Monday, July 25, 2011

Movie Star News

Thanks to Mick Dementiuk for pointing us to Vintage Sleaze's collection of Irving Klaw advertisements, and for drawing our attention to the address on the ads: 212 East 14th Street. This was once the home of Klaw's pin-up business--Movie Star News--where he and his sister Paula photographed gals like Bettie Page and sold their sexy photos along with tamer celebrity stills.

Silent Porn Star blog

Richard Foster's The Real Bettie Page recalls that the first Movie Star News opened in 1939, across the street at 209 E. 14th. Before long, they moved to 212, right next to the Jefferson Theater--movie fans loved Movie Star News. So did fans of cheesecake and bondage.

Trying to find images of the shop's exterior in its heyday has proven impossible, but if you search for the more often photographed Jefferson Theater, you can find some slivers of it.

In the early days, 212 E. 14th (to the right of the Jefferson) sold pianos. Much later, by the 1970s, the first floor was a shoe store and the Jefferson had exchanged vaudeville for Kung Fu and blaxploitation.

1973, American Classic Images

In the 1981 photo below, you can see recognizable bits of signage from Movie Star News--the OVI in the second-story sign and, above the entrance, a sign that says "LARGEST VARIETY OF PHOTOS IN THE WORLD."

Above that, in the shop's window, you can just make out some blurry posters--one looks a bit like Casablanca.

1981, American Classic Images

At the time of the above shot, an after-hours club had taken over the second story of the Jefferson. Peter Nolan Smith writes about it in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, recalling a loft that attracted "Movie stars, musicians, models, bankers, politicians, go-go dancers, punks, gays, cops, and dealers" who "called the Jefferson their home away from home" until the NYPD raided the place.

By 1986, the club was gone, Herman's Shoe Store was gone, and so was Movie Star News. The New York Guitar shop stood in its place on a block of 14th that looks like a corpse.

1986, by Michael Putnam

Sometime in the 1980s, Movie Star News moved off 14th. A member of the Irving Klaw Facebook page posted this photo, writing: "taken in the mid 80's-NYC, when a friend unknowingly rented this spot on 14th street!"


Today Movie Star News is alive and well on West 18th Street. It's still in the family, run by Klaw's nephew, Paula's son, Ira Kramer. Their block, once the middle of nowhere, is bookended by two new, giant, glass condos and filled with upscale home furnishing shops. But once you get inside, it's purely old New York.

Classic movie posters cover the walls. Cinephiles sift through racks of more posters. In the back, towers of shelves rise ceiling high, packed with Hollywood photos. Here, too, is the Irving Klaw collection of photos that (I believe) are still printed from Klaw's original negatives. There's Bettie Page and Blaze Starr, Lily St. Cyr, Lois de Fee, and plenty more pin-up girls in the catalog.

As for the Jefferson theater, back on 14th St., its marquee was ripped off and its beautiful windows were smashed in and bricked shut. Grass grew along its lintels. In 2000, the theater was demolished and became The Mystery Lot, which remains empty.

Today, 212 East 14th houses the Super Saving Store, and its second floor, once the home of Movie Star News, is a residence. I doubt Irving Klaw's sign is still painted on the door.

Those stairs, though, they look like they might be the same stairs that generations of New Yorkers climbed to purchase--and pose for--pin-ups, bondage, and other fetish photography, long ago in another city.

Also read:
Adult Bookstores
Parisian Danceland


Anonymous said...

The Super Saving store went out as well in the last week or so. Maybe a bank will take the spot :-(

Dull Tool Dim Bulb said...

Thanks for sharing my site (and story) as I've been writing about Klaw and such quite a while See for more. and my new book Times Square Smut will be of interest to New Yorkers as well.
Ira does still indeed print photos on demand from the catalog, and they are as beautiful as they were 50 years ago. Folks have been soaking them in tea and selling them on ebay as old originals for years. They make great gifts! I also wrote a book about old time NYC camera clubs with Bettie Page and similar characters available from Blurb. Http://
Jim Linderman / Vintage Sleaze the Blog

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

I know your site very well, go over it every few days. Incredible what was once and now is no more. A shame on us...

Ken Mac said...

"coffy" the baddest one chick hit squad that ever hit town!

Caleo said...

Beautiful excavation Jeremiah.
But also painful.
This city was so fucking incredible until relatively recently.
So many different worlds and lifestyles existed together, accessible to almost anyone who was willing to open a new door or climb a well worn staircase.
Now, we're supposedly all connected via the Internet, and yet almost everything has been flattened out into a bland sameness.
I'll have to check out the shop though.

Jeremiah Moss said...

it is amazing how you can take one block and find so many wonderful, or at least dramatic, things in it that were once there, at the same time, or thereabouts, when today it's mostly Dunkin Donuts and the like.

what are the chances that the Super Saving Store will become something interesting?

Marty Wombacher said...

I live nearby Movie Star News and I'm always amazed and happy that it's still there when I walk by or stop in.

Anonymous said...

in the late sixties and early seventies my best friend and I would take the bus in from jersey to by movie stills from the klaws.WHAT A WONDERFULL TIME it was back then. I miss those days.Still have all 1200 8 x 10s though.

Anonymous said...

I live across the street and have always been curious about the empty lot and street history. Your blog was linked via the EV Grieve about the new condo building. Thanks so much for the great photos! The city never ceases to have a story worth telling.