Thursday, May 15, 2014

Times Square to East Village: 1986

In the summer of 1986, downtown videographer Nelson Sullivan filmed a group of drag queens on a walk from Times Square to the East Village. At some point, they run into RuPaul. And a shirtless guy in velvet pants with a large boombox on his shoulder.

The streets, compared to today's throng, are practically empty. Ice cream cones are had at the dearly missed Howard Johnson's.

RuPaul drifts down Avenue A in angel wings made of shredded paper, making a crunching noise in boots made of plastic grocery bags.

These are not your fresh and clean drag queens of today.




12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow that brings me back, I have found memories of my drag queen roomies in the EV.

Boggy said...

*sigh* That was my New York and I miss it! When that was being shot, I was in the cast of Rocky Horror at the 8th Street Playhouse. After the show I hung out all over The Village until the sun came up and I could take the PATH train to Hoboken and a NJT train back to Bergen County. I moved back to Brooklyn in '92 and never looked back. This video is a reminder that New York City had a personality at one time!

Anonymous said...

Fun to see the neighborhood back in the day. RuPaul isn't begging for pizza money today! Glad he did so well for himself.

Anonymous said...

Geez, I hate to say it but: this film feels an awful lot like the self-absorbed narcissist crowds of NYU students prancing around 2nd Ave filming everything they do and posting it to (name your social media...), treating the city and the ordinary people going about their business as a backdrop to something only they, the self-absorbed subjects of the camera's gaze, find important.

I dig seeing the old feel of the city, but feel the subjects of this piece are every bit as annoying as the folks usually blasted on this site, and these guys "ironic" noting of "MTV cameras" early in the piece betrays a certain corporate awareness that would seem to undermine your nostalgia for these behaviors; its much more current than I think you're giving it credit for, and am certain they'd have filmed it with an android phone and posted for likes if given the chance...

Anonymous said...

Interesting how little traffic there was - both pedestrian and vehicular.

Anonymous said...

The population in 86 was around 7.1 million now its around 8.3 million plus there weren't hoarded of tourists back then the upper class types didn't want to visit or live here this was ed Koch's NYC violent and crazy I remember all the crazy violent panhandlers who'd follow you and scare people half to death I wish this blog wouldn't sugar coat the harsh reality I remember when Tompkins was a place to walk around I remember seeing dead junkies and just a lawless violent place I remember being in barmundi on ludlow in 97 and some blond girl for Kansas talking about saving the les I realized that when hot white chicks feel safe and move into the area that its over the only blond girls I knew in the old school ev were junkies and hookers folks today wouldn't tolerate the crime and grime.of the 80s

Jennifer Kellow said...

To the person who says this feels just like the over privileged kids of today shooting videos of themselves .. I disagree. They are actually parodying the wealthy people with their "modeling shots." These were mostly kids who were thrown out of their homes for who they were and created families of like minded people for themselves in NYC. The new kids are nothing like this. The new kids think people like this are some yucky thing on the bottom of their shoe and how DARE they belong in the new kids rich little world of privilege. It's a HUGE difference. I've actually heard one girl in our building (when complaining about a bar fight outside our building to the manager of the bar) say, in front of us, "You don't know who I AM. I am not like THESE people (gesturing to myself and another long time resident who don't come from a background of money)I have MONEY and I have access to LAWYERS and I WILL BURY YOU! It was akin to white racist people in the past talking about black people being a subspecies but aren't I great because I'm nice to them and ALLOW them to live next door to me.. that kind of attitude. It may have been the scariest thing I have ever witnessed in NYC, being referred to in this way.. as if I should be grateful she allows me to live in her world. I can assure you that these drag queens never viewed others in this way.

Brendan said...

Something about this video feels incredibly wholesome compared to today's NYC. I can't fully explain it.

John M said...

The 80s weren't as bad as Anonymous makes out, though mercifully what was bad did scare the yahoos from ever coming. The benefits tended to overwhelm the downside--the space, the character, just the feeling in the air. The bad parts of town were really bad, but I was here, a transplant from upstate, and never had a problem. If you had any street smarts and common sense, you could navigate. Today, I find it harder, no matter how safe and squeaky clean it's become. Too crowded, too developed, too commercialized, too everything.

Ken Mac said...

amazing how deserted the place looks.

Renée M. said...

Oh, how I miss that NY! We NY-ers of old treasured our eccentrics and transplants because back then, they were REAL PEOPLE, not the rich self-absorbed narcissist suburban snobs that have taken the place over. I hate how mobbed the streets are today....Almost forgot how sparse they were back then.

Couple of things:

I love how the cop completely ignores Ru Paul!

And they crossed the street in front of what looked like a Dodge Omni - Man, I had erased that awful car from my memory!

RIP Hojos....I went there the last year it was open. It had gotten pretty baaaad.

Slap a Tutu on the blonde guy and he looks like Sarah Jessica Parker, LOL. Sorry Sarah, but I think that "Sex and the City" was partly responsible for attracting scores of banal, vapid suburbanites to NY!

Dean said...

@Anonymous ("...and these guys "ironic" noting of "MTV cameras" early in the piece betrays a certain corporate awareness that would seem to undermine your nostalgia for these behaviors; its much more current than I think you're giving it credit for, and am certain they'd have filmed it with an android phone and posted for likes if given the chance.."): It's very easy to go back in time and compare, but personal computers, cell phones and social media weren't even an idea or concept in the minds of the public in 1986. MTV was only 5 years old for christ's sake! That you could record something and instantly post it for the whole world to see, comment on, and circulate would have been something straight out of a sci-fi movie. It may not be Warhol's NY, but it sure as hell is closer to underground than the pseudo-arty crap that tries too hard (to be noticed) these days.