A Taste of Gay History with a Tale of Gay Romance by Michael Murphy

April 25, 2016

A Taste of Gay History With a Tale of Gay Romance

My name is Michael Murphy and I’m here today to talk about my newest release A Night at the Ariston Baths.  This book is very special to me for many reasons, one of which is that it has been in the works longer than anything else I’ve ever written.  There really was a place called the Ariston Baths, and the core events described in this book actually took place there.

When we think of Stonewall and the Gay Revolution of the 1970s, we don’t always remember that conditions were slowly fermenting and building up over decades until everything blew apart in June of 1969. Some have said that Stonewall started with what happened at the Ariston Baths on a winter’s night in 1903.  It was that night when New York City police conducted the first ever mass raid targeting men who had sex with men.  While police would make many raids of gay gatherings over the decades that followed, the raid on the Ariston swept up more than 80 men and is is seen by many as the first step on road that ran for more than sixty years to the raid on the Stonewall Inn.

In turn of the century New York, there was a huge, vibrant, active gay subculture that existed just beyond sight of most people. What men wanted was simple – just to be able to carve out some space where it was safe for them to be together, a safe space. For years they had had that at the Ariston, one of the most upscale Turkish and Russian bathhouses in all of New York City.  But that night when police swept in and scooped up more than 80 men, that safe space was destroyed.

When I first learned of this event and heard some of the things that happened to the men involved, I wanted to know more, but I couldn’t find anything more than a passing footnote in history books.  It seemed absolutely criminal to me that the men whose lives were so dramatically changed that night in 1903 had been largely forgotten.

I had been in New York one summer doing research, trying to learn more about this episode in history. Later that same week I saw Elizabeth North and we sat and I described what I had found.  She suggested I write this book.  We spent a long time tossing ideas back and forth and she suggested an approach and a fictional character that could be the focal point of the story.  I went with her approach and that is the book that is releasing now.

My character is Theodore McCall, a young gay man who grew up in far western rural Pennsylvania.  Theodore was fortunate because his best friend growing up, Martin Fuller, was also gay.  When they were discovering adolescence and that they were different than the other boys, they had one another.  But Martin moved to New York City following high school, leaving Theodore behind where they had grown up.

When everything fell apart for him quite suddenly and dramatically,  Theodore decided it was a sign that he should do something equally out of character – he bought a ticket and took the train to New York City to join his best friend, Martin.  Now Martin had been in New York for several years by then and had scoped out everything and knew where to meet men.  Martin was very bold and outgoing, while Theodore was more shy and reserved. Martin took his friend by the hand and introduced him to some of the joys of life in the city.  One of those joys was a visit to a bathhouse that men of their kind frequented. And wouldn’t you know it, but the night Martin picked was the worst possible night to be present at the Ariston Baths.

But that’s just the start of the story. Theodore’s road is long from there. And while the story is a bad point in gay history, Theodore’s story is not equally bad. But you’ll just have to read the story to find out how.

If you have questions about the Ariston Russian and Turkish Bath and the men involved in the original story, please comment and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Some of what went on there has been lost to history, but I have dug through every record I could identify to be able to piece together the real story.

Please be sure to swing by my website gayromancewriter.com to see my blog, some of my photos, and of course information on my books. I look forward to hearing from you.

Check out A Night at the Ariston Baths today!



In rural Pennsylvania, Theodore McCall lives on his family’s farm and works as a clerk at the local general store. While his best friend, Martin Fuller, thrives in New York City, Theodore trudges through life. But on New Year’s Eve, 1902, Theodore’s world is turned upside down, and big changes call for bold action.

Theodore, who has never ventured more than eight miles from home, undertakes the daunting journey to New York City to join Martin. But the Martin he finds in New York is a stranger, a different man, doing things Theodore finds shocking. After just two months in the City, Theodore’s world is upended again as he an, d Martin are swept up in the events at the Ariston Baths.

Haunted by his experiences in New York, Theodore returns home, wondering whether he’ll ever find happiness in life. When he meets Jasper Webb, Theodore must boldly risk everything for the love he so longs for.

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