At The Baths

Photography: DUSTI CUNNINGHAM
Photo Shoot Models: Danny Dolan, Rikki Crowley, Garrett Swann, Danny Axl, David Rest, Shawn Morales
Wardrobe Stylist: Michael St. Michael
Models are wearing Charlie By MZ, www.charliebymz.com
Location: Roman Holiday Health Club II, Van Nuys, www.romanholidayclubs.com

Roman Holiday Spa locations close permanently after 52 years

PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM

Roman Holiday Spa “Health Clubs” have been added to the list of gay spaces that are forever lost to COVID-19, reported  WEHO TIMES last month.

Both gay men’s bathhouse locations, one at 12814 Venice Blvd in Mar Vista, and the other at 14435 Victory Blvd, in Van Nuys, survived the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s, only to then shutter during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The sister locations were quietly put for sale with zero notice from its owners or any fanfare from the numerous patrons it has served for roughly 52 years.

Both Roman Holiday Spa Health Clubs attracted an older gay male crowd, as well as married men, men who have sex with men (MSM) and overall guys on the down low, stated WEHO TIMES.

While the AIDS epidemic and later on apps like Grindr may have hampered attendance to a degree, men still used bathhouses—at least up until the current pandemic—as a convenient, safe place to meet other men.

A photoshoot by photographer Dusti Cunningham in THE FIGHT took place at the Van Nuys location in 2015. 

The photo spread titled “At the Baths,” included models David Rest who was on the cover of the magazine that month, and club promoter, go-go dancer and Rupaul’s Drag Race pit crew alumnus Shawn Morales to name a few. The models can be seen at various parts of the now shuttered spa.

In the gay world—records of men meeting men in bathhouses date back to the 15th century. In the West, men have been frequenting bathhouses since at least the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the 1950s exclusively gay bathhouses began to open in the United States. Though subject to vice raids, these bathhouses were an oasis of homosexual camaraderie and were, as they remain today, places where it was safe to be gay, whether or not patrons themselves identified as such. 

While the AIDS epidemic and later on apps like Grindr may have hampered attendance to a degree, men still used bathhouses—at least up until the current pandemic—as a convenient, safe place to meet other men.