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."