Thursday, July 16, 2009

14th & 3rd

Sometimes, an entire block disappears. Like the west side of Third Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets. In the following two screenshots from Taxi Driver, we see the nondescript southern corner and then the lovely pink neon of the Variety Photo Plays theater.



The Variety was demolished to make room for the Toll Brothers' monster 110 Third and it was certainly the most tragic loss on this block. The nickelodeon opened in 1914 and that marquee was added in 1923--wrote the Times, "The lights buzzing on the underside of the marquee, when they were on, enveloped the passerby in a warm, glowing field. People going past the theater, even in the daytime, got a whiff of vintage celluloid, and at night it was intoxicating."

In the 1980s it showed gay porn then turned into an off-Broadway theater.



At the northern end of the block, on the 14th St. end, was Disco Donut, seen here in these screenshots from the film Downtown 81.



Above Disco Donut was a place called Carmelita's Reception House (click for pic). Lori Horvitz recalls Carmelita's as "a second floor establishment above Disco Donut on the corner of Fourteenth Street and Third Avenue. For some reason, I thought Carmelita's was a massage parlor that doubled as a house of prostitution. Only years later did I find out it was a legitimate bar that frequently held parties for gay women."



And climbing into the way, way back machine, here's another look at the same corner in 1934:



Of course, the city changes. A pawn shop becomes a 99-cent store, a taxi dance hall becomes a lesbian club, an ice-cream parlor becomes a donut shop. These are fluid alterations. And then there are irrevocable annihilations.



More on 14th and 3rd:
Little Jam
Robin Raj
Grace & Hope

32 comments:

pinhead said...

Nice piece, thanks. I saw a handful of productions at the Variety, and was really shocked to see it go (especially considering what replaced it). The vintage facade was such a period classic and a great reminder of the neighborhood's history.

Alex in NYC said...

Nice post, JM. Being an ardent Scorsese fan, I frequently point out that strip to friends given its placement in "Taxi Driver." I also vividly remember Disco Donuts. In 1982, Devo came to town and played at the Palladium around the corner (when it was still a concert hall and not yet a nightclub). I was fifteen and lived way uptown at the time. I remember stopping into Disco Donuts after the show with some friends (all of us wearing 'Spudrings,' the large, bowl-like collars Devo were sporting at the time in an effort to replicate the success of their energy domes from a couple of years earlier). The guy behind the counter looked up at us as we approached and muttered "Is the circus in town or something?"

Anonymous said...

and yet gothic cabinet craft endures . . . go figure

Carol Gardens said...

There was an early 80s indie film called VARIETY that shot a bunch of scenes at that theater, although it was officially set in Times Square. It actually belongs on any list of films shot on location in an earlier, sleazier NYC era. Also has cameos by Nan Goldin and other downtown arty folks of the 70s/80s.

http://cinematreasures.org/theater/288/

http://blog.spout.com/2009/04/27/porn-and-being-poor-then-now-bette-gordon-interview-tribeca-2009/

Goggla said...

Great post, Jeremiah. And, I love your story, Alex.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks guys--i'm trying to remember the dive bar on the SW corner of 13th and 3rd. never been able to find photos of it. anyone?

Anonymous said...

Time change yeah, the difference is that back in the old days every block had a different and unique store.
Now it's the same damn franchise literally on every block.

St Marks Place has Pink Berry and Mango. Bleeker, the same shit.

It's like, why come to NY at all? So you could hit Pink Berry? What is so damn unique about Pink Berry! What is wrong with people? Are people that freakin robotic?!

I guess people are just sheep by nature and there are only a few nostalgist like us around.

The point is, New York has lost THE PEOPLE that make it New York. It's a bunch of fanny pack wearing tourist!

Manhattan has no sense of excitement, danger, adventure, it's a bunch of NYPD SECURITY CAMERAS and Chain stores. The only block worth hanging out in is MacDougal which has a slight touch of the old NYC. The rest like the East Village is a bunch of yuppies and tourist. There are like less than %1 rent controlled people left probably.
Everytime I go there It's a bunch of these hipster people. They are so freakin weird. They hate New York, they love Pink Berry, and chains like Whole Foods. They think people with NY accents are stupid or something. Everytime I talk to these jerks they say "are you from New Jersey" and they sound like they are from freakin california.
with these valley girl accents (the guys have it to)

They should just go back to whereve they came from becuase they really SUCK and are POSERS.

They all act like they went to Harvard or something and are some ELITE people, and the blue collar guys are bunch of idiots they can make fun of. Actually, dumb ass hipsters, they are from HERE AND YOU ARE NOT.

Grand St. said...

Was the dive "The Dugout" or was that one block south?

I remember reading that the Replacements had an album release party at Carmelita's, and not having the nerve to crash (being underaged and all)...

julie wilson said...

That dive bar was THE DUG OUT. Great place.

Mykola Dementiuk said...

In my novel "Variety, Spice of Life" (due out next year sometime) which takes place in 1970 the lead character spends most of his time in the Variety or the Metropolitan movie house, which became a notorious gay theater. 14th Street was just like 42nd Street in those days. Gaudy and perverse too.

Anonymous said...

Looking Glass / Finnerty's

Anonymous said...

That bar for years was The Dugout, then became The Pit Stop, Looking Glass and finally Finnertys.

Rusty Sharpedge said...

Taxi Driver shot a lot on 13th street. You can still visit the doorway where DeNiro shot Keitel and the building where Jodi Foster "worked" is still there I think.

When I lived in NY, the only was I was able to find the above locations was by using the Variety Theatre as a reference point from the film. Sad to see it gone...and replace by utter crap.

This site has the info:

http://www.markallencam.com/taxidriverthenandnow.html

Mykola Dementiuk said...

The Dugout was an old heavy drinking bar with old drinker, down 3 steps and you were in a seedy joint of which the Bowery would have proud

Jill said...

I think this big blue building was one where a construction worker fell to his death and landed on a taxi cab. Does that sound familiar?

I also think that once I went into the apartment that was above the Variety, during the time it was a theater. The floors were very crooked.

This site makes me remember how much I forget. It's actually all a big blur.

hntrnyc said...

Nice work JM, I remember getting propositioned by a street walker for the first time in that general vicinity circa 1983. My brother thought it was very funny, but I was so surprised that I was speechless. It was a long way from the suburbs back then.

Anonymous said...

I hate this "I am from here; you are not" talk @ Anonymous 1:26 p.m. New York is New York because it welcomes all people from all places -- it's the light at the end of the tunnel for the kid from the Midwest who won't ever belong anywhere else; it's the land of opportunity for the Hatian immigrant who joins her cousins and works hard to "make it." New York would be nothing if it weren't for smart, talented immigrants -- both from elsewhere in the United States and from overseas.

That said, what also makes New York this beacon of hope is because it's different from everywhere else. It's not Omaha. It's not Dallas. It's not Los Angeles. Unfortunately, with changes documented so artfully -- and mournfully -- in this post by Jeremiah, it will soon be just like everywhere else.

Mykola Dementiuk said...

In the photo with the taxi the Dugout is down a few stairs but I'm sure movie crews may have spruced up a bit

Anonymous said...

"Carmelita's Lite Lounge" was, in fact, a brothel and an after-hours club rolled into one. Palladium after-parties were held there.

Larry Slade said...

Carmelita's Lite Lounge was a happening joint at one time. The one time I was in there I saw Malcolm Forbes standing at the bar.

MIke said...

It's like the line from The Women of Brewster Place: "No one cries when a street dies."

sharky said...

I'm looking for information--especially photos--on the old Dugout bar that was next door to the Variety. Can anyone help? Thank you!!!

Akimbo said...

the dive bar at the corner was indeed the "Dug Out," echoing its similarity to a dug out on a baseball diamond - the bar was 2 or three steps below sidewalk level and the steps ran the entire width of the bar. I attended Stuyvesant H.S. on E.15th street from 1981-1985(years before it relocated to the north end of Battery Park City). My buddies and I on occasion drank $0.50 drafts served in frosty mugs at the Dug Out. We were barely 16 and the barkeep served us, no questions asked. Different times.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Dugout being a few doors off the corner, on Third Ave. Akimbo, do you remember all the photos on the walls? Any other details about the space? I was underage there too!

Akimbo said...

I am compelled by everyone's fond memories of the Variety Theater to show off a photo I took some years back. I am also a Taxi Driver aficionado and can appreciate all the references made.

Akimbo said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnjkim/485267552/


here's the link

laura said...

for what ever the 101 reasons, more people move to NYC. for school & work. if you dont like these mid western types dont talk to them! dont even try to look @ them- (go to the tea parlour in chinatown, shop when no ones in the store or better yet have your things delieved). & for one million & one reasons the ENTIRE world is becoming the same. the same chain stores etc. that is the fault of the new one world govt & muti national ownership & trading. (new world order). its bigger than you. most people just like to travel (& complain about TSA), arrive, & look @ the malls which are the same as where they live! they are called tourists. no, these chain stores were not built for the mid westerner residents of new york! this is happening all over the world, end of case. for rich for poor for middle class total. thats it: one world goverment called big business corporations. thats it here it is.

Anonymous said...

If anyone cares to read more about Lite Lounge at Carmelita's contact me. I rented Carmelita's Reception House at 150 E.14th St., NYC from 1988-c. 1990 with my dear friend Miss A. We founded Lite Lounge together and made parties for our downtown friends with "lite" music like Bacharach, Beatles muzak, and our 45's collections to heighten the crazy sensation of cocktails&dancing, mirrors and christmas lights beneath a whipped cream ceiling. One claim to fame of LL@Carmelita's was that 1000 people on a Monday night could walk through those doors and have a blast. Yes, it was a watering hole for Mr. Forbes but he drank club soda, nothing else. I know the correct answer to bordello rumors, which celebrities came there and how the night became a huge success. Including tidbits like James White came out of his remote/quiet phase to perform there twice and opening night was attended by the Beastie Boys and Alan Vega. It was truly fun for all and came together because of many friends' input and comaraderie. The club received a ton of press and was first covered by WWD, then Paper Magazine which remains a huge support for all things "Downtown"-SF

Jeremiah Moss said...

SF, please email me at jeremoss@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

Bob was a helluva bartender. Eager to please. Paul Moore helped Bob quite a lot toward the end. Helluva great guy, too. Paul had a graffiti-covered old potato chip truck, which he used as a moving van, that had dozens of parking violations stacked on the dashboard.
(When the cops finally pulled him over and ran the license that was then end of the the truck.) Paul had a hound named Rufus. Saul ran the RSO kiddy-corner across 3rd Avenue. NYU kids found the place and it got crowded. Great Mets bar. Fun night in 86 when they won it all. J. Carey

Anonymous said...

on the corner of 13 st was a bar that changed names numorous times in the 50's and 60' and 70s then came then next on the block came the dugout which was owned by the Damrau family from 1918 till 1976 then a alley way that was boarded up then one of the first if not the first SALVATION ARMY CHURCH and there band would stand out front and play during the 50's and 60's and probley before. then the Variety a couple of stores that changed hands all the time.then on the corner was Sam's pizzeria opened in the 1930's by 4 Greek brothers and was one of the first pizzerias in NY. THE DOUNUT shop came along in 79 or 80 my first home was the third floor at 108 third ave above the Dugout im Robert K Damrau the grandson of Robert Sylvester Damrau who bought the Dugout in 1918 which had been ther since the 1860's my father Kurt Robert Damrau owned the DUGOUT from 1949 till 1974 then was owned by my mother Mary Ethel Damrau till 1976 when she sold to Emil KOVACS the DUGOUT was a working mans bar from 1918 till 1976 as 13 street was the end of what was known as carpenters row until the 1960's as capenters shops lined both sides of the street to 8th st

Kevin Shanman said...

The DUG OUT- some comments- I was in a fraternity in SUCO Oneonta (ITK); at some point in the mid 80's during a Thanksgiving Eve celebration we got tossed out of McSorleys for singing (God Bless America of all things!). We stumbled into the Dug Out, sang our hearts out, and it became an annual tradition for years; we would chip in and bring in trays of food, which we shred with the occasional homeless person that wandered in. We became friends with the bartender (Bob), who loved us (we made sure he got a HUGE tip) and made sure he was working that night. The tradition exists to this day at various venues around the city, but for years it was known as 'Dug Out Night', and I am sure most of the current attendees- who are far younger than I- have no idea how the name came to be!