Show World @12:27 am
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.”