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Tag Archives: 42nd Street

January 29, 2018: the 45th anniversary of my moving to New York

I moved to New York City for keeps on January 29, 1973. That was the day I got in a U-Haul with a college girlfriend and drove from the Midwest to the Big Apple, as it was popularly known back then (I don’t hear that moniker used much anymore). We arrived the next day and checked into a residential hotel on the Upper West Side, but I always date my “New York Adventure” as starting on January 29th.

Actually I’d been here the two previous summers, working part-time jobs and living at the YMHA, and with my father’s side of the family in Brooklyn and New Jersey, the area was always part of my life even though I grew up in Chicago.

I came to NYC hoping to get into the film business but when that didn’t work out I shifted to writing. Sold my first porn novel in the fall of 1974 and the rest, as the saying goes, is “history”—the personal history described in many of the earlier posts on this blog.

Of course dotted throughout the city are the landmarks that have a personal meaning to me. For example, on the ever-changing 42nd Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue, is the Bush Tower, squarely in the shadowy center of this picture…

That was the address from where such legendary “big boob” girlie magazines such as BUF and GEM were published back in the day. Circa 1978 I sent the company an article about collecting movie soundtracks, a “socially redeeming” feature as they used to be called in that era when sex magazines had to run non-erotic items to appease the censors. One day out of the blue the publisher sent me a check for $40 for the article, and I believe that was the only time in my writing career when I sold an unsolicited piece via the “slush pile.” The rest of the time I’ve written either on assignment or expressly for an editor who was favorably inclined to my work.

So every time I walk past Bush Tower I think of that lovely $40 and how nice it was to make that sale!

Nowadays of course. along with writing for porn websites and the occasional sex magazine that is still around, I’ve become a publisher of some of my own stuff, both of my femdom erotica here

 

…and of my full-length novel FATE OF A STRIPPER here. Although to my disappointment it has not sold well, I’m proud of the novel and keep promoting it, hoping it will eventually find an audience for its very New York story of the relationship between an unbalanced lonely stripper and her lonely lovestruck customer, a noir tale flavored with some passionate descriptions of Times Square and its remaining strip joints.

And as ever I continue to enjoy wandering about the city, taking pictures like the ones in this post, inspired by the surprising urban vistas just for their own sake and as possible backdrops for new fiction.

For example, I wonder what kind of an erotic story I can come up with from the picture below…as in, what fictional characters might I imagine living on this street, and how might they satisfy their lusty cravings? 😉

 

 

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The world of HBO’s “The Deuce,” as a NYC porn writer knew it…

I’m absorbed by this new HBO show, as it’s interesting to see the 1970s New York City sex business depicted in a continuing tv drama. The production is well-done with some good acting, writing, and clever production design, and for me it’s an entertaining supplement to the movie of personal memories that I carry in my head from my own experiences in Times Square over the years both as a fan and as a writer/editor for porn magazines and films.

Maggie Gyllenhaal as the hooker Candy on the stroll

 

The recreation of 42nd Street marquees is well-done, but…

 

…as far as I remember, the streetwalkers looked for customers on Eighth and Ninth Avenues, not on the Deuce. But the marquees definitely make for more vivid cinema.

 

Every inch of the neighborhood has some resonance for me. For example, the doorway shown below, on Broadway near 50th Street (I took this pic a couple of weeks ago) was in the 70s the entrance of one of the few “dime-a-dance halls” remaining in Times Square, where you bought strips of tickets to dance (and grind) with ladies…the tickets were no longer a dime then (that was the 1930s price), but if I recall correctly, around 1974 they were $29 a strip. Why $29, I never found out. I used the experience of going to that place in one of my porn novels which wasn’t very good except for the section set in the dance hall.

I can’t remember what the ballroom was called, though…the Diamond, perhaps? The Tango Palace and Satin Ballrooms were a couple of blocks down.

 

The Deuce helps me clarify my relationship with my own past. Unlike the characters in the show, I did not socialize in a bar with pimps, prostitutes, gangsters, or 8mm hardcore movie makers. I did patronize hookers, yes, on the street or in apartment brothels, but didn’t hang out with them otherwise; I would have, however, as I occasionally asked them to go have a bite or a drink–but they were only interested in making money from me as a john, alas. So my relationship to Times Square was largely as a customer and spectator; like a theatergoer who may see lots of plays on Broadway, but doesn’t hang out with the actors, playwrights and producers afterward.

Scenes on The Deuce where girls get in cars with strangers make my skin crawl. I feel frightened for them. In fact, when I went with a few prostitutes to cheap hotels back in the 70s, I was afraid that I would get hurt, or robbed, or beaten up. Loneliness as much as horniness drove me into their arms in those seedy rooms…and I always felt guilty about it. Oh how many unnecessary VD tests did I take to allay my neurotic fear that I would “punished” for my dalliances!! I always turned out to be okay.

The dirt, the garbage of the streets, the violence depicted on the show, and The Deuce‘s constant flow of “the-fuck-you-say” New York tough guy dialogue: these were not especially part of my experience there. Although while by now after 43 years as a Gotham denizen I have my own New Yorkese patter down pretty well, in the 1970s I was still mostly just a too-nice-for-my-own-good Jewish boy from Chicago and had only mastered one East Coast phrase: “Fuckin-A”. 😉 Does anybody still use that one? Haven’t heard it in ages.

My Deuce (or 42nd Street as I always called it then) was instead a kind of Smithsonian Institute of erotica, where I found mint-condition issues of John Willie’s original late-1940s Bizarre magazines for $3 each…

The clerk who sold it to me for THREE DOLLARS (very cheap even in the 70s) clearly had no idea what it was, and until I got it home & opened it, neither did I. The gorgeous cover got me buying it. And once I looked inside and perused its stylishly fabulous fetish contents, I became a lifelong John Willie admirer.

I also found copies of the fetish digest Exotique, and black and white photo pamphlets of models like Bettie Page or Tee Tee Red or Lynne Carter…and a lurid $1 novel called Growing Up in Pain which I studied assiduously to learn the structure of the cheap bottom-of-the-barrel porn fiction put out by Star Distributors so I could get a job writing the stuff myself.

42nd Street was my grade-Z movie source long before I got a VCR, a place where I could see triple bills of crazy schlock movies and enjoy wild audience commentary unlike anything I’d ever heard or probably will ever hear again.

For example, seeing The Thing With Two Heads at the Anco Theater, the venue furthest west on the south side of 42nd near Eighth Avenue, was the most hilarious ninety minutes ever…the audience was hysterically funny, talking back to the screen as the head of a racist doctor played by Ray Milland is grafted onto the body of a black death row convict played by Rosey Grier. Unfortunately, I also remember how smelly that decrepit old theater could be, too…

I picked up streetwalkers—and some of them were beautiful, knockouts, stunners. They peddled their wares on Eighth Avenue’s “Minnesota Strip” (so-called because of all the Midwestern-bred hookers who strolled there). As I worked up courage to select a pro, I ate souvlaki in the Greek joints and cheap chow mein in the Chinese joints and low-cost spaghetti in an Italian place on 42nd. I also went to massage parlors along Eighth Avenue and even as far east as 47th St. and 6th Avenue, on the edge of the Diamond District.

I found copies of my own porn novels on the racks for the first time in the bookstore next to the National Hotel at 42nd and Seventh, just a stone’s throw from the Golden Dollar topless bar, one of the bleakest clubs in the area. The titles of my books were The Screaming Virgins, The Punk Stud and His Women, Young Michael’s Seductress (wherein I wrote about the dime-a-dance halls), and Teasing Teenage Daughter.

I went to Show World Center at 42nd and Eighth, and Show Center at 47th and Seventh, and Show Plaza at 42nd between Broadway and Sixth, and indulged in fantasies with the one-on-one “booth babies,” the peep show girls who gave private shows in two-person booths separated by a glass panel and connected by a telephone for the exchange of all essential dialogue… 😉 . I still remember some of those ladies’ stage names: Blondie, Annie, Brandi, Olivia, and China. Upstairs at Show World, when I was in my “porn scribe” mode (as opposed to my looking-for-cheap-thrills mode), I interviewed X-rated movie stars backstage at the Triple Treat Theater and sometimes also photographed them there to illustrate my articles.

I went to the barmaids-in-leotard bars recreated in The Deuce which were on 48th between Seventh and Eighth Avenues: a joint like Club International (which ironically later was the title of a magazine I prolifically wrote for) and another one called Al Lang’s where, if I recall correctly, the suave-looking manager was always nicely dressed in a double-breasted suit. Up on 49th between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, I went to Tin Pan Alley (which I’ve read is the model for the Hi-Hat on The Deuce), and chatted with the barmaids there but I didn’t become friends with any of them although I tried to date one or two. I remember Nan Goldin, the famous photographer, briefly worked behind the bar at Tin Pan Alley in the early 80s. Somewhere around that time I was dating a girl who looked a lot like the character of Lori on The Deuce, I mean a REAL lot, as played by Emily Meade. In fact when Lori comes on-screen I feel kinda weird, because even her boobs (seen extensively in the second episode) look the same as I remember my girlfriend’s did…

Lori (Emily Meade) not only resembles my old girlfriend but her character even comes from the same Midwestern state, Minnesota…

On 42nd Street I went to the Roxy Burlesk to see strippers and watch hardcore Rene Bond movies like Diary of a Schizo wherein she played the titular role and made up her face to look like Raggedy Ann when she flipped out after too much sex. She was and is one of my favorite porn stars ever…check out this link, where I found her photo,  to learn more about her (NSFW, though, there are explicit pix there).

Her performance in the film Teenage Fantasies is legendary, as she cheerfully gives head & talks to the audience about oral sex.

 

I went to the Harem Theater on the north side of the Deuce toward Eighth Avenue for porn movies (as opposed to the bigger theaters where I went for kung fu, blaxploitation, horror, Harryhausen, and westerns) but stopped patronizing the Harem after some dude with a Derringer shot another guy in the audience. In the old big theaters I learned from experience to sit far enough under the mezzanine and balcony so that I wouldn’t get hit by flying cigarettes tossed down from above. Nobody ever put their hand on my knee or trying to blow me in a theater, but I also knew enough never to go to the men’s rooms in those places. I had a stronger bladder then.

I went to see burlesque both at the Follies at 46th and Seventh and the Melody (later the Harmony) Theater, watching dancers like Joey Karson and Therasita San Juan and Sonia Tokyo and Crystal Blue and Maria Krupa and Susie Nero and even the legendary striptease superstar Blaze Starr once. The Melody/Harmony was a whole world unto itself, too much to go into here…worthy of its own book or tv show. Check out this link to the adult industry history site The Rialto Report to learn lots more about it.

Through all those years, most of my friends were my fellow editors and writers, with some actors and artists too, often cynical about porn even as it fascinated us. We were all talented in our respective fields and many hoped for the main chance of opportunities outside of smut with more mainstream accomplishments. Some did, indeed, move on.

So, to sum up, in many ways, although I did mountains of magazine stuff related to the area and its workers, I was also always a fanboy and customer down on “The Deuce.”

The reality is my life is still basically on “The Deuce”, though…but rather the Deuce that exists in a different form, the Internet, instead of on a street. It’s the “The Deuce” as a way of thinking, you might say. With my writing about femdom and kink and webcam sites, for example, I’m still on the beat of the sleaze and the twists and turns of la vie psychosexualis.

What a tour I could give of Times Square! In fact, in one of the better porn films I wrote for Vivid Entertainment, 1997’s Masseuse 3, I created a character named Burt Lazarus who stands in front of the Show World Center as a kind of barker, talking about the area’s former tawdry glory. Unfortunately, in the way things sometimes don’t work out in the translation of screenplays to film, Burt’s scenes weren’t done the way I’d hoped, and the effect of his elegiac oratory didn’t have a chance to come across properly.

I could’ve done it better. So if some night you see me holding forth at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue about the vanished and vanquished splendors of smut, don’t be surprised! 😉

 


I made the screencaps above from the first episode of The Deuce.

 

 

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Luscious vixen Gene Tierney at her teasing peak of perfection!

It has been a very stressful week and I found myself saying, “I must get away from the computer for a few hours.” I’d finished my work and I thought I would go see the movie Gangster Squad, which opened today in NYC and which I’ve been looking forward to; but when I walked down to 42nd Street it wasn’t playing where the papers said it was supposed to be. I ended up going to McDonalds instead and having what I call my “film noir” lunch–two hamburgers without ketchup, and a cup of coffee. As I ate, I made notes for a review I’m going to post here shortly about Dr. Brandy Engler’s book The Men On My Couch, which I mentioned in my last entry of 2012 (see “Sexology on Sunday” below). It’s a very interesting and rewarding book, but I didn’t take any notes while I read it; I just wanted to experience and absorb it without thinking about what I would write later. I usually (although not always) make notations in a volume as I read, but I decided instead I would instead go back and mark it up later as I thumbed through it again to write my review.

Meanwhile, I was just thinking about how mainstream art often carries a message of femdom fantasy below its “respectable” surfaces. I was musing on this while commenting at Femdomartists.com on a picture of the Biblical heroine Judith with the head of the Assyrian general Holofernes, whom she beheaded. You can see the picture and my comment here.

The other night I watched an early Gene Tierney movie, Belle Starr, where she played a highly romanticized and glamorized version of the infamous Old West outlaw. There was a scene where outlaw Randolph Scott “teaches” Belle to shoot. The imagery was pure female supremacy, as the beautiful Tierney (who in no way resembled the actual Belle Starr) gets to say things like, as she’s shooting at a leaf– “You want me to put a hole in it? Or do you want me to cut it off?” I wouldn’t be surprised if the femdom aficionados of 1941 returned to the theaters several times to see this sequence as fuel for masturbation fantasies. Here are a few screen caps:

Gene's utter nubile lusciousness is thinly disguised pornography...

Gene’s utter nubile lusciousness is thinly disguised pornography…

When Gene takes aim at a leaf, it's a thrilling erotic moment to rival Jennifer Lawrence drawing back on her bow and arrow in The Hunger Games...

When Gene takes aim at a leaf, it’s a thrilling erotic moment to rival Jennifer Lawrence drawing back on her bow and arrow in The Hunger Games…

"You want me to put a hole in it?"

“You want me to put a hole in it?”

"...or should I cut it off?"

“…or should I cut it off?”

 

Goodbye, leaf!

Goodbye, leaf!

To say that Gene Tierney is luscious in this movie is a shameless understatement. Using a Southern accent that was apparently way over-the-top, and entrancing Randolph Scott and Dana Andrews with all the wiles of the Civil War-era steel magnolia plantation belle stereotype, her performance can be understood in 2012 as a masterpiece of eroticism. Rarely seen, not on DVD, the movie was recently shown on TCM; but if you can get past its racial cliches about the post-Civil War era, you will find Miss Tierney at her most enticing, perhaps even more so than she was in Laura or Leave Her to Heaven.

I know I’m overusing the word “luscious”…but I can’t help it! 😉

 

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“Good girl” Jessica Simpson in “bad girl” spiked heels…

I like to take photographs on the street. Two of my favorite subjects are interesting buildings of all kinds, and billboards that feature images of pretty women.

Here’s what I came up with today, even though it was freezing out in NYC and my fingers were so cold as I held the camera and tried to get just the right shots.

Don’t the girls in the Ugg billboards have gorgeous gams?

I like how the bus with the "Find Out" sign popped into view. That added something to the pic, I think.

Back in the 1970s, the building’s floor underneath those billboards was a “taxi dance” hall where you paid $29 to get a roll of tickets to dance with a sleazy chick. Then when the time ran out for which you bought the tickets, the girl tried to get you to buy more tickets. I recounted an experience I had there in a porn novel I wrote in 1975 called Young Michael’s Seductress. I can’t remember the name of the dance hall now; it might have been the Satin Ballroom, or another name.

Anyway, enough reminiscence. Let’s get back to pictures. I went around the corner and saw this display of Jessica Simpson billboards:

...but those spiked heels don't seem too innocent to me!

I guess I’m of the generation that associates dangerously spiked heels with “bad girls.” So these pictures send a mixed message to me. She looks like a nice girl who wouldn’t mind seeing a guy getting down on the ground and kissing her feet in those shoes. And maybe she would stick her heels into him, too…

...as we little humans scurry about underneath their towering bodies, and especially legs.

And speaking of towering, here’s a bonus shot that I took some months ago right at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue. I think it was an billboard for Target, but it might as well have been for Foot Fetish Monthly…

Somebody should write a scholarly dissertation on the use of bare female feet in American advertising.

Come to think of it, I guess a girl can be “bad” with bare feet too. Or with Ugg brand shoes…

It’s all in the attitude. You gotta watch the attitude…

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Erotica

 

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