I’ve been holding off on this post for a while, for no real good reason, other than I knew I couldn’t do it justice with a write-up. But for 2018 my goal is to NOT let that get in the way of getting posts up. And with that in mind, I give a few glimpses of what was left of the Show World Center in the late 2010’s.
But our story starts way back in summer 1998, on the very first night I was in NYC. I had been hired by what genetically is still the company I work for in May of 1998, tied to a “corporate” project that promised to take me to Boston, New York City, etc many, many times (how could I say no?). Turns out I went to Boston exactly once (the week BEFORE I officially started, but that’s another story); however New York (or actually New Jersey, where the then global HQ was) did happen many, many times (and still is). I had always dreamed of being in NYC, of even living there. Back in high school I’d even attempted to develop a scheme by which I’d go to college in NYC (looking at you Cooper Union), but looking back I should probably be thankful that didn’t pan out (I probably wouldn’t have survived).
So it finally came to pass that on July 25, 1998 I stepped of the NJ Transit train in Penn Station NYC and made my way to the same bright light that all cloth-eared corn shucking moths from the flyover states head straight into: Times Square…except that I couldn’t. Because as you may, or of course probably don’t, remember, earlier that week (Tuesday to be precise) a big load of construction stuff (scaffolding, temporary elevator, etc) started raining from the side of the under-construction Conde Naste building, killing at least one person, and causing a good deal of the Times Square area to be shut-down for several days. When I got there that Saturday I could only peer into that great bright square from afar, although 42nd Street wasn’t closed so I did get to walk down it as the last bits of the 70’s and 80’s grime and grind houses came down (this being long before I had a camera on my phone or took one around with me, damn it!).
But I was in NYC, in(ish) Times Square at any rate, FINALLY. So, where’s the smut? Being a young, single, all-american guy that was of course on the top of my list to find what was left of that old Times Square from Midnight Cowboy and dozens of other films and books and articles I’d dreamed over for years. Turns out, not all that much, but just enough. As you make your way up from Penn St on 8th towards the Theater District you couldn’t help but run smack-dab in to the Show World Center, something I’d remembered distinctly from “Taxi Driver”. And there it was, in all its neon glory! It was still there, and a month of Sunday School lessons wasn’t going to keep me from seeing what Adult Disney World was in side those doors (yes, that allusion to the rape and gutting of NYC by Disney was intentional). And guess what? It was all there. And I mean ALL of it. Whatever you’ve imagined about one of the peepshow joints in Times Square was there…but only for another few hours it turns out. While I was exploring the cavernous lair, trying not to get an air-born STD or something worse, just looking, not partaking of course (honest, there was just too much to comprehend, and I wasn’t about to find myself in a cesspool of my own whatever this early in the game). There were the tapes (this was 1998 after all, no DVDs really yet), there were the magazines (of all sizes, ages, flavors, shapes, fetishes…I could go on), there were the video peep booths (with the same sordid array of offerings as the mags), and then there were the Live Nude Girls. Yep, they existed. And as that I was that very young (25 was still young back then, ok?) single, all-american, and god-fearing guy from a fly-over state I was terrified of that. And of course I thought I had plenty of time and would have plenty of chances to talk myself in to diving down that rabbit hole of filth.
But, as I said before, it turns out that the big curtain was already beginning to fall on all that even as I stood there in bright eyed bewilderment at all the debauchery on the menu before me. And I mean that literally. I bet Giuliani’s storm-troopers were already in their precinct meeting rooms mapping out the events of the next several hours and days even as I stood there in Show World. Because that very night was the last night a lot of that world existed. As is (or was as of May 2017) still noted deep within the
bowels of what’s left of Show World, “Since July 25, 1998 they have had NO LIVE GIRLS”. (I think there’s some irony because I’ve heard that even back then not all of them were “girls”…)
I escaped Show World without either loosing too much of my salvation or my money, and went about exploring what I could of the rest of the Times Square area (there were still several more peeps around back then). My greatest fear that evening (and this shows just how naive I was), was that I’d miss the last train back to NJ. Can you believe THAT was what I was most worried about? I mean, Times Square, and most of Manhattan today is as safe, or even safer, than Disney World, but back then Giuliani hadn’t fully implemented his full fascist regime so there were still a lot of seedy and dangerous areas, even, or maybe especially, around mid-town. But bumpkin me was worried I’d miss my train. So I made it back to Penn St in time to get the next to last train, or so I thought. But it was a weekend schedule, which was slightly different than the weekday train scheduled I’d picked up (yep, they were still printed back then, no phones to look-up on), and so I of course missed that one. So I had roughly an hour before the last, last train, so what to do…well that’s another story for another time. For now lets peer into what’s left of Show World, at least over the last year or so (2016-17).
First we have some outside shots. These are from May 2017. The first five are from 8th Ave and the final two are from the side entrance on 42nd Street. So you can go in the front on 8th, wind your way through a maze of mags and DVDs, then through a warren of peeps, and suddenly find yourself dumped out on 42nd Street. And at one point Show World covered four floors of the building…oh what that must have been like…
Next we have some inside shots, again from May 2017. The first shot is from the bookstore wing looking into (what was) the warren of peep booths, or where they used to be. I’d never seen so much light in that area, and it appears they’ve ripped the booths out all together now. The owner of Show World, Richard , died about a week before this, and it looks like whoever took over didn’t waste any time in starting the next great era for Show World, whatever that will be (again, I haven’t been back to NYC since May, I’ll post an update once I get back and see just how bad they’ve gutted the place. UPDATE post here, and it ain’t good). You can also see in two of the shots remnants from “Times Scare“, which was put into the front of old Show World theater (more on that in a bit). And finally I took a quick snap of the mens-only book selection, mainly because it looked like it had been sitting there, untouched, since Show World opened in 1976.
These two shots are from 2016 inside the peep-booth area, and show what isn’t allowed in Show World…
And now we come to the old front entrance of Show World, which had been converted into the afore mentioned Times Scare. Times Scare didn’t last but a few years, and as of May 2017 the entire front portion was closed. I added a shot from Show World’s glory days so you can see what it once was, and what it now is (looks like Times Scare’s idea was to cover everything in black or gray paint, ooooo scary).
Finally we have what I consider the single most nightmare inducing room I have every been in, and that is not just cheap hyperbole my friend. There is (or maybe was), a room tucked away behind the peepbooth area, but apparanlty still open to the wondering adventurer, which was obviously a relic from the 70’s/80’s when Show World had live shows (not just Live Girls) and themed rooms. This, I’m guessing, was one of those themed rooms (probably part of the Big Top Theater you can see mentioned in the picture above). Its dark, only lit by the small lights you see, has what I believe is a circus or carnival theme, and has little, evil looking CLOWN DOLLS looking down at you! I do not want to know what particular fetish this room was developed to quench. But I do hope its still there ,because I’m crazy like that and something this freakin bat-shit crazy deserves to survive, although something tells me its probably not…