Main | Monday, November 13, 2006

Morning View - The Ansonia

At 73rd & Broadway is the Upper West Side's Ansonia, a grandly ornate Parisian-styled apartment building. Built in 1880, the Ansonia is rife with gay history, as its basement was the site of the Continental Baths. It was there, in 1972, that Bette Midler famously made her debut to gay audiences, with Barry Manilow accompanying her on piano.

The Continental Baths was so famous in New York, with an endless stream of celebrity patrons and performers (Melba Moore, Manhattan Transfer, Peter Allen), that Bloomingdales even sold a souvenir bathhouse towel emblazed with the Continental logo. Ironically, it was the lavish shows that did the Continental Baths in, as gay men preferred to actually have sex in bathhouses, rather than watch shows. So, after several years as the most famous gay bathhouse in the world, in 1977 the Continental became even more notorious as Plato's Retreat, a bisexual/swinger's sex club favored by the Studio 54 crowd.

The apartments in the Ansonio have famously thick and soundproof walls, and thus drew the residency of musicians and singers who were able to rehearse in their homes without annoying their neighbors. The Ansonia counted Toscanini, Stravinsky, and opera star Geraldine Ferrar among its tennants. In 1992, the Ansonia was converted into condominiums.

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