Metro Weekly

Barry Manilow Opens Up About Playing In a Gay Bathhouse

At the start of his career, Barry Manilow performed at New York City’s famed Continental Baths with Bette Midler.

Barry Manilow (
Barry Manilow –

Barry Manilow has been a musical superstar for decades, but everyone must start somewhere.

The singer and songwriter had to put in his time playing for small crowds, taking odd jobs, and even performing in some pretty unexpected places, including gay bathhouses, which is partly where his career began.

Manilow used to perform at a now-defunct bathhouse called the Continental Baths. They were located in the basement of a hotel called the Ansonia Hotel in the heart of New York City at Broadway and 74th Street. While that location may now house an apartment building, it’s where Manilow found an audience – one he was grateful for.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Manilow opened up about those days, clearing up some misconceptions about his time in the baths.

“What do you think, they were fucking in front of us?” the singer asked the interviewer, perhaps joking. He went on to say that those in attendance were “just an audience. A great audience, too.”

Why did Manilow decide to perform in such a sexualized venue? It’s simple – like so many other musicians trying to make it, he needed the money. “For me, it was a job for 75 bucks,” he stated quite plainly in the interview.

Manilow wasn’t alone during at least some of his performances at the Continental Baths. In fact, it was Bette Midler who helped him get his start at the bathhouse. The man who founded the gay space, Steven Ostrow, told Midler, who was already headlining the venue, to track Manilow down when she needed someone to play with her. The two quickly worked together, and the rest is history.

Just a few years ago, Manilow finally came out publicly, admitting that not only is he gay, but that he is in a happy, committed relationship with a man. The Hollywood Reporter journalist asked the singer if performing at a gay bathhouse in his younger years played any role in helping him discover who he really was.

“At that point I wasn’t sure about that,” he answered. “There were a lot of us in the world that had yet to figure it out.”

At some point, Manilow and Midler were offered bigger and better shows, thanks to their excellent performances at the Continental Baths. Once they began touring and playing to larger crowds – and not in gay bathhouses – they were both discovered, and they went on to become massive stars in their own right.

These days, at the age of 80, Manilow is still going strong, performing to sold-out crowds at his ongoing Las Vegas residency at the Westgate Resort Hotel.

Last year, he beat Elvis Presley’s record for the most shows in the city, topping the King’s 636-concert run. Manilow also currently has a musical, Harmony, running on Broadway.

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