Last week we visited the former sites of adult film theaters around 42nd Street in New York.
But what was it like to work in Times Square, in places like Show World or Show Follies in their 1980s heyday?
Who were the live show performers, the cashiers, even the cleaners?
‘Deuce 42’ is the pseudonym of one such worker, who rose from being a lowly mop man cleaning the peep show booths and a cashier, before reaching the heights of a live show performer.
What follows are abridged extracts from the first volume of his unpublished autobiography, ‘Peep Man’. It’s a colorful, poignant and insightful manuscript revealing what it was really like to be behind the scenes.
Interested prospective publishers can contact the author through the Rialto Report.
All artwork and illustrations in this article are by Deuce 42.
Born on the asphalt island of Manhattan to an American mom and an Asian dad, the year was still 1961 upside down, and I was a sudden alternative to adoption. When I was four, we relocated to the sleepy little town of Bethlehem, Connecticut, where my Mayflower-descendant Mom grew up. A proud Yankee, her childhood home became ours. My father commuted to NYC to support us on a teacher’s salary and as a freelance artist, although his passion was for amazing sculpture.
My mom did her very best at raising two boys, but since it was the volatile era of the Vietnam War, prejudice permeated small-minded America and the revered little town of Bethlehem. Patriots and their well-informed counterparts often vented rage at the Oriental race, as WASPs hurled racial epithets at the insufferable ‘gooks’, and due to our mixed-race heritage, my brother and I were no exception. We were regularly taunted with bigotry and beatings at school. Since I was skinny and wore glasses among other things, I had very few friends.
Plagued by small-town mentality, at age thirteen, I refused to remain trapped there indefinitely. No longer could I withstand the racists, the rednecks, and the Republicans. My mission was to get the hell out of Bethlehem. Leaving behind my forsaken family saddened me since my Mom and brother Matt were the roots of my soul, the only real family I would ever know but I fled conservative Connecticut for free-spirited Manhattan.
As the bus pulled into the Port Authority, perception pierced my nerve. Towering skyscrapers resonated with immortality. Unlikeness eclipsed uniformity. Divergence was the distinction. Sublime contrasts saturated my senses. All kinds of people, and all walks of life. With so many incredible influences suddenly at my disposal, I wanted to experience everything at once.
In NYC I attended the illustrious High School of Art and Design. I was still immature and insecure, and for the most part I was unprepared for the transition to big city life.
One day I embarked on an unscheduled field trip as a unique opportunity to escape presented itself. Cooped up and trapped in class, my Haitian friend informed me of an educational alternative.
“Yo, my man. Let’s cut school and check out some kung fu flicks. I hear dey got a good matinee over there on da Deuce.” His turn of phrase left me perplexed.
“The what?” I queried.
“The Deuce, bro,” he replied mischievously. “42nd Street.”
My eyes widened. Just the mere mention of that dreaded street sparked a lewd fascination.
“Yeah, it’s dangerous,” he conceded. “But well worth the risk. Trust me,” he winked. And I did.
“What it’s like?” I asked curiously.
“You mean you don’t know?” he rolled his eyes incredulously. “The Deuce will blow your mind, bro. It’s fucking unreal!” he exclaimed. “The Deuce is like Woolworths, wid da best bargains in town,” he boasted. “You name it; movies, snacks, dope, and pussy, all cheaper than cheap, all rolled into one, at rock bottom prices. And at the peepshows you can see skin flicks for only 25 cents.”
We arrived on 42nd Street, a shivering excursion into a peripheral reality. Thrills and chills palpitated through my arteries. All-nite theaters, massage parlors, and adult peep shows reigned supreme over a corridor of indecency. Like pagodas of temptation, marquees blazed triple bills of blaxploitation, kung fu cinema, and triple-X-rated flicks. A self-contained anarchy flourished, with a staggering array of transients; thieves, beggars, whores, and executives comprising a divergent convergence of misfits and marauders.
Peepshows, arcades, greasy spoons, and movie flop-houses were bases of operations for rampant hustling of inconceivable incarnations, in every nook and cranny, with indecipherable schemes, drug deals, and rip-offs executed without fear of reprisal. And not unlike a wildlife preserve; male, female, and she-male prostitution abounded, as disposable dates brazenly solicited their counterparts in disgrace. When nightfall prevailed, a brutal world emerged, rife with muggings, stabbings, robberies, and assaults.
I realized that the Deuce personified the Holy Grail of Bohemia, where the sour notes of humanity, some drifting aimlessly on a forgotten frequency, all exist on the fringe of what is acceptable in society.
With my senses saturated, I immediately succumbed to the lure of something strangely compelling; a self-discovery that warranted further exploration. Earning money effortlessly the easy way. Hustling. Infinite interactions with the nefarious that garnered wages based upon your potential, with money as your mantra.
I no longer felt abject abandonment, but a profound sense of belonging amongst these brethren. Doomed to be a desperado, hustling to get high and survive. Suddenly I came alive.
The Pussycat peep emporium radiated an uncanny allure, possessing me momentarily. For some inexplicable reason, they hired me as a cashier, thus resolving the depressing issue of employment. The following evening I reported to the peep palace known as 711 Show Follies. Several seedy establishments formed an enclave at this location. The Fantasy Twin Theatre premiered first-run porn. Nearby was the Doll, which screened poorly projected skin flicks with the addition of Love Teams: live sex acts on stage. Above the Doll, the dime-a-dance Satin Ballroom. This transsexual honky-tonk was popular as a port-of-call for sailors that had been on the sea far too long. And across the avenue, the amusement center Playland; the apex of all arcades in Times Square.
Upon entering 711, a cashier positioned on a mini-throne blocking the entrance blurted out something pertinent.
“Fo’ tokens fo’ a-dolla, fo’ tokens fo’ a-dolla!” he shouted. He proceeded to hand me a stack of funny-looking coins, which I refused, since I was there primarily for employment. Known as ‘the bookstore’, the ground floor of 711 looked like a kaleidoscope of smut. Triple X-Rated videocassettes embellished an entire wall. Racks upon racks of glossy hard-core books were prominently displayed. Assorted marital devices, vibrators, and inflatable dolls were perched precariously on high shelves. The walls were a brightly colored orange and yellow, adorned by diamond-shaped pieces of mirror. Video-peep projection booths lined both sides of a narrow corridor.
I approached the elevated booth that doubled as a display case located immediately to the right of the entrance. Here a night manager operated ‘the stick’; a desk with a built-in microphone, and just in case, alongside the cash register, a Louisville Slugger. Videotape rental, cash and credit card transactions were processed here, with each purchase carefully concealed under wraps and scotch-taped to insure secrecy. As overseer of the bookstore, the stick-man had the visibility to prevent theft, as men in raincoats devoured counters containing fuck books. The microphone was utilized for the purpose of either summoning or dispatching cashiers, porters, mechanics, managers, or security to where ever they might be needed on the premises.
The stick-man instructed me to see Ramon, a Cuban fellow with a handlebar mustache. I ventured to the rear of the bookstore, where Ramon stood unloading a box containing rubber dildos of all shapes and sizes. As I neared, I distinctly heard a string of expletives under the breath.
“Fucking faggots,” he muttered. Absorbed in the tedious task of taking inventory, I interrupted him by mistake.
“Excuse me, but…” Without facing me, he feigned a gesture of mock annoyance, as several synthetic penises fell to the floor. Then he glared at me.
“Now look what you did,” he pouted. “You made me lose fucking count.” Before I could say I’m sorry, he scolded me.
“Look, I’m very, very busy. If you got something better to do, why don’t you do it then?” He was cocky, no pun intended, like he was on the rag or something.
“Excuse me,” I repeated, asserting myself, “but are you Ramon? Mark from the Pussycat told me I could start work here tonight.”
Turning to face me, he suddenly condescended.
“Doing wha-at, I might ask?” he moaned as if he were in agony.
“Cashier,” I said.
Ramon guided me down a passage way comprised of private booths, known as ‘peeps’. The video projection booths were like stalls; individual enclosures that insured privacy. These closet spaces extended to the tail end of the building, where a quadrangle of even more booths embraced an ascending staircase. Many of the booths were occupied; the red light above each booth an indication that a ‘show’ was in progress.
Ramon acquired a plastic bag containing octagonal tokens, and a bright red apron from the front of the store.
He then expounded the modus operandi behind peeping.
“See these, Guy,” he said. “These are Show World tokens. Each token is 25 cents, but we sell them four for a dollar. And they can only be used in places like this. Are you with me so far?” I shook my head yes. Pointing to a nearby video booth, he elucidated further.
“Good. Oh by the way, before I forget…when a customer is finished doing his business, you go in there and mop it up.”
Ramon waited patiently for this revelation to sink in. I was simply aghast at this added impediment.
“What…?” I whispered.
“The cum,” he added, “…the fucking cum all over the freakin’ floor…”
My mouth dropped.
“You mean..?” I tried to clarify, but Ramon cut me off in mid sentence.
“…cum splattered all over the walls, the video screen, the stool…”
“The stool?” I queried.
“You got a problem with that, Guy?” he snapped.
“Not a problem,” I squeaked.
“Very good then,” he resumed.
Without warning, a bantam black man with a large mop burst forth from a nearby porter’s closet. Like a roadrunner, he streaked past us with lightning speed, vigorously swabbing each and every vacant booth within seconds. Then he hurriedly hightailed back into the porters’ closet, slamming the door shut behind him.
He could have been in the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest mop. I stood there stunned. Ramon reacted as if this was nothing unusual.
The Rialto Report’s April Hall models the original 711 t-shirt and cashier bib
I was now a cashier, and a custodian of cubicles. As a sentry, I guarded the privacy of meat-beaters, like a keeper of the disgraced.
The peep shows were portals to hard-core porn. Long before the advent of video, the original peep shows began as nickelodeons, later upgraded to a curtained off projection booth for viewing 8mm sound movies in color known as ‘loops’.
Each video-peep showcased Triple-X-rated adult film features, with the column adjacent to each booth displaying graphic art taken from the jacket of the videocassette, available for purchase in the bookstore. Forty-eight juxtaposed video-peep booths were segregated to the rear of 711, near my elevated orange throne. These secure booths provided privacy; you could enter incognito, lock yourself in, and take in a show. Once locked inside, you were subjected to neither denial nor disgrace.
Later that evening, I accidentally caught sight of someone spying on me from around the corner. As I approached, he quickly retracted behind a mirrored pillar. He was playing peek-a-boo. I glimpsed an Afro and an eyeball peering from around the bend. He giggled nervously; evidently he found my activities hysterical. Then it hit me; I recognized him as the mop-man from before.
“Who dat man?” he speculated. “Who dat long-haired man?” I waved at him slightly. Cautiously, he emerged from his hiding place for a full-blown appearance. Cagey and slight of stature, and shaking like a leaf, his heartbeat must have been off the Richter scale. He appeared fidgety as perpetually wide eyeballs darted back and forth. Nervously he jingled the coins in his dangling change apron. But he was so very shy. And I noticed that his nostrils were quite large.
“You is a m-m-man, right?” he asked with uncertainty.
“Last time I checked I was,” I responded matter-of-factly. “Why, what else would I be?”
As he peered at me, he wobbled slightly.
“Uh-huh. Yeah. Right.” he said with disbelief.
“No, really,” I assured him. Then I extended my hand and introduced myself.
“And who the hell are you?” I shot back.
“I’m Moses, the one and lonely. But you can call me Mo’.” For a few seconds he stood there scratching incessantly. Then he raised his eyebrows with delight.
“Hey,” he mocked, “…you gotta big dick?”
I laughed out loud.
“Sure,” I said, hinting at something the size of a Genoa salami.
Moses was unfazed.
“Uh-huh. Yeah. Right. That’s what they all say.” He then went about his business. He wheeled a bucket of murky water from the porters’ closet. He seized a nearby mop, dunked it, and ringed it. Bent over, he fervently scrubbed the floor inside a video peep. Silently he whistled to himself, inspired only by his spirit. He was just a solitary soul, like me, all alone in this world.
Since the arcade was always open, peep-creeps converged upon 711 at all hours of the night. Even the meek could seek self-pleasure. Many though were not normal. As pathological pud-pullers, they became conditioned to play with themselves. Since they thrived on 25 cents worth of sneak previews and cumming attractions, only a peep booth would suffice.
Moses imparted to me impressive methods of scum removal that gave mopping new meaning. He simply decontaminated each booth by wiping out the jizz.
“C-c-customers’ be liken’ a clean booth, a tidy booth, b-b-befo’ dey go an’ mess it up again.” He then poured a ridiculously high concentration of disinfectant into an overflowed bucket. This lethal concoction was composed of cherry-flavored ammonia and Spanish Fly, making breathing increasingly difficult.
“Industrial strength,” Mo’ pointed out. “It kills sperm dead.”
Before a sperm life-form could slime its way out, Mo’ annihilated any residue of fresh jizz from the booths. Although diluted, the dosage had the desired effect; customers’ proceeded to their individual booths, unwary of any former foulness or filth. Through Moses’ mop know-it-all, I prospered.
Swabbing scum wasn’t half bad, thanks to Moses’ misguided mastery of the mop. As a scum-scrubber, I purged all residue of puss from the floor of each booth, paving the way for the next wave of perverts. I often retrieved discarded tokens lying in pools of cum, and redeemed them at the conclusion of my shift. These additional ‘tips’ allowed me to eat a decent meal, and cop a nickel bag of weed. Despite my low wages, I dined on a charcoal-broiled Flame Steak, thanks to Mo’.
There was always a flurry of activity up the staircase, the threshold to the ‘floor’. Customers seemed to disappear up there. Now and then a scantily clad hostess appeared on the staircase, enticing gentlemen to check out the live peeps up above. I wondered what it was like, what kind of things were going on up there. And for some reason, I wanted to be with them, whoever they were. Just to belong, and not be so much alone.
Then out of the blue, it happened. With tin bucket in tow, I was just flushing my sloppy mop, when Ron hailed me.
“Hey, Guy. Guess what..?” Taken by surprise, I feared the worst, presumably a poop. I clutched my mop tightly.
“I don’t need to guess. Let me get it over with,” I replied.
“You got it all wrong, kiddo. We’re puttin’ you on the ‘floor.’ From now on, you’re gonna be the silver-dollar-man, up where the live shows are.”
As I about-faced, my neglected heart skipped a beat.
The second floor of 711 Show Follies smacked of pussy paradise, populated by the wicked women of Times Square. I felt a surge of euphoria electrifying my body and soul. Though still a bashful cashier, finally I was on my way up. Right away I tightened my cashier’s apron.
As I climbed the flight of stairs, I passed a strangely alluring woman, apparently on her way out. Dressed to the nines, she noticed me. Simultaneously, our eyes became affixed and I experienced a sense of deja vu. She stopped and stared, and actually acknowledged me. Dumbfounded me fumbled for a response.
Finally, she broke the ice and introduced herself. “Hi. I’m Suki. Are you new around here? I haven’t seen you here before…”
She offered me her hand.
Finally I had reached my destination, revealed to be a circus universe, different from the video arcade down below. Immense in its complexity, the layout remained unseen in its dark dimension. Mirrored spheres swirled like satellites, reflecting an insatiable élan. Announcements of lewd acts echoed from loud speakers. Erotic nude dancing girls of all races wiggled teasingly in front of telephone-like booths. Mysteriously the choreography of their movements mesmerized me, like the models were a manifestation of the music. They boogied to the beat of a nomadic dance, like erotica exemplified their lives. But this realm really reflected a galaxy in itself; a space ship emitting the neon glow of indecency.
With an ‘in the mix’ DJ-inspired soundtrack, each tune trickled into the next. Customers flocked to the floor. Swank showgirls flaunted themselves, holding them spellbound. Cashiers, sporting dangling change aprons, shouted ‘CIRCULATE, GENTLEMEN, CIRCULATE!’ With Joy, the floor manager, at the mic, peep teamwork epitomized the floor, as showgirls, sex show performers, and even cashiers all announced attractions.
On Joy’s command, several debauched couples proceeded from the dressing room to the stages. Designated by flashing neon fixtures, the Peep-A-Live stage was where voyeurs devoured live sex acts through Plexiglas peep windows. Nearby, an anxious clientele enveloped a huge elevated orange throne. Cashiers conducted transactions here, dispensing tokens and silver dollars to the floor. In anticipation of a brand-new Love Team, customers continuously converged on private booths surrounding the stages, entering each booth with a resounding Thud!, as the orange doors slammed shut behind them. Here they cum together in a feeding frenzy, I thought out loud, like starved live mice in a maze of Swiss cheese!
Joy introduced me to my fellow cashiers, who comprised the night crew. Lucky and Ricky were both Puerto Ricans, who had been with Joy for a while. Upon learning my last name, they immediately accepted me as one of their own. Working with them was a blast since they were always high. They took turns pacing the floor, constantly plugging the ‘booth babies’, and making themselves easily accessible to a confused clientele looking to get their shit off.
We formed an unholy alliance; whenever I covered for them, they let me ‘work’ the desk. Working the desk was considered a privilege, because then you could take turns robbing people during transactions. Ricky taught me how to distract them with sleight of hand and politely rip them the fuck off, all the while barking ‘LIVE NAKED LADIES, LIVE NAKED LADIES!!’ Soon I was schooled in the art of giving incorrect change, courtesy of Lucky and Ricky.
Lucky enthusiastically offered up an often-hysterical rendition of peep palace pussy inspection: “Gentlemen…” he announced. “You must first purchase your silver dollars from the cashier. Then you must proceed immediately to the Live Nude Review. Once you have selected a Live Naked Lady, you must then progress to the back of her booth, and shut the door. Without any further delay, you must deposit a silver dollar in the slot. When the curtain rises, you pick up the telephone receiver, and you say to the Live Naked Lady…SHOW ME SOME PUSSY!!”
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the upper level was the Live Nude Review. The Fantasy Booth Babies were a powerful magnet; an irrefutable attraction. Posed for provocation, the girls possessed an irresistible allure.
The Private Fantasy Booths allowed a customer to go one-on-one with a live naked lady, enabling any novice peeper to conduct his own bodily assessment. Anyone was allowed in, and the booths allowed you to be whatever you wanted to be. Each private booth was constructed to accommodate both the ‘booth baby’ and her customer, with a Plexiglas partition separating suit from slut. Within the confines of these fetish-friendly booths, the focus was simply on privacy.
A total of sixteen Private Fantasy Booths comprised the Live Nude Review; they were installed in pairs allowing clients to avoid collisions with those either entering or leaving their chosen cubicles.
The most popular peep sluts were preceded by their reputation; suit and tie executives with briefcases often loitered in line outside these booths. These regulars thrived on carnal consumption without contact, persistently placing their showgirls on pedestals, chronically spending countless coins for their sessions. At midday, many business execs would often forgo a meal for a box lunch at the peeps. In lieu of a cheeseburger, they preferred Ginger spreading her legs.
Whoever deposited a Susan B. Anthony Silver Dollar in the slot of a Private Fantasy Booth could act out their specific fantasy. The well-equipped customer simply turns the corner beside his chosen ‘booth baby’, and proceeds to the back where he enters a separate enclosure, locking himself inside. Once he has deposited the first of what will be many coins into the insertion slot, the mechanism controlling the curtain becomes activated, as the lighting on his portion automatically becomes subdued. Then the curtain rises. Subsequently, the red bulb atop the glass door to the front flickers on, indicating commencement of an all-nude ‘show’. The booth baby immediately pulls closed the black curtain, covering the door from the interior of her booth, concealing any activity within.
From his perspective, the showgirl is seated on a stool directly across from him, on the opposite side of the glass partition. She proceeds with a striptease, but hints via telephone that a better performance is subject to negotiation, before she disrobes any further. A kinky show is contingent on how much he is willing to spend.
And now the show begins.
One evening while swabbing sperm I was taken aback when a sexy Latina introduced herself to me. Her name was Raquel; a Fantasy Booth ‘baby’. She found my shyness quite attractive; it wasn’t just my chivalry with a mop. It was skinny me. She exuded an earthiness about her, uninhibited and carefree.
Soon after we dated, she approached me with the premise of doing ‘shows’. Becoming a Love Team. She pointed to the Peep-A-Live stage. I nearly came in my cashiers’ apron. Although I responded immediately, I expressed some concern for relinquishing my position as cashier. Did this mean I would have to retire my filthy mop? Raquel was a popular showgirl, and a moneymaker for manager Tina. What did she want with a broken toothpick like me? Suddenly, Raquel threw her arms around me, squeezing me tight. She whispered in my ear that she would make up for it on stage. Then we smooched; I didn’t need much convincing. Like a dreamy ghetto romance, this was gonna be the real deal.
In less than no time it was the evening of our premiere. As we advanced to the circular Peep-A-Live stage, I noticed rejects mulling around the perimeter, nervously shuffling their tokens in anticipation of a brand new Love Team. Waiting in the wings, I focused my attention only on Rae, her nickname.
We entered the stage, which was little more than a cage encased with private booths. As I focused on every inch of her, I became so fucking horny I actually forgot to be scared. She was a Puerto Rican love-doll come to life! And all I wanted was to fuck the living shit out of her. Period.
We began our show. Michael Jackson’s Beat It seeped in through the stage speaker, setting the stage for foreplay. A quintessential cock-teaser, Rae secreted lust laced with Latina spice. As she instructed me to lie on my back, I removed my pungent pants. Unbelievably she started sucking my pinga.
The whirring of the mechanism alerted me to the individual booths that comprised a concave arena surrounding the stage. Peep curtains were rising, activated by the prompt insertion of 25-cent tokens. Behind juxtaposed peep windows lurked mutated faces pressed against Plexiglas. They remained disfigured deviants, trapped in a gallery for the misguided, in a world Rod Serling never made. Others only appeared in shadow, as if they were never, ever meant to be seen.
Several wanton weeks passed as we continued to consummate our debauched relationship, on stage and off. Live sex on stage turned into a transcendental experience, and the more I came the better I became. Continuous sex, not just a fling; an ephemeral time warp of twenty-minute intervals, every hour. So much shocking sex I couldn’t see straight. Shows were virtually impossible to abstain from as Love Teams literally became my life.
During my break, we congregated in the dressing room with other Love Teams, Fantasy Booth girls, cashiers, managers, and transvestites in various stages of undress. Thrust into the spotlight as a live member gave me a greater sense of belonging. And performers were given privileges for taking their clothes off. In fact for the forty-minute break between shows, you could literally do whatever you pleased, like hang out, get a bite to eat, or get high. Like a scum opera, our lives irrevocably intertwined.
Some Love Teams were dealing just to subsidize their habits, while others stayed badly in debt to the on-premise loan shark for bingeing on narcotics. Then there were those Love Teams devoted to the lost art called lovemaking. They were always high. Glamorous and well-groomed one day, easily disheveled the next, fucking on stage because they were fucked; their time on this earth temporary.
My full-blown fondness for Rae blossomed into an inextricable attachment as my voracious cravings for her only escalated. But I began to notice a disturbing change in her. Unsettling aspects of her persona emerged as her blow problem snowballed. Fearful she’d unceremoniously terminate me, I deliberately renounced my wages just to be with her; my paycheck sacrificed for her to powder her nose.
Several weeks passed. Outbursts of severe paranoia wreaked havoc on hapless me. Mood swings became her modus operandi, from the dressing room to the stage, usually when she came crashing down from sky-high.
Sadly dependent on sex, despite her numerous defects, I acquiesced to her relentless assaults. Obviously our liaison didn’t blossom under normal circumstances, but this was all I had. Before I knew it, there was the stardom of the stage. Now I’d successfully made the transition from mop-boy to stud; it was already too late to go back to what I was. There was no turning back.
Soon I saw the neon light. Drugs dismantled a rickety relationship, as her selfishness sickened me. I presented her with a gift-wrapped Walkman which she traded for blow the following day. Then I got caught with my fucking pants down, as the bitch that stole Christmas refused to screw me anymore.
Suffering seeped deep from within. Sucked by a vacuum to an inescapable void. As I awoke each day, I wept. Suddenly she wasn’t there; no one to hold, only nothingness and despair. Just a repressed soul, still looking for a way out of this mess.
Foolishly I renounced my position as cashier, to perform live sex shows. Suddenly I possessed no visible source of income. Without a partner, future prospects for shows were put on hold.
Following my break-up with Rae, I strived to function as a live sex show performer. I continued to do shows. With the outskirts of Times Square as my territory, I went from one flashdancer to the next. This gauntlet included a femme fatale, an Amazon peep queen, nude nymphets, and a dwarf with bad body odor. Some were nice. Others were nasty, nasty bitches. Some were battle-scarred. Some had missing teeth. Some didn’t like me, or men for that matter. Some didn’t shave, and it really showed.
The mirror-ball swirled. Slivers of glass dissipated, like pieces of me, shattered beyond belief. Narcotics nullified my senses, and depleted my essence. With nary a trace of gratification, I climbed on stage with women I cared less about. Intercourse eventually became meaningless.
Destiny demanded I descend upon Show World on a pilgrimage to the Mecca of all peep palaces.
I proceeded down 8th Avenue, known as the Minnesota Strip for all the teenage runaways that had fled the Midwest. I felt like a contestant on the Dating Game. Prostitutes, like wild antelope, grazed this avenue of disgrace. Flaunting themselves, they only flee at the sight of an approaching police cruiser. I wish them well on their misguided journey.
Then I pass the Cameo Theater, the porno house with the $1.99 entrance fee. Haggard hookers and their tricks found this place preferable to a fleabag hotel. Next door lies the drug-infested Paradise Alley; a scumatorium consisting of a bookstore, peep projection booths, and a large open-window peep stage. Muddled nude models dance here to a depressing beat, pulling hand-jobs from the stage. And for the lost cause too coked-up to get a hard-on, the girls use Johnson’s Baby Lotion.
Finally I arrive at Show World, the fabled flesh emporium of epic proportions; the marquee ablaze with forbidden attractions. ‘LIVE NUDE GIRLS’, ‘LIVE SEX ACTS’, and ‘XXX MOVIES IN COLOR’. I felt like Dorothy in the Land of Oz. Several solitary cashier’s thrones guarded the entrance, where admission stood at four tokens for a dollar. Through the lobby lurked a juxtaposition of video-peeps that spanned binary corridors. All for 25 cents and a wet dream.
Suddenly, a dumpy woman charged out of the dressing room, nearly slamming me into a booth. Who else but Mama Santana, the legendary former stripper and manager of this baby doll revue. Despite a near collision, she proceeded down the aisle past the stage to a corner cashier’s throne. Grabbing a nearby microphone, she belted out this urgent bulletin: “CALLING ALL PUSSY INSPECTORS…CALLING ALL PUSSY INSPECTORS!”
Mama Santana took me under her wing. Later I learned that we shared the exact same birthday. Who’d a guessed? She was like Fagin and I was the Artful Dodger. Well, sort of. Under Santana’s supervision, I did some shows. Santana’s stable admitted runaways, lesbians, transvestites, gypsies, tramps, and homeless Love Teams, as well as the fallen angels of forbidden fantasies. A dysfunctional family if there ever was one. Though tough as nails, her all-consuming compassion for her brethren persevered. She frequently put girls up in her small apartment, comprised of wall-to-wall mattresses. If you were willing to work, she had a place for you.
My initial basement booking began with a petite Canadian girl who Santana had rescued from the streets. She suffered from some kind of palsy, with her left hand permanently clasped. I asked Santana what the hell was wrong with it.
“She’s a cripple, can’t you tell,” Santana whispered. “Be gentle with the little Gemini, Aries. No rough stuff, okay? She’s had enough of that at home.”
Management hired Love Teams in the live peep shows based on their ability to get it on, with boy-girl, lesbian, and mixed combo (‘salt and pepper’) most popular amongst standing ovations of pud-pullers. Love Teams primarily consisted of actual lovers, married couples, and a few gay men who performed with females to support their lovers and significant others.
Love Teams were required by management to perform hardcore sex acts on stage. A fuck team must be invigorating, with semi-exemplary lovemaking skills that inspire the booth windows to remain open, especially during peak hours. If the nymphomaniacs on stage are indeed debauched, customers armed with tokens galore will vigorously insert them until the show ceases abruptly, usually upon entry of the next couple to the stage. During this switch, peepers usually backtrack to the cashier to reload on octagonal coins for the latest degradation. However, a capable Love Team was anticipated by peep-freaks well in advance.
By the end of the shift, figures for the stage are tallied. When a certain disheveled couple appeared to produce higher figures than others, the bosses instruct the manager to bestow them with more bookings. Also the female sex-partner in crime usually generates increased figures in her booth, as a result of her performance on stage. After seeing her suck and fuck, a randy peeper is compelled to visit her Private Booth, where they can experience a more intimate show, starring him as the male member.
Although live peep shows were ubiquitous throughout Times Square, decrepit shoebox theaters such as the dinky Doll, the obnoxious Roxy, and the abysmal Avon 7 littered the landscape. These shoddy theaters screened adult movies, with the added attraction of intermittent live sex shows. Purveyors of porno stars on the fast track to nowhere often preferred these places, as opposed to the peeps, which allowed patrons to view live sex acts comfortably seated, sans the obstruction of an enclosure surrounding the stage. Eclipsed by skin flicks, Love Teams performed the nasty on an open stage for an audience within inhaling range of their bodily fluids. No longer restricted to individual booths, men openly discharged jizz, launching sperm missiles toward unintended targets, while lap-dancers dry-humped their way through the aisles, pulling hand-jobs, blow-jobs; whatever they could get away with.
Back at 711 Show Follies I scored a succession of shows with the dark-skinned Dominican girl known as Desire, originally from the planet Lesbo. Although not exactly a candidate for the Miss World Pageant, Desire still willingly agreed to do shows with me.
On one such occasion, Desire and myself are bringing a shift’s worth of simulations to a satisfactory conclusion, and upon delivery of some powerful weed, I will proceed to incapacitate myself and go home. But as Desire leaves the stage for her private booth, she notices the barker of the nearby Green Door Theater gesturing wildly, in an exasperating attempt at getting her attention. Sensing dollar signs, Desire moseys over to his desk, equipped with turn-style, cash register, and protruding microphone. Frantically the barker explains that his latest Love Team, scheduled to fornicate on stage four minutes from now, are now MIA, despite repeated announcements to locate them. Evidently the missing team staged a disappearing act, leaving nothing but a discarded bed sheet and a container of Wet Ones. For all he knew, the lost lovers were nodded out in an undisclosed peep booth, porter’s closet, or someplace else where junkies go. Rather than risk having to refund customers departing from the theater on account of a live no-show, the barker pleaded point-blank with Desire; would you be willing to go on stage as a stand-by Love Team since it’s virtually impossible to procure another couple with show time minutes away? Desire jumps at the chance, agreeing to do the gig as the self-appointed spokesperson without even consulting me.
Unaware of this, I emerge from the porter’s closet amidst clouds of Thai smoke, assuming I’m finished for the day. At once, Desire grabs me by the arm and starts escorting me toward the nearby Green Door Theater. Along the way she informs me that as a favor, she booked us to go on stage at the Green Door, and by the way, it pays an additional ten bucks for the show. All this means nothing to me, with my psyche now thoroughly displaced by the euphoria induced by a potent strain of weed. As soon as we pass through the turn-style and enter a darkened domicile, it suddenly occurs to me that the Green Door is an exposed open-stage theater, inhabited by an audience within cum shot range, minus the safeguard of Plexiglas. With an admission of ten dollars, privileged patrons view hard-core fuck acts, not sleight-of-hand simulations, at close proximity.
And they expect to get what they paid for.
What happens next is likely lost somewhere in the peep space-time continuum. Through the aperture of my mind I experience a sensation similar to the shutter of a camera, with perceptions akin to time-lapse photographs taken of the fauna, with every second up there feeling like an eternity. With my marbles orbiting the rings of Saturn, I now find myself with my pants pulled down kneeling on a dais under the glare of a weird green light.
With the plodding beat of Juicy Fruit warbling through the stage speakers, Desire, naturally down on all fours, is trying her best to perform ventriloquism by sucking my Charlie McCarthy, but without the desired results. Like a side show snake charmer missing his bamboo flute, I can’t seem to summon my python to levitate. Soon a round of random catcalls escalates to aggravated humiliation, as disgruntled patrons proceed to mock my member’s inability to resemble an impressive member. Needless outbursts such as: “SHIT IS LIMP,” “LIMP-DICKED MOTHA-FUCKA,” and “NIGGA, GET YOUR GODDAMN SHIT TOGETHER,” are proven overtly distracting, as Desire slurps my slappy to no avail.
One patron in a standing ovation declares loudly: “Your shit is spent, Mr. Softy. Ain’t no frozen cock. You definitely need some starch.”
We scored multiple bookings at Show World, high atop the Penthouse to be precise. Situated to the right of the Private Booths were two Peep-A-Live stages, one of which was equipped with a mattress, minus a cum-stained bed-sheet. Both stages were connected and occupied simultaneously by Love Teams performing live shows. To access the second stage, we entered Stage One, passing through the rear of the stage while a girl-girl show was currently in progress; and enter Stage Two, where incidentally we will relieve the present love-team, and begin our bogus sex show.
On one particular evening, Stage Two is occupied by Bullwhip and Peaches, one of Show World’s star fuck-teams. Not the most attractive couple, this did not lessen their stage appeal. Peepers anxiously anticipate their unorthodox show, a spectacle that keeps the peep-curtains perpetually raised; a rousing retreat from a boring simulation. In hot pursuit of pussy, ex-con Bullwhip periodically chases his hapless wife Peaches around the peep stage, waving his prolonged dong, and driving her batty with it. Bullwhip, in possession of a shocking 17-inch penis, swings his python deliriously, like a rodeo cowboy ready to lasso a steer.
“Oh you gonna get it… you gonna get it bitch… you gonna get it and get it good, and you gonna like it and you gonna like it like dat and then some, you goddamn bitch…!” taunts Bullwhip.
“Break out wid da Preparation H!” screeches Peaches, like an undressed damsel in distress. “Dis nigga just got out of jail ‘n shit. And all he want to do is butt-fuck me. Who knows what else he’ll do to me!”
Often I fantasized about something deeper; an actual love bond existing within a Love Team, of which the picture could wishfully progress beyond fucking to love.
Unbearable repentance gnawed at my intestines, as I couldn’t escape the notion I’d squandered my misguided life. So I renounced careless abandon to amend my transgression, and finally got clean. No longer enslaved by drugs, the self-loathing finally ceased. And then I learned to love myself, and those around me.
Maybe there existed an inexplicable reason for my exposure to the unimaginable. So I embarked on a journey of self-expression. As an artist-writer, I formulated a vision to document the caste society that became my world. My contemporaries graduated to stardom, then early death. I crossed paths with Death, but was allowed to live.
Deuce 42 still lives in New York City.
He became a successful illustrator – often using his experiences as a sex worker in Times Square as inspiration. Many of his pictures adorned the covers of Screw magazine.
He rarely visits the 42nd Street area nowadays; its transformation into a neon tourist trap saddens him.
A few years ago, he saw Moses, the former mop-man at the 711. Homeless and derelict, Mo’ was lying semi-conscious on the floor of a subway station as commuters stepped over him on their way to work.
Danny Hellman’s Screw cover depicting Deuce 42 as a mop man (left) – as well as Al Goldstein and Rudy Giuliani
Excellent companion piece to last week’s superlative overview of the theaters.
Lots of good detail about the inner workings of the Times Square peeps, though harrowing about the toll it took.
I hope this book get published, as there is not enough information about this era (apart from the Rialto Report of course….!!)
Love the old Show World coins!
Loved this article, and the artwork by the artist is awesome too. I suggested to The Rialto people that this would be a good subject for a report, and as usual it lives up to your highest standards.
Nice job, Deuce 42. Some raw writing there. And I love your graphics too. What about a graphic novel version of your time on 42nd Srt?
Beautifully written and so evocative of a time that is long gone. Great job Deuce!
I too would love to read the book. Fascinating stuff!
Don’t have the words, RR. Beyond fascinating.
Just like it was for some inside the peep house.
Great to feel it again.
Publish this book now!!!!!
If these extracts are anything to go by, it needs to be out there and part of history.
Reproductions of the 711 t-shirt, please. Take my money!
I worked for Show World for 19 years in more of a managerial executive capacity. I had been introduced to the situations mentioned in this article. And I miss and loved the times I were there . Dangerous but alluring a part of history that should be emphasized in a way that can be understood. I had the pleasure.meeting Guy later on in time. Although we were at the same place at the same time our pats while there did not cross. He is a gifted artist and writer that was meant to tell the real and accurate story of Show World Center.
Very interesting… and sad too. Playpen of the Damned. I wonder what happened to some of the other performers. I guess they’re in their 60s now.. seems strange but oddly comforting to know they found a home in these places.
More please . . . .
I remember a girl named Marcella @ both Show World & Les Girls. Could that be the Marcella posting here?
The Deuce was the Broadway style stage revue of porn at it most risque. I always wondered why a porn central west never popped up on the left coast. The closest thing to 42nd St. was Western Ave. in East Hollywood back in the day.
Outstanding, The Rialto Report has a new fan, glad I found you!
One of the best memoirs I’ve read at R.R.
I too remember the managers both Santana and lightning. Once Santana caught a girl smoking on stage, and told her to smoke it with her pussy. The girl didn’t believe it could be done. Santana who had to be 50, wiped down her pants, took the cigarette and took a drag with her pussy. She then handed it back to the girl and pulled up her pants. I don’t remember seeing the girl after that, I don’t think she had the stomach for the work. It took a certain kind of mental state of mind.
Also when they switched from loops to video. For a while the only video in the booths was a video of Lightning. I heard the new machines were installed before they got the licensing for the movies being shown, so they made their own with lightning, till all the issues ciuld be resolved.
Show World at its peak had thirty booth babes a night all competing for their share of the customers money.
Then they zoned it out of business so the whores from Disney could take over. Rudy was such a jerk.
HEY I LOVE 42ND STREET THE WAY IT WAS, NOW ITS A MESS WITH THIS DISNEY CRAP AND RETAIL CHAIN STORES.IM FROM D C AND WOULD TAKE THE TRAIN UP ONCE A MONTH FOR THE AMAZING NITE LIFE DANCETERIA, WEBSTER HALL ,ETC. THE VILLAGE WAS CRAZY WITH THE FASHION SHOPS STORE FRONTS,GIFTS STORES.THEN I CANNOT FORGET THE PEEPSHOWS STRIPCLUBS VIDEOSTORES,I MET GINGER LYNN ,SEKA AT SHOW WORLD. I ENJOYED THE HARDCORE LIVE SHOWS AND A CITY THAT WAS UP ALL NITE. I MISS THE REAL WORLD. NOW ITS BORING LAME AND MOST ALL DEAD. NEW YORK WILL NEVER BE THE FUN TOWN IT ONCE WAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Just for your edification, “Les Gals” was the peep show upstairs at 136 West 42nd Street.
Now that’s culture 😉
I guess Peep Man never came out?