Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Before IHOP

As 14th Street between 2nd and 3rd prepares to become a so-called "foodie haven," and we've all by now learned that an IHOP will be opening at 235 East 14th, let's take a look at what used to be there.

The building that IHOP is going into happens to have been built on the burial ground for what was, when it closed in 1988, one of Manhattan's longest running theaters--and most notorious houses of smut.

NYPL, 1934

The theater opened innocently in 1914 as the New 14th St. Photoplay. In the above and below photos, we see the profile of the marquee in 1934, with a lighted vertical sign, and 1936--playing two unforgettable classics: Hips, Hips, Hooray! and O'Malley of the Mounted. It also sported an open-air roof.

Some accounts place the theater at 241 E. 14th, but these NYPL images show it clearly at 235, two doors east from today's Beauty Bar.

NYPL, 1936

In 1940 it was renamed the Arrow, then again renamed the Metropolitan in the 1960s. In 1979, New York Magazine reported, "The seedy Metropolitan shows X-rated heterosexual porn for an apparently gay audience."

American Classic Images, 1981

For a much more vivid description of the theater, Jack Stevenson in Bright Lights Film Journal tells every sticky detail. Here is a short excerpt from his must-read article:

"If the theatre ever had any pretensions to class, you couldn't tell it by the '70s when it was relegated to the screening of XXX, its filthy battered marquee casting an evil shadow over the entire block... The entrance of The Met, as it was now known, drew every pervert, pick-pocket, bum, mark, out-patient and junkie on notorious 14th street like a giant magnet."


Stevenson reports that Mike Black in Gutter Trash remembers that "the toilets were a 'filth addict's wet dream, reeking of piss, grunge and body odour.' The urinals were perpetually flooded with rivers of piss, overflowing onto the floors to create a sea of green and orange slime."

Black also recalls "an obese fellow squatting his fat ass over a trash can and taking a dump. The horrid stench sent people fleeing for the exits and fresh air. (This might have been the Mad Shitter, a well-known deviant barred from every theatre in the city.)"

Bright Lights Film Journal

The Mad Shitter. (Was that anything like the Rogue Pisser?)

Interestingly, the East Village has a new Mad Shitter. Will he be psychically drawn to the IHOP, pulled in by the suburban aroma of Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity breakfast platters and a supernatural link to his fecal ancestor, his shitting soulmate from another time?

We will have to wait and see.

More lost theaters:
The Jefferson
Union Square Theater
Variety Photoplays
Shore Theater
The Playpen
Show Follies Center


Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

It's in my novella "Variety, the Spice of Life" that two different transvestites argue over whether to go to Variety Photoplays or the Metropolitan. In the end the winner opts for the Metropolitan.


Media glut said...

I remember going to that theater once.

Regarding the XXX theater sex scene, I recommend a novel by Samuel R. Delany called The Mad Man.

maximum bob said...

What a great, down and dirty, funky
story. Like the city used to be.
Great research job.

Tom said...

I have no present memory whatsoever of the Metropolitan. But if I wait an hour or a few months, it may come to me.

Sally Miller said...

I would recommend "Times Queer" but especially one of the short stories in "100 Whores," both by Mykola Dementiuk and published by Synergy Press. Both are available through Synergy Book Service, 908.782.7101, www.synergybookservice.com.

The short story has all the elements necessary to vividly see what was there (without the smell!).

Maybe some things are better left to history. LOL

Sally Miller

Marty Wombacher said...

Nice post and photos. I really dread the IHOP coming to town. The new Mad Shitter will put the anal back in artisanal, I'm sure!

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I mis-read that as "most notorious houses of smurf" and thought we'd come full-circle.

Mad Shitter...ugh!

robanbach said...

does anyone know what was on this block between say 1914-1924? besides the theatre? were there prostitutes? gangsters?

Jeremiah Moss said...

i believe there were a lot of Italians there then.