Health Club Closes Doors, Sale of Site’s Contents Takes Place This Week

Jason A. Michael
By | 2018-09-12T12:52:45+00:00 September 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Between The Lines has learned that the TNT Health Club, Detroit’s longest running gay bathhouse, has recently shuttered its doors. Located at 13333 Eight Mile Road, TNT first opened in 1979 in the spot of a former Jewish schvitz bath.
At that time there were four other gay male bathhouses – The Club Baths, the Prudential Health Club, the Akron Health Club and the Park Avenue Baths – open in the city.
“For many gay and bisexual men, the baths have been a vital place of exploration and sexual freedom back to the early 20th century,” said historian Tim Retzloff, who teaches at Michigan State University.
According to Retzloff, gay bathhouses had their origins in public bathhouses and saunas serving immigrant populations, where some men would sneak homosexual activity.
“In the late 1960s and early 1970s owners in Detroit and elsewhere in the U.S. began to create baths as spaces specifically targeted to a gay clientele, providing social and erotic venues for meeting largely hidden from the outside world,” Retzloff said. “Their investments paid off handsomely.”
By the mid-80s, as the AIDS crisis exploded, all the other bathhouses in Detroit had folded and TNT was left as the sole game in town. For a while owner Steve Daniels ran a bar inside the club and also a video rental business.
In 1992 a fire caused extensive the damage to the club. Yet it reopened shortly afterward with tents substituting for the private rooms for quite some time. The Detroit Free Press ran an investigative piece on the club in 1995 but TNT weathered that storm as it had all others.
“Even at their height of their popularity not everyone in the community approved of the bathhouses,” said Retzloff. “Some saw them as impersonal or as dangerous sites of exposure for STDs and later HIV and AIDS. At the same time, some baths became crucial places of education about AIDS, especially for those who lived more closeted lives. They’re an important and complicated part of our history.”
This week, antiques dealer Scott Utke will be holding an estate sale of sorts at the TNT. The sale, which runs Thursday, Sept. 13 – Saturday, Sept. 15, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at the club. For sale are the club’s exercise equipment, homoerotic art, holiday decorations, a washer, dryer and lot’s more.
“There’s a little bit of everything,” said Utke. “I just discovered a part of the building I had never been in before and there’s lots in there such as a snowblower, a lawnmower and lots of patio furniture.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.