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Steve Ostrow remembered (1932‑2024)

A memorial service for Steve Ostrow OAM was held on Saturday, April 13 at Pitt Street Uniting Church. Ostrow dedicated years of service to the Sydney LGBTQIA+ community after moving to Australia in his 50s.

Ostrow was bisexual and was born in Brooklyn to Russian Jewish immigrant parents in September of 1932 where he served as a cantor in his local synagogue.

In 1968, Steve Ostrow opened the Continental Baths in the basement of New York’s Ansonia Hotel, which quickly became the most popular gay venue in the city. He had live performers at the Continental and is credited with kickstarting the careers of stars including Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Labelle, the Manhattan Transfer and Peter Allen among many others.

As a young man he studied singing at the Henry Street Settlement in Manhattan before joining the New York City Opera. Ostrow had continued his career as a performer in parallel to operating the Continental and performed in operas for major music companies including the San Francisco Opera, Germany’s Stuttgart Opera and the Australian Opera which ultimately lead to him moving to Sydney in 1987 following his divorce.

In Sydney he worked as a vocal coach director at the Sydney Academy of Vocal Arts after eight years with the Australian Opera, before founding the group Mature Age Gays as a safe place where older gay men could meet and socialise on his 59th birthday on September 16, 1991.

He became a volunteer operator on the hotline for ACON, the AIDS Council of NSW. As part of that community work, Ostrow was tasked with identifying the needs and concerns of gay men over 40.

Ostrow remained president of Mature Age Gays until 2013 and also worked and volunteered for ACON over many years as well as being an LGBTQIA+ rights activist.

In 2007 Ostrow released his memoir Live at The Continental: The Inside Story of the World-Famous Continental Baths and in 2021 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his work advancing LGBTQIA+ rights causes throughout his life.

Mature Age Gays will celebrate their 33rd anniversary in September.

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