Thursday, May 4, 2017

Show World's Basciano

The Daily News reported yesterday that Richard Basciano, "New York’s former prince of porn who made a mint peddling smut in the old Times Square," has died at the age of 92.

Basciano, the paper notes, "owned several neglected, but highly valuable, buildings between 42nd and 43rd Sts. along Eighth Ave. The former porn purveyor had gotten many offers from major developers for his infamous Show World building at 42nd St. and Eighth Ave." But he lived in the building and, for reasons involving a partner, was not able to sell it. So it has remained.

But what will happen to the Show World building--and Basciano's other "neglected" and valuable properties--now that he's gone?

The former Show World, early 2000s

The original Show World vanished (mostly) in 2004 and became a family-friendly entertainment center.

After Giuliani’s 1995 zoning ordinance, Show World had soldiered on, its naughty bits whittled away piece by piece. By 1998, the live girls were gone and the theater space was leased to an off-off-Broadway company that performed Chekhov plays on stages where naked girls once performed live sex acts, including Face Shows—as the sign said, “Let our girls sit on your face.” (Here's an NSFW look inside in 1980.)

Most recently, it held Times Scare, a haunted-house themed bar and restaurant.

Show World Center, however, remains a XXX joint right next door--originally a sort of annex to the old Show World. It went up for lease or sale in 2008, but never budged.

To walk through Show World Center is to descend into Times Square past, exploring a neon-lit warren of rooms, levels, and staircases, filled with dirty magazines and video peep booths. An attendant makes change and mops the floors. Men shuffle past in furtive glances.

There's a Coke machine for your refreshment.

Signs warn of NO LIVE GIRLS since 1998. In case you missed it, there's an image of a live girl with a big red X through it.

"Sorry for the disappointment," the sign reads.

Of course, they also sell sex toys--the usual double dildos and penis pumps, vibrators and nipple clamps. But the most unusual sight of all awaits you downstairs in the quiet, unpopulated basement.

There you will find, by order of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, entire rooms full of nothing but crossword puzzle books (along with old TV Guides and other supermarket magazines).

When Giuliani passed his unconstitutional ordinance against sex shops in 1998, part of the ruling stated that a store would be considered X-rated if 40 percent or more of their stock or floor space was in adult materials. As the Times reported at the time, the sex shops complied--by loading their spaces with just enough non-adult materials to qualify them as not X-rated. 

I rather like the crossword puzzle book room at Show World Center. It gives you an odd, disorienting sensation to come upon it in the midst of smut and neon lights. No one is ever there. No one is looking at the crossword puzzle books. And no one -- I would wager -- ever bothers to buy them.

They sit there, turning yellow and crinkly over the years, doing their job of keeping the cops from the door. These little crossword puzzles have kept Show World Center open for the past 20 years. But for how much longer?

We've seen it before. When an old-time property owner passes away, there's always a feeding frenzy for his buildings. The developers descend. The descendants fight among themselves, trying to get the most money. Eventually, everything is sold--then demolished and replaced with something expensive and made of dull glass.

Now is probably the time to go and say goodbye. The last gasp of smutty old Times Square may not be here tomorrow.


Faggot said...

I used to go to the downstairs of Show World back in the 90s. Show World had two entrances, one on 42nd (more discrete) and the one on 8th ave. which was next to Show World Center. Coming off the 8th ave entrance you would immediately look left, pay a few dollars and gain entrance to the downstairs area which housed 3 separate movie theaters, obviously showing porn. Seats were on the left side and a small walkway on the right for the first 2 theaters and once you reached the back you had stairs to your right and the last theater across from the bathroom. At some point they torn down the walls and put in jackoff booths, but back then guys would shuffle between the 3 areas. One time I saw this guy in the 3rd theater completely naked, jacking off. I decided to join him and we had a jackoff competition while 4 or 5 guys alternated between watching us or watching the porn. Another time in the 3rd theater which always where most of the action took place, this guy would sit in the back and offer blowjobs to all the guys that walk by. I pulled out and let him suck. I remember coming back a few days later and using that same tactic. Great sissy fun. Also saw guys getting pounded, doggystyle on the seats. It was crazy, and rarely did I ever see the staff. I would sometimes venture upstairs to see what was what. I have some stories from then too. Cheers

Unknown said...

Just saw Show World on an old episode of Law and Order on WEtv the other night. The episode was from 1993.

Chester the Dog said...

Manhattan Rep Theater was in the building, they moved out the end of last year, a request by the owner.

Greg said...

Show World was the greatest. I'm glad I got to experience it in the 80s and early 90s when it was still the real Show World. My heart used to race when I'd approach the building and Id get so nervous someone would see me going in I'd have to do a couple of laps around before I'd work up the nerve to go in. It was all part of the thrill though.

My favorite was when the they'd have porn stars in the Triple Treat Theater on the third floor. After the show they'd go out to the sort of lobby area and you could get a picture with them for like ten bucks or something. I used to have some Polaroids of myself with some of them, no idea what happened to those.

I always thought it was fascinating that Basciano lived above the place. I remember reading in the NY Post ages ago that he lived 'on the top floor behind a steel-reinforced door.' or something like that. Of course they made sure to make it sound extra sinister but to me it sounded amazing.

Seanachie3000 said...

He had already planned to sell the building before he died...