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Friday, February 18, 2011

Show World @12:27 am
Times Square

When I moved to New York in 1993, Times Square wasn’t as sleazy and skeezy as the ‘70’s or ‘80’s were, but it definitely had its spots. There were 24 hour triple-X movie houses, massage parlors, adult bookstores, strip clubs and one place had them all in one handy location: Show World.

Show World was the place I would always take friends who were visiting and had never been to New York and I wanted to show them a real slice of sleazy porno cheese. It was like a mall of porn. It was a multi-level building with peepshows, X-rated magazines, X-rated videos for sale, sex toys, sex dolls, and on one floor scantily clad women were standing outside of rooms divided into two with a wall of glass dividing the space. For a fee you could go in the room and then instruct the woman via a two-way phone to do whatever you wanted her to do with herself. I don’t know if you had to tip extra for really weird things, because I never employed the services of these women, they were too scary looking to even be in a room with a solid glass wall between the two of you. Half of them had needle tracks running up and down their arms and they looked like spaced-out zombie skanks, with dark grey circles under their glassy eyes.

It was always interesting and kind of creepy hanging out in there and seeing the different kinds of customers and bathing in the sometimes uneasy and awkward amibiance of a sex mall. It was exclusively male customers, I never saw a female customer in there once. But there were guys from every walk of life: High rollers in custom made suits, construction workers taking a break or indulging in some X-rated action before going home to the wife and kids out on Long Island, out-of-towners looking for some quick action in the Big Apple and even homeless guys who had managed to panhandle enough to afford a token for entry.

Well, in 1994, Rudolph William Louis “Rudy” Giuliani became the 107th Mayor of New York City. And he vowed to clean this city up. And XXX marked one of the spots that he decided to take his lily-white mop and bucket to and scrub it all away and turn Times Square into a sea of G-rated candy-coated glop. Strict city zoning ordinances were put in place and the porn and strippers and sex stores turned into a Disney Store, a Hard Rock Cafe and the world’s largest Forever 21 store. All of a sudden those track-marked skanks are looking pretty good to me.

I was thinking about this today and I remembered that one of the last hold-outs in the porno market in Times Square was Show World. I remember when the shit was going down and everything was being shuttered and turned into shiny new family-friendly outlets that they had escaped through a loophole back then. If I remember correctly they turned the top floor into an actual theater that hosted plays, music and comedy. This gave them status as a theater and I read the other floors retained the porn and the skeezy vibe. I haven’t been near Show World in years, because I try to avoid going near Times Square and seeing things like the world’s biggest Red Lobster restaurant and a Hershey Store as big as Macy’s, but I thought it might be a good destination for MAD. I’ve heard conflicting stories about whether it’s still open or not, so now my curiosity has got the best of me and so that’s tonight’s after dark destination. It’ll be really dicey getting photos inside (if by chance I get a picture with someone’s face, I will blur it out to protect identities), but at the very least I can get some photos of the outside and document it that way.

Okay, here we are at 30th and 8th, just about 12 blocks up and we'll be there.

Goddamn, these dollar pizza joints are really starting to get on my last nerve. And, yeah, I admit I eat at them now and again, but it always feels like you've raped your stomach when you're finished eating this slop.

Oh boy, now here's a welcome sight, Gray's Papaya. I love their hot dogs.

Hell yeah! And there's a little Papaya man working here that's really nice, and was really friendly, I'm going to eat this dog and see if I can get a photo of him.

I asked him for a photo and he stood up and posed for me. I kind of felt like we bonded at this moment.

Franks For Your Business!! Love the Grays Papaya!

40th and 8th, just about two more blocks and we're there.

Bright lights, big city, but is there still a Show World? Only about a block away and we'll find our answer.

Holy mother of bologna! It's alive!

Private booths, great, I know in there I can take photos. Looks like a promising evening indeed.

The burned out lights are perfect.

I found a little crack in the windows where I can take a picture inside at someone fishing through the porn. And if you look closely on the left: Unintentional Show World windw reflection shot!

I'm pushing my luck a little and taking a shot from the front door. This guy looks like he's really stocking up. He's going to really hand it to himself when he gets home tonight. Okay, I'm a little nervous to go in. I'm afraid I won't be able to get any pictures and that hotdog left me a little thirsty. I think I'll have a beer and put together a game plan.

Ha! I've walked less than a block and ran into one of my old 365 spots! Let's stop in and see if we know anyone in here.

There's a seat at the end of the bar with our name on it. Let's snag it.

And look, there's Tracy and John, looking even better than the last time we saw them! It was great to see them and I had a beer and worked up a game plan for Show World. I'd go to a viewing booth first, take some pictures in there and then try and take some pictures of the outside room.

And awaaay we go!

Okay, I made it into one of the viewing booths, that's the good news. The bad news is your dollar to watch a movie goes here, and there's...well...stains everywhere. Stains of what I like to call manonaise. This isn't an easy moment.

In fact I just had a flashback of this and I feel just a tad bit queasy. But, as they say, the show must go on. Luckily, even though it was warm outside today, I still have my gloves in my coat. I'll put them on and put a dollar in the machine and see what happens.

Okay, the movie has started but there's four going on at once and it's a little nerve-wracking.

Oh, I looked over here and see you have to pick which movie you want to watch by pushing a button. Boy, I really don't like touching stuff in here, even with a glove on my hand.

But these four movies all going at once are driving me insane. Okay, time to push the button, I'll throw the gloves away when I leave, winter's almost over anyway.

This is the one I chose.

She's cute, but a little bit of a trash taiker, I have to confess.

The plot line was a bit confusing, but I'm in agreement with these two fine fellows, she sure is one saucy vixen! Right after this scene the movie stopped. You only get about two minutes for a buck and that was fine with me, I really wanted out of this room. The stains and close quarters were starting to creep me out big time.

Okay, now I'm out in the main room. Show World has turned into a sad and dilapidated place of what it used to be. Just rows of X-rated DVD's, some magazines and a wall of sex toys. It was tough taking pictures because there's couple of security guys watching everything. I took this one with the camera at my side while pretending to browse.

Here's another shot, yeah I know it sucks, but what am I supposed to do under these conditions? At least I'm trying.

Here's a shot of the back of the room and some of the viewing booths back here. Oh shit, just as I took this someone yelled, "Hey, what are you doing?" Maybe they have wall cameras or something. I jammed the camera in my coat pocket and a burly Hispanic guy came running over to me. "What the hell are you doing?" he screamed at me. I just smiled, pointed to my mouth and ears and then gave him some fake sign language with my fingers, pretending to be deaf and dumb. "You get out of here!" He screamed, while pointing to the door. At least I got a couple photos, so I scrambled out the door and lit out into Times Square.

I walked aimlessly for a block looking at the pictures on my camera and laughing about what had just happened and when I looked up, what did I see but this. Holy smoking Jesus, there's just no escape. To quote Richard Hell: "Please kill me." Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.

I once pitched a Show World idea to my editor at Time Out New York when I used to do some freelance writing for them. They usually have some sort of theme to the issue (the first piece I ever wrote for them was about working a night job, I should’ve included that in yesterday’s post!) and one of the upcoming feature sections was going to be about the worst jobs in New York City. I laughed and told him I had a great idea.

The first time I ever went to Show World was about a month after I had lived in New York. I had heard about the place and walked by it, but felt weird going in alone. I was brand new to the city and was still in a little bit of a state of shock about living in New York City. But my older brother Jim came to see me after I was here for about a month and we tore the town up during his visit. One of the first spots we hit was Times Square and we went to all the sleazy joints. There used to be one store that billed itself as the largest XXX video store in the world a couple blocks from Show World near 8th avenue. The place was huge and we went in and started laughing at all the porno film names like: “Backsides to the Future,” “On Golden Blonde” and “Sperms of Endearment.” My personal favorite was one that simply billed itself as, “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Subtlety at its finest hour.

Anyway, we ended up at Show World half in the bag and we were goofing around.
We started watching guys going into video booths. They’d run in and then in a few minutes they’d run back out again all red-faced and heading towards the door, hoping good neighbor Sam didn’t see him after he had just polished the pope in a public pulpit. We noticed that as soon as a guy would rush out of the booth, a little guy with a mop and bucket would run over and mop the inside.

“Holy shitballs,” I remember saying to my brother, “that guy’s a fucking cum-cleaner!” And we both fell over in laughter.

Now if that’s not the worst fucking job in New York City, I don’t know what is.
I mean can you imagine meeting someone at a party or a bar and they ask you what you do? And you have to answer, “Oh, I clean up the cum over at Show World, but I just do it to pay the rent. I’m really a writer, honest, I’ve got a blog!”

So I pitched the idea to my editor to either go there and try to talk to a cum-cleaner or better still, maybe apply for the job and do an undercover piece about being a cum-cleaner at Show World. I told him if I could pull it off it could be a cover story.

I don’t remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect of, “You’ve got to be out of your fucking mind.”

Maybe that’s why I never got a staff-writing job there.

Show World
303 West 42nd Street
(212) 247-6643
Open 24 hours

Further reading: CBS News, City Room, Racked, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.


Never mind the forecast cause the sky has lost control,
cause the fury and broken thunder's come to match my raging soul,
now I don't believe I want to see the morning.


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Reader Comments (37)

LMFAO! This is the best post yet! Nice to see some sleaze is left in Times Square and you deserve a medal for finding it!

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarfly

Oh my God !

I don't know what to say ? ... it might be damn near impossible to ever top this post !

and the lines ... "This guy looks like he's really stocking up. He's going to really hand it to himself when he gets home tonight" ............. really cracked me up !


February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGENE

Times square was great back around 73 when I first went there. Yeah, hookers, pimps, hustlers, but you know what,,,,I kinda liked that scene, the danger and risk of it all. On every visit to NY every few years, it has gotten worse, the Disney crap and the commercial stores that are everywhere like the Gap. Last time up I went with a friend and we went to Glen's Neutral corner, one of the last old bars. But really, Rudy screwed the originality of Times Square and over sanitized it. There was no give and take with him, he went store to store, putting people out of business. I know some people will disagree but I hate that part of NY now. I stay away. Laura Nyro was an absolute angel, really loved her, her songs will live forever.

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAl

@Barfly: I don't need a medal, your comment is reward enough!

@GENE: I'm glad you got a larf out of this! And I know, this will be a tough night to beat, but I'll try!

@Al: I'm in total agreement with you about Times Square. I wish I could've seen it back in '73, that had to be wild back then. And I love Laura Nyro too, a great songwriter and singer. One of my favorites.

February 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

I'm going to write this LOUD!
(because I can't type in Sign Language)

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter"Boris"

damn type reflow.

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter"Boris"


February 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

Epic! Marty under cover. You're like a freakin' Geraldo Rivera going all investigative journalist up in here.

Here's a subject for your next exposé:

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNed Sparks

loved loved loved this! especially the magazine story. i wish they would've let you do it. were there any cum cleaners in there last night. and the little papaya man was cute!

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrita r.

Last time I was in a peep show(back home in SF) shop I walked away with free stuff.
seriously it's like they never had a group of twenty somehting (or younger)girls giggle and gaggle inside the booths..
and I'm sure that me and Tammy outside asking people to come in side and see the fun made their days.
We so played that visit up.
I got a free cat o nine tail and some Amil nitrate and a few magazines. I think Tams and Rach got leather things.
And then we went back to visit a few times.
that place was sooo much fun.
gross but fun.
Oh wait now you all think I am really wild huh...
OK shutting my mouth now.
should I admit we weren't drunk or on drugs.. just weird?
ok shutting up now..
this is the best post ever Marty...

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGidgie

You proud, brave, misguided bastard. You aren't going to used book stores to buy the latest zine. The Internet is for porn. (and I guess blogs, preferably about porn)
Blog away Don Quixote.

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercp

@Ned Sparks: I forgot all about that Eddie Murphy sketch, thanks for the link, it's a great one!

@rita r: No cum cleaners anywhere in sight, a real gyp! I guess that's why there's so many stains in there.

@Gidgie: Thanks! Do you remember the name of the place, sounds like a good time!

@cp: I hear you about the internet, but in my opinion it ruined porn. It makes it too easy to access and takes all the excitement out of it.

February 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

Of all your blogs, Marty, this one most lives up to all the classic old school stereotypical views of N.Y.C that non New Yorkers have from movies (especially the ones made in the early and mid seventies, like the classic scene where Travis Bickle takes Cybil Sheppard to a pornographic movie hoping to impress her character)...and this is your best post ever. I've been waiting for somthing like this!!! You need one of those hidden video cam hats or pens the proffesional reporters use for their expose's on T.V. The possibilities are endless for you. This is your BEST POST EVER!!! Oh, by the way I want to see a picture of you in your Jaws Jersey soon! TEN GOLD STARS...WITH A BULLET!!

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJaws the Cabbie

This is investigative journalism at it's finest! Pants( I mean Hats) Off to you Marty for this fine work!

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterProfessor Dungpie.

@Jaws: Thanks! And I promise to don the Jaws Jersey within a week!

@Professor Dungpie: Hooray, you're back! I'm glad you were finally able to post a comment here. I knew a porno post would drive you back!

February 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

Hey what the!! So far so good but I'm going to have to read the rest of this from home just to be on the safe side

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHandel

@Handel: Ha ha ha! I should've put a NSFW warning with it!

February 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

@Marty,If it's still there it was kitty corner to the Condor club on Broadway. Condor..wow that place was pretty wild...they had a piano that went up and down...WITH STRIPPERS!

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGidgie

yeah definitely glad I wasn't reading this at work haha. Wow, just wow. Awesome and gross at the same time. Definitely won't find one of those here! And great link @Ned

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkari

@Gidgie: Sounds like my kind of place!

@kari: Awesome and gross is an apt description, especially of the place when it was in it's glory. (Insert glory hole joke here.)

February 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

Was The Floor Sticky ?

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJHwang Soon to Be French

damn by the time i get home to post...it has all been said and more...it is gonna be hard (no pun) to top this...maybe MAD could do that tower after dark...that booth shot made my skin crawl...we are with you where ever you go...that sign language bit...wish i could have seen that...reminds me of a joke that ended sumthing like "fuck you you go milk the cows it's raining"...or close to that...


February 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterraginrr

@JHwang: I don't know, I didn't touch it. Hey, you're going to be married soon!

@rr: That booth was probably the most frightening place I've ever been in and I've been in some dicey joints in my day, as have you, I'm sure!

February 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

MAD...naw i've lived a very sheltered life...


February 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterraginrr

I will add this: just down the street on 8th ave is schnippers, a kitchen store, a la gentrification per Rudy. Well Schnippers is where the Terminal Bar was back in the seventies, the most notorious bar in the city. This sits right across the street from the Port Authority. You would never know it was ever there now, with this shiny modern building in its place. Go to youtube and type in "Terminal Bar NYC" and watch a short narrative about the guy who tended bar there and took thousands of pictures, very unique area and somewhat dangerous but a great little movie showing the seedy side.

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAl

AL...What a show....


February 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterraginrr

@Al: I agree with rr, thanks for cluing us in on that!

February 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

Holy crap. I love this post. Show World, porn and Gray's all in one night? Hard to top that.

February 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFat Al

@Fat Al: I know, I'm worried I've peaked already!

February 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

You know, I worked for an Italian resturanteur a couple of years ago, and one day someone complained that the candy machines in the foyer were jammed. He and I took them apart and found the mint machine had one of these stuck inside http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/98/Show_world_token_new_york_city.JPG
About six months later, on a Friday night, we were trying out a new waitress. A little silly, a lot blond, pushing 40 and thinking she was hot shit. She would take the orders and then hang out by the front door staring out the windows, watching traffic, and being all round loopy.
Finally my boss has had enough and he brings her back to the office which was right off the kitchen. He gives her $20 for the hours she has worked, then reaches in his desk and hands her the token and says " If you think that standing around and staring out of windows is your big talent, you better go here and see if they have some shifts for you."
I always wondered about Show World, but never took the time to research it. Thanks Marty.

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarty in Montreal
February 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercp

@Marty in Montreal: That story made my fucking day! Thanks!

@cp: Ha ha ha!

February 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

Wiener flashback! HA HA HA! You still gots it, Marty! You still gots it!

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBiff

@Biff: Thanks, Bifferoonie!

February 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

Great post Marty! I LOVED the 365 blog but I must say that the variety this one provides makes it even more interesting and fun to read,

Great job Marty!!

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTiki Bar Susie

lol Mother of bologna! Funny story Marty. I laughed.
I don't think those 99c pizza places were everywhere when I was in NYC in 2004. I certainly didn't venture into Show World! So gross..."Cum-Cleaner" LOL

I think the internet has ruined those types of places too.

March 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDarleya

@Darleya: Glad you got a larf out of that one! The 99 cent pizza craze started last year and these horrible places are multplying faster than the bedbugs out here!

March 22, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarty After Dark

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