Monday, September 20, 2010


A vanished piece of the old Deuce has come back to 42nd Street.

In 2001, The New York Times wrote: "Perhaps Peep-O-Rama, at 121 West 42nd Street near Avenue of the Americas, never meant to make history." But it did, simply because it had become the last sex shop to survive on 42nd Street. Sadly, it only held that title for a year.

After standing since 1950, it was closed July 31, 2002. Said the Times, "The formal closing yesterday of the last peep palace on 42nd Street, Peep-O-Rama, was a coda in the rebirth of Times Square as a kinder, gentler place. The sex shops and naughty tape stores have been wiped clean from the famed street."

In Peep-O-Rama's place now stands the Bank of America tower.

from Heatherpixie's flickr

In the 2001 Times article, the writer wondered, "could a case ever be made for preserving Peep-O-Rama or its facade for Times Square posterity? Discussion is scarce. The Landmarks Preservation Commission and the New-York Historical Society would not comment; neither would the Mayor's Office of Midtown Management."

Now, nearly a decade later, that's exactly what's happened. The sign has been restored and returned.

getting prepped

The Times Square Alliance hired Let There Be Neon to restore the sign for hanging in their Visitor's Center. Since 2002, it had been lying under a tarp in a lot on 57th and 12th, in the possession of the Durst Organization, builders of the Bank of America tower. (The 25-cent piece didn't survive.) I talked with Jeff Friedman of Let There Be Neon and asked him a few questions about the sign and neon work. He was kind enough to answer and send along these "illuminating" photos of his team's skillful restoration.

Cutting tube for PEEP's neon "E"

Q: What is involved in the process of restoring the sign?

A: We removed all the old angle irons, old wiring, old transformers. Considering this was no longer and outdoor piece, we prepped it for hanging in an interior space, which is a bit different than hanging off a building. As an example, we removed the back cover because it was all bent up and the piece will hang in front of a wall and our goal was to remove as much unneeded weight as possible.

Splicing an "E"

Q: What other iconic neon signs have you restored over the years?

A: Gringers on 1st Ave., Old Town Bar on 18th St., Russ and Daughters on Houston.

Q: As you travel through the city, which neon signs would you love to get your hands on?

A: I love the old rooftop Eagle Clothes sign in Brooklyn. What I really love the most about it is that it is hidden and can only be seen from certain blocks.

A pair of E's being pumped full of light

Q: What do you think is the fate of neon in an LED world? What do we lose when we lose neon signs?

A: LEDs have no soul. They come out of a box and require very little training. There is nothing wrong with LEDs, but the lack of soul, in my opinion, is due to the fact that the neon has been formed by human hands and the softness of its feel is visually obvious.

installation in the Visitor Center

Jeff informs me that the sign has now been installed at the Visitor's Center on 42nd for all to enjoy.

Now and in the future, the guts of New York City will only exist as museum pieces, as exhibited souvenirs. At least we will have that--as long as people care enough to preserve them. Right now, the only "PEEP" you'll see on 42nd is right here, complete with its originally missing hyphen.

let there be light

Further reading:
Show World
Adult Bookstores
Parisian Danceland

Secret Peeps


Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Wonder if any peeps shows were saved? Guess you have to look here

Tricia said...

Great story, Jeremiah! As I was reading it, I kept thinking of Coney's Faber's Fascination sign, recently taken down from the doomed Henderson building. Wish it could enjoy a similiar fate.

The reference to the NYT reporter asking if a case could be made for preserving Peep-O-Rama or its facade for Times Square posterity, and not receiving a reply from Landmarks, the NYHS or the Mayor's office is telling. There seems to be very little official appreciation for signage. Basically they leave it up to the building owners to do as they please

Anonymous said...

LED's have no soul? Then where do the little diodes go when they die?


Anonymous said...

He's right. There's something about the buzz of neon, the halo and reflections it causes. I love walking down Ocean Drive in Miami simply b/c of the art deco and neon.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

If BoA had the guts to put this up on their building, I'd probably open an account.

Grade "A" Fancy said...

A great story, Jeremiah!

And glad to hear all is better than ever at the neon factory, Jeff.

-Karen McBurnie