Monday, March 10, 2008

Show World

VANISHED: 2004

A recent viewing, thanks to a tipster, of Guns N Roses' video for "The Garden," complete with footage aplenty of Times Square before Giuliani, brought to mind the old Show World, the adult emporium that once occupied the site of the current Laugh Factory next to the Duane Reade on 42nd and 8th.



In a 1995 article for the Times, Dan Barry wrote, "For two decades, Show World has been the brightest of the gaudy lights in the pornographic firmament of Times Square, so much so that one city official calls it the 'flagship of the sex industry in New York.' But Show World is in trouble. Its light now flickers and may be extinguished....the City Council passed a zoning ordinance designed to smash the clusters of peep shows and pornographic theaters that have cropped up throughout the five boroughs."

It was the beginning of the end for adulthood in Times Square. By 2001, the last of 42nd Street's peeps, Peep-O-Rama, would succumb to development after a lifetime on the Deuce going back to 1950. Its site is now buried under the ever-rising Bank of America Tower--you know, the one that keeps showering pedestrians with shattered glass and construction equipment?



But back to Show World. After the 1995 zoning ordinance, Show World managed to soldier on for another 9 years, its naughty bits whittled away, piece by piece. In 1998, the live girls were gone and the theater space was leased to an Off Off Broadway company called Collapsible Giraffe and Nada Show World, who performed Shakespeare and Chekhov plays on the stages where once naked girls performed live sex acts and something called Face Shows--as the sign said, "Let our girls sit on your face."

View an interview with one of those Show World girls here.



The interior of Show World, as seen in these 2003 photos, was decorated in circus style, complete with high-wire, bicycle-riding, acrobat clowns.



Sweet Dreams Come True--but not according to the sign on the wall. The live girls were gone--they used to stand above the stairs, on the second floor, catcalling and beckoning to the patrons as they climbed through the music and lights.



The video peeps kept running on the first floor until 2004, when the Laugh Factory moved in, today advertising "Family Friendly" comedy. A couple doors down is a new Christian bookstore and gift shop. As the Guns N Roses song ends, as if a farewell to old Times Square, "It sure was glad to know ya, bye bye, so long, bye bye."


23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amazing. You would never know this existed if you visit Times Square today. F*king Disney Land for corporations.

Greg said...

Thing is, its not just the zoning regulations that pushed this out. Its the fact that the internet has totally changed the sex trade, from porn to prostitution. These red light districts are somewhat obsolete now in any case.

Anonymous said...

Um... some of Show World is still there, in the basement at least. At least, that's what this handful of leftover tokens tells me. :)

Anonymous said...

My friend somehow managed to have an art show inside show world in 2002. Mitch Miller. He had big ugly expandafoamy sculptures in the first room. then there was a dance floor and then there was a stage upstairs where two chinese girls whipped and licked each other in cat suits and there was another room where some guy was just fucking this girl on a table and i watched for a minute and the guy fucking said, it's cool, you can watch and then i went back to dancing with lesbians dry-humping like crazy. probably the most unforgettable experience i've had in nyc minus 9/11

tracyho said...

Great picture & post ,

Thanks ,

Tracy Ho
wisdomgettingloaded

Anonymous said...

Great post, these are the sights and scenes that http://www.citysightsny.com don't show you ha

Anonymous said...

I was a high echelon employee of Show World. All I can say is that my experiences there taught me more about life and business than the best universities could possibly conjure. Show world was the epitomy of freedom, that we go to war to try to preserve. It was the mindset of a man Rudolf Guilianni that caused the decline of Show World. An arrogant crossdressing Hypocryte who imposed his manner of thinking on the public and those beneath him. A man who could not keep his own family together who in fact destroyed families(Including his Own) livelyhoods and lives. Truly a reflection of the narrowminded majority of brainwashed americans. I am at ease that he has been scrapped as nominee for President. What a horrible disaster that would have been......

MikeB said...

I'm 50 now. But 30 years ago, I was a lonely 19 year old with a perpetual, painful boner, and a handful of sexual conquests that could be counted on less than the fingers of one hand.

I secretly reminisce about Show World with the affectionate nostalgia one devotes to long-lost girlfriends.

Anonymous said...

Nice to know that employees from Show World are still around. NYC and the Times Square area was the epitomy of sexual exploration, good drugs and good times. Show World was a cornucopia of interesting people and thier fettishes. In a strange way it was almost supernatural the way that place brought so many people together from different backgrounds, kind of a melting pot in a way. Guess you had to be there. I worked there off an on for a few years while on my travels. By far..., this place was center stage of the industry. It could never be reproduced, even if the mayor would'nt have turned the Times Square district into Disney Land, there is no way the 1980's Show World or the industry for that matter could be reproduced, the early and mid 80's were simply a magical time for the sex and drug industry. Sometimes I both regret and wonder how I got caught up in that scene, but it made me who I am today. In a strange way my experiences from that time taught me to value personal freedom. Those of us that escaped prison, AIDS and burning out can cleary see how our freedoms have been slowly taken from us. My children will never know what it felt like to be free, but at least I can remember...

Anonymous said...

Show world fucked up my life. Daily masturbation egged on by the sexy girls who yould could see for a small fee. Constant addicted masturbation. Movies, girls, sex acts. I couldnt get away. It was hell dusguised as heaven. It was compelling and so perverse it ruined my life. Thank god it is gone. I never ever thought it could be taken down. Thank god it isnt there anymore to ruin future generations of young men.

Karen Gehres said...

My documentary,BEGGING NAKED, includes this bit of NYC:
http://www.beggingnaked.com

Rent instantly on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Begging-Naked/dp/B0078JO3A4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1345462535&sr=8-2&keywords=begging+naked

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous of August 18, 2012 11:50 PM---you left out the other masturbation malady's, Hairy Palms,one gigantic,muscled arm and worst of all...the blindness!Thank GOOOODDD that Show World's closing was the end of Porn, Sex and all whacking in America!We are all now safe ,have no way of ever "seeing" those awful things again and are not being continually forced to "abuse" ourselves,now off to Masturbators ANONYMOUS with you!Either that or...great trolling,very funny!

Barbi Satin said...

I was 19 when I first walked into Show World in 1979. I fell in love with Times Square on that trip to NYC. The worlds greatest free freak show with weed and porn. It was a grand adventure.

Yes the internet had made the red light district obsolete and that is sad. It was more than the sex that made it so great. it was the adventure of being out in the real world in a place that offered a little danger and everything bizarre.

Anonymous said...

it was 1984 when i worked at show world, i had just turned 18. i worked a booth, it was like a small closet with one wall being a double paned window with a curtain beween the panes. a man would enter on his side of the booth,put a token in the slot and the curtain would rise. i could see him, and he,i, but there was no actual contact. it was AWESOME. i believe that everyhing i ever really needed to know about men and life and not judging a book by it's cover i learned in that booth.when my boyfreind turned 18 we would sometimes do the live sex shows there,again no customer contact. after work my boyfreind and i would buy some dust off the street and go over to the playland arcade and laugh and play video and pinball games. MAN, THOSE WERE GOOD TIMES!!!!! i still remember my old boss smokey and how nice he was to me and somewhere out there is my old boyfreind. i hope they're both doing well.xoxo lisa.

Anonymous said...

Can someone out there expand on what ShowWorld had become by around 1996-1997. I worked there on and off during that time in the booths. Long gone were the days of live sex shows and sexual acts being performed. I believe that took place in the 70s and possibly 80s. im not sure when exactly that all ended. i remember other than the booths on the second floor there was a circular dance floor, of course with enclosed booths for the men to masturbate in. Then they turned that into an area for trannies. That was the time of court battles and a limit being put on what percentage of merchandise could be sold that was pornographic.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Jan 16, 2013, your right the managers were nice and helped out many of the girls that worked for him. As long as he knew the money he gave them was not for drugs then he would help in any way he could. It wasn't an easy business to work in but some times were fun.

Anonymous said...

I worked in one of the other buildings run by the people that ran show world back in the 70s and early 80s .I really did have some great times hanging around with the guys women that worked in both buildings.The place were I mostly worked was the Roxy theater.I do miss those days

Anonymous said...

The original show world L shaped video booth section remain unchanged, it just need to be accessed through the storefront next to the marquee.
Visit to support the business or just for the nostalgia.

elvira said...

I worked there I was a show girl in the triple treat theater on the third floor best dancer there ....made good money it was fun was sad to see it go ...no other place like

Anonymous said...

Time square needed to be cleaned up and big business came in with the help of the GUILIANI admin and tax laws limiting the location of said peep shows. Are there any remaining peep shows that are wheelchair accessible in NYC?

Anonymous said...

DOES SHOW WORLD HAVE WHEELCHAIR ACCESS TO MEN WILLING TO SEE GAY FILMS?

Gojira said...

Anon. 4:39, please stop shilling for the Giuliani administration. He destroyed Times Square (among many other places), the hypocritical prig, and does not deserve to be spoken of like he did something good in the Crossroads of the World. He didn't.

Anonymous said...

I THINK YOU MISSED THE POINT. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A CITY CLEAN FOR TOURISTS THE AREA MUST BE SAFE. GULIANNI TOOK CREDIT FOR ANYTHING THAT MAKES HIS SWOLLEN EGO BIGGER. GRANTED HE SICKENS ME BECAUSE HE USED 9/11 FOR FUTURE ASPIRATIONS. THIS SWOLLEN EGO IS A JOKE