Since I was on my period? Oh, well, I was swept up in the moment and forgot. Oopsy daisy.)
“Maybe we should get going?” Gangsta Boo said as my friends wafted around the hot tub. Yeah, we should probably get going. The show was over, and we were definitely just straight-ing up the gay club for no good reason. So I put my clothes back on and left, feeling like my two hours of being a cultural tourist were up, and time to go back home to my normal, boring, straight life.
Thanks for having me. Now I can say I’ve been to a gay bath house. Life achievement unlocked.