In the current landscape of adult entertainment and pornography, the vast world of the internet has a wide range of options to suit every taste and titillation. Thank goodness we have finally moved beyond that weird era in the late 80s – early 2000s where the super-shaved, oiled-up, smooth-bodied pornstar archetype was all that seemed pervasive in the gay porn studios.
Now there are more hairy, burly, Daddy porn options, with people able to enjoy whatever they like in the privacy of their own home. There’s something to be said though about the adult film industry of the past when the porn guys were less processed and seemingly less self-conscious than today’s performers. There was no Onlyfans fueling a “look at me I’m so hot” generation of the self-absorbed (not all, but some). It was a time too when men gathered in dark and seedy theaters to watch adult movies and, eh-hem, get to know someone a little better as they watched their favorite flesh flicks.
Cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were known around the world for their gay erotic theater and bookstore culture, where the Gloryhole was the gateway to the soul of your neighbor on the other side of the wall.
One of the most notorious of these theaters was the BijouTheater, which opened in 1970 in Chicago. Founded by Brooklyn native Steven Toushin, the Bijou Theater quickly became one of the most iconic theatres/sex club in the U.S. It was also ahead of the curve in the home video explosion in the 80s. Toushin launched Bijou Video around 1978, and it served as a gay adult mail-order company. At that time, Bijou expanded the porn industry across the country as did competitor adult companies who followed suit. However, he and these colleagues found themselves often at odds with local and state obscenity laws and were sometimes fined and even imprisoned.
Toushin himself would become familiar with the inside of prison cells as he bucked the system with his provocative nightlife brand. He produced both gay and straight adult movies as well as S/M films in the 1970s and 80s – several of which got him indicted on federal obscenity charges in Tennessee, Utah, and Nebraska as a result of Attorney General Meese’s Commission on Pornography.
All the while, as Toushin pushed back at the antiquated obscenity laws that he deemed oppressive, the Bijou thrived as a unique theater space for both sexual and theatrical presentations. The theater’s stage lighting, sound, and projection system rivaled any small to medium live theater of the time, but it also boasted a sex palace, equipped with a dungeon, cross bondage, glory-holes, chains and more. The dungeon room was also used as a dance space while people cruised the glory-hole booths, dark corners, and other play areas.
Sadly, and I say that wholeheartedly, the Bijou closed its doors in 2015. I assume today’s modern landscape of hook-up apps and the immediate gratification found on the internet drove down the business of such establishments around the world, and today only a few remain if any.
Ever the entrepreneur, Toushin, wasn’t done though. He evolved with the times. In 1999 Bijou had begun restoring and remastering its vast library of vintage adult content from a variety of source materials (16mm film, 1-inch masters, 3/4 inch tape, etc.). This new business direction made Bijou Gay Classics the only company of its kind in the world that dominates the Gay Vintage, Classic, Pre-condom market worldwide.
Today as an online business Bijouworld.com sells a plethora of delectable erotica of the past including: original 1950’s-1960’s style trailers, gay magazines from 1900 to 2005, porn movie posters from the golden era of porn, vintage mail-order brochures, old paperback sex books etc, naughty note cards, newsletter and blogs on gay history, sexuality, pop culture, politics, and of course lots and lots of vintage gay porn.
In the 2015 press release to announce the Bijous’s closing, an earlier quote fromToushin was included in which he had shared his thoughts on the internationally known dungeon of debauchery he built from obscurity:
“People are still coming out at the Bijou, we have a lot of return customers, regulars, married men, tourists who come to the big city to experience what they would never do back home, people who want to see porn in a sexual environment with other men, people that want anonymous sex. There is nothing in the world like the Bijou. It is what sex was in the 1970s and ’80s. The Bijou has never been pretty; it has always been deliciously nasty and I’ll keep it that way till I’m done, then I’ll turn off the lights and go home.”
It sounds like a sexy good time. Damn, I’m so pissed I missed it!