I once dreamt that I had somehow rigged a big screen TV to a hot tub on a mystical deck in my future mansion. I subsquently was very disappointed to wake up and find that it was, but a fantasy.  So naturally when I heard about a party that involved 15 hot tubs on a roof,  I was sold, despite warnings from my more safety-conscious friends who seemed to think that sitting in a static tub of warm water with a bunch of strangers was a sure fire path to venereal disease.

The same impulse must have prompted the SNL writers to pen this little ditty on the following Saturday’s Weekend Update:  A new event has been launched in Brooklyn, New York called ‘Hot Tub Cinema,’ in which people watch movies in inflatable hot tubs on a rooftop. ‘I’ll definitely check that out!’ said bacteria.

And so it begins. © Joanna Newman

While a logical person might turn away from this intimate level of water-sharing, I’m fairly certain that my body has formed some kind of super immunity to bacteria. I’ve both swam in the McCarren park pool (on a weekend, no less) and had Newtown Creek water splashed in my eye while attempting to canoe, all without health insurance. I was also once the proud owner of a Raging Water’s season’s pass (one of the less sanitary water parks in Southern California), and while most of my friends fell victim to foot fungus and pink eye, I continued to float in the lazy river, blissfully ignorant of the many kids urinating in its foggy waters. The truth is, if I were scared of contracting infections from public spaces, I would have left New York a long time ago.

Another motivation, which has since proven true, is that a lot of reporters are boring. Long gone are the days when journalists would get strung out on acid and join biker gangs for a good story. Now, most, if not all, mainstream media sites report on activities like this from the distance of a wincing senior citizen, asking snoozy questions such as How many gallons of water does it take to fill those tubs? and writing dry newsy articles about an event that’s meant to be debaucherous and dare I say, FUN. I’m not one to try stripping or heroin for a story (due to my slow reflexes and general cowardice), but I vowed to submerge myself in those soiled hot tub waters; I would sacrifice everything, risk it all, and never look back, all for the sake of participatory journalism, youth, and of course, America.

So when Joanna (my trusted investigative party journalist) and I arrived at the scene of the Hot Tub Cinema night, on the roof of a nondescript warehouse on Kent, I was surprised to find that the party was run with the efficiency of a Whole Foods line. A friendly Australian man introduced himself and said that he would be taking care of the journalists for the evening, cheerfully answered all of our questions, and  immediately offered us drinks at the open bar. Pleasant young staffers wove through the hot tubs in Crowdtilt t-shirts, delivering drinks and popcorn to their water-drenched peers. These waiter-esque assistants were recruited via Task Rabbit; one explained that he was a recent Med School grad in search of easy cash. More on that later.


Each friend circle was assigned a temp tub, which held about 6 bodies comfortably. Changing rooms and lockers were provided and each hot tub was equipped with adjacent dry bins to store clothes, towels, flip flops, and other non-water proof possessions.  Everything was suspiciously well organized; it made sense that the concept was born in the England, the country of high teas, pomp, and circumstance…and apparently very efficient parties.

The partiers themselves were very well behaved by the time we arrived around 7:30  (most likely because they had only been consuming alcohol for 20-30 minutes). But they did go all out with their outfits for the evening, bringing glow stick glasses and mohawk hats, or sported stick-on mustaches; one group even came dressed as frat bros…which in retrospect, was not a costume.

Asher Charman, the chap who came up with this concept, is a delightful Australian gentlemen from London, who seemed genuinely amused by the crowd of reporters who came to ask hard-hitting questions about his hot tub party. The hype was high (tickets for the event sold out within 2 hours and over 1500 people signed up for the waiting list) and so of course, the news outlets arrived en mass.  One reporter from the Observer asked if Asher came up with the idea in the tub, to which he laughed and replied, “kind of?”.

Basically, Asher is just a guy who figured out a way to combine his two favorite pastimes, hot tubs and movies, by hosting a popular series of events in London.  This Spring, Crowdtilt, the San Francisco-based startup, proposed the idea to host a Hot Tub Cinema in NYC… and the party was birthed.

Once we finished the interview portion of the evening, Joanna and I were assigned a tub and hopped in, immediately relieved to be out of the damp evening air. It was then that we were introduced to our hot tub mates, an aspiring actress who talked incessantly about the shape of her eyebrows, and her roommate, a male twenty-something who immediately informed us that he was super into the guy with the sailor hat in the next tub over and really wanted to invite him into our tub.  They mostly talked about being “so over living in Bed Stuy” because Williamsburg was so much cooler.  The pair were invited to the event by their 3rd roommate and MC for the evening, a drag performer named Darius, who glided on stage to announce the feature presentation, Hot Tub Time Machine (obviously).

Beginning of the night...

We soon realized, however, that no one really cared about the film. The whole point of the event was the idea that we were watching a film…in a hot tub, on a rooftop with a sprawling view of the Manhattan skyline and the Williamsburg Bridge.  Who wants to sit quietly and take in the cinematic subtlety of lines like “We back in time, y’all!”

After 1 hour of open bar...

About halfway through the movie, the debauchery truly began, and escalated in direct proportion to the hours of open bar operation…kind of like a wedding, if you replaced marriage with a movie starring John Cusack and a time traveling hot tub. Soon everyone was jumping into different tubs of half-naked 22-year-olds, as Task Rabbits came by to refill our drinks, pour bubble bath in to the tepid waters, and turn on the jets.  Moments later, we all began cheering like maniacs, throwing bubbles like they were the most magical creation we’d ever seen.

Total debauchery ensues, frat bro style

It was then that I found myself drinking boxed chardonnay in a tub full of gay men, including Darius, who stripped down to his underwear and jumped in. A super drunk girl entered the tub and said sleepily, “I’m so Asian” before ordering another Coors. I began calling the med student over (I re-named him ‘Doctor’) to inform him that Joanna was single and needed CPR, because it just seemed like the kind and moral thing to do. A blonde Australian girl belly flopped into a shallow pool of bubbles, which had overflowed onto the ground. The hot tub waters had merged and there was no going back.

Photo of me and my new friends, found the next day via Instagram © Kelrock19

At some point, I remember having the distinct realization that the liquid in my hot tub was at least 25% urine and 50% Coors, but given the amount of boxed wine that I had just consumed in warm water, I really couldn’t care less.

The hardest part about throwing a party with bubbles, 15 hot tubs, and a ton of liquor, is getting people to leave. They practically had to drag us out. When we finally slogged our way back to our original tub, I grabbed my flip flops from the dry box and found that someone, probably eye brow girl, had stolen my towel and leggings.

Joanna and I exited the building dripping wet, our purses bulging with several bottles of left-behind Coors fruit coolers. There we were: two people who looked like they had showered with their clothes on, walking down Grand Street with 2 half-dead glow stick necklaces and a set of Washington Huskies mardis gras beads (evidence that we had in fact hung out with college students).

We both agreed then and there that 1) everything about Hot Tub Cinema was absurd and that 2) we would absolutely do it again.


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