sauna and sex-club, 20a Bracka Street, opened in 1994
Hidden in the courtyard, Pałac Brzozowskich [the Brzozowskich Palace] is one of the most interesting buildings at 20 Bracka Street. In order to find it, you need to find the gate that goes through the building at 20 Bracka Street. Soon you will see a ragged facade of the building. The Palace was designed in 1882 by Bronisław Żochowski- Brodzic. Unfortunately, the building was destroyed in World War II. After the War, one storey was added during renovation. Sadly, the renovation has not been fully completed so far.
Pałac Brzozowskich has been a character of many books (for example, it served as a prototype of the palace of the Duchess Bilińska, where one of the plots of the novel Sława i chwała [Fame and Glory] by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz takes place). It was also present in many pornographic films due to its sanctuary of pleasure called Fantom. Entries to various parts of the club are on both sides of the palace. The club was established in 1994, which makes it the longest-running gay venue in Warsaw. It was divided into two zones: a sauna and a club, which is nothing else but a bar with a really spacious darkroom (the first genuine darkroom in Warsaw). Fantom is one of few places in Warsaw which you can visit in the afternoon to sweat in the sauna and “spend some nice time” in male company. If your imagination does not do it for you, the Fantom will assist you and inspire you with an assortment of “blue movies” and erotic accessories available at the shop. The prices are decent. Apart from the shop there is also a bar, a darkroom with a variety of “toys”, and a small screening room. Also the “wailing wall” is very popular. It is a doorway between the bar and the darkroom. This is the only place where you can take a closer look at the boys before any tasting that might come next. It gets busy at the sauna starts at 2 p.m., and the crowd wears down in the evening. The customers are democratic and include a variety of people. The sauna itself has a steam sauna, a dry sauna, a huge jacuzzi bath, a well-stocked and cheap bar, and a small darkroom.
An interesting fact is that in 1998 official Gay Pride parties were organised at the club. Sławomir Ślubowski, Super Express journalist, reported:
…at Fantom at Bracka Street, in an incredibly stifling air, about fifteen people would party wearing only underpants. Others would watch “Priscilla”, “Maurice” or other popular gay movies.
Currently, the repertoire is less challenging, but still worth recommending. It should be pointed out that straight journalists visit Fantom. Seeing the then only gay sex-club, they would become almost euphoric:
No woman can pass through the restrictive door selection. Ever. Located in the basement of this tenement house in Warsaw at 20a Bracka Street, the club organises all sorts of male entertainment. In this respect it bears striking resemblance to hardcore gay clubs in Amsterdam. Although no one asks about your sexual orientation at the gate, it would be difficult to imagine heterosexual customers paying the admission fee and disappearing in the darkroom or a TV cabin for a while… It is not really a dancing place, and even wellknown gay men reluctantly admit to attending the club regularly.
Although you could compare the darkroom with a TV cabin, comparing Fantom with Amsterdam clubs would put a smile on the faces of regulars at such venues. However, a City Magazine journalist paid attention to a different aspect:
Fantom with its famous wall with holes at waist-height, is a place associated with sex rather than any other entertainment. And, allegedly, women can't “ever” access the club…
Remember that when you visit Fantom, there is a buzzer at the door, and when you go inside you meet the legendary Dragon, a bouncer and good spirit of the club, who has thrown out a number of troublemakers. The Dragon looks seriously, but deep in his heart…that gives you an idea of the origin of his nickname… So be nice to the Dragon and remember about good manners.
Final remark: The best time to visit Fantom are weekends from midnight till 3 a.m. You should visit the sauna on weekdays. When you leave Fantom, turn right and you will see the Goethe Institute building around the corner. This is where Łaênia Diana [Diana Bath] used to be (13 Chmielna Street). Like in almost any bath, gay people would meet there. The bath was opened in 1833 and operating until 1979. The renovation (reconstruction, to be precise) of the house left no traces of that venue, which had such a significant role in the history of gay life. Fantom continues the tradition of that place proudly.
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