8th Street exists in Manhattan in two distinct sections: from Cooper Square west to 6th Avenue, and from Avenue B east to Avenue D. (5th Avenue divides it East and West). An entire section, from Cooper Square to Tompkins Square Park is called St. Mark’s Place because of the nearby presence of St. Marks in the Bowery Church at 2nd Avenue and E. 10th Street).
For your webmaster West 8th from 5th to 6th is primarily known for the old 8th Street Playhouse, which ran indie and cult classic movies. Perhaps best known in its latterday era for running “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” each Friday and Saturday nights for 15 years, it opened in 1929 and closed in November of 1992.
Indeed the loss of the 8th Street Playhouse was a sad one, and only part of the beginning of the dismantling of the cool, weird, dark, fun & sometimes dangerous New York City that somehow started to vanish 10 or so years ago (give or take 2 or 3 years). When I moved to New York in the mid 1980s one of the first experiences I had was seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the 8th Street Playhouse. Sal Piro and the freaky 8th St. Playhouse cast, needless to say, were amazing! This was the one and only time I have seen Rocky Horror on the big screen, and it just about embodied everything I came to New York for: to be in the midst of a total wierd freak show. At that time I would have never imagined that the 8th Street Playhouse as well as the Rocky Horror midnight show cast would vanish forever. Those guys had been at it for over ten years at that point and the theater was great in itself. How the hell could something so great be shut down forever? cinematreasures
McDougal just south of 8th. I was struck by the Futura Condensed lettering, the red, white and blue motif and the straightforward presentation.
My favorite scenes in Manhattan are perpendiculars, where a street comes to an end at a cross street. It’s quite likely you’ll find interesting architecture in these places, which are relatively rare on the island because of the grid system.
8th used to feature a lot more head shops, which sold drug paraphernalia and even some of the illegal stuff in the back. You can still find them on West 3rd, but they’re gradually vanishing; as the above quotation from cinematreasures says, the “cool, weird, dark & fun” NYC is gradually fading away. (Perhaps we can bring some of that back, without the crime, but perhaps “cool” and dangerous” are Siamese twins that can’t be separated.) 8th Street still has townhouses of which the second floor is given to advertising what’s on the ground floor, which makes for interesting occasional walks as the “exhibits” are changed. Most of the record stores (such as Venus Records) I practically lived in on West 8th in the Everlovin’ Eighties have left (as has the vinyl I used to take home) but there are still a few comix stores. The clothing sold on 8th isn’t for costume parties: some Village women wear these outfits everyday. By the way, St. Marks Place east of Cooper Square remains much the clothing/music mecca that it has always been.
At 8-12 West 8th we have the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, which has been the Gertrude Whitney residence and later, the first Whitney Museum. It goes all the way back to 1838.
The NYU residence hall (11/1/07: I’m told New School), the Marlton House, across the street from The New York Studio School is marked with a plaque indicating it was the birthplace of Ecuador’s president rom 1948-1952, Galo Plaza Lasso (1906-1987), who later became secretary general of the Organization of American States.