In 1971, John Paul Hudson, writing as John Francis Hunter, published The Gay Insider (The Other Traveller), “a Hunter’s Guide to New York and a Thesaurus of Phallic Lore.”
One of a crop of “gay lib” books published in the wake of the Stonewall Uprising (1969), The Gay Insider featured lists of “happy hunting grounds for horny homosexuals [male], including bars, baths, streets and parks, the beaches, the restrooms and the balconies” in Manhattan as well as on Fire Island and the Hamptons. “These are fun times in Fun City … and the greatest place in the country to be ‘liberated,’” said Hudson, ignoring still persistent bar raids and other flies in the lavender ointment.
In 1972 Hudson/Hunter, by now a columnist for The Advocate and Gay, expanded his outreach to cover all 50 States (and Puerto Rico) in The Gay Insider USA (Stonehill). He referred to his new book as “an eclectic guide to where the male homosexuals can find love, companionship, truth, beauty, sex, God, liberation … anywhere in Gay America.” For this edition Hunter included “new free gays,” groups like Gay Activists Alliance and activists like Morris Kight of Los Angeles and David Goldman of Chicago.
The year 1972 was when Miami Beach hosted both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, a fact that Hunter mentioned in his section on Florida. Then as now, the Sunshine State was officially antigay while accommodating an active gay community: “Whatever the political climate in Florida, my response from bar owners and management was just about the heartiest in The Union. … If the most controversial people and places are the most stimulating, Florida should provide high entertainment for all of us.”
Despite all that, Florida had more queer bars in 1972 than it does now. The Gay Insider USA lists 15 gay or mixed pubs and clubs in Miami (including Coconut Grove and Coral Gables) and eight bars on Miami Beach. It also featured venues in Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale, Hollywood, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach. (On the other hand, Key West had one listing and Wilton Manors had none.) Often, Hunter’s descriptions are as entertaining as they were useful. For example, he described Warehouse VIII, an early favorite of mine in Little Havana, as a “huge place; [with a] suspended horse-drawn cart; [and] pool tables. Upstairs is a swinging bar, but not too friendly to outsiders,” which did not keep it from being recommended. The Regency Baths, a club in downtown Miami, featured “a young crowd, very popular steam room and gym. Home away from home.” (Don’t ask me. I was never there.) If we can believe The Gay Insider, the Regency “never had any police harassment,” three years before the Club Miami was famously raided. Unlike its predecessor, The Gay Insider USA limited its scope to bars and baths, leaving out other places where gay and bi men cruised, such 21st Street and Virginia Beaches; Bayfront Park; the Greyhound Bus Station, etc.
Though it is no longer useful as a guidebook, The Gay Insider USA is a delightful and informative book at commercial gay male life as it was lived in 1972. Hudson ignored the vast majority of gay men who lived quiet, mostly closeted lives, centering on the bar flies and disco bunnies. Even so, it’s worth picking up a copy, if you can find one.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and South Florida resident since 1964. Share your own experiences with him at