Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Secret Peeps

Times Square was once filled with peep show palaces and porno cellars. Some remain, mostly the booth-style video peep, but the majority have vanished.

Here and there, however, if you look closely enough, you can catch a glimpse of their ghosts. Like a paleontologist searching for fossil remains, you might find an errant decoration, a geometric pattern of tiny cut mirrors, shining on the side of an otherwise innocent T-shirt shop.



If you are feeling adventurous, you might pass through one of those T-shirt shops, braving the crush of tourists and forsaking the 9/11 commemorative snow-globes, the giant Lady Liberty pencils. When the shop worker isn't looking, you might duck into a back room or dash down a set of stairs, past strange signs that say "DO NOT TOUCH THE GIRLS."

If you are lucky, you will emerge into a subterranean archeological site and discover one of Times Square's last big-screen porno theaters.



The screen is torn. The ceiling is falling. In chairs that once held untold sticky fantasies and acts performed in flickering cinema light, now sit stacks of "I Heart NY" T-shirts.

It seems shelves would be more useful here. Why leave everything as it was? What are these chairs and that screen waiting for? Somewhere, deep in the wall, a film projector hibernates, its spools loaded with some forgotten skin flick, just waiting for some future day when its switch might once again be flipped.

17 comments:

Mykola Dementiuk said...

My favorite old site is 41st Street between 6th and Broadway where you can glimpse the old Bryant movie house when the door is opened. I exited through that door many a time. They tore down the marquee walkway but left the movie house still standing...or what remains of it. Some kind of mail order firm there now.

Mykola Dementiuk said...

See my book "Times Queer" for description of the Bryant and the Pix theaters on 42nd Street and what went on inside the theaters...

http://timesqueer.blogspot.com/

Girl said...

Great post.

Ken Mac said...

oh man, you've done it now!

hntrnyc said...

Nice super-sleuthing there Jeremiah. I love this type of urban archeology.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit even though I was a teen-aged girl in the 70s, all my friends were a bunch of guys. We all used to go to 42nd Street and crowd into a peep show booth and feed it quarters. It was hoot.

That was when there were hookers on Houston and Allen Street and Third Ave between 9th and 14th Streets.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be a shocker to see Rudy wandering around the remains of these porno palaces, a ghost from that dark past, before he made shopping safe for visiting mall rats. If you see Bernie Kerik ..... well, let's not go there.

Devan said...

Great job Jeremiah, I've always been intrigued by Times Square's past and too wondered if there were/are vestiges left.

Well done.

BTW, feel free to check out my blog. Its choc full of images of the mileau you lust: gritty, no-frills, non-deceiving photos of real life (albeit in Los Angeles)

Mykola Dementiuk said...

Ahh, the hookers of 3rd Avenue, I remember them very well....As a matter of fact, that's my next book "100 Whores" recalling 3rd Avenue hookers. Editor has it now and will be out by Synergy Press.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks all! a few people wrote to ask where this is located. i don't remember the exact location, but try the t-shirt shops along 7th ave, up around 48th st. if you go down those stairs, you will quickly be chased out by the workers, so snap quick if you take any pics.

evan said...

the video store just north of the comedy club where playland used to be... if you go into the back room, a section of the playland peep booths is still in operation.

BRADLEY said...

Just a great post, Jeremiah. Fantastic sleuthing and elequent writing, as usual.

ULF said...

That decor (mirrored tiles and red and yellow centre) are remnants of Show World and I wouldn't be surprised if this is anywhere on 8th between 42 and 43rd. Having worked in the now-dead club upstairs, I'd recognize that tile anywhere.

Griff said...

http://bit.ly/96wnZ8

Jeff said...

I just tried seeing this space for the past couple of days - what a fiasco! First: the sneak-down proved impossible - there were never any customers in the store - just 4 employees milling around.. So I tried an honest appeal and got nothing but no no no - the boss says no - talk to the boss tomorrow.. The movie-theater staircase and railing is clearly visible with a classic movie theater carpeting at the bottom - and a peek is afforded by the mirrored wall on the side of the staircase.. So I went back the next day to talk to Mohammad, the boss - and was immediately surrounded by all the employees - defensively haranging me and forcing me towards the door: the landlord called and said you can't go down - who sent you - (numerous times) - no we don't have the landlord's number - what do you want down there... on and on.. Mohammad will be back after 2.. I went back - Mohammad was in the shop next door - I tried a business approach: I'm opening a theater in Brooklyn - I might be interested in buying things that are just trash to you down there and such... No - the space is not for rent.. I don't want to rent it - I'm just interested in seeing it.. Then - THE LIES: there is nothing down there - it was cleaned out 10 years ago.. I saw pictures from last year.. No - nothing.. And I had - less than 10 years ago - tried contacting the real estate people about the place when it was still a boarded-up theater to see about starting a movie house there - and was told they didn't want to lease it as that.. No - it's been cleared out for 10 years now.. Yesterday the guys here told me all about what was down there... That guy is new - nothing is there.. Even if I could just look at the carpet.. The floor is the same as here.. Well, I could see the old theater carpet from upstairs.. Somebody gave me that - we just put it down there.. And - each time - everyone working there got involved and very heated in denying that there was anything to see..
I'm thinking of getting a bunch of people together to pretend to be customers and create a diversion..
The thing is - I am working with people in trying to get a repertory theater started and would really be interested in finding old theater equipment/seats/anything..
And it seems so ironic and sad and disturbing that these guys are selling all this love NY stuff while just taking a big dump all over it's history...
And - what the hell is going on down there that's so secret, anyway?

Jeremiah Moss said...

that is an amazing story. what are they hiding down there?

Anonymous said...

In the early 80's the Unicorn Theater featuring gay flicks and live male shows with strippers used to be on the west side of 7th avenue between 47th & 48th streets. You entered a short
hallway at street level then went downstairs to the theater. Maybe this is the ghost of that theater.