Times Square in the 1970s:
A Day In The Life

Times Square in the 1970s:<br />A Day In The Life

The Rialto Report recently featured a selection of photographs taken backstage at the Melody Burlesk by photographer James Hamilton.

Hamilton is best known for documenting the New York City film, art and music scene of the 1970s and 1980s capturing the likes of Nico, Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine, Beastie Boys, and James Brown on film.

During this time he served as staff photographer for numerous publications, including Crawdaddy! (’69-’71), The Herald (’71), Harper’s Bazaar (’71-’75), the Village Voice (’74-’93), and the New York Observer (’93-’09). He also contributed to many iconic magazines including Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and New York.

In 1980, Hamilton began also shooting stills for films. After meeting George A. Romero, Hamilton was enlisted to capture stills for his next two movies, ‘Knightriders’ (1981) and ‘Creepshow’ (1982), followed by work for Francis Ford Coppola on the set of ‘The Outsiders’ (1983). He went on to shoot extensively with Wes Anderson, photographing the sets of ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ (2001), ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ (2004), and ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ (2007), as well as on the set of Noah Baumbach’s ‘The Squid and the Whale’ (2005).

In this selection of previously unpublished photographs, Hamilton shows various sides of Times Square in the 1970s.

For other pictures of Times Square theaters, yesterday and today, see our recent feature here.

Sincere thanks to James Hamilton for allowing us to share this selection of photos.

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Times Square

 

rr-_1jh7023

 

Venus Theater

 

Times SquareThe inside of the New Amsterdam (which was the original Zeigfeld Follies theatre). James shot it during its demolition / reconstruction

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‘After Midnight: A Scrapbook of Late Night New York’, New York magazine, March 2015 – by Colin Quinn

“There used to be sex clubs all over New York, right before AIDS. I went to a place called the Zoo in 1981. They had locker rooms. You put your stuff in a locker, just a little towel on, like you’ve done a million times in the gym, and you walk out and it’s like, some of the people were sort of hot. And they had buffets, which was kind of disgusting. C’mon. You can’t wait to eat? We’re at a sex club. This was people eating like they were on a goddamn cruise ship. And they had all these giant matted rooms, for like 30 people. I started talking to this cute girl who was there, and the next thing you know, we had sex. And it was great! Because if I didn’t have sex at the sex club, I would’ve felt kind of bad.”

 

Times Square

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Skee ball, invented in 1909, was introduced to New York in 1915 by two former Princeton football stars, Beef and Bert Wheeler who brought it to Times Square.

Playland became one of the meccas for Skee ball and later pinball, and had multiple locations, including at 1565 Broadway and 1580 Broadway in the 1950s.

From the early 1950s Playland was also at 246 West 42nd Street. In 1953, John J. Bennett, the chairman of the City Planning Commission, announced his desire to rid Times Square of all the flea circuses, penny arcades, freak shows, wax museums and shooting galleries.

Playland stayed at this location through the 1970s and 80s. In 1977 the New York Times reported that business was good, and that Playland was paying $170,000 a year in rent.

 

Playland

 

Playland

 

Playland

 

Times Square

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Times Square

 

Times Square

 

Times Square

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Times Square

 

Peepland

 

Times Square

 

Times Square

 

Times Square

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Times Square

 

Times Square

 

Times Square

 

Times Square

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In 1976, Wendy O. Williams arrived in New York City where she saw an ad in the Show Business magazine that lay open on the Port Authority Bus Terminal station floor. It was a casting call for radical artist and Yale University graduate Rod Swenson’s experimental ‘Captain Kink’s Theatre’. She replied to the ad and began performing in live sex shows.

By 1977, Swenson became Williams’ manager and recruited her to join his newly formed punk rock band, Plasmatics. They made their debut in July 1978 at the Manhattan music club CBGB.

She later appeared in the adult film, ‘Candy Goes to Hollywood‘ (1979), credited as Wendy Williams. She was featured as a performer on a parody of The Gong Show shooting ping pong balls across the set from her vagina.

 

Times SquareRod Swenson and Wendy O. Williams

 

Times Square

 

Wendy O. Williams

 

Rod Swenson

 

Wendy O. Williams

 

Wendy O. Williams

 

Wendy O. Williams

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Times Square

 

Times Square

 

Times Square

 

Times Square

 

rr-_1jh7006

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G. G. Barnum’s Room was formerly The Peppermint Lounge, a popular discotheque located at 128 West 45th Street in New York City that was open from 1958 to 1965. It was the launchpad for the global Twist craze in the early 1960s and celebrities swarmed there – Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Liberace, Noël Coward, Frank Sinatra, Norman Mailer, Annette Funicello, even the elusive Greta Garbo – to dance to the house band. The Beatles were filmed visiting the club during their first U.S. visit in 1964.

It was run by Genovese crime family associate Matty ‘The Horse’ Ianniello, who managed many gay bars and strip clubs in Manhattan. It closed when it lost its liquor license on December 28, 1965, and reopened as a gay bar called ‘Hollywood’.

The 45th Street space reopened as G. G. Barnum’s Room on July 20, 1978, and continued until November 1980. It quickly became a popular meeting place for transsexuals, drag queens and homosexuals, and featured shows where male go-go dancers performed on trapezes over a net above the dance floor.

The ‘G.G.’ was a reference to the Ianniello-owned Gilded Grape, located at 719 8th Avenue, a notorious gay bar which operated from the early 1970s until 1977.

 

GG's Barnum Room

 

GG's Barnum Room

 

GG's Barnum Room

 

GG's Barnum Room

 

GG's Barnum Room

 

GG's Barnum Room

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Times Square

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23 Comments

  1. Jop · November 27, 2016 Reply

    Good to see Wendy Williams featured here. I’d love to hear more about her involvement in adult films / live shows before the Plasmatics. If anyone can, the Rialto can…

  2. Mark Scott · November 27, 2016 Reply

    Never heard of GG Barnum Room but what an amazing selection of pictures.

    Thanks James / Rialto!

  3. Robert Cohen · November 27, 2016 Reply

    This is the *first* time I’ve seen pictures of peeps from this era…….. amazing!!!

    And, judging by the descriptions, thank goodness I never saw the actual 8mm loops. Ahem.

  4. Anon · November 27, 2016 Reply

    I remember the guy with the drum!

    He was there for years. Weird cat. I wonder if my buddy Josh Alan Friedman remembers him too?

  5. Dr. Emilio Lizardo · November 27, 2016 Reply

    Another classic piece from The Rialto Report! Great work once again!

    The drummer in Times Square was Gene Palma… “Taxi Driver” and “Hero at Large” were movies in which he appeared.

    Thanks again for the memories!

    -Doc

  6. Michael · November 27, 2016 Reply

    The Zoo was owned by Stella of the Avon 7. Had a lot of sex there between my shows. I remember Wendy before she met Ron. I also have a nice portrait shot of the black girl with her at Show World

  7. ozzy · November 27, 2016 Reply

    The drummer guy was shown in the film Taxi Driver. Paul Schrader talked about him in the special features and gave the name he went by but cant remember it. Said he was there for years.

  8. tony talbert · November 27, 2016 Reply

    we live in a world that has been sterilized.

  9. Sam · November 27, 2016 Reply

    Rod Swenson:
    A great subject for a Rialto profile. He was quite a character. I remember him being a brainy, distant, strange figure.

    Also, is the final shot from Hubert’s Museum – the old freak-show palace on the 42nd Street that Diane Arbus featured in one of her photo collections?

    • George Maranville · November 27, 2016 Reply

      I second the suggestion of the Rod Swenson piece. Interesting cat. In the various obits for Wendy after her suicide he seemed, understandably, distraught and she was on my mind for quite a while after her passing. Rod would be a nice addition to the Rialto Report family! Best to ya’ll.

  10. Brian · November 27, 2016 Reply

    “Pinball, peeps, and porn” – happy Thanksgiving guys. You’re the most enlightening historians of the era and this is good.

  11. John · November 27, 2016 Reply

    That was great. A few moments in time photographed by someone who cared deeply about tbe subject matter. I would love to see more. Thanks so much Ashley West and April Hall for tbe great interviews as well as all the rest of tbe contributors to these reports. They are appreciated. How can otbers contribute? Thanks!!!

  12. John · November 27, 2016 Reply

    I remember seeing a magazine article in the ’70’s that talked about Alice Cooper visiting the area and playing pinball. Pretty sure it was at Playland. Thanks for the feature – a fascinating high-focus look into the past.

  13. Clyde · November 28, 2016 Reply

    I think The Zoo was originally “Club Xtazy”, which I visited in ’80. I remember the lockers, mats and that weird buffet. I was underage and copped my first blowjob there.

  14. Dimitrios · November 28, 2016 Reply

    the pics amazing — and the comments flesh it out– wonderful!

  15. J. Walter Puppybreath · November 29, 2016 Reply

    Phenomenal!
    Also, this:
    ‘CAR PILED WITH LUGGAGE STRAYING INTO THE FUNERAL PROCESSION’ – wtf?

  16. Annette Heinz · November 30, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for the memories. Most excellent reporting!

    • Brian · December 2, 2016 Reply

      Wait – THE Annette Heinz?!?!?! Welcome to the best place on the web!
      How about a podcast interview? !

  17. FRED · March 10, 2017 Reply

    RIALTO, YOU ARE THE BEST!…THANKS-

  18. Bob Hopeless · March 13, 2017 Reply

    Re: “car piled with luggage”, etc: some of these shots are from the early 90’s, after the theaters were closed and 42nd St. briefly became a venue for pretentious art installations. The phrases on the marquees were by either Barbara Kruger or Jenny Holzer and were supposed to be ” thought provoking” and referential to Times Square, though I could never figure out how.

    Some of the other shots appeared in an article in the Village Voice called “Deep Peep”, which had a big impact on me as I was just beginning to make my slack-jawed and somewhat shame-faced way around Times Square. Some of the book/loop stores were slicker, but some were pretty rough and just had those hand-written descriptions of some pretty out-there material. The animal stuff was not that unusual at this time (late 70’s), though usually confined to the downstairs or basement of the store- if you wanted to see a fish shoved up a woman’s vagina- I didn’t, really honest- you had to do a little extra exploration in the depths.

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