Erotic phantoms of NYC’s Eighth Avenue…

05 Jul

One thing that fascinates me is what existed in certain spaces before what is there now. I always remember the previous tenants, especially if they have some erotic or sleazy context… 😉

For example, the northeast stretch of Eighth Avenue between 45th and 46th Streets:

This used to have three notorious porn theaters: the Capri (where the parking lot is now on the left); and the gay-themed Eros and the hetero-themed Venus. I can’t help but see in my mind the facades of those vanished edifices superimposed over the hordes of tourists who now stroll by and patronize the restaurants and bar and open-air market that now inhabit those urban footprints.

A block up to 47th and Eighth, across the street on the northwest side, is a marquee for what is now a sightseeing business:

Previously in the 1980s this space housed the Hollywood Twin Cinemas, but even before that in the 1970s the mezzanine was utilized for part of a massage parlor. Back in the 70s (not now!!) the entrance way on the left (painted red now) led to an elevator that took you up to the mezzanine and the girls who were sitting there. But BEFORE that mezzanine was used, and even before the theater showed porn films, not the mainstream Hollywood fare that came in the 80s, the massage parlor was just a street-level storefront on the left where the glass windows of the Duane Reade drugstore now are in 2017.

The very space where those donuts now lay placidly in their display case was, around 1975, the entrance alcove of the massage parlor, where I met one blonde girl named Lydia with whom I first acted out femdom roleplay fantasies (foot and butt worship) and visited several times; and another blonde named Goldie who, on one particularly cold winter night, gave my lonely bones a friendly hug and rubdown, and warm interesting conversation in which she told me she was a descendant of an early American president! I re-created some of that dialogue in the first porn film I wrote, 1987’s Adultery.

This stretch of street was immortalized in the poster for the 1976 film Taxi Driver. Recognize that marquee?

Finally, across the street, where there now stands a Starbucks, a Staples, a medical clinic, a preschool, and apartments, there used to be low-rise buildings that had a fantastically sleazy porn shop, a used comic book shop, an infamous gay bar called the Haymarket, and perhaps most important for the history of pornography, in the center of the block at 776 Eighth Avenue there were located offices of fetish digest publishers back in the 1950s, which showcased the work of such legendary artists such as Gene Bilbrew. I don’t remember the titles offhand right now, but I remember seeing the address on the copyright pages of some vintage issues. If and when I stumble on them again, I’ll amend this post and add the titles. This is the block now…

Look closely, though, and perhaps you’ll be able to imagine, as I do, infamous 50s femdom fetish models like Tana Louise walking down the street in sexy 50s couture and maybe going up the long-vanished steps to editorial offices at 776 Eighth Avenue!

By the way, Tana Louise (as opposed to the actress Tina Louise, an entirely different performer) was one of the very first fetish models I personally ever saw in a magazine. In today’s over-saturated kink environment, it may seem incredible that she really blew me away with her witchy dominant aura, but back in the early 70s I don’t think I’d ever come across anybody quite like her, and I think I noticed her before I even saw Bettie Page, who never looked quite as ferocious to me in any case. I got this image from the cool site Java’s Bachelor Pad, so go here to see and read more about Mistress Tana too.




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11 responses to “Erotic phantoms of NYC’s Eighth Avenue…

  1. Declan Heyse

    July 5, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    “Finally, across the street, where there now stands a Starbucks…”

    Of course, it’s a Starbucks. Why is it always a Starbucks?!

    Seriously, I love these posts of yours, Irv. This one especially.

    • irvoneil

      July 5, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks, Mr T! Glad you enjoyed this one!

  2. Anonymous

    July 5, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Herr O’Neil: Surely you need to harness your resources and pen the definitive history of this hallowed, kinky ground!
    Erich von Pauli

    • irvoneil

      July 5, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      I lay no claim to achieve the definitive account, Baron von Pauli, but I think I have enough for the continuously anecdotal! 😉

  3. Rincewind

    July 15, 2017 at 5:12 am

    I so love these recreation of yours, hard to believe this was a gorgeous sleaze paradise for all of us deviants. 😆

  4. Rincewind

    July 15, 2017 at 5:14 am

    Reblogged this on Erotixx and commented:
    This deserves a reblog of it’s own.. history lesson time peeps of a lost world. .

  5. Terry

    July 15, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Great article! I remember those days.

    • irvoneil

      July 16, 2017 at 8:25 am

      Thanks, Terry! Glad you enjoyed it. I have more coming up along the same “reminiscent” line.

  6. Phillip

    July 15, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    It seems like things that are old and remembered are always better than today. I wonder if it is true? I am inclined to think that to a large degree it was. Depending on your position in that memory. The reasons are for the individual to know even if they are not understood.

    • irvoneil

      July 16, 2017 at 8:28 am

      I always wonder about this too, Phillip. Were those days better or not? “Depending on your position in that memory”–great phrase. I think that hits it on the head. Yet our positions can shift too, within a set of memories…these days were good and not-so-good. But fascinating and vital in a unique way, no doubt about that.

      Thanks for your comment!

  7. sardaxart

    September 16, 2017 at 1:50 am

    Reblogged this on The Art of Sardax and commented:
    If you enjoyed my Reminiscences of Old Soho see writer Irv O’Neil’s similar blog post on ghosts of New York here..


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