The Low Down on the Lost Jesus Gay Porn Movie, HIM

Him! Him! (What a title … it reminds me of that giant ants horror flick of the 1950s, where someone screams the title Them! Them!) But it's the title of the much sought-after, famously lost 1974 Jesus gay porn film.

 

Advertisement for Him showing at the 55th Street Playhouse

 

First of all, it's almost become a trope of Western culture: speculation about Jesus' sexuality. Think Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The DaVinci Code, and the controversial Terrence McNally play Corpus Christi. Either Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene (or at least some kind of attraction between the two occurs), or Jesus was gay, because he hung around with a bunch of guys (Uh… Peter we know was married, because his sick mother-in-law was cured by Jesus, not that being married always makes a difference, but still…). And then there's the speculation about Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, who may or may not have been John, because of certain cuddly iconography of the two.

I'm not going to get into the detail about all the speculation above, and I also think all the speculation about this 1974 movie ends up going around in circles.

Starting with Wikipedia (a well-documented article, and I checked the cites), we do know that there was a film of that title that premiered on Mary 27, 1974, at the 55th Street Playhouse in New York, at that time becoming more of a porn house than an art house. The film was directed by someone going by the name Ed D. Louie and featured a mural artist named Tava Von Will as Jesus.

Now, I initially thought it was some kind of sword and sandals knock-off, Jesus wandering around having sex with the disciples, but it actually told the story of a young guy with an erotic fixation on Jesus. Actually, not that unusual a theme, for goodness sake… just open any Catholic devotional work or story about the saints (usually female). The spiritual delights of being married to Jesus often look and sound orgasmic, even sadomasochistic.

Anyway, the film also played at Chicago's Bijou Theater in January and February of 1975. The ad shows a guy in a tuxedo, not clothing one associates with Jews in 1st century Palestine. Why? Maybe to avoid controversy, but no one remembers much of a fall-out, even in the still very much underground LGBTQ world of that time.

 

Vintage ad for Him showing at Chicago's Bijou Theater

 

The film fell into obscurity, and in fact, no one seems to be able to locate a copy; film critic and later culture warrior Michael Medved even claimed it was a hoax (huh?).

Peter Malone in his book Screen Jesus: Portrayals of Christ in Television and Film, actually quotes Medved, who claims it is tasteless (how would he know? Did he see it?) but also innovative. Medved claims one scene, a “low point in the history of cinema,” involves a handjob in the confessional as the young man confesses to the priest his erotic fantasies about Jesus. (I wouldn't actually call that scene remarkably innovative in the world of porn.)

But then Medved in his 1980 book Golden Turkey Awards implies that, among the bad movies he and his brother Harry review in his book, Him wasn't real. The beginnings of an urban legend?

A number of years ago, the late porn star/director Gino Colbert was trying to find out if the film was indeed real or was a hoax, and contacted Bijou Video as part of his research. We could not at the time verify, but more recently, another researcher on the film brought to our attention the Bijou Theater ad shown above. The film indeed played in New York, Chicago, and in many other places.

 

Another ad for Him at the 55th Street Playhouse

 

We may never know all the details on this film, unless a copy or more information is tracked down. It seems to have clearly existed and, like many a classic porn film, may sadly have no copies any longer in existence. The scarcity of information or memories about this film, its missing status, and its scandalous subject matter have made it somewhat of a legend and fueled the aforementioned rumors.

In the meantime, you can find religiously-themed porn scenes in a number of other classics, many of which are featured in our compilation, For the Love of God (on DVD and Streaming), which contains scenes from our films that explore the complex connection between sexuality and religion.

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The Last VCR

Posted by Madam Bubby

 

Vinyl is still around and actually thriving, especially in indie music and hipster circles, but I the same revival hasn't quite happened for the VHS, which means those old video tapes one sees in thrift stores may end up in landfills or supporting window air conditioners.

According to this source, Japan's Funai Electric, who claimed to be the last VCR manufacturer, stopped producing the machines several years ago, in July of 2016. This source also gives a brief history of the medium, which for readers of a certain age, will certainly bring back memories.

Beta tapes? Wow. I remember my Dad got every James Bond movie he could find on Beta. Yes, Beta, which did not last. What happened to all those Beta tapes?

 

VHS and Beta gay porn tapes

VHS and Beta gay porn tapes in the Bijou office

 

And those bulky cameras. People started to get really obsessed with them, I remember, at least initially, and this before the days of easy selfies and youtube videos. Want a movie of someone eating mashed potatoes at a 1980s christening celebration? It's on a VHS tape, and probably now remastered digitally and streaming somewhere on youtube.

 

Old video camera

 

Some even attributed the supposed narcissism of Generation X and millenials to this phenomenon. Hey, can I see the tape of me when I was four throwing water balloons at the next door neighbor? Or how about when I got ten Atari video games for Christmas when I was ten and threw a tantrum (captured for time immemorial) because my brother got a more expensive one?

Digital hoarding perhaps started with the VCR. There was the woman on the show Hoarders taping constantly on a multitude of TVs. Think walls of tapes. Her son said, well, I guess if you want a Phil Donahue show from the 1980s, this is the place to go.

 

Huge stash of VHS tapes

 

Of course, the advent of this medium totally revolutionized the porn industry. Instead of having to go to a porn theater like Chicago's late, great Bijou Theater, one could rent and even buy tapes and watch porn at home. Or even tape amateur porn. Porn creators made a killing for a while on these often very expensive tapes, but now with streaming and youtube, the sex exists in cyberspace rather than captured on a concrete medium like a VHS tape.

 

'80s ads for VHS/Beta sales at the Bijou Theater & Surge Studio's Century Mining on VHS/Beta for $79

'80s ads for VHS/Beta sales (including Pieces of EightMichael, Angelo & David) at the Bijou Theater & Surge Studio's Century Mining on VHS/Beta for $79

 

Will VHS make a comeback? Some grassroots indie artists and retro collectors may be rediscovering the medium (and also the major consumer movie format before video, Super 8 film). Is it the appeal of retro, or some other specific component of the medium? Time may tell.

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"Return of the Jedi" VHS tape was not Return of the Jedi.
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P(r)ick of the Week - 5/20/20

David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

 

Greetings P(r)icksters!

Really in a weird space this week. We should be gearing up for 6 big crazy nights for the coming Memorial Day weekend. But we are still shuttered here in Chicago.

For the past 40 years, the International Mr Leather Contest took over our Memorial Day weekend bringing 1,000s of visitors to town. Which made us very busy at Touché with parties night after night and several afternoon functions, too.

We would begin with a welcome party on the Wednesday before the weekend as all the IML contestants, most vendors and others arrived early to prepare for the weekend. Then it was Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights going strong. By Memorial Day many would be departing Chicago, but we still had great crowds that afternoon for our big cookout and even into the night on Memorial Day.

I will miss many friends this year, the guys from Off Ramp Leathers, friends from other bars that have contestants at IML and many others won’t be visiting Chicago this week. For the first time in years, I’ll have Memorial Day off.

In the beginning IML was not this weekend. The first couple of years it was held over Mother's Day Weekend. IML began as a bar event. Chuck Renslow, owner of the Gold Coast, came up with the idea of a Mister contest for Leathermen.

Back in the mid 1970s before IML started, Chicago bars hosted Mister contests as a way to attract a crowd. The old Gay Chicago Magazine helped develop this promotion of Mister contests by hosting the Mr Windy City Contest each spring. During the winter months, various bars would host a contest to select their Mr, who would then go on to compete for the title of Mr Windy City. During my tenure as manager of the old Carol’s Speakeasy in the 80’s (that was next door to the Bijou Theater), I had 2 Mr Carol’s that won the Mr Windy City title.

Seeing the success of this program, Renslow took that idea and morphed it into a leather titleholder contest. Since you only had 3 or 4 leather bars in Chicago, he made it an international competition to allow for more contestants.

In 1979, Touché was also part of Chicago’s leather bar scene, so Chuck Renslow approached Chuck Rodocker, owner of Touché, to team up and sponsor the contest. Basically the contest was held on one night with bar parties at both places Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Back then, Touché only had a 2 am license while the Gold Coast had a 4 am license. Things started at one bar and then continued at the other.

Being 1979, gay events out in public were still rare; not many places were comfortable having a bunch of queers in their place of business, it would scare off the straights. So there was no host hotel, no big dances in ballrooms, no big display of leather gear and sex toys in convention halls. The early weekend was basically cocktail parties at the bars and fuck parties at the baths (Chuck Renslow also owned Man’s Country).

But as a big advocate of his hometown, my boss Chuck Rodocker (no opportunity to shorten reference to either man, they were both Chuck R, both owners of a leather bar, people still get confused between the two of them) had the staff of Touché host some daytime excursions to add to the weekend activities. We did bus tours around town (have you ever tried to mix drinks on a moving vehicle?).

The logic back then was that Touché closed at 2 am (3 am on Saturday) while the Gold Coast was open till 4 or 5 am. The Touché staff had time for more rest to get back out and going early the next day. The problem with this was that while we may have closed earlier, that didn’t mean we would not wind up at the Gold Coast to enjoy the party there and end up closing that bar, too.

So hungover or still up after fucking some of the visiting leathermen, we would be out there herding folks onto a bus or serving up bloody marys while a local leather club or group of clubs prepared a breakfast buffet of some kind. It was a more intimate weekend than it has become.

As I stated, IML was first held on Mother's Day weekend. Again, you have to visualize Chicago in 1979. White flight had left the city pretty vacant around what we call River North today. The Gold Coast and many other gay bars were in the area, the rest old warehouses, business places that were deserted nights and weekends.

Except...... across the street from the Gold Coast was a renowned restaurant, Gordan’s, that hosted a big Mother's Day brunch every year. Folks would line up outside for the opportunity to treat dear old Mom to a nice brunch. And there we’d be in full leather gear piling guys onto buses, drinks in hand. It was quite a show and I loved being part of it.

And once the IML weekend was over, we still had Memorial Day weekend to kick off summer, just not as crazy as it has been these past few years. I’m going to have to figure out what to do with a long weekend of nothing. Kind of hard, as we have already gone over two months without something, anything. Just hoping I don’t get too comfortable with this, hope to be “back in the saddle” again next May.

So while I ponder my Memorial Day weekend plans, grab my P(r)ick this week with a nod to the men in uniforms - soldiers, sailors and marines - and wave your flags.

My first P(r)ick is A Few Good Men directed by Steve Scott. Released in 1983, this is definitely one of the best grunts fuck films of all time. The Philadelphia Gay News raved about the film on its release, "this gay sex film wins the prize for best treatment of two common gay porn themes: the repressed sexuality of an all-male military setting [including authentic costumes and underwear] and the thin line between fantasy and reality. Scott's style is at its most poetic, in both image and sound."

For a second helping check out Seamen directed by Matt Sterling for Brentwood Studios. Its four pre-condom episodes play with the theme of sailors on leave. There's a good deal of spanking, armpit and foot licking and hearty oral and anal sex. The actors' eager performances ought to get you drop-dead horny.

Before I go this week, I do want to assure you that I do get your comments about my writings for Bijou Video, even if it makes you feel some guy from a porn site is smarter than you. I’m not that smart, just curious to learn more. Thanks for the many compliments, responses to my thoughts and letting me know that you enjoy reading these blogs. I get a kick out of writing them and hearing what you have to say..

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and stay safe, my friends.


David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com

 

A Few Good Men images
A Few Good Men (D00316) - On DVD and Streaming

Seamen images
Seamen (D00228) - On DVD and Streaming
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I Know I'll Have Many Other Homes, But Never a Place Like This: A Brief-ish History of Bijou Theater Parties

posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

 

Bijou exterior and upstairs map
Bijou Theater exterior and upstairs map

I first went to the Bijou Theater in 2008. It was a snowy day that March. I was in my last month of being 21 – quite an eventful year. It was weeks after I met my first real girlfriend, who I would wind up being with five and a half years. At the beginning of my 21st year, I had my first kiss. (I was a very late bloomer.) Months later, I first had sex (in the bathroom of the longstanding goth club, Neo, another Chicago landmark that closed mere months before the Bijou Theater in 2015). Shortly afterwards, I began going to S/M events and getting curious about the sexual spaces in the city.

The snowy March evening in question, I attended one of Bijou's Wayward Sisters parties with a group of friends. These parties were a blast. They generally got good turn outs and lively crowds – mostly younger art students and predominantly women, though a big mix of folks were present, including Bijou regulars. (There were intentionally never any gender restrictions at the Bijou, unlike many other gay adult businesses. Bijou owner Steven Toushin welcomed all adults and his attitude was always, “No one should be left out; it shouldn't be an exclusive space.”)

At these parties, David Boyer from Chicago's leather bar, Touche, would hand out beers in the back garden and spank the recipients. People DJed in the theater area and danced on the stage and, upstairs, explored the space, cruised, had sex, talked to each other through glory holes. That night, I wound up in the sling in the dungeon, making out with two of the girls I'd shown up with, while some Bijou regulars stood around in the dark and jacked off, a few of our other friends peeping at this display through a window. I later went outside and saw my dude friends and some other guys standing in a circle on the balcony with their dicks whipped out, comparing them while deep in conversation.

Bijou exterior and upstairs map
Bijou's upstairs

About six months after attending this party, I wound up answering a Craigslist ad seeking an editor for a gay porn company; an ad so brief it was almost cryptic. When I went in for the interview, it was a very pleasant surprise to realize it was for Bijou and that, in addition to the theater, Bijou was also a vintage gay porn company. I was a filmmaker with a particular interest in '60s sexploitation films and LGBTQ film history and a burgeoning interest in '70s porn, so this was extremely up my alley. I very much wanted the job, even more after Steven discussed the company and its history and philosophy, so I was thrilled when I picked up the call confirming that I got it.

The Wayward Sisters events were still running when I got hired at the Bijou office and, in total, operated for around a year and a half. Steven recalls once showing up at a Wayward Sisters party with his partner and doing a flogging and fisting scene in the dungeon. As they played, party-goers wandered by and started gathering, their conversations soon growing silent as they watched intently. Afterwards, a group of young women came over to talk to his partner and pay compliments about the scene. I went to one or two more of these parties before they wound up being discontinued not long after the person who originally ran them moved to Europe.

But let's back up much further, well before my time.

Wells Street in 1976 and 1970s Bijou Theater ad
Wells Street, 1976, and '70s Bijou Theater ad

The Bijou Theater opened in 1970 in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood on Wells Street, where it was in the proximity of several other gay and sexual businesses. The first film that played there was Richard Nixon's Checkers Speech, named after the Nixon dog. The next was a gay porn film. In 1980, it expanded to a second floor, with a maze of glory hole booths and a dungeon room. By then, it was open 24/7 and people partied there late into the night. Touche and other gay bars would bus folks over and the crowd from Carol's Speakeasy, located next door, regularly spilled into Bijou (sometimes for free through its back door) after hours. During these decades, the theater endured numerous police raids, obscenity busts, bomb threats, and more, but it kept running. In addition to porn films on Bijou's screen, these first few decades saw live performances on stage by many of the films' major stars, including Al Parker, Richard Locke, Lee Ryder, Peter Berlin, Jim Cassidy, and Casey Donovan (and Colt stars later on in the 2000s).

Ad for live appearances by Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater
Ad for live appearances by Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater, April 1980

From 2000 to 2002, Miss Tiger and her Erotic Cabaret, featuring the Bijou Boys, took to the Bijou's stage. Drag performer Miss Tiger's events were elaborately staged erotic revues featuring theatrical pieces, humor, musical numbers, strip shows, live sex acts, and more. One notable show incorporated a Gregorian chant playing as a man came out dressed as a priest and with four men dressed as choir boys. They all read from Bibles, then the choir boys took turns sucking the priest's dick on stage.

Ad for live appearances by Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater
Ads for Miss Tiger's Erotic Cabaret

Not long after I began working at the office, a fellow employee asked me if I wanted to help out with one of the theater's strip shows. I wound up running lights and music for these each month. Another co-worker, Bryan, took over as host for a long while and he incorporated stand up comedy into the Nude Revues. We often made elaborate videos to feature during the intros and during intermission. Finally, Michael, who worked in the box office, took over hosting. He had a great rapport with the customers, which made for a comfortable flow. (At the final Nude Revue before the theater's closing in 2015, he ended the show by singing a poignant song, which brought tears to many an eye in the crowd.)

Bjiou Boys Nude Revue posters
Bijou Boys Nude Revue posters

Bijou held a big 40th anniversary party in the first months of 2011. This was hosted by David Boyer, and the packed audience took in live music performances of classic gay porn theme songs accompanied by dancers (one of whom poured orange juice all over her naked body to a very noisy cover of the theme to Arthur Bressan Jr.'s 1984 film, Juice), videos about gay porn history and Bijou's history (both viewable at the bottom of the Bijou Theater page on our website), words from Steven Toushin, a two foot tall ejaculating dick cake (made by my girlfriend), and a strip show.

Dancers, bands, and dick cake from the Bjiou's 40th anniversary

Bijou Theater 40th anniversary party photos


During the 2000s, more people were approaching Steven with interest in doing events at the theater, as the dynamic at the bars was changing. The first huge event to be staged there by organizers from outside the theater during my era in the 2010s was the release party for the vintage gay porn soundtracks of Patrick Cowley by Dark Entries Records on Valentine's Day of 2014. DJs played in the dungeon (which got crowded, hot, and sweaty) and others played downstairs on the stage while clips from the movies Cowley scored were shown on screen. This event illuminated some new possibilities for hosting parties in the space that were influential during the theater's final two years, during which we worked with many different organizers and artists.

Later that month, a friend of mine staged reading of an erotic play he'd co-written about Abraham's Lincoln alleged gay relationship. This event segued into a year or so when a friend in the same circle proposed doing monthly variety shows at the theater. I helped him run these and they were chaotic, sometimes thrilling, and often messy installments called Upstairs/Downstairs, featuring performance art, video art, experimental film, punk bands, noise musicians, installations, DJs, and stand up comedy. Some highlights: a performance featuring a corn cob strap-on covered in I Can't Believe It's Not Butter; legendary Chicago bands and performance artists taking to the stage and finding creative ways to utilize the space; a night when I had to mop milk, piss, and cum off the floor of the dungeon after the show; and a fake human sacrifice and haunted house.

Dancers, bands, and dick cake from the Bjiou's 40th anniversary

Upstairs/Downstairs poster; performance by Chicago legends Ono and a "human sacrifce"


With these and following events, inspired by the broadly mixed crowd and dynamic use of the building seen in the Wayward Sisters and Patrick Cowley parties, we tried to find more opportunities for newcomers - across a range of ages and genders - to feel welcome in the theater, while also hopefully being an interesting change of pace for the customers who had called it home for decades. Finding this balance was tough and sometimes tense, but a worthwhile endeavor. Steven was interested in people trying new and different things at the theater and he gave them pretty much free reign in what they planned (basically unheard of), though he often suggested to organizers that one successful approach to the uniqueness of the Bijou was allowing things to unfold throughout the entire venue. The staff of the theater went above and beyond during the events in these final years, which often required a huge amount of extra work.

During this span of time, S+S Project hosted an exciting show highlighting the work of many talented local artists, including installations of artwork, video art screening in the theater, and performances on stage and upstairs (featuring nudity, lard, and balloons). Afterwards, we hung around late into the night in the dungeon while DJs kept playing.

A couple of large queer dance parties were thrown by Chances Dances – one for Halloween and one for Valentine's Day. These included DJs, performers, vintage lesbian porn, and more.

The Men's Room parties also came to the Bijou during this time and hosted several events. These quickly turned massive, culminating in a sprawlingly large and debaucherous one during the IML weekend of the theater's final year. These nights featured music on both levels and erotic performance art (once incorporating fireplay and once featuring piercing play; in the latter scenario, a disco ball was strung up to the performer's cock and balls and when the needles pierced into his chest were tugged out, blood spilled down his body and onto the disco ball).

Chances Dances and Men's Room poster
Chances Dances and Men's Room posters

In the same era, we held an intimate memorial service in the theater, hosted by the folks I went to my initial Wayward Sisters party with, for their friend Wiley, a long-time Bijou regular who loved the place and had recently died. His friends shared memories and screened videos they'd made with Wiley in the theater to a small gathering that also included theater attendees and employees who'd known him.

In the fall of 2015, we got the terrible news that the Bijou was being forced to close, as the result of a legal battle with its landlord. We quickly scheduled a series of events for its final week, David Boyer running several great Touche parties and classic porn films playing 24/7 on the screen. We set up one last party on the theater's final night in operation, and I welcomed anyone who was interested in participating to contact me. We had an overwhelming response.

The night saw wild performance art in the dungeon, live music, beautiful dance performances on stage, DJs doing disco sets in the dungeon, classic porn clips in the theater, erotic videos by local artists screening upstairs, a photobooth and roaming photos by GlitterGuts (all of which you can see here), and I even, in one gorgeous moment, walked by to see a person sawing out a section of the glory hole booths while fucking someone. (Several panels were removed for posterity, Steven keeping some and the person who removed them continuing to this day to install pieces of the Bijou in art shows and other spaces around the country.)

Glitter Guts final party photos
Forced Into Feminity and more from the final party by GlitterGuts

Many friends and strangers talked and fucked. Intergenerational conversations were happening throughout the night, as many people from all different points in the theater's history (and newcomers) showed up. I finally managed to have sex in the theater (in one of the booths, with my then-girlfriend). People were so appreciative of the space, each other, and the history, and being able to be free to do whatever they wanted there, engaging enthusiastically in the way I'd always hoped for. A few asked if they could keep the faded vintage porn film posters on the wall and we took these down and gave them out. One DJ (who'd been involved in putting on several previous events) played an entire new score to the Frank Ross classic Made in the Shade in the theater, which thoughtfully included a sample of the lead performer's final line: “I know I'll have many other homes, but never a place like this.”

Final scene from Made in the Shade
Final scene from Made in the Shade (1985)

This party ran until the next morning. As the remaining stragglers lingered, I found myself alone in the dungeon as Donna Summers' Last Dance came on the playlist, and I danced and cried.

Party remnants
Party remnants

The rest of that day is a blur. I may have napped in the office or not slept at all. A few of us, including Steven, David, Bijou's custodian Shrodney, and I, had to take down the screen and clear out any remaining equipment by the end of the night before the property was turned over to its new owners. We climbed ladders to disconnect lights from lighting rigs, cleared out the projection booth, and packed everything up. Shrodney and I made a final pass through the upstairs, which was a wreck from the party (we didn't have to clean up after it for once), and removed lightbulbs and signage and took photos of the graffiti on the remaining glory hole booths. We headed down the spiral staircase for the last time and shut the door to that room, placing a peacock feather we found, left over from one of the previous night's performers, on top of the door frame.

Screen removal, peacock feather, graffiti: final photos taken in the Bijou
Screen removal, peacock feather, graffiti: final photos taken in the Bijou

We all finished our work and headed out, locking the front door for the first time in 35 years. Steven had to install a lock for this, because the front door didn't even have a functioning one – the theater had been open every day all those years, even through fires and bomb threats, since it became a 24/7 establishment in 1980.

Weeks later, a large group of my friends, moved by their experiences there, held a beautiful memorial service for the Bijou Theater in their own space, which was deeply in the spirit of the venue. I've seen its spirit continue on in gatherings of friends, sexual spaces, and porn screenings since, and hope to continue to catch glimpses of it as the years pass.

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The Legendary Baton Lounge: Just a Few Steps Away

posted by Madame Bubby

Jim Flint in the Baton Show Lounge

A friend of mine sent me a link to a news item: the legendary Baton Lounge, long a fixture of the LGBTQ community in Chicago, has moved after 50 years in the same location. The entertainment venue, which has featured over the years so many famous drag queens (Chili Pepper, see below, was one of my favorites), had been located in what is now called the River North area. But, according to the news source, rents escalated, and Jim Flint decided to make the move north. And even north of the established Boystown, in the growing gayborhood of Uptown (and walking distance from my abode).
 

Family cast
Chili Pepper

Baton Lounge performers
Baton Lounge performers

Jim Flint
Jim Flint

What is significant here is Flint did not decide to just close up shop. Apparently the venue is still thriving; the entertainment he provides has not gone by the wayside like the great gay adult theaters (Bijou at the top of the list) or the bathhouses (only one is left in Chicago with the closing of Man’s Country).
 

Bijou Theater sign

It’s obvious Flint is not providing a venue of public sex or pornography in the stricter sense; he’s putting on live theater which does not focus on a naked porn star jacking off. Yet, remember, the Bijou used to do and was doing again broader forms of entertainment, rethinking the purpose and audience of the space, before its closure in 2015.

And drag is of course in the global spotlight. Hello, RuPaul (who actually appeared at the Baton). And whether one thinks this fact is unfortunate or not, a drag show is straight-friendly. It has been for some time. Think Victor/Victoria, which of course makes the illusion even more complicated. And that illusion was the basis of theatre for so many years. Women could not appear on the stage respectably in the West until the eighteenth century. The Greek tragedies and the plays of Shakespeare relied on men playing the women’s parts.

(I can’t imagine the Baton putting on a performance of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, though. It doesn’t lend itself well to parody or even camp, though one line in the play, “The queen is falling,” might get a laugh.)

And speaking of straight-friendly, I know someone whose date took her there on the first date. Now, both of us had met her date at a wine-tasting event, and we could not tell who he was attracted to. Still, it seems an odd, or rather, ambiguous, place for an ostensibly straight guy to take a straight woman on a first date, however original and exciting the venue. There was no second date. Que sera.

I was taken to the place on my birthday. I was not sure if that was a straight person’s “safe” idea of gay entertainment (the person who planned the event), but several persons from the office went (not all gay). I did enjoy receiving some attention from Chili Pepper, who was dressed up in some fabulous 1960s retro outfit (kind of a dress with a jacket with white buttons and trim). The host did not believe I was 28 (I wasn’t that young; so much for illusion).

Flint’s new location is in a beautiful building with a deco feel, perhaps an architectural landmark. Much of the area around it is either abandoned, waiting for or in the process of bland gentrification, perhaps diluting some of the illusion or edginess that feeds into that illusion.
 

Baton old and new locations
Baton old and new locations

Still, it’s not far from the legendary Green Mill cocktail lounge, and the Uptown Theater is in the process of renovation, or, more accurately, retrovation. That’s the paradox: idealizing and revisioning the past in a time when daylight too often intrudes upon magic and everyone thinks they are a star shining on the screen of a smartphone.

May the magical stars of the Baton reign for another 50 years.

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