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The Pimps and Prostitutes of 1970s Times Square
July 5, 2014 7:14 AM   Subscribe

From 1972 to 1982, Sheldon Nadelman worked as a bartender at the “roughest bar in town”—Terminal Bar, directly across from the Port Authority. When he wasn’t pouring drinks, Nadelman was taking photographs of his patrons. He had good material: as one regular put it, “through these doors pass some of the most miserable people on Earth.”
posted by josher71 (8 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
Love lost NYC documents...

I found a link to a sort of hinky controlled slideshow-ish app with the actual photos on the film-maker's site. If you click the strip on the right you can move around in the years.
posted by mzurer at 7:35 AM on July 5 [8 favorites]


This doc was mind-blowing to me (working as a video editor) when it came out. I don't think I had seen such a creative use of stills and motion graphics in a documentary at the time this came out. I loved the creative techniques and the stories were so strong. It still looks great.
posted by jade east at 7:49 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


When I was on 42nd St. in 1969, the sex workers didn't have to work the streets. They had 2nd floor massage parlors called "The Love Shack" or "The Dating Room" and young guys on the street handing out flyers. The women would quote prices…nothing subtle about prostitution in Times Square in those days.
posted by kozad at 7:50 AM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Is it just me or were there a lot of gay people/drag queens back then? Moreso than usual?
posted by Avenger at 10:30 AM on July 5


Is it just me or were there a lot of gay people/drag queens back then? Moreso than usual?

I don't think it was more than now but they tended to congregate in the places where no one asked questions and no one hassled them for being what they were. And of course, there's always the novelty factor that attracted photographers to them in the first place.
posted by tommasz at 10:51 AM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Is it just me or were there a lot of gay people/drag queens back then? Moreso than usual?

Well, in addition to the ghettoization tommasz mentions, which is no longer as extreme as it once was, it was also pre-AIDS, so, you know, there's that. We are currently missing almost an entire generation of gay men of a certain age, and the numbers in successive generations have also been reduced.

Sadly, I don't imagine many of the black, gay heroin addicts depicted in this series made it to the other side of the eighties.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:41 PM on July 5


This may have some clever video editing tricks, but as a non-video editor, holy God do I find a lot of it irritating and intrusive on the photographs themselves, which are actually pretty great--almost everyone looks like a character actor with extra character, even the guy who stocked the cigarette machine. (Thanks to mzurer for the link to the slideshow, even though that has its intrusive bits, like the little sound effect when you advance to the next picture.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:49 PM on July 5


Is it just me or were there a lot of gay people/drag queens back then?

I don't think it was more than now but they tended to congregate in the places where no one asked questions and no one hassled them for being what they were

There's a historic connection between gay men and prostitutes—when homosexuality was illegal, one of the things they'd use to work out that someone was gay was carrying Vaseline or any other kind of lubricant. Similarly, they'd work out that someone was a prostitute because they are carrying condoms. They never concluded that a man might be patronising a prostitute if he had a box of condoms. So, to take advantage of this, prostitutes and gay men would trade Vaseline and condoms when a police raid on a bar or club happened precisely to avoid either being used as evidence.

Similarly, each acted as an ally for the other to cope with harassment and other similar issues.

Of course, we now live in a more enlightened age where carrying a condom around would never be used to infer that someone was a prostitute.

Oh, wait.

"The use of condoms as evidence is a practice by the NYPD specifically to target people of color, youth and transgender women. They’re going to the store and because of the way they look, they get stopped and frisked by the police. And a lot of those interactions are really awful — they’ll grab their genitals and say, ‘what are you.’ And if they search their bag, and there’s any condoms, they can use that to book them for prostitution even if that’s not what they were doing."
posted by tommorris at 5:02 AM on July 6


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