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Category Archives: New York City

Jane Dickson’s art reminds me of lively lonely nights in sleazy old Times Square…

I recently caught up with “All That Is Solid Melts Into Air,” an exhibit of paintings by Jane Dickson which bring to life the Times Square of the old sleazy era in the 80s and 90s. Her style is her own but its impact reminds me of Edward Hopper’s, evoked primarily through urban night scenes; as in Hopper’s works, deserted streets and places have a loneliness that’s not entirely sad, but also thoughtful, introspective, almost peaceful, and sometimes even inviting—as in this picture of a guy with a placard for a club called Dreams (I vaguely remember that club’s name, although I don’t remember if I ever went there)…

Jane Dickson: “Dreams” 2018

Dickson’s paintings in this excellent show at the James Fuentes Gallery on NYC’s Lower East Side (on display through February 17, 2019) feature a woman’s face looking through noirish Venetian blinds; a boy at a bus stop in an ominously red full face mask; a girl dancing in peep show with a customer on the other side (we get the peep show’s window eye view)…

Jane Dickson: “Peep,” 1992-96

 

There’s a painting of a low angle on a woman navigating a baby stroller down a stairs; the front of the big Peepland that was situated mid-block on the south side of 42nd between 7th and 8th Avenues; cops running on the street in some kind of frenzied police action; an evocation of the Terminal Bar that used to be (if I recall correctly) at 40th and 8th Avenue; and my favorite painting, showing a long hallway leading to the “employees only” area of a strip club, with a solitary half-naked dancer, almost out of eye view, leaning against the wall–you can almost imagine the rasping sound the linoleum would make beneath her high heels…

Jane Dickson: “Employees Only,” 2000

The colors of Dickson’s paintings and their varying sizes suggest indirectly a complex mix of personal emotions, those of the painter or (more vaguely) of the subjects of the pictures, just as Hopper paintings do for their era. One painting I also particularly liked, and one of the largest, was a vertiginous angle on the stairway/escalator leading downstairs in the old Nathan’s Hot Dogs that used to be at 43rd and Broadway…

Jane Dickson: “Nathan’s,” 1984-86

I went down that stairway many a time to eat a frank in the forlorn expanse of the lower level dining room (I lived in Times Square myself in the 80s, only a few blocks up).  This painting in particular reminds me how the old raunchy neighborhood (I never called it “The Deuce” myself back in the day) might have made you feel lonely, or was a place you went to hang out when you were already feeling lonely (or horny); but it didn’t necessarily make you feel ashamed of being lonely (or horny), as the new overly technological tourist-filled Disneyesque miasma of 21st century Times Square does for me. Once you were allowed to sit in your solitude in Times Square, perhaps feeling forsaken but not defective for not having a wife or family in tow; knowing that you could find distraction only steps away in any number of strip clubs or peep shows or in library-like adult bookstores where you could stand wordlessly side-by-side with other strangers and browse through assemblages of erotica that sometimes, depending on the particular store, could appear to the scholarly-minded almost Smithsonian in their range. After all, it was in places like this that I found rare mint copies of the original John Willie BIZARRE magazines from the 1940s, at prices so low it was clear the merchants had no idea of the value of what they were selling.

So if you have a casual interest, a deep nostalgia, or a fascinated yearning for the bygone Times Square depicted in HBO’s series The Deuce (see my own thoughts on the show here), check out Jane Dickson’s beautifully evocative paintings at the James Fuentes Gallery, located at 55 Delancey Street. Here is a link to more info, and another link to an interview with Ms. Dickson and a preview of the paintings. Also check out this interview by Ben Yakas in The Gothamist on the occasion of the publication of her book of street photography and art, Jane Dickson in Times Square, which you can find on Amazon here.

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Postscript: It’s funny, but I just realized, in looking this over as I was editing, that my selection of the pictures to illustrate this review really evokes a typical night for me back in the 80s or early 90s. I didn’t assemble the pictures consciously with this in mind, but studying them now I see how they match the pattern of my many lively lonely travels through Times Square. Seeing a guy advertising a club, I might have gone to the venue, or maybe first to a peep show, then to the club; later, in the strip joint and having had a few beers, I would invariably head to the men’s room and might well have seen a dancer having a cigarette back near an “Employees Only” area; and finally, having had my raunchy fun at the club (or even been disappointed, as could frequently happen), I’d stop at Nathan’s for a hot dog and Coke…a meal that could be lonely, yes, but also satisfying in a quasi-Romantic “I’m a lone wolf” kinda way…  😉 You know, “lone wolf” as in David Janssen in the great old 60s tv series The Fugitive? Except that I was probably just running away from having to spend too much time alone with myself…

But that’s the subject for another post someday.

 


All examples of the paintings shown here are by Jane Dickson, as displayed at the James Fuentes Gallery NYC January 16 through February 17, 2019.

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Silk stocking magazines set me off on the quest…

Silk stocking magazines…just the name is so evocative!

I’ve written here before how I’m always fascinated walking around Manhattan and remembering what occupied a particular space long ago. For example, this decrepit building at the northwest corner of 46th Street and Eighth Avenue housed a fantastic video store, DVD BLOWOUT, that sold obscure cult movies like stuff from Something Weird Video in addition to its hardcore porn; and next to it was the Full Moon Saloon, a place where I did a good amount of drinking back in the day…

This is what has replaced it: shiny, tall, and a hub for tourists.

I also remember, when I pass by an Asian noodle shop near the southwest corner of 49th St. and Eighth Avenue, that long ago in the 70s its space was occupied by a used magazine store, where I first came upon these magazines (scans taken from my own copies, some of which I’ve sold at memorabilia shows):

I recall asking the slender gray-haired middle-aged guy behind the counter near the door what these magazines were. I had never seen these publications before, packed with the nylon-sheathed ladies of the late 40s and 50s. “They’re called ‘silk stocking magazines,’ ” he said. Amazingly, they were only $2.50 or $3.00 a piece, so I bought three or four. Now they go for about $25 a piece, even in just good, not necessarily, great condition. They’re hard to find. BEAUTY PARADE, TITTER, FLIRT…these are the titles of the mags in which Bettie Page and other popular models frequently appeared. They were published by Robert Harrison, who later in the 50s went on to great notoriety with the scandal-mongering CONFIDENTIAL magazine.

Little did I know that my lifelong quest to collect vintage girlie mags and endless pinups had begun! I still have the copy of FLIRT, which I bought in 1977 from the late Art Amsie, the dealer and collector who was a cornerstone of the pinup revival, and who even photographed Bettie Page himself. It’s a mint copy which I’ve only looked at a few times, wanting to keep it in as perfect condition as possible—not because it’s worth so much, I probably couldn’t get more than $100 for it; it’s just nice to have an issue so well-preserved from so long ago, when most of them are so fragile they fall apart as you turn the pages. You can read my profile of Art Amsie here.

You can see how un-seriously these mags were treated by some folks before the interest in pinups was renewed in the early 80s. The price $3.00 was casually scrawled on the gorgeous Peter Driben-painted cover of TITTER, along with the date!

If you’re interested in seeing more of these covers and the insides of the mags, look on Amazon here for a Taschen book called 1000 PIN-UP GIRLS, and your orbs will get their fill of the fillies! Note their variant spelling of “pin-up.” Me, I always spell it “pinup.” 😉

 

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Warren William would have played a perfect sex fiction charlatan…

Today, as noted by some of my friends on Twitter, is the birthday of the king of the pre-Code movies, Warren William–that master interpreter of likable scoundrels, charlatans, and sleazeballs. I couldn’t resist making this screencap off my tv the other night when he was up to his orbs in trouble pretending to be a successful Park Avenue doctor (!) in Warner Bros.’ 1934 BEDSIDE. The movie was shown on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) the other day.

“I’ve always made it a point to be strictly ethical,” says “Dr. J. Herbert Martel” aka Bob Brown (Warren William) as he hires “Sparks” (Allen Jenkins) to get him some publicity as a medico in BEDSIDE.

 

One of the fun aspects of editing sex magazines was assigning fiction to my writers, one of whom, who went by the byline “Luther Selleck,” created a character named “Mr. Baxter.” In various guises in many stories, ranging from World War 1 fighter pilot (“Ass Aces of the Great War”) to New York City cockroach nemesis (“The Nutty Exterminator”) to ancient Greek judge of a butt beauty contest (“Assmasters of the Acropolis,” there under the name “Baxocles”), Mr. Baxter went his cheerfully amoral way through adventures with an assortment of fetching ladies–and depending on the magazine’s title (I edited CHEEKS, LEG WORLD, and GIRLS OVER 40), their chief attractions physically for Mr. B would be either derrieres, legs, or overall “cougar” appeal.

Although my writer Luther didn’t model Mr. Baxter on Warren William, when we later discovered Warren William (after Mr. Baxter was created) both Luther and I agreed that Warren would have been perfect in the role had there ever been any “Mr. Baxter” movies!

So, a tip of the hat to Warren William today on what would have been his 124th birthday!

Born December 2, 1894, died September 24, 1948.

 

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The “sex workers at work” genre in films and fiction…

One of my favorite sub-genres of film and fiction is the “sex workers at work” story–examining the mundane details of the jobs people do in erotic businesses. (By “sex work” I mean the most general use of the term, including all kinds of adult endeavors including stripping.) I thought about this when I saw an interesting film the other night from the 1940s: Glamour For Sale, about the women working for escort agencies and clubs.

This film was shown on Turner Classic Movies during its Anita Louise day as part of TCM’s August 2018 “Summer Under the Stars” programming.

It wasn’t a great movie, but I loved one detail of how the B-girls operated the drink hustle, as explained by Anita Louise’s character: they would get brandy in a glass, and soda in a second glass. They’d sip the brandy with a straw, and then move the straw to the soda glass and let out the brandy. That way they didn’t get drunk. When the waiter came by, he would take both glasses away and, if the customer agreed, bring a fresh pair of brandy and soda glasses to the hostess. It was hoped that the customer would never be wise to the fact that the hostess was not actually imbibing the expensive drink.

This practice degenerated in the 1970s and early 80s, when I was going to strip clubs that heavily featured the drink hustle: the dancer (who would hustle drinks when she wasn’t onstage) would sip her champagne but then spit it, literally and obviously, into a second, and empty, tall glass. (For some reason or other, I remember how those tumblers were made of frosted glass.) In this way it was clear that the thing the customer was actually paying for was her time, and not the “champagne.” Unless the girl chose to actually drink it, which occasionally happened too.

Two of the X-rated films I wrote in the 1990s were of the “sex workers at work” genre: Masseuse 2 and Masseuse 3.

This was one of my most personal screenplays, inspired by Japanese movies about brothels such as Mizoguchi’s Street of Shame. The masseuse’s story enabled me to explore my own feelings about working in the erotic business.

 

This won Best Film in 1998 from the X-Rated Critics Organization. It has some intense scenes exploring femdom themes.

 

In both of these original stories (not related in any way to the original hit The Masseuse or to each other except in title) I tried to weave as many little details about the actual work of masseuses as I knew into the dramas. I guess I succeeded as the films were very successful and continue to be watched more than twenty years after they were made. I even had a small and funny little role in Masseuse 3 as a lapdance customer. You can find it at this adults-only link here under the scene title of “Sexy Chicks Eat Pussy and Finger Each Other.”

Also, my scripts for Sweetie Baby and Boom Boom Valdez depicted both the jobs and personal lives of topless dancers and, in the case of former, a waitress at a strip club:

And of course my psychological suspense novel Fate of a Stripper (see sample here)  includes all sorts of details about the stripping profession which I gathered from the dancers themselves through the many years I hung out in those clubs, and through the hundreds of hours of interviews I did with strippers for various adult magazines.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, one of these days, I wrote yet another story examining some aspect of the erotic trade…

 

 

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Hail the Great Tower of the Mighty Queen!

A few months ago I entered an online contest at the Westgate Gallery in Los Angeles; the task was to come up with a storyline for a sexploitation film of which there only remained a title and a poster. To my delight, I won, received some store credit, and got to pick any poster I wanted. Not surprisingly for me, given my love for the ancient and the lurid, I selected something from the sword-and-sandal genre: Slave Queen of Babylon, Italian title Io Semiramide (for Semiramis, the legendary queen of the title).

A poster worthy of an epic film! Dig that mighty tower, and her obedient minions in the shadows behind her.

 

I’ve never actually seen this entire movie; it’s posted on YouTube, but only in Italian, so I figured I’d wait until a dubbed or English-subtitled version showed up. Although we can get a lot from the visuals in these movies, I like following the nuances of plot through the usual pithy dialogue in these flicks…

Anyway, although I tweeted about this contest and poster after I won last April, I never got around to blogging about it until now. The poster is very large; from top to bottom, it could take up almost the length of a wall; but I hope sometime to rearrange my apartment and have it framed and displayed, and then invite my friends over to join me in worshiping Semiramis. 😉

Here’s a little quote from an old book telling you about this mighty lady:

That tower in the poster looks a lot more interesting than the ones going up in Manhattan nowadays! Maybe we need a reincarnation of Semiramis to work on the skyline here before it just becomes stuffed with more boring glass phalli.

Be sure to check out the Westgate Gallery. They have a lot of cool stuff!

 

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Alicia Silverstone’s cute bare behind…

I’m so grateful they haven’t gotten rid of all the sexy sights in NYC’s “family-friendly” tourist-obsessed Times Square.

I snapped this pic on Eighth Avenue a few months ago, just across from the New York Times Building on Eighth Avenue.

I must say Alicia Silverstone has a nice bottom! I wonder what all those families thought about it…

 

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Erotica, New York City, Times Square

 

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Oh those Leg World days!

On the fetish femdom scene there is more than a little nostalgia about the glory days of Leg Show magazine, primarily under the editorship of Dian Hanson, who has since gone on to work for Taschen Books and their line of historical erotica tomes. I wrote for Leg Show from about 1995 through around 2003 or 2004, so I got to participate in that fondly missed era with my fiction, often illustrated by the British master of femdom art, Sardax; and I did many interviews with everybody from leggy softcore horror movie scream queens to imperious dominatrices.

But from 2004 through the beginning of 2010, I was also the editor of Leg World, a much lower-budgeted magazine but one into which I poured my quarter century of experience in writing for and editing magazines, as well as my decades of fascination and personal experience with femdom and fetish.

 

To use a Hollywood analogy, budget-wise, if Leg Show was MGM, Leg World was Poverty Row. But I put my heart and soul into it, and I think you’ll see in the intensity of these typical covers–for which I selected the shots, wrote all the lines, and supervised the layout–that I gave the readers their money’s worth starting with the covers themselves. I always aimed to show enough to the readers on the covers so that, if they wished, they could have a good time with them before they even opened the magazines; and since these periodicals were puritanically shrink-wrapped for display on the newsstands, I felt duty-bound to let the customers know exactly what they would find inside…once they shot their first loads for the covers! 😉

With my art director and talented group of contributors, both writers and photographers, a memorable magazine came into being with each issue. I didn’t have enough budget for art, or I would have asked Sardax to work for Leg World too (see his fabulous work here). Instead I illustrated fiction with carefully chosen photos from the archives.

 

So if you run into Leg Worlds at flea markets or online, take a minute and check out these lovingly crafted collectors’ items. If you’re into legs and feet and femdom, I think you’ll enjoy the mix of amazing pictorials and evocative stories. I poured my passion for editing images–I’d originally moved to New York City to get into the film business–into editing and even occasionally directing the shoots of erotic pictorials. In recent years, I’ve transferred my coverline writing passion into the writing I do for my personal Twitter and the feed for the femdom website Domme Addiction. There I happily conjugate my nouns and verbs in the service of celebrating the dominant female much as I did in Leg World.  🙂

 

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