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There’s a Halloween House of Horrors thing in New York called Nightmare: New York. This year, it’s focusing on the 80s, including a 1980s subway. And I’m like, oh please. Here’s what they say about it.
What are they talking about? First of all, they’re conflating the 70s and 80s.
Really, when you talk about the shit-show that was New York, you mean the 70s. Yes, the 80s had crack, and lots of crime-and-neglect goodies left over from the 70s, but the 70s were the true Death Wish era. The time when you could go to D’Agostinos and get followed home, raped and beaten to death by Jeff Goldblum playing a Puerto Rican.
If you don’t know Death Wish, have a look.
I guess I’m splitting hairs. My beef with this horror show is that, whether you call it the 80s or the 70s, New York before Giuliani became mayor was a freaking WONDERLAND. The most fun place ever.
People say that like it’s a bad thing. I used to love the hookers. My dad would say, “How would you like to take a ride in the car and look at prostitutes” and I’d say “Yay!” and we’d drive down 11th Avenue, spotting them and pointing. “There’s one! She’s not even wearing pants or a skirt!”
There was even a brothel on the Upper West Side, above Zabar’s. I loved it when my dad came home from getting the Sunday Times at the 79th Street news stand saying he’d been “solicited.”
Places to play.
Video games, I mean. Not these “green spaces” they keep creating. I could go to my favorite store, Baronettes – it was just a card shoppe, yup, double-p-e, but to us kids, it was a magical place worthy of its own blog post so I won’t go far into detail. Let’s just say I could go from playing Donkey Kong and Tempest upstairs at Baronettes, to Galaga and Ms. Pacman at Twin Donuts, to Pengo and Tron at the record store, which is where the cute boys from Collegiate (an all-cute all-boys school) hung out. Bonus.
[UPDATE: It’s Baronet, not Baronettes, but I always misspell it so it stays.]
And when I went, I went by myself.
My mother was giving me bus maps and money for my own NYC “kid in the city” adventures as soon as I was 10 years old. “Have fun skating at Rockefeller Center,” she’d say. “And here’s a little extra cash for hot chocolate.” And then I’d take a different bus – that’s how independent I was – down to Times Square, and play that money at the slots. Right, more video games.
There were actual “arcades” then. They were dangerous places, where creeps rubbed up against you, but as long as they didn’t make me mess up at Centipede or Space Invaders, more power to them.
Madonna and her artist pals.
She was everywhere, handing out her demo at Danceteria, snuggling with Basquiat…I only know this from pictures, but I’m sure I just missed bumping into her every time I took the #5 bus downtown and wandered from Canal Jeans to Antique Boutique to 8th Street looking for clothes that would make me look “punk.” (Didn’t work.) In today’s Manhattan, you’d have no chance of running into such creative people. They moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn long ago, and then to Bushwick because Williamsburg’s too expensive, and now to Queens because ditto Bushwick.
Here’s what you do see now in New York, and what I think the horror show should be.
2000-Present: The True New York Nightmare
For Halloween effect, add “Of Horror” to each of these scary features.
The Douche Belt
That’s what I call the ever-widening, ever-lengthening Highline/ Meatpacking District. Where douches of all nations come to buy what they could buy online and bully Maitre D’s into giving them an outdoor table.
The Bro Hive
Have you ever walked past the Biergarten of The Standard at Little West 12th Street? As you approach from blocks away, you can hear the buzzing. Get up close and it’s downright deafening. It sounds like a swarm of bees took over a PA system, but it’s actually the noise of bros yelling “BRO!” and dudes yelling “DUDE,” and high-fiving and chest bumping to impress girls who want to work in, like, PR? or fashion? and who pronounce it “liiiihhhke, peeee-ahhhhhhhrrrrr? or fash-uhhhhhhhhhhhh….n?”
Slow-Moving Funky Earring Mob
Ever try to walk between Broadway and West Broadway on Prince Street on a Saturday? In the 70s, this area used to be desolate. No one in the streets but an artist’s dog roaming off the leash and taking a steaming dump on the cobblestones that no one would bother to pick up, because no law said they had to (I am pro-Pooper-Scooper Law, BTW).
Now, good luck moving faster than an inch a minute, unless you literally push people. Which I will. I have to yell “Excuse me! Pardon! Excuse-moi” (remind me to learn what it is in Mandarin) and shoulder-check people who barely notice, they’re so enthralled by the vendors selling funky earrings. The best way to get their attention is to bump their Victoria’s Secret shopping bags. Then, they look up like, “How dare you! ”
Sex And The City Cupcake Eaters
The line at Magnolia. Still. “Hey, I’m totally a Charlotte! I believe in love! Take a picture of me with buttercream frosting on my teeth!” I mean…
I haven’t even seen this line, but I know that nobody I like or would like to meet is waiting in it.
I have friends who are moms of multiples, so I won’t begrudge them the right to their doublewides. Do they all have to walk side by side, though? I know moms always did this, and everyone needs friends. But don’t deny that strollers have gotten HUGE. I think the one my parents pushed me in was half a tote bag between two wire hangers, with roller-skate wheels.
And now, every stroller is accompanied by not just the mom, but also a nanny, a baby nurse with the newborn, a Mandarin tutor, a gluten allergy specialist, and an older sibling who, in my day, would be off on his or her own playing video games among the perverts.
Because of greedy landlords. “Sorry, your excellent bakery can’t move in here, because we’re keeping it empty until a boring bank coughs up the ridiculous price per square foot we’re demanding. Unless you’d like to use it for a horrendous Halloween popup store. You guys sell wax lips?”
See above. These are no fun to walk past. What’s to look at? Dear Obama, can’t we just have a universal ATM plan, where there’s one on every corner and it doesn’t charge a fee or lead to identity theft (like the bodega ones do)?
Times Square Characters
That used to mean junkies, hookers and pimps. Yay! Now, it means people in Elmo costumes who hate Jews. I’m too lazy to look it up, but google “antisemitic Elmo.” You’ll see.
Boo! Happy Premature Halloween!
New Yorkers: What did I leave out?
Non New Yorkers: Why aren’t you scared of New York anymore? Wait, that’s rhetorical. Real question: have you seen horrifying changes where you grew up?
Or, whatever else you want to say…
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
You nailed it on the head..! NYC is over, sadly.
Frat-tards and sorority c*nts ruined it.
The turds of the world.
May they inherit nothing.
Wow really great. I moved to the Pacific NW in 1992, at the height of the Dinkins years in 1992. My parents were both NYC natives, as were my grandparents and great grandparents. My mother, who lived in London, and would visit us in Portland, sniffed at Seattle, and San Francisco, and famously asked me if there was a pharmacy in Portland before she came out.
Things I think are quintessentially old New York:
1. Three card Monty
2. The summer of the Son of Sam
3. The police Junk yard and the area under Brooklyn Bridge that is now DUMBO. You could still see intact Civil War era warehouses down there, virtually untouched. You got the Junkyard by scaling around the fence over the East River, where police holsters, license plates and helicopter parts were junked.
4. Delmonicos and The New York Stock Exchange , when you could get inside to see them without having to go through a metal detector.
5. New York New York, the Copa and Studio 54.
6. the old Port authority Bus Terminal- unrivalled for people watching
7. old Prospect Park
Thanks for keeping thisw up. I miss it, and its like a vanished world.
Cigarettes in the vending machines on the dimly lit subway platform that you got on with a token. Or a paper school pass you needed to flash to the booth guy.
F Stop says
i’ve noticed, having lived here for all of my 64 years that the city seems to change, in a big way every seven years. i’ve seen my share of changes over the years and i roll with it. i’ve seen the shitty 70’s, the crack head 80’s, the sweet innocence of the sixties, the fuck it all 90’s, and the “i’m in media” 2000’s…..the city is a living thing. it changes. it grows and shrinks. it always has. this is nothing new. read some early new york history books and you’ll read that old time new yorkers had the same gripes that i read about here. nothing stays the same. it used to be better back “whenever”…..blah, blah, blah…..for me, the absolute best part of new york is that it’s not gonna be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday. if i wanted that kind of life i’d move to the suburbs. new york is great because it makes you angry as hell one day and the next you can’t imagine how you could ever live anywhere else.
I’m so happy that I got a chance to live in NYC for a brief time in ’84 so that I have a reference for these amazing recollections. I remember finding things on the sidewalk and wearing them, like red fishnet stockings. Gross, right? I did wash them extremely well first. I was so in love with being in New York, so different from my Southern California upbringing that I was strangely thrilled about seeing the aftermath of a shooting in the East Village or someone taking a public dump in the West Village. It was all a wonderland to me, exotic and exciting.
Joe Choi says
I remember driving into the city with my parents and the squeegee men who used to clean your car windshields and then tap on your windows for cash.
I also remember lots of homeless people peeing and crapping in the alleys.
A lot has changed since then…
Justin Dragonas says
Things I miss:
1)Alphabet City. The noobs know it as the east village. As a white kid in the 80’s you couldn’t really go east of A without some form of a confrontation. Kind of fun. Like Indiana Jones searching for a mythological bag of good weed.
2)Washington Square Park when most people were scared to sit for longer than 5 minutes. The rasta’s that tried to sell fake weed were legendary.
3)The spinning cube next to cooper square was an awesome thing when we were wasted and we would spin it and laugh. I haven’t seen anyone try that in 10 years.
4)The bowery. It was awesome. Scary and awesome. CBGB’s had the best weird shows.
5)The west side highway when it was still elevated was an amazing place to see tranny prostitutes by the busload.
How much for a bro-job was the line.
6)The meatpacking district was exactly that. And at night some great bars and some even greater fights.
7)Williamsburg was where junkies would end up squatting in those buildings on Broadway adjacent to Peter Luger. I shot a movie in one of those buildings a few years ago. Price tag on the apartment: 12 Million. In brooklyn. Crazy.
Jeff Blanks says
I guess there’s a single question underlying all this: Do we really have to choose between a place that’s “alive” but unsafe and declining on one hand and a place that’s safe but conformist and conservative on the other? Romanticizing the smell of urine in the streets just plays right into the hands of people like Rudy Giuliani. If you make people choose between Unsafe But Alive and Rudy Giuliani, sooner or later they’ll choose Giuliani–and once they choose Giuliani and find the streets are safe, the jig is likely up. There is NO REASON it ought to have to come to that.
OTOH, I’m from “boring suburbia” (ATL, no less), so what do I know?
Rachal gerrardthe says
I’m from England and first visited NYC in 1987, I was 21 and this was my birthday present to myself. I arrived in the city by bus and as soon as it stopped and I got off it felt like home. I loved the city and there was plenty going on,walking along 42nd street towards times square I saw the pimps, guys playing card games for money on top of cardboard boxes so that they could just kick them into the gutter if the cops came, “find the lady” I heard the guy say with his hand full of dollars, I saw cops pushing guys up against the wall, spreading their legs….this is what I came to see and I loved it. The city was exciting, I walked all over the place from the battery through China town, the Bowery….I have returned many times and stayed in Brooklyn with a friend for a couple of months and even I have seen how its changed, how much safer it is on 42nd street and how everyone and everything with any individuality or character had pushed out into the city limits – this happens everywhere you go sadly. I loved your piece and despite these changes I still think you live in the best city in the world
Good read..brings back memories..I feel very fortunate to have spent my teen years in New York during the eighties it was definitely an experience unable to be duplicated. I remember going into the kit kat klub in times square when I was 13 even bought a t shirt and felt proud wearing it the next day at school. Also the last cars of the subway at night were reserved for smokers and drinkers. Good times..
Tanya Gallo says
I completely agree Jordan and I love your blog posting on this Laura. I also grew up in the Village in the 70s and 80s. I miss old NYC every single day. My friends and I talk about it all the time and mourn so many places but also just the atmosphere in which we grew up. And the freedom! Yes! The old bowlmar is where we use to play video games, and rollerskating at the Roxy on the week-ends, Rocky Horror picture show at 8th st Playhouse. You killed me with Flip and Andy’s Chee-pees. Being a kid in NYC back then was the best. The city was filled with humanity- in all its ugliness and beauty. And thats what a city should be. Laura- thank you. And the comments are awesome, it helps to know so many of us feel this way who grew up here. BTW- Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 is at BAM tomorrow. Remember when they would show it every month on Big Apple movie channel 5 at 6pm on Sundays. One of the best NYC movies of all time.
Jordon Ferber says
This is great. I grew up in the Village during the 80’s, and while I didn’t venture out of that area much on my own until I started having to take the train uptown for HS, I was pretty much loose on the grid from the age of 10. My dad always told me to be careful if I went to Washington Sq. after dark. I loved walking up and down St. Marks place and being amongst what seemed to me to be a willing homeless population.
Almost all of my favorite restaurants and bars in the area have closed only to be replaced by luxury condo’s and banks. 2nd Ave Deli (the new one uptown is NOT the same, and the owner (a cousin or nephew of the original owner I think) is a huge asshole. Ceder Tavern. Kims Video. Mars Bar. Bowery Poetry Club.
But beyond the closure of these places, is the loss of the real freedom you had in the city. We didn’t give a shit and that was fine.
Frank Newcomer says
First apartment was a sublet, 56th and 9th, and on my first subway ride to my first day of work I crammed into a subway train and it lurches off when all of a sudden the braying of a woman hollered, “Oh my god he’s dead and he’s on my shoulder.” And I looked and a woman in her sixties had this man’s dead head on her shoulder the car was too crowded for him to fall and she was screaming get him off, get him off and staring at me and some guy yelled, “He’ll fall when we get to Times Square.” And sho’nuff the car screeched to a halt at Times Square and everyone got out and woman shrugged him off her shoulder like a stole and he dropped dead in front of me and I couldn’t believe what I was about to do but I was too afraid to be late for my first day at work in the Big City and stepped over him and ran out. But I never got on a Subway for another year, convinced I see his body, but stripped like a Chevy Imapala on the West Side Highway.
“Like a stole.” Brilliant. And the best excuse I’ve heard to take taxis, forever.
Bleecker Street Cinema. Rocky Horror Picture Show and Celeb sightings- Philip Glass for one.
Food (Restaurant) in Soho-when Soho still had artists and wasn’t totally corporate-and more celeb sightings-Richard Gere(taller than I’d imagined when he was dating some artist chick); Madonna-preening in torn jeans and bangles one month before her first hit record dropped. Nobody noticed her.)
Daves Luncheonette on Canal Street for egg creams.
Liz DiAlto says
what I love about your blogs is that without fail there is always at least one line that makes me actually LOL.
“I think the one my parents pushed me in was half a tote bag between two wire hangers, with roller-skate wheels.”
I love when you quote me, DiAlto. xo
Jeff Selbst says
I moved to New York in 1979. Found a listing for a one-BR in the Village across the street from the theater that showed Rocky Horror every midnight. I couldn’t afford the rent, but the apartment broker was a practicing witch who had a shop over on Bank Street. Not a Wicca-type witch, a black-cone-hat and wart-on-the-nose type who did brokering because she was not making enough money from spells and potions. She took a liking to me though and offered (for free!) to cast a spell on the landlord and get him to reduce the rent from $550 to $450, which I could just afford. She called me at work two days later, crowing that her spell had worked and I was in! A long time later I learned that the landlord was her ex-husband and she’d threatened him by the balls. Ruined my belief in the occult forever.
That is a fantastic story. I want to have told it myself.
David Sarno says
I spent time in all the places you mentioned and I NEVER saw you in any of them…something is fishy.
Yes you did, Sarno. You probably just knew me as “Marian’s older sister.” Or maybe you weren’t old enough to hang out there when I was still hanging out there. Baby.
Girls from Brearly didn’t play games with us all-cute Collegiate boys. Well, not video games. We had to take turns at the laundromat with the kids from PS 87.
They probably didn’t like how you spelled Brearley.
But you’re right, those girls weren’t into video games. I was still a Calhoun kid when I was playing them.
You should see how I butcher Nightingayle Banford.
The 70’s was the real deal . 80’s got the leftovers . Getting busted every other weekend , rikers island , 42nd st peep shows with the sticky floors , trashy subways with aroma of urine . City parks all drug supermarkets . Anything you want when ever you want . Ahhh those were the days my friend
I missed out on getting busted every other weekend. And the sticky floors – never went inside. But I would’ve if I’d known they were going to disappear!
I shouldn’t say that, there are still some left and someone might call my bluff.
The cronut line….you said that no one you like or would like to meet is waiting IN it. Um, here in NYC, don’t you mean, waiting ON it? Ain’t no real New Yorker waiting IN line. Other than that, yeah, this is a cronut-free zone.
That’s my grammar nazi side warring with my native NY-er side. I wait in lines. Especially now that online means something else.
I don’t really get why people miss the old dirty new york. It sucks that we can’t afford to live in Manhattan anymore really, but I don’t miss not feeling safe anywhere. I was to poor to take taxis so I had to take the subway but I was constantly scared. Plus I lived far away from the subway stop so I had to walk through some scary ass streets to get home. I got mugged several times, nearly got raped and for a long time just hated New York. I don’t live there any more but the last time I went I visited friends who now live in Williamsburg and it’s great! We could actually walk home at night and not risk being mugged or harrassed by some random crazy drugged up person. I miss the small independent shops and it would be great if there were certain streets or spaces earmarked, with cheap rent, for small places like that. But I certainly don’t miss the hookers, the random ugly graffiti tags everywhere, the fear of being left on a subway car or platform with only one other person or all alone, or leaving a party early because staying late would mean risking having to walk down an empty street alone be mugged. Or telling my friends from London to not come, because frankly, it’s not a safe city. Old New York had some great things but most of the time it sucked and was unsafe for a young woman to live in. I prefer it today, sure, there may be a Duane Reade on every street corner but I’d rather have that than a drugdealer on every corner.
You’ve got a point about the safety. Though I really liked the hookers.
And the graffiti.
And I like your idea about earmarking spots for independent shops. They should do that.
See your point. What boro & neoghborhood did you come from?
Buying weird surplus thingamabobs on Canal Street, and making disposable sculptures glued to Soho streetlamps. Living on Wooster Street for free because the guy living there owed the building owner an assload of money, was paying off the debt by fixing the building for him, and I knew how to do drywall. There was a leather tannery and a wholesale fish market next door, with flies the size of pterodactyls. Going to City College, walking across the bridge to save a bus fare, and seeing the Tactical Narcotics Task Force with automatic weapons leveled at a dozen guys spread up against the wall. When Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing was a huge shithole, before the Korwan and Chinese immigrants made it prosperous, and seeing a film at RKO Keiths for $5. Driving a bakery truck for work through Hunts Point, where for the hookers, clothing was completely optional. How I miss the good old days.
This is all just excellent. WHO ARE YOU??
(I am a fan of the HBO documentary “Hookers At The Point.”)
Just a 50-something post-punk hippy witch who moves down NYC sidewalks like the smooth stone at the bottom of a rapidly flowing stream, letting it all glide by with utmost serenity and inner calm.
Regarding Death Wish let’s not forget that not only will they follow you home from D’Agostino’s,kill your wife and rape your daughter, they will also do a spray paint graffiti piece on her ass.
That’s if you tip extra.
I’m sure I rubbed up against you playing asteroids at the arcade on B’way around 46th, you saw me breakdancing outside of Port Authority or possibly snatched the last button from the counter of Andy’s chee-pees because my haircut at Astor Place ran a little long…bitch.
As long as we’re complaining though, HoJo in Times Square, diners with full bars and bodegas in alphabet city…that is all.
Breakdancing Pervert, is that you??
Andy would sometimes tell me, “those jeans make your butt look fat” when I came out of the dressing room. Gotta love the honesty.
While you were getting your haircut, I got the last button from Flip, too.
I was a member of the HoJo’s Birthday Club. Once a year, they gave you your own coconut cake.
Great post! I remember going into NYC to visit my Grandfather at work at the “Pan-Am” Building and my Grandmother walking us through Times Square telling me not to read the names on the Marquees for the Theatres. I guess it was Guliani (sic) who really gentrified Manhattan and it’s spreading bout at an alarming rate!
Thanks for the post. It was a walk down memory lane!
Sex Ed in school didn’t teach me half as much as just reading those marquees.
And now?!?! Fugeddaboutit!
PEEP SHOWS at Hell’s Kitchen! Yeah!
Bums just laying in the street!
That made me laugh. Especially that it bled off the page.
And don’t forget the gold chain snatchers.
Window washers who didn’t actually leave your windows cleaner than when they started at every light
Hookers EVERYWHERE, not just on W 11th. Park Ave in the 30s, Madison in the mid to upper 50s, Little India, etc.
Graffiti everywhere, even on people’s cars.
Car theft in abundance, where cars would be left up on cinder blocks after having their tires and radios stolen, if they even left the car.
Those were the days!
Oh yeah, all the “NO RADIO” signs in car windows.
The Park and 30th hookers were still there till the past 10 years or so, as that area became “NoMad.”
As a freshman art student at Rutgers in the late 1970’s, it was mandatory to hop the train and go into NYC almost weekly to see shows at various galleries in the Village, or uptown at the Met or “Guggie”. It was always thrilling and disgusting, the subways rancid and filthy, the streets dirty and grubby. I would go alone, many times, always watching over my shoulder and a little scared. I always managed to get lost, but then I would find some cool alleyway or hidden boutique. I loved the hookers and Times Square was crawling with drug dealers, “Acid?” “Coke?” “H?” Not at all like my safe NJ suburb. It felt dangerous and SO ALIVE!
I was never old enough during those times to get offered Acid, Coke, H. Which I found disappointing, because I was old enough to know about them from the book Go Ask Alice and be obsessed.
Kathy Giaimo says
I recently celebrated my 30th anniversary as a NYer (moved her from elsewhere). How about the cleansing of Coney Island? Yes, the cleaner beach is welcome, but the bawdy tawdry glory is mostly gone. Still some freaks and weirdos around but it’s getting “malled” and corporatized.
I haven’t been since they cleaned it up. I really liked it when you could go and buy a Yo Amo Jesus t-shirt there.
uzi born and bred in manhattan says
I don’t miss the bad old days of getting mugged. I was 12 in the bicentennial year and raised on the upper west side. It was assumed the city was going the way of detroit. It was dangerous, dirty, dogshit everywhere, the parks were avoided after dark as were side streets, the subways were very disgusting and free of ventilation. There was a reason why hundreds of thousands of families left the city. There’s little to romanticize. Losing the feeling of safety is the beginning of civic collapse. I infinitely prefer thic lovely city to the alternative path, which was detroit-on-hudson. And oh yeah, I used to go to baronet and twin donut too to play asteroid and galaga etc. Got mugged three times on the way home. And I thank god for giuliani (and I’m agnostic…)
I think there’s plenty to romanticize. But not the crime, if we’re being honest. And not the dog shit.
Though with the more-entitled-than-ever population here, the dog shit is making a comeback.
My stint in NYC was 1974 to 2002. Sure, I feel a strong sense of nostalgia for 70s New York, but I absolutely agree that anyone who romanticizes the pre-Giuliani NYC either wasn’t born yet, didn’t live there then, is brain-damaged, or perhaps an out-of-work pimp, dealer, goombah, or squeegee operator. It was so ridiculously unsafe, decaying, filthy, smelly, impoverished—trust me kiddies, that didn’t make it hip or cool or artsy. I can understand hating on the over-the-top sterilization and gentrification that’s wiped out the hardscrabble old NYC, but trust me, there’s no way that Disneyork is honestly a *worse* nightmare than being shat on, puked on, mugged, STDed, shivved, cootied, loused, raped, and murdered every single time you unlocked all 5 deadbolts to venture out and get a bagel.
Outer-Borough Lover says
From ages 12-23, spanning 1979 to 90, I would venture into Manhattan, solo or with changing groups of friends. Just wandering the streets to be alone with all of the traffic in my head or with my boyz to raise some hell. Here’s what went missing:
1) Gyro shops with lamb spits and video games.
2) Constantly solicited for nickel bags in Washington Square Park.
3) A Canal Street with stores that sold electronic dodads, plexiglass pieces, random shite.
4) A real Little Italy.
5) Crazy-ass roller skaters in Central Park
6) Bike messengers
7) Eighth Street Playhouse
8) Flipping through posters and postcard at any number of Village shops.
9) Kung Fu and Porn Movies along 42nd Street
10) The lawless area of piers by the Westside Highway.
11) Listening to songs like “Miss You” or “Summer in the City” and actually being able to conjure up images and emotions from NYC.
12) Having to “really go” and using the bathroom at Port Authority.
13) NYU was a school in a neighborhood, not a neighborhood
14) When a paper bag over a tall boy was RESPECTED by police.
15) Tried to keep it fresh, but to restate–Tunnel Bunnies.
Oh, #12 – I’d have to really, really, really go to use the bathroom at Port Authority. In any year. In fact, I think that might be where dirty old NYC still exists.
Ha. Tunnel Bunnies.
You had me at “Douche Belt!” Hilarious! I am a born-and-bred NYer. Lived there my whole life and I remember everything you’ve mentioned. You hit it right on the nose, how they’re turning NY into something of a high-priced theme park for tourists. The glory days of authentic artists, culture, and individuality are long gone!
Thanks, Liz! Yay, I love having born-and-bred-ers over here. Where’d you grow up?
Born in Manhattan, grew up in the South Bronx (really! In the 70s, before even Jimmy Carter set foot), lived in Inwood (Manhattan) and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. You?
Born in Manhattan, infancy on Charlton Street, 6 months to age 26 on the Upper West Side, then Greenwich Village – still here.
How do you like the new “micro-apartments” smaller than 300 sq ft but still cost a king’s ransom! They’ll have all those Yuupies packed like hamsters in shoe boxes…blecch.
I I landed in New York with the art department from Milwaukee and never got back on the bus. A few weeks later I was a waiter at studio 54. A job for males because only males could safely get across the city at 4 o’clock a.m .NYC felt like the center of The world back then and everybody lived between 10th street at 86 th I saw the same people everywhere from Manhattan to Long Island to Fire Island Fire Island was a mix culture of open house policy the best parties and interesting people before became a hustler drug ghetto in the eighties NYC certainly has changed now it’s CVS and banks although I think cleaning it up was a good idea it has lost a lot of its charm. I’m grateful for the experience of the seventies I returned in the 2 thousands and now have a business there . Again it’s much more pleasant a place but much less exciting. I felt like a James bond living there back in the seventies. Lov the article.
Love this post!
I’m from the Netherlands and I’ve been to NYC two times, both in the last five years. I’ve always wanted to go, because of all the movies I watched growing up, like The Warriors, Night Hawks, The French Connection, Abel Ferrara movies, and yes, Death Wish too. That New York is gone and it saddens me. Last time I went, we visited the building that used to house CBGB. It’s now a clothing store. I can’t even describe how I feel about Times Square; I absolutely hate it the way it is now (although I never had a chance to see what is was really like when James Glickenhaus filmed The Exterminator there).
The city I live in also changes, but I think for the better. It has become more interesting and diverse in the last twenty years (although my father-in-law, a very nostalgic man, would disagree).
It is too bad. That New York only exists in movies now. Or, some parts of Brooklyn and Queens. If you want to see some real 70s SoHo, watch An Unmarried Woman.
I first made regular trips to NYC from Buffalo, NY in 1970. My Aunt Fran lived on 42nd St in Queens just off Queens Blvd. It was just a walk across the street to get the on the 7 line. She was my “Auntie Mame” exposing me to NYC in all it’s glory. In the early 1980’s Peoples Express had $29.00 flights which allowed many weekend trips on the cheap. The adventures I enjoyed using those cheap airfares!
The gentrification of my favourite haunts/areas has taken the magic out of my recent trips.
So glad I was able to experience and appreciate NYC in all it’s grittiness and glory.
I remember People’s Express! I think they lost my luggage, but for 29 bucks, what do you expect.
I loved People’s Express! Flying taxi… back and forth all the time, pay on the plane. Who woulda thunk it. And what about Grand Central??? Used to the be sketchiest place….
Personally I think New York is a lot scarier these days what with all the yuppies moving into to Bed Stuy bringing Starbucks with them , Times Square getting Disneyized , zombie hipsters in Williamsburg looking for love or an artisinal sandwich and everywhere you go the gentrifiers lurk ready to steal your soul ( or at least your $900 one bedroom walk up
The zombie hipsters are looking for love AND an artisanal sandwich, and they won’t rest unless it contains chicken hearts or tripe.
Definitely the ’70s was the crazy-scary–and fun–time. Central Park was a mess, but on Sundays was a big party.
We moved to NY from a small town when I was 10 in 1969, and my mom would give us a few tokens (20 cents) and a dollar and let us loose. In addition to they way glitz and money have taken over, New York is now one big set for security theater. Just the noise generated by cops and security forces in constant high alert is annoying.
That’s the kind of mom (and value per dollar) that no longer exists. Very cool!
Don’t worry about how to say “Excuse me” in Mandarin. Or Korean. They are the rudest societies on the planet, so they don’t make much use of such phrases. Especially not when surrounded by “foreigners” who are just getting in the way of their shopping and selfie sprees.
Frank Newcomer says
I moved to SoHo in 1979, mindful I was an interloper, since it’d already been discovered. First Sunday there I left my loft to find a bodega for some milk. I was standing on the corner of W Broadway and Prince next to a women in black (of course), unable to mask her scowl at the tourists streaming by; then turned to me. “Remember SoHo when it was great, and it was just us?”
I nodded my head. “Yeah, crazy what’s happened. Crazy.” (Found out later it was A REALLY FAMOUS artist’s wife).
If she only knew…
Frank, your name is familiar to me. Did you work at McCann-Erickson and were you a customer at Rare Bird Video?
Frank Newcomer says
One in the same.
Frank, it’s a pleasure to reconnect with you. I remember you being very kind and encouraging to me at the dawn of my creative career. I hope everything is well with you.
And, as I am known to be annoyingly stodgy about grammar (even though I’ve made tons of grammatical errors over the years, and therefore, hypocritical in this regard), here is something from The Grammarist website. (I never heard the word “eggcorn” before):
One and the same is the logical formulation of the expression meaning the same person or thing. This expression is not hard to parse; it uses redundancy (one and the same being synonyms) for emphasis. The eggcorn one in the same sort of makes sense—if we imagine something being inside the same thing as itself—but it’s not the standard phrase and is widely viewed as a misspelling.
Frank Newcomer says
I stand corrected.
terrance crooms says
Keith Haring masterpiece
Licia Morelli says
I said it on FB and I will say it again here: please, please, please keep writing about 80’s NYC.
You had me at “my own NYC “kid in the city” adventures as soon as I was 10 years old.” That and your dad asking if you wanted to drive around to look for hookers!
We used to do that in Pittsburgh but it was small scale to your experience and my mother called them “ladies of the night” which I still find endearing.
More to come, I promise! “Ladies of the night” is quaint but inaccurate because I think they do a brisk business during the day. Sleazeballs be horny 24/7.
Barbara Lee says
In 1972, my mother would allow my sister and I to travel from Newark, NJ to Times Square to go to the movies on 42nd street. I was twelve and my sister 14. Yeah, she let two young girls roam the city by themselves. I guess that is why I was raised in foster care.
One day my sister and I were heading back to my mom’s place after spending the whole afternoon watching double feature horror flicks. The movie house was filled with pot and cigarette smoke. The floor was sticky with what I hoped was spilled soda and/or beer. As we left the theater, I see this gaudy thing standing on the corner of 42nd street and 8th avenue. She had really vicious looking, red colored fingernails. I was staring and pointing while my sister (she was the one that had common sense) tried to drag me down the street away from the hooker. I kept loudly exclaiming what a frigging fright she was. The hooker heard me and gave chase. Luckily she couldn’t run in the high heels she had on. My sister and I tore ass down the street and ran across the street to Port Authority. We made it to our bus unscathed and I learned to keep my mouth shut when I saw crazy stuff on the streets of NYC.
I missed growing up in NYC in the 80s because we moved to MARYLAND in 1981. Nothing like leaving New York with all its diversity, scariness and open-all-night peep shows to become a boring ass surburbanite. Maryland was the PITS (and still is) and the kids there knew NOTHING about doing your own thing. When I came back to NYC, it was like I had just gotten off the bus from Idaho or something. Total rube. But I DO remember rollerskating in the Bronx (I think it was Skate Palace or something) with friends and NO PARENTS, walking to the store by myself, outdoor rap parties in the park, and trips to Times Square to look at the hookers and sex shops. Good times.
Maryland! But not even Baltimore? Why hasn’t that been turned into a The Wire theme park, BTW? With a big-head walkabout in a Bubbles costume.
I think there were no parents in NYC back then. It was like Children of the Corn.
Video Games Among the Perverts: The Laura Belgray Story
A story of courage and triumph. On three different networks, one with Alyssa Milano in the part of Laura Belgray, one with Drew Barrymore, and one with someone no one’s ever heard of. Or maybe Meredith Baxter Bernie.
Mara B. says
I’ve only lived in NYC for 9 years but during that time, there has been a significant decline of the East Village from cheap dive bars that smell like 80 years of sour beer and urine to banks and bros and $14 specialty cocktails.
Although I will say, the stench of urine is still around and going strong. Thank god for that.
It’s true. Urine has survived gentrification, bless it.
You can’t walk under scaffolding without smelling some serious pee.
THINGS THAT ARE MISSING
1. Glasses of wine for less than $12
2. Tower Records / Virgin Records / HMV
3. Clubs such as Tramps, The Knitting Factory, The Lone Star, Max’s Kansas City, Wetlands, CBGBs
4. Vacant subway cars between morning and evening rush hours
5. Subway stations lit by few and random incandescent bulbs, instead of ubiquitous fluorescent bulbs. Stations were 90% dimmer and felt much less safe and would, therefore, scare away tourists
6. Educated and cultured audiences. (Fran Lebowitz made an excellent point about how the AIDS epidemic all but wiped these audiences out).
7. The closing of multiple Barnes and Noble stores (including the original location on 18th Street and Fifth Avenue)
UNAPPEALING RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
1. Chelsea as a tourist destination (because of The Highline, The Chelsea Market, the Meatpacking District and Google).
2. Citibike racks
3. Double decker tour buses (and everything else connected with the huge increase in tourism)
4. Cold pressed juice at $12 for a tiny bottle
5. The sign in front of Lincoln Center that reads “Lincoln Center.” Why state the obvious, other than to help out clueless tourists?
6. The Mysteries of Laura (a wretched TV show currently shooting in New York)
RECENT ADDITIONS THAT ARE WELCOME
1. The Air Train at JFK. (Infinitely better than the old so-called “Train to the Plane”).
I thought the Cronut bakery in Soho was shut down in April due to mouse infestation.
Do you think if we switched back all the lightbulbs in the city, it would scare the tourists away?
And by that, I mean the tourists who live here.
I still don’t understand what “cold pressed” means, but i fall for it and pay the $12.
Cronut reopened, pretty sure. Just takes a visit from the exterminator and a payout to the money-grubbing DOH. (I’m on the food service industry side of this issue for obvious reasons.)
What the fuck is a “Cronut?” p.s. those Elmo’s will still giggle when a Jew tickles them. I’ve done it. Hashtag I’m the creepy pervert.
Wait, do you mean that, Bean? That you don’t know what a Cronut is? Does information stop traveling at 56th street?
Your Elmo comment made me laugh like Elmo being tickled.