Saturday, December 28, 2013

42nd STREET (and area) IN THE MID-NINETIES


The 42nd street area will never be the same...Some of its amazing theaters (think Selwyn, Lyric or Empire, Ziegfeld follies, Houdini shows, etc.) were brutaly destroyed to make room for a "family friendly" environment. Giuliani's clean up time had come and all of this old NY had to go.
Only the Amsterdam Theater still stands largely transformed by Disney (as well as a a few theather fronts that were miraculously saved and rebuilt in a sometimes very cardboardish fashion). Some of the photos featured here were taken a few months before all the theaters went down...as the city had commisioned artists to display  messages on the old time canopes.
You will also find here images various images the "Deuce", 8th avenue and Times square, all were taken between 1993 and 1998. The strip shows and peep shows, the porn theaters (Show World, Peep Land, The Playpen, etc.) before they were gone and as destruction had just started. As well as the fisrt signs of the total transformation of this great New York area.
 - © G.Alessandrini - All rights reserved -

North east corner of 8th avenue and 42nd street
The remains of The Nugget. Just before total destruction.
Show World and its Big Top Lounge
Here and below, the 42nd street theater fronts
The Selwyn Theater
The Empire Theater
The Liberty Theater
The Lyric Theater
The Amsterdam Theater
Victory Theater
North east corner of 8th avenue and 42nd street...again
And after the destruction...
A new era has begun. Cranes and construction everywhere.
8th avenue is dead. All the porn shops have closed.
Mc Hales - An institution...
Show World, still in activity with its infamous "triple treat" theater !

Empty Times Square ! (During a simulation of terrorist attack - 1990's -)
The Smiths Bar on 8th avenue...A must for a real Times Square late night experience at the time !
The Playpen (Ideal Theater)
A couple of views of the old Hot Dog and soda fountain shop on the 42nd street strip
8th. ave and 42nd street...one more time, later on...with a giant ad for the Godzilla movie.



29 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this amazing set of photos of the end days of a Times Square I never got to experience.

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  2. Actually, just one little correction - the Selwyn still stands. The interior was completely refurbished although the facade of the building is gone (it actually fell of it's own accord at some point - not via demolition but because it was in such poor disrepair). The Selwyn is now the American Airlines theater, one of the Broadway homes of the Roundabout Theatre Company.

    (LOVE these pics though - and the entire blog - well done!)

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  3. Anonymous, you're absolutly right about the Selwyn, I read something about its renovation after posting these images. Thanks for the details about this landmark theater of the old 42nd street.
    Kind regards and thanks for your interest in this blog !

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  4. Actually, the Selwyn was basically demo-ed and combined with another theater to create the American Airlines theater.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this amazing photos

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  6. My heart aches
    ....for all the "Repent or Perish" sign carriers
    who have been displaced!
    Perhaps ...they perished anyway?

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  7. Great photos, brings me back to my first visit to NYC in 1988.

    Were those messages on the theater marquees part of an art project?

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    1. Thank You ! Yes, it was an art project proposed as a transitional event before the 42nd street complete rehabilitation. The theaters and shops were all still standing but everything was closed. The 42nd street strip was totally empty, waiting...the old soda shop was still functionning...

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  8. I think Show world is still there, you just have to access it from the storefront nest door to the old entrance. The booths and stuff are the same.

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    1. Well,the side entrance on 42nd st. might still exist...but I can garantee you that the place is nothing close to what it once was...I heard that it's supposed to become (or already became) some kind of comedy club.

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    2. Showworld is alive and well! Just enter through the storefront next door, or through the 42 st entrance, and the old booths and decor and clean up men are still there and exactly the same. The only thing missing is the old upstairs area for live girls. If you want to support the old Times Sq, visit show world and drop a few bucks into a booth.

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    3. It is, indeed, nothing close to what it was before. But I agree with the sentiment - it should be supported.

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  9. Marvelous photographs! You really did capture a time of change in NYC, I remember it well...

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  10. How nice of you to use black and white, instead of color photos that would have revealed just how shabby the area actually looked like back then

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  11. Love these shots, they and the rest of your blog really takes me back to that era. That said, it does bear noting that some of these places still exist, albeit mostly in physical form, not in spirit. On 42nd Street, The Victory Theater is now fully restored as the New Victory Theater, the Selwyn is now fully restored and used as the American Airlines Theater/Roundabout, the Lyric and Apollo were combined to create what is now Foxwoods, the Liberty Theater has been fully restored and is now used as an event space behind Famous Daves BBQ and the auditorium of the Empire is now used as the entrance to the AMC 25 movie theaters (look up when you walk into the space, it's fantastic). Additionally, The Times Square Theater is about to reopen as Broadway 4D. On 8th Ave, Show World, the Playpen, Smith's and that odd camera shop are still operating.

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    1. PlayPen is gone, as that building (Ideal Theater) the community was fighting to keep it and return it to its former glory. The spot is a Hotel and exact location is Shake Shack now. There was the Check cashing around the corner on 44th st in front of the subway entrance.

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  12. If you were ever in the Triple Treat bathroom and saw graffiti that said
    Roses are red, violets are blue
    Triple Treat sucks and so do you

    That was ME! :-)

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  13. The pictures of the North West corner of 8th ave and 42nd st are actually the North East corner. as Show World and the Bank (now Duane Reade) is on the North West corner. You see the Hotel Carter which is on the east side of 8th ave .

    The Indian resturant was there as well as the subway entrance was on the NE corner of 42nd st.
    Good pics.

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    1. You're absolutly right...I corrected the captions. Thank you.

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  14. Made 50+ trips to NYC late 60s to middle 80s Still have such affection for the city.

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  15. I used to live in Queens, NY and take 7th train to my junior high school in Sunnyside.
    Too many times I would not get off at my stop and let the train take me to Time Square.
    I think it was $1.50 for two or three kung-fu flicks if you get there early enough.
    I suppose that's where my life time love for the movies was hatched.

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  16. So freaky, the above comment could have been me as well! In fact I did a double take when I read it to see if I had actually written it! I too took the 7 train from 74st to 46 st to JHS 125 and would at least once a month keep going and check out some flicks on the deuce. Never was asked for ID. Used to love watching the long trailers outside of the theater in those lobby boxes!

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    1. Thank you for these great New York stories !

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  17. These photographs are a fantastic glimpse into the city during this era. Great work.

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  18. Amazing photos. Thank you for sharing them. You may be interested in my doc on the subject,BEGGING NAKED
    http://www.amazon.com/Begging-Naked-Elise-Bainbridge-Hill/dp/B0078JO3A4/ref=tmm_aiv_title_1?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

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  19. Thank You !!! I'll definitly check your documentary which seems extremely interesting ! Thanks for sharing and please keep in touch.

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