The Last Days of Babylon
July 12, 2013
Throughout 70s and 80s the Times Square was a haven for XXX theaters, go-go girls, pimps, whore houses, rent boys, hustlers, thieves, dealers, and lowlifes on the make. Police and city authorities had declared the area as DMZ for crime and sex. The 1977 debut of Show World across 42nd Street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal was the high-water mark for Times Square’s Era of Errors. It had class.
Successive mayors attempted to purify Times Square without success, for the Mafia-owned establishments were protected by the First Amendment. Finally in 1995 Rudy Giuliani enacted adult zoning laws to end the magnificent wickedness and the following year every XXX theaters and porno shops closed on a rainy afternoon with the moving crews loading salacious merchandise into trucks, as the tearful affectionados of sleaze chanted on the sidewalk, “Fuck Rudy G.”
All along the Minnesota Strip pimps in fur coats hijacked teenage runaways straight off a bus from the Midwest and slick hustlers struck cowboy poses on the street corners, while dope-hungry muggers trailed unsuspecting hicks down dark streets. The action should have tapered off Christmas Eve, except the players on the Strip were dedicated to acting naughty and not the least bit nice. Tonight was no exception.
The glowing marquees and flashing neon billboards camouflaged the lurking danger of Times Square. On the sidewalk two young boys were rummaged through a fallen man’s pockets. No one interfered with the robbery and few people made eye contact, unless they loved trouble.
A brutish bouncer stopped a young blonde girl before the go-go lounge, then she produced an ID and danced a seductive Watusi as an audition. The doorman waved the teenager inside the Dollhouse, as Times Square swallowed another runaway faster than a starving shark.
The Dollhouse’s DJ segued from RING MY BELL to BROWN SUGAR and on stage the naked redhead cupped her breasts before a middle-aged man. The plaid-suited businessman was bald and overweight, but the $20 in his hand transformed him to Robert Redford, as he slipped the crisp bill beneath teenager’s G-string.
Times Square’s best pinball wizards gathered around the ‘KISS’, as the champ bumped the machine with his groin and they nodded each time the scoreboard tocked another free game. The champ was on a roll, then the arcade’s front door opened for a frigid draft and a deathly thin player commented, “Damn, one of them Minnesota girls has come in from the cold.”
The go-go girl hooked her arm inside the punk’s elbow. He wasn’t her type, but a woman on her own was a walking target on the Strip and even after 2am Times Square wasn’t ready to call it a night.
Men crowded into a theater featuring the hit XXX film BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR and a pimp strutted across Broadway with two teens in skimpy silks. After midnight on 42nd Street everyone was working overtime.
Artwork by Jane Dickson
Text by Peter Nolan Smith,
from THE LAST DAYS OF BABYLON