This week, the Dirty Old 1970s New York City Facebook page posted a photo of a nondescript corner in the East Village. It's a simple image, but it has resonance and gravitas.
Sven Kierst, 1981
The photo was taken by Sven Kierst in 1981. There's a brick wall covered with battered posters, a beat-up American car, and a punk making a call at a pair of pay phones.
One reader identified the guy at the phones as Nick Marden, son of artist Brice Marden and Pauline Baez (sister of Joan), and member of The Stimulators. He was photographed in this same jacket by Robert Mapplethorpe in 1980.
The location has been identified as the northwest corner of 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, and it looks like it, with some structural changes. At the time, Love Saves the Day was still in a small space over on 8th Street. The shop owners made some alterations, but the corner maintained its offbeat character until the late 2000s.
The corner looks very different today.
The payphones were ripped out and covered over when Love Saves the Day shuttered after over 20 years here (the rent had tripled) and a sushi and ramen place moved in (quickly shuttered). A man used to check those payphones daily for change.
The barred windows and the arch have been bricked shut. A fence was added to keep the garbage penned in. The bricks sport a coat of clean red paint, and the only posters are for a pop-up shop from a luxury designer featured in Vogue ("You know her. The French girl with the just-rolled-out-of-bed, can’t-be-bothered look. She pulls on last night’s clothes—slouchy tee, gray jeans. Fingers through the hair, a touch of makeup, and she goes out. Yet she looks smashing").
All that's missing is a guy in flip-flops and backward baseball cap talking on an iPhone.