The porn viewing booths that help make Cheshire Bridge Road gay Atlanta's favorite place to get drunk and seedy are coming under an attack by an effort to push out the strip's sex businesses. What's the fuss over? Here's a guide to the gloryholes and what happens inside.
Technically, they are video arcades or video viewing booths. Ideally, their owners prefer that you use them as a place to masturbate inside a box. In reality, they are hookup spots where men have sex with men through a hole in the wall, with a buddy in a booth or in dark rooms with a crowd.
All three places -- Insurrection, Southern Nights and Peek A Boo -- offer video booths either inside or adjacent to stores that rent porn and sell sex supplies. Two -- Inserection and Southern Nights -- are ensnared in a legislative effort by Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan, the only openly gay Council member, to scrub the corridor of its sexually-oriented businesses. The other, Peek A Boo, sits on Piedmont Circle, which is what Cheshire Bridge changes to west of Piedmont Road. It's not impacted by Wan's efforts, which are on hold until March, but is one of the longest-running jack shacks in Cheshire's red light district.
With $30 and a few hours on Saturday, here's what I found.
Inserection, 1739 Cheshire Bridge Road, open 24/6
It's the most expensive of the three, but also the most expansive and adventurous. Over the years, it's grown from a handful of booths inside the store to its basement and then expanded into its current state as a two-floor, multi-room venue with its own entrance, a lounge and more video booths than anywhere else.
Arriving about 11:30 p.m., the full parking lot teased that it's prime time for playtime at this jack shack. It offers a discrete entrance at the rear of the building so you can enter with only the glare of guys sitting in their cars in the parking lot and not of those from drivers zooming by on Cheshire Bridge. The attendant was friendly, though complaining at length about the computer system that tracks the bar code imprinted card you receive after plunking down the $15 entrance fee. (It's $11 on weeknights.)
The card works like a MARTA card and slides through a reader on the turnstile. The place is pricey, but the card allows you in and out privileges until 7 the next morning. "That enough time?" the attendant jokes when I ask when the card expires. Let's hope so.
The entrance leads you into a hallway that turns left into the first room offering 12 booths in a handful of clusters. Some offer gloryholes -- circular or oblong holes cut into the wall dividing two booths. Just in case you didn't know. Consider it a way to preview your buddy in the next booth, say hi or offer up the goods you want worked on. The possibilities are endless.
But we're not done. The place is huge. There's a second room with six booths and across from that is a dimly lit lounge. At one end of that is another room, a play space devoid of any light with some seating and a steady stream of guys looking to grope, stroke and more with someone in the dark. After my eyes adjusted to the lack of light, I realized there wasn't much happening during my first stop. When I visited the room again, I heard the unmistakable sounds of blowjobs. After my eyes adjusted, I could make out the movements that accompanied the grunts, groans and slurping.
At the end of the second room of video booths is a restroom that offers three shower stalls. Shower stalls. It wasn't clear if they get used. But there they are. Around a corner is a staircase, which leads to a second floor of four rooms, a dark hallway and another blacked-out play space.
During my initial swing through the upstairs area, the four rooms are occupied and with the moans and coming from them, it's pretty clear what's happening inside. Later, I walked into a room with an open door only to interrupt a guy who was pulling up his jeans and buckling his pants. The rooms offer sparse furnishings with a bench trying to be a bed covered in vinyl mats. A small stand, ceiling fan and paper towel dispenser complete the furnishings. A slider on the light switch lets you set the mood. But a nearby sign warns to keep it short -- there's a 30-minute limit.
About 20 men cruise the various rooms and video booths. It's a mixed crowd, though leans Latin and black in their 30s and 40s. A friendly, muscular black guy cruises me once and on his second trip by stops to say hello. Gary introduces himself, asks my height, offers a compliment and doesn't waste time or words. "Are you a top? What do you get into?" I offer a quick thanks with no specifics and move on.
The all-gray video booths offer 62 channels, though several don't work. The porn offers a mix of straight and gay. A rudimentary control panel next to the seat allows you to scroll channels and adjust the volume, though the options seem to be mute and loud enough to stop traffic. The downside is that your $15 cover doesn't get you any video minutes. That's extra, so bring dollar bills if you're really there for the movies. Please. Some of the booths offer a gloryhole, while others don't.
The place is clean enough. Some booths had used paper towels pushed into a corner, which is a little gross. But it's a jack shack. So at least the guys before me wiped up.
Southern Nights, 2205 Cheshire Bridge Road, open 24/7
The new kid on the block offers the cleanest and roomiest booths on the strip. The porn rental and sex supply store has long resisted adding video booths, but did so late last year. The store offers a side entrance to its video arcade, though the hallway leads you to the store's main counter where you pay the $10 entrance fee. That buys you eight hours of access to the booths. The entrance is across from a sign listing seven policies, including that "arcade rooms are for watching videos only," "NO loitering" and "NO solicitation for sex allowed." Uh-huh.
An attractive guy in his 20s and dressed in Emory sweats worked the counter and took my money. But he seemed more interested in getting back to the mixed race straight porn he had playing on a TV than dealing with my glances at his sweatpants.
It's about 10:30 p.m. when I step inside the video area. It's clean, smells fresh and is completely empty save for one guy tucked inside one of the 10 booths at the other end of the room. The $10 cover includes a $5 coupon that provides several minutes of porn viewing pleasure. After that, it's up to your dollars for more.
The booths offer the largest TVs of the jack shack trio, paper towel dispensers (the other two don't) and comfortable padded benches. They also provide 62 channels of straight, bi, lesbian, gay and trans videos. All the channels work and the control panel gives a wide range of options, from volume to channels, fast forward and rewind. The same options that make watching porn at home so enjoyable and efficient.
The booths also offer options for sticking your dick through the wall. A few booths don't have gloryholes, while others offer one. In a unique twist, some booths provide two, one stacked on the other to fit a range of heights. How convenient. The gloryholes were also fitted with plastic rings. No splinters.
Since the place was nearly empty, I walked around to check out the only other person there. He left the door to his booth cracked open so you could see the gay porn on the screen. A quick peek inside the booth showed a guy in his 50s or 60s, completely naked and stroking his junk with one hand while using another to play with a nipple.
Peek A Boo, 1906 Piedmont Circle, 24/7
This place offers the cheapest entrance fee ($5), but the dirtiest and smallest booths. It stinks inside. Red tape with "danger" printed on it covers the bathroom door, similar to the yellow tape that cops use for crime scenes. Mop buckets sit in the hallway and some booths don't include a bench or chair to sit on.
Signs around the place make it clear that you can't leave and re-enter on the same $5 cover. But when I arrive about 12:30 a.m. and ask the attendant, he offers that his shift doesn't end until 7 and I can come and go until then without paying again. The friendly guy also walks me through how to use the plastic card you receive after paying. It includes a $5 credit for playing movies and more credits can be purchased for more viewing.
The 18 booths are laid out in a U pattern that allows for easy laps around the small space to check out the crowd. The hallways are tight and the entire place is a little claustrophobic. A second building across the exit drive offers movie rentals and supplies.
The crowd of about a dozen guys is all black, except for me. Several of them have their heads buried in smartphones, which seems kind of dumb since you're there to cruise for dick. But that isn't stopping some, who are inside a few booths where the sounds of sex can be heard over the creaks of the booths moving around. After my first lap, the hottest of the guys -- a tall muscular dude wearing a tight t-shirt and jeans -- is gone. But a steady line of people trying to look through a crack beside the door to the booth where he was standing hints that he's probably inside having more fun than them.
At Peek A Boo, you can see or touch or both in their booths. Some offer gloryholes and a "Buddy Button." Play a movie, push that button and if your potential buddy in the booth next door does the same, the glass screen in the wall clears and you can see one another. For a more hands on experiences, some booths offer a single gloryhole while others offer holes on both sides. Think three-way.
But in a nod to Peek A Boo's dumpy offerings, a sign near the closed bathroom offers a warning on actions that management will not tolerate: "sexual condoms" and "shitting." Really.