In West Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s, hooking up was frowned upon. You dated, shared your boyfriend with your friends, and played party games with a sexual component, but bringing home a stranger with no preliminaries -- deviant, dangerous, disgusting.
We knew about bathhouses and backrooms as relics of an earlier age of innocence, but there were none left in Los Angeles, and few of us went to them when traveling abroad.
And no one had ever heard of sex parties or bear parties, roomfuls of guys who get together explicitly for sexual activity with complete strangers.
The first one ever was Lane's idea. But I helped.
Lane grew up in the Spanish Colonial house on Crescent Heights Boulevard that his parents bought when they got married. It was no mansion, but it was huge by West Hollywood standards: an enormous living room, a family room, two dining rooms (one for everyday, one for special occasions), four bedrooms, two and a half baths, an enclosed porch, and a basement (rare in Los Angeles). Plus a back yard with a huge hedge around it.
When his mother died in November 1992, and Lane inherited the house, I expected him to immediately put it on the market, but instead he said "We should live there. The old-fashioned furniture will have to be replaced, and the kitchen needs remodeling, but it will be just like having a house in the suburbs."
"It's walking distance to the French Quarter and the Metropolitan Community Church."
"But a mile from the Different Light. I just like our apartment better. It's home."
But Lane prevailed, and we rented a U-Haul to bring over our bed, our tv, some paintings, six boxes of books, and some miscellaneous odds and ends. There was something wrong with each of the bedrooms (where his parents slept, where his mother died, his old room, etc), so we moved the stuff out of the cavernous family room and moved our bed and an old dresser in.
And we set about trying to deal with the sound of silence.
We got no sleep the first night.
On the second night we invited someone in to "share."
On the third night we went out to the Faultline, even though it was a Tuesday.
But no matter how late we stayed out, no matter who shared our bed, we still couldn't sleep in that cavernous room, knowing that there were seven other equally cavernous rooms, an infinite space between us and the rest of the world.
"How did you handle all this space when you were growing up, with just you and your parents?" I asked,
"It wasn't just three. We had a housekeeper, my grandparents lived with us, my cousin spent summers, friends of my parents visited. The house was usually full of people.."
"Then we should have a party," I told Lane.
"A housewarming party?"
"Definitely. Sharing in the bedrooms, making out in the formal dining room, oral in the second dining room, anal in the parlor, bondage in the basement. Guys showering together in the bathrooms, walking down the hall with their penises swinging in the wind. Like a bathhouse without the Attitude."
"A bathhouse-themed party!" Lane said, his eyes glowing with party-planning fervor. "We could pass out those scratchy white towels, label rooms 'steamroom' and 'darkroom' and such, play bathhouse games -- I don't know what, we'll figure it out!"
A standard West Hollywood party has six to ten guys, are all friends or friends' dates. But a bathhouse experience needs a lot more, and they have to be strangers.
We invited ten friends and asked them to bring a guest, and also passed out fliers to random guys who looked hot at the gym and the French Quarter. It had a photo of a shirtless model and this invitation:
Boomer and Lane's First Annual Bathhouse Party, Saturday night 8:00 pm! Admission fee $2.00 to cover the snacks and sodas. Men only, all ages (21+), shapes, and sizes welcome. No drugs or alcohol, no hustlers, no Attitude, just hot guys in towels doing what guys in towels do.
We locked up the valuables, bought 50 gym towels and a lot of condoms and lube packets, and installed a row of fake lockers. Blaring disco music, flashing red and blue lights, and a mist machine added to the bathhouse effect.
I lost track of the number of guys I went down on, had go down on me, or kissed and groped -- there were some repeats. But more than at a real bathhouse.
Around 10:00 pm, guys started getting dressed and going home or to the bars. By 11:00 there was no one left but Randall, the Muscle Bear with the Pierced Penis, who we invited to spend the night.
"We should have these parties on a regular basis," Lane said. "But a different theme every time. Fire Island, maybe..Castro Street...a t-room..."
"Or no theme," Randall said. "Why bother? Guys don't want a lot of fancy props and complicated party games -- they come for the socializing and sex."
After more sleepless nights in the cavernous space, we called it quits, put the house on the market, and moved back into our cozy two-bedroom apartment. So we had to go back to small, intimate dinner parties.
And the tradition spread. Within a year, nearly every guy with a house was inviting friends and strangers over for socializing and sex. Some specialized in BDSM, oral, or anal. Some specified that you had to be young, fit, or big beneath the belt.
And some said "all ages, sizes, and shapes welcome," just like Lane and I did in our invitation to the very first sex party.
See also: Helping Marshall Lose His Virginity