DEUCE (42nd STREET), Manhattan

While “The Deuce” (as its friends and foes knew West 42nd Street between 6th and 8th Avenues) has become the New 42 (more or less, a stretch of New York City that has become the place that tourists flock, or are herded to, there’s still a remnant, or two, of its former highs and lows to be found there and in the streets surrounding it in Times Square.

Many New Yorkers have decried the changes that have come to New 42, but to me it’s fantastic, which might sound like apostasy to people used to my overdevelopment rantings on other Forgotten NY pages. Let’s say I’d rather have B.B. King’s, where I’ve seen the Smithereens, the Zombies and the late John Entwistle, than Peep Land, OK? (It’s likely that even if the “New 42” development surge that began with a trickle during the Koch Administration and reached culmination under Rudy Giuliani had never happened, home video and online porn would have doomed the grindhouses anyway.)

The Crossroads of the World has been the place where all ‘true’ NYC celebrations happen (New Year’s and the NFL’s opening week are celebrated here) but nowhere else in NY has seen such a roller coaster ride from respectability to hell’s ninth circle and back again. In my own memory (the 1960s on) the Deuce has gone from a string of grindhouses playing monster and kung fu movies (stuff that Michael Weldon has gleefully chronicled in his long-running Psychotronic magazine and website) which became Triple XXX palaces with live sex shows from straight to gay and everything in between. Came an eerie lull in the early to mid-1990s after the pornmeisters had been moved out, and then came the mad, crazy, phantasmagoric mix we have now.

Let the tourists come. I believe in NYC tourism. Nothing like the New 42 exists in Des Moines, Juneau or Truth or Consequences. But let’s take a moment to remember where the buses never rolled, and where the jovial Grey Lines barkers won’t bark today.

Begin with Peep-O-Rama (seen above on the title card). On the north side of 42nd just west of 6th Avenue, it was the Deuce’s last peep show and even after the raincoat brigade had shuffled out one last time, the building remained open as an art gallery for a while.

A couple of doors down was the Palace of Variety, home of Stephanie Monseu and Keith Nelson’s Bindlestiff Family Cirkus (which added elements of burlesque to a traditional circus atmosphere). In early 2004 it was a nightly sellout and your webmaster and friends cound not roust a seat.

All buildings on this side of the street were razed in 2004 to make way for the massive $1 billion 50-story Bank of America Building, which will sort of look like a dry run for the Freedom Tower.

Same scene, circa 1990. Tad’s Gristle has survived lo the years.

Hell’s Seraphim, 42nd and 8th, 1988. photo: Matt Weber

According to New York Songlines‘ Jim Naureckas, 8th and 42nd was long notorious for male solicitation; Montgomery Clift was arrested here even after his Oscar nomination in 1948. The Church’s Fried Chicken site is now occupied by the multicolored high-rise Westin New York Hotel, opened in 2002.

The Deuce, 1988. photo: Matt Weber

LEFT: The New 42 in transition ca. 1990. The Harem Theatre was a porno grindhouse located where the Loews E-walk is at present; in its final days in operation it was a crack den. How would your webmaster know? Cinematreasures, of course. photo: Matt Weber

RIGHT: a view of the Harem with the old Modells sneaker store sign in the background and the old Knickerbocker Hotel (Broadway and 42nd) and Bush Tower (42nd west of 6th) in the background. The latter was built in 1918 for the entrepreneurs of Brooklyn’s Bush Terminal in Sunset Park. Circa 1994. photo:

That strange sound you hear is your webmaster kicking himself because he didn’t begin photography for FNY till after most of the New 42 conversion was complete. But urbanphotos did..

Grand Luncheonette, 229 West 42nd Street between 7th and 8th. photo: Matt Weber

Matt Weber’s “The Unknown Soldier”; 1988

Forgotten Fan and Queen of Staten Island Jean Siegel presented me with a batch of photos of the Deuce in transition in the 1988-2002 period. The New 42 in 2002. Some of the sleeze still hangs around the edges.

Herman’s, Father and Son Shoes, and Thom McAn are long gone (Thom McAn is now a brand sold by K-Mart). Scene was on the north side of West 42nd between 6th and Broadway, to the left of what became the Palace of Variety.

“Cooped Up? Enjoy a Movie Today” was one of the notable ads uncovered during the New 42 demolitions. And, glance at lower right for a look at Bickford’s, the long-dead restaurant chain.

Shuttered grindhouses on the New 42, 1990. A close look at the right side will reveal a look at a Knox Hats storeferont. The company was started by Irish immigrant Charles Knox…in 1848! Knox is now a part of Arnold Hatters on 8th Avenue near the new 42.

New 42 survivors. Eltinge (the “Empire” since 1954) Theater.Internet Broadway Database: Thomas W. Lamb, architect. Built by Al Woods (in 1912) and named for the female impersonator whose career made Woods’ fortune. Woods introduced a new seating system: “slender,” “medium,” and “stout” seats for patrons of all sizes. Woods lost the theatre in the depression and it became a burlesque house. By 1941, it was a movie house. In 1998, redevelopment of 42nd St. in full swing, the whole building was lifted, moved down the block, and transformed into the facade and entrance of the AMC multiplex cinema.

To the left of the Empire, we see the Liberty Theatre, which is even older dating to 1905, now absorbed as a part of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.


The ol’ razzle dazzle indeed. One of the last Howard Johnson’s restaurants held down the NW corner of Broadway and West 46th Streets for a good 4 or 5 decades until it succumbed, as we all must. (It was a block away from an artifact that was a good 80 years older — the J.A. Keal’s Carriage Manufactory sign on 47th Street, which has once again been hidden by masonry). Though there are still HoJos in Waterbury, CT and Lake Placid and Lake George, in NYC it is now left to the Amazing Mets to carry the orange and blue banner. Photos from August 2005.


With the incredible foot traffic and auto traffic in this area, you’d have to make quite the effort to not do very good business. I’d think that they simply got priced out…

The Howard Johnson’s sign depicts the old British nursery rhyme of Simple Simon meeting the pie man.

Above the old HoJo’s…but not for long…we find the remains of the old Orpheum Dance Palace (originally Wilson’s Dancing Academy), which entertained customers with “10¢ a dance” more-time-more-money taxi dance partners from 1917 to 1964. Here Henry Miller met June Smith, inspiring him to write Tropic of Capricorn. In the 1970s and 1980s the Orpheum’s 3rd floor was taken over by the New Paris Theatre, described by David Freeland in the NYPress thusly:

“The establishment’s set-up epitomized Times Square during its peak years of squalor: In between film screenings, a young woman lay on a mattress positioned in the middle of the stage. After a man in a towel entered and the couple had sex, a group of female employees would mill through the audience to solicit patrons for “private showings” in a series of back rooms … Screwillustrator Guy Gonzales recalls the New Paris as the sleaziest of Times Square porn palaces: ‘It smelled like decayed flesh in there, a lot of bodily fluids.’ ”

At length the New Paris closed and the legit whodunit Perfect Crime moved in. But the old Orpheum wasn’t completely de-sleazed, since the Gaiety male strip club occupied the second floor till the very end.

2006: only a small piece of the Orpheum remains, on the Broadway side. photo: Christina Wilkinson

Gaiety live show ad, 1981. Gone are the days when newspapers had all the big-splash movie ads at the top of the page and the postage stamp porn theatre ads at the bottom!


Clash on Broadway

Bond Clothiers, 7th Avenue between 44th and 45th. As Jim Naureckas explains in NY Songlinesphoto: Matt Weber

“From 1936 until 1942, Wrigley’s had a block-long sign here featuring giant neon fish and the “Wrigley’s Spearman.” This was replaced, from 1948 to 1954, by the Bond Clothiers sign, a neon spectacular that featured two 7-story nude figures (later clothed in neon after complaints from the Hotel Astor) and an actual waterfall with 50,000 gallons of recirculating water. Pepsi took over the spot, turning the giants into giant bottles, and an illuminated clock into a bottlecap.”

In May and June 1981 The Clash played a series of 17 shows at the old Bond’s; the second floor had been converted to a concert space. The Clash were just then revving up popularity in the USA, having released what amounted to 5 original albums’ worth of music in 2 years with London Calling and Sandinista! For the only time in my life, I was oblivious to the lack of air conditioning; in the incredibly packed hall the Only Band That Mattered ran through a catalog I then knew by rote. For some reason I remember the Bush Tetras opened. I don’t remember if it was early or late in the 17-show series.

45 & 46

Some streets north of Times Square provide questions to which I not yet have any answers…

A frame shop on West 45th Street caught my eye…the bit of script writing above the window on the second floor says “Kreinick’s.” Another very old NYC business that disappeared years ago and not remembered…till now? Who was Kreinick?

The same building displays an ancient painted ad: Eddy? and Olga’s Hairdresser.”

On 7th Avenue and West 46th is another relic: The I. Miller Shoe Store, with statues of 4 former leading laidies of Broadway in the 1920s. I discuss this building in Who Are Those Guys (and Gals) Part 4.

Your webmaster hasn’t explored the old Minnesota Strip area (8th Avenue between 42nd and about 50th) nearly enough; I got into a cursefest with a security guard at Worldwide Plaza one day as I attempted to photograph an outdoor sculpture. Now I carry a copy of Photographer’s Legal Rights and a copy of the MTA’s new position on photography (permitted all the time, which will probably not dissuade most cops, who do what their precinct captains say to do). Expect more glimpses from the old Deuce as the months go by.

Hell’s Kitchen, or as the real estate moguls would like you to call it, Clinton, is a fascinating oasis of peace just north of Times Square’s cacophony. I wandered down 46th Street in search of a peaceful scenario.

West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, just to the west of the theater district, is known as Restaurant Row; (9th Avenue is NYC’s capital of ethnic delicacies). It’s lined with Henry Bacon park lamps and still has much of its old 1870s-1890s brownstone buildings which fascinatingly contrast with the booming scene in midtown where new skyscrapers continue to rise.

This placid atmosphere is just a couple of blocks way from the New 42.

St. Clement’s Episcopal Church at 423 West 46th between 9th and 10th also serves as the home of Playhouse 46.


Down 42nd Street: Sex, Money, Culture, and Politics at the Crossroads of the World, Marc Eliot, Warner Books 2001
BUY this book at Amazon.COM

The Devil’s Playground : A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square, James Traub, Random House 2004
BUY this book at Amazon.COM

Ghosts of 42nd Street : A History of America’s Most Infamous Block, Anthony Bianco, HarperCollins 2004
BUY this book at Amazon.COM
©2006 Midnight Fish

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13 Responses to DEUCE (42nd STREET), Manhattan

  1. Shade Rupe says:

    Actually, the Liberty has been absorbed by three businesses, none of which are Madame Tussaud’s. The original entrance, and landmarked marquee statuary, are now both the rightmost entrance to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and the leftmost portion of the AMC Empire 25-plex. As you go down the escalator you can see the original torches of the Liberty in the windows facing 42nd street. The actual Liberty theater is still fully there minus the seats and curtains and all, but the proscenium and stage and balconies are there, now a part of Dave’s Famous BBQ. This section is open to patrons and you can sit in the orchestra seating area and look around you at the historic Liberty Theatre.

  2. I have to agree….i’m quite glad the porn and peep shows are gone. i remember there still being a few peep shows left up from port authority near a duane reade and ollie’s noodle house. i had not yet moved up here (nor married yet, i think), and i remember passing them in disgust. i hope they are gone and the buildings that housed them have been restored for better things.

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  5. Robert says:

    You might this photo interesting: West 42nd in 1966.

  6. W.B. says:

    When 46th between 8th and 9th Avenues was designated Restaurant Row in 1973, the signs indicating same were set with the same color scheme – white print on black background – as Brooklyn! Thus, the only color-coding never used on Manhattan streets was Queens’ blue-on-white. (Fashion Avenue, on Seventh between 26th and 40th Streets, used off-white background as Queens – but black type like Manhattan and Staten Island – from its 1972 designation thereas up to the 1981 sign replacements in Midtown.)

  7. Christopher Duquette says:

    As a naïve and confused hick from upstate NY, I trolled around Times Square at 18 yrs old in a outfit Dr. Ruben’s ‘Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex…” categorized as the “homosexual costume” of tight white t-shirt and tight jeans to get picked up by an unbeknownst to me male hustler/dancer who directed me to the stages of Gaiety Burlesque where I danced and hustled from 1976 – 1978. I write extensively about my experiences in Times Square (Howard Johnson’s fried clams and sundaes with “johns” in my book ‘Homo GoGo Man’ by Christopher Duquette available on DonnaInk and Amazon.

  8. Patty says:

    Now that we have the series The Deuce airing on HBO with the ever changing Jane’s Franco and a host of rare characters, your page should get a monstrous surge! Great information and photos!

  9. Patty says:

    Sorry, that enraging spellcheck! I meant James Franco.

  10. Mr. Fixit says:

    There should be streets where tourists fear to tread.
    Instead of Madame Tush-auds, there should be a Hooker Museum.
    Showing those wonderful costumes the gals used to wear. It could be 20 below and the pimp daddies sitting in their Cadillacs.
    But the girls in white leather hotpants and “ermine” chubbies out on the streets working their platform mules.
    It was really too wonderful.
    Now that we ensure that awful Comrade DiBlasio, and the NYC Police not giving a damn anymore, it’s good to see the working gals (and boys) starting to return to Times Square.
    At least they’re prettier than those herds from Indiana and wherever!

  11. Christopher Duquette says:

    In August, 1976, I was a sexually suppressed 18 year old young man raised in IBM suburbia whose only claim to fame was winning Prom King for my choreographed dance moves I acquired by studying ‘American Bandstand’ and ‘Soul Train’. I always wanted to be a go-go dancer, on display for the world to admire. On the day I escaped my parents’ scrutiny and claustrophobic home after they hastily discharged me at Stony Brook University, I chose to troll X-rated Times Square to satisfy my homosexual lust instead of settling into dorm life. I was quickly approached by a humpy Italian not much older than me, who gently introduced me to my first man-on-man sexual encounter with his experienced hands as professional male hustler. My one hour romantic affair changed gears as my new lover challenged me to follow his lead as a stripper on the stages of the Gaiety Male Burlesque, where I would satisfy the audience and Denise, the conservative Greek business owner, to become a regular dancer on weekends from school. I wrote about my experiences being mentored by street savvy coworkers at the Gaiety who guided me into fast paced lifestyle I apparently welcomed and succeeded at for two years, making more money than an 18 year old still in college knew what to do with, where and how to dress for success, where and how to take drugs, and became entitled to VIP treatment at the best high-end discos and entre to the most exclusive underground clubs, dancing to the best DJ’s and music, making me feel like my Prom King Trophy come to life.
    Homo GoGo Man: a fairytale about a boy who grew up in discoland, by Christopher Duquette was published by DonnaInk DP in Dec.2014, has sold well on,, and now at BGSQD. Internet attention to my book has brought me in contact with professionals to consult on disco articles, exhibitions and projects revisiting the hedonistic disco era. I will be reading the chapter “the Gaiety Burlesque” with a DJ accompaniment of the music relevant to that era, a technique I used in my book threading lyrics with my first hand experiences in iconic clubs from 1976 – 2004 driven by an insatiable appetite to dance in clubs for 30 years, and rely on drugs, until my arrested development caught up with me. Silver mylar curtains, a disco ball, the circular pattern of dance floor lights reminiscent of the Gaiety (or any iconic club you want to read about in my book) to make this book reading a full sensation experience will be held at the BGSQD bookstore on level 2 of the LGBTQ center on W13th Street, NYC, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, 7pm- 9pm. Reading starts at 7:30pm, lasts approximately 45 minutes, after which I will be happy to talk publicly and privately, until the LGBTQ center prepares to close at 9:00pm. Connect to for details, view my YouTube ‘Homo GoGo Man’ by Christopher Duquette, visit my Facebook page on Homo GoGo Man, tell a veteran of the iconic Gaiety Burlesque Theater of the event, or come to learn about a period in time that no longer exists. Homo GoGo Man is a play on words of the species ‘homo sapien’; the story is about a gay man avoiding his own extinction.
    845 337 7048,

  12. Thomas Andrews says:

    Does anyone recall a murder of a prostitute by a pimp around 1970’s-1980’s? She was organizing the others girls to leave the life if they wanted, and they killed her. Any also recall a girl killed while she was dancing in a peep show around the same time?

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