Join us on Wednesday, October 4th, at 6:30 PM for an author conversation with Owen Keehnen and Rick Karlin! Owen will be discussing his new book, Man’s Country: More than a Bathhouse, and Rick will be discussing his 2022 book co-authored with St Sukie de la Croix, Last Call Chicago: A History of 1001 LGBTQ-Friendly Taverns, Haunts & Hangouts.
A book signing will follow the conversation with copies of the books available for sale. Join us to learn more about Chicago LGBTQ+ bar and bathhouse history!
About the Books
Man’s Country: More than a Bathhouse
When Chuck Renslow opened Man’s Country in 1973, he wanted it to be someplace special-and he succeeded. The bathhouse was a part of Chicago gay life for 45 years-serving a number of changing roles, supporting the larger community, and spawning countless memories.
Rudolph Nureyev ran naked down the halls shouting, “Who wants to swing on a star?” Puppeteer Wayland Flowers held court in the TV lounge in nothing but a towel with his puppet, Madame, on his hand. Generations of gay men explored their sexuality in this “oasis of pleasure” with amenities that included a snack bar, a retail store, a wet area and whirlpool, an orgy room, a gym, specialty rooms, a rooftop deck and garden, and the largest steam room in the Midwest.
The Music Hall stage at Man’s Country was a venue for such talents as Divine, the Village People, Judy Tenuta, Charles Pierce, and Rusty Warren. When there wasn’t a show, there was dancing. Some men checked in to Man’s Country for six hours, and others came for the weekend. Man’s Country was a place to let your freak flag fly.
When the iconic bathhouse fell to the wrecking ball in 2018, the Man’s Country story came to an end, but not the legend. The stories and the memories will endure. Chuck Renslow always said he wanted Man’s Country to be more than a bathhouse, and it was much more.
With chapters on the techno-dance club BISTRO TOO & the leather bar, the CHICAGO EAGLE.
Last Call Chicago: A History of 1001 LGBTQ-Friendly Taverns, Haunts & Hangouts
Last Call Chicago: A History of 1,001 LGBTQ-Friendly Taverns, Haunts & Hangouts is a history of LGBTQ venues in Chicago going back in time as far as records of such venues exist. Both before and after Stonewall, LGBTQ bars and hangouts served the purpose of bringing the LGBTQ together and served as informal community centers. They were and are part of the vibrant fabric of the LGBTQ community. Opening Last Call Chicago is like stepping into a time machine that transports us across the years to bear witness to the triumphs, challenges, and sometimes heartaches of the LGBTQ community in Chicago.
Learn more about the books from Rattling Good Yarns Press:
About the Authors
Queer writer and historian Owen Keehnen is the author of several fiction and non-fiction books. In addition to his current release, Man’s Country : More Than a Bathhouse, Keehnen’s local LGBT histories include Dugan’s Bistro and the Legend of the Bearded Lady, and three biographies with Tracy Baim—Vernita Gray: From Woodstock to the White House, Jim Flint: The Boy from Peoria, and Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow.
For several years, Keehnen has been active in preserving the LGBTQ history of the Chicago queerspace, the Belmont Rocks. In addition to speaking on the subject, he has gathered photos and stories on the historic Chicago queerspace (circa 1960-2003). In 2022, the history of the Rocks was formally recognized when the area reopened as AIDS Garden Chicago.
Keehnen is cofounder of the LGBTQ education/history organization, the Legacy Project. He was inducted into the Chicago LGBTQ Hall of Fame in 2011.
Instagram: Owen Keehnen
Rick Karlin has been a freelance journalist and editor for the past 30+ years, He is currently the Arts & Culture editor for Out South Florida and a contributing writer for The Bay Area Reporter, Grab Magazine and Out Traveler.
His last book, with Sukie de la Croix, is “Last Call Chicago: 1001 LGBT-Friendly Taverns, Hang-outs and Haunts,” was published in 2022 and was ranked number one on Amazon’s LGBT Studies category. His memoir “Paper Cuts: My Life in Chicago’s Volatile LGBT Press” was published in 2019. He is currently working on Last Call South Florida, an encylopedia of LGBT bars from Palm Beach to Key west.
He has penned three novels; Show Biz Kids, Tales of the Second City, and Death on the Rocks. His plays “Turning Tables”, “Witches Among Us” and “Spin Cycle”, have been produced in Chicago and Fort Lauderdale. He has also written numerous children’s musicals.
In recognition of his years as an LGBT community activist and writer, he was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 1997. He wrote for nearly every LGBT publication in Chicago, starting with GayLife in the 1970s followed by Gay Chicago Magazine (entertainment editor), Outline/Nightlines (now Windy City Times), Chicago Free Press, ChicagoPride.com and Boi Magazine. He was also an on-air personality for LesBiGay Radio.
His son Adam is a Cook County sheriff. After too many Chicago winters, he retired to Fort Lauderdale, FL where he lives with his husband, poet and journalist Gregg Shapiro, and their fur baby Miss Coco.