Thursday, December 17, 2009

Playpen's Replacement

This week, the Times revealed Danny Meyer's plans to cover the globe with Shake Shacks, what they call "the Shacking of America" and beyond. One of those Shake Shacks is going on the southwest corner of 44th and 8th, in the still-rising Intercontinental Hotel, as Eater points out.

What that means is that a Shake Shack will stand where once was The Playpen (and the Funny Store).

More Playpen photos here

The Playpen was a Times Square landmark--a center for smut and a former vaudeville house dating back to 1916. When its execution was announced, a committee to save The Playpen formed, citing the theater's "ornate brasswork around the windows, a cameo depicting a woman unspooling a roll of film, a cornice interlocking with an arched pediment, a grand arch with medallions, triangular pediments, ornate pilasters" and an auditorium decorated with "goddesses in decorative plaster."

Still, the theater was demolished in December 2007.

vintage photo from photobucket

A recent de-cluttering of my closet turned up a bag of treats--two novelty items purchased on my last trip to the Funny Store: X-Ray Gogs and a Bar Bug, the old fly in the ice cube gag.

I thought about how the city used to be big enough to contain things like goddess-filled vaudeville houses where live nude girls and novelties could co-exist. What will come to the Playpen's old spot will be a chain restaurant where people will stand in long lines for the privilege of purchasing a hamburger.

When did the city get so small?


EV Grieve said...

Good lord. I didn't make the connection on the locations.

Exhibit No. 31,287A what's wrong with NYC today.

Ewing33Knicks said...

In celebration of all things PLAY

I found some old video footage of the PLAYLAND video game arcade on youtube.

Go to YouTube and enter
"5l2jjWaOlfA" into the search browser to watch it.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

What a wasted opportunity. That theater could have been something modern and spectacular.

James Taylor said...

Well put, Jeremiah.

Dan said...

It would've been nice to see the theater saved (for its history, not its hand jobs), but in no way should Shake Shack be mentioned in the same breath as McDonald's. About the only thing they have in common is that Shake Shack sells burgers, fries and shakes and McDonald's sells things they claim to be burgers, along with fries and shakes.

I would prefer that Danny Meyer kept the Shack in NYC, but even if he adds a few sprinkled from D.C. to Boston, it won't even reach the level of "chain" of In-n-Out, let alone McDonald's.


I don't get it. People wait in long lines for those burgers even in the cold and clouds. Here in LA there is a place called "Pinks" where people wait in long lines for a hot dog.

Anonymous said...

The city got small when all the small minded people from small towns moved and brought their small ideas.
You know that.

ShatteredMonocle said...

Shake Shack is the worst restaurant in New York. Those people in the lines are morons.

Anonymous said...

“History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past,” wrote American Civil War historian, James McPherson.

We are simply witnessing the ERADICATION OF OUR PAST because those in control of New York City do not want a historical view.

Pursuing a cultural and architectural “negationist history,” successive, unfettered city administrations capitulate to robber barons of nearly any type, whose profit machines literally erase historical structures from the road map. Don’t concern yourself with positive contributions to quality of life. There won’t be any.

New York is a metropolis that is discarding its past at ever-increasing rates of speed and effectiveness. We have reached a point where it is no longer ethically questionable to raze a 94-year-old theatre and throw up in its place, yet another ugly glass and steel hotel with a shitty burger joint on the first floor.

The 51 members of the New York City Council control the growth and development of the city. They have full authority over zoning and land use and some members sit on standards and ethics committees. What a squandered opportunity to provide young and old actors, writers, directors, and theatre lovers from all over the world a performance space with a fascinating history in what was once the greatest city in the world.

The Playpen Theatre was a historical icon, an important part of the 42nd Street district. If you cared about history, it was unique and worthy of protection.

Ed said...

Shake Shack in Madison Park is one of the few things about the "new" New York that I actually like. Waiting in line during nice weather is fairly pleasant. You are in a park, after all! Granted most of the people on line are pretty yunniesh, but if you are next to a group of non-cell phone users its not too bad. And the burger is quite decent.

I don't think the experience will hold up well without the park, and it looks like they are overexpanding. Why does every American small businessman dream of opening a chain? Its a sure way of getting too deeply in debt and lowering the quality of whatever you are selling.

The Upper East Side location is terrible. That intersection is much too busy. They may be thinking lots of foot traffic, but most people exiting that subway system try to get away from there as fast as they can.

David Freeland said...

The Funny Store and Playpen gave the neighborhood a dash of color and eccentricity that I miss very much. One of my favorite possessions is a 3-dimensional blinking Christ portrait that the Funny Store's owner, Arnold Martin, gave me the day he told me the store would be closing.

Jeremiah Moss said...

David, you lucky dog!

i have a photo of that Jesus portrait somewhere, positioned in the front window of the shop next to a pile of fake "doggie doo."

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone will ever say, "Gimme a Shackburger and an Arnold Palmer. You know, I used to come here on my lunch hour to pleasure myself in a booth... good times... Say, can I have extra napkins please?"

Unknown said...

I hope this theater can be saved but all must go along with change. I believe it was nice seeing movies here during the old days.