New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Full Circle

Times Square has never been able to fully shake off its tawdry, sleazy character. But if you missed it in the 60s and 70s, you ain't seen nothin'. This area was a shrine to every negative stereotype of the city. I mean it was really bad. I once met someone in the 1970s who used to associate with people that hung out in Times Square, sizing up potential victims, assaulting them and stealing their coats.
You were cheated, mugged or robbed on the streets. It wasn't much better indoors, where many of the stores were essentially dens of liars, thieves and hustlers. If you haven't seen Midnight Cowboy starring Dustin Hoffman, I highly suggest you rent this film. It's not only a great work, but it portrays very well this time period and gives an authentic look at and feel for the area.
Apart from the Broadway theaters and neon lights, the neighborhood has been best known for its porn - prostitutes, porn shops, peep shows, and porn theaters. Sadly, the Victory was part of this landscape. It's hard to imagine the early days of this theater.
Built for Oscar Hammerstein in 1900, it claims many superlatives and firsts, making it both famous and infamous. It is NYC's oldest active theater and has gone through a truly remarkable number of incarnations - it became the Belasco Theater when David Belasco took it over in 1902; a burlesque house in 1931 when taken over by Billy Minsky until 1937 when burlesque shows were banned by Mayor LaGuardia; a movie house (the Victory) through the 1970s when it became the block's first XXX-rated movie house.
In 1990 it was taken over by the city as part of the The New 42nd Street, Inc. in an effort to revitalize the area - read about it here. It underwent an $11.4 million renovation headed by the architechtural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates
In 1995, it reopened as The New Victory Theater, New York's first theater for kids and families featuring theater, dance, circus arts, comedy, music and puppetry. The theater is small (only 499 seats) affording everyone a good view and intimate connection with the performers. I highly recommend it. It's a New York success story - rise, fall and rise, making a Full Circle ...

7 comments:

monacojerry said...

There are other views of what has happened to times square. I moved to NYC in the late 70s and started hanging out in Times square regularly in the early 80s. I picked up a lot of odd jobs from temp employment agency and eventually started driving a Taxi. I also played Chess at clubs that used to be in Times Square and bought clothes at cheap clothes stores in the area. Now the New York Chess and Checkers club is gone along with all the great characters who used to hang out there, and all of the interesting bars where blues and jazz used to be played are gone. They have been replaced by chain restaurants. It was a tough neighborhood but now the tough neighborhoods have been pushed out of sight but gone too are all the non-corporate entertainment If only Damon Runyan's B'way could brought back! I liked it much better before we gave Times Square to Disney.

Lucy said...

Good photo -- I don't know if any of the old style Times Square is still there, maybe there are ghosts still emanating a certain vibration into the area, lingering around. The old days are definitely done, tho, especially in Manhattan. I think in the other boros you can still find many pockets of the old style NYC...the only thing constant about NYC is change, I think someone once said every seven years there is a radical change in the neighborhoods...

Brian said...

monacojerry;
I agree with some of your assessments. In a way have a partially sanitized, Disneyfied renovation, overlayed with remnants of old sleaze. The problem is we don't have the best of either - including some of the better elements you point out. This is being repeated throughout the city. However, it is important to keep in mind the nostalgia factor and that many times what we miss is our youth. If you get a chance, read my posting called "Better When":
http://newyorkdailyphoto.blogspot.com/2007/12/better-when.html

Petrea said...

Wow. I've just been nosing around your blog. All your photos are knockouts. Gorgeous stuff.

oldmanlincoln said...

I really like this photograph. And the bonus is your story with it.

David said...

Brian . . . I've been happily drawn to your blog since we met at a punk concert and rally in Washington Sq. Park this past summer . . . and can't express how much I've enjoyed and appreciated your images and narratives . . . I loved the Times Square of the 60's and 70's . . . For me it was exotic, frightening and exciting . . . And I miss that part of NYC that was such a wonderful part of my youth . . . Thanks . . .
David

(http://flickr.com/photos/oneworldgallery/sets/885801/)

home rehab said...

I love your daily photo site! Your images are beautiful, but what makes you better than the rest are your history notes. I usually never knew what you include with each pic.