Alternate Names
MAC's in Silverlake
First Documented
Last Documented

2801 Hyperion Avenue
Silverlake, CA 90027
United States

MAC’s in Silverlake was far from an ordinary bathhouse. It took initiative in the fight for gay rights. Instead of only serving as a place of sanctuary, this institution provided self-defense courses that met the needs of gay men.   

MAC’s was a private club for gay men that sat inside a 16,000 square foot warehouse complex. Special events were held there, and patrons had access to complete bath facilities. Features included an indoor/outdoor lounge, a food and beverage canteen, a TV room, a college-style locker room, a steam room, public and private showers, private rooms, community areas, a movie theater, specialty rooms, and a jacuzzi. For special events, MAC’s had a large party/dance space with an adjoining lounge, private restrooms, storage rooms, and a multi-purpose loading dock area. Members were able to enjoy the dances thrown as well as these special events.   

MAC’s in Silverlake tried to improve the lives of queer people by offering self-defense classes. This was because violent crime, especially against gay men, was increasing rapidly — the L.A.P.D. recorded 130 sexuality-related homicides in 1980 alone, and MAC's wanted gay men to feel a stronger sense of confidence, security, and safety. By taking these classes, gay men would learn vital safety skills such as assessing dangerous situations quickly, developing proficiency in simple holds, locks, and punches, using evasive moves and counters and situational techniques for unique situations, such as more than one attacker. The instructor for this course was an experienced martial arts master with national recognition and over 20 years of experience, who was also sensitive to the needs of gay men. He would not teach programmed violence, resistance with force, or the use of aggression.

MAC's encouraged a laid-back environment where gay men felt comfortable mingling and connecting both sexually and emotionally. As a bathhouse, the establishment encouraged its patrons to clean thoroughly following any sexual activity and be respectful of the myriad of body types that patrons were likely to encounter. The presence of this space offered gay men an opportunity to shed their everyday personalities and enjoy a moment of self-improvement and increased self-reliance within a unified community.


Bathhouses, ONE Subject Files Collection, ONE Archives at the USC Libraries. 

Howard, Alan. “Symposia in the Flesh: An Inside View of Gay Baths and Other Places to Meet Your Friends.” Popular Psychology, May 1973. 

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