Until this month, Barry Manilow had never spoken publicly about being gay.
Now the 73-year-old singer is talking publicly about his gay bathhouse days.
They were a lot more brief than people seem to think.
Manilow was famously Bette Midler’s accompanist when The Divine Miss M made a big splash in New York City as a headliner at The Continental Baths in 1971.
The gigs launched Midler’s career and led to her being booked onto The Tonight Show.
‘Those were just for a couple of weekends. That was it,’ Manilow said when asked recently about the shows.
‘It was just a couple of weekends and people think we were there for years. It was two weekends.’
The Continental Baths opened their basement doors in 1968 at the Ansonia Hotel on New York City’s Upper West Side.
The facility could serve nearly 1,000 men, 24 hours a day. In addition to the tiny rooms that could be found in any gay bathhouse, it also featured a disco dance floor, sauna rooms, a narrow ‘Olympia blue’ swimming pool, bunk beds in public areas, and of course, the cabaret lounge where Midler and others performed.
‘It was odd. You’ve got to admit, it was odd,’ Manilow said.
‘She’s performing in front of guys with towels on. (laughs). She would sing The Star Spangled Banner and they would all get up and the towels would drop and she could check out the merchandise.’