Thursday, July 30, 2015


The lights on Times Square were not nearly as bright when I first moved to New York City. Video screens hadn't made any headway; most of the neon was on street level blinkingly advertising private video booths and pleasure toys. The streets were littered with tossed Styrofoam cups and used condoms. Unless you were going to the theater a trip down Broadway between Forty-second and Fiftieth Streets once the sun has faded behind the buildings west of Eleventh Avenue was a dangerous risk with little reward. Sex was being broadcast from the lips of streetwalkers and hustlers; pink neon sizzled out enticements like, "Peep shows, $5" and "Girls, Girls, Girls". Vacationing families only ventured there for a quick shot of the Camel cigarette ad that blew puffs of smoke every thirty seconds or so. Beyond the view there was little to keep them in the cross roads of the world. They were soon off to the safer and friendlier streets of Madison and Fifth Avenues.
The refurbishment of Times Square has taken decades to complete. The x-rated sex shops and the drug pushers have for the most part moved on. Disney has moved its theatrical ventures to Forty-Second Street, mammoth hi-def screens now light up the Great White Way and upscale hotels and restaurants have now taken over most of the Square making the only real estate available for growth a vertical venture.
The Square now draws an international crowd where native costumes not indigenous to the west color the streets and café tables of the pedestrian plazas
and the sounds of forty different languages can be heard jabbering while waiting for the walk sign at the intersections of those cross-streets and avenues that make up the Great White Way
The tourist crowds have grown by 74% over the 1993 numbers but as with any development if not managed and maintained
there is always the possibility that those numbers could start to slide on the roller coaster of time and change. The creeping in of what once was has been a sneaky process.
Genuine street performers, the ones to first come to Times Square, can still be found working the crowd with a donation bucket but without any hard sell
while a sleazier group of hucksters dressed in dirty rented cartoon character costumes grab visitors and their children demanding money for having stepped into a family portrait.
Most egregious has been the untalented parading of mostly naked girls wearing only G-strings, the rest of their bodies poorly painted red, white and blue all capped with cheap ostrich feather headdresses. There's no attempt at creativity, the girls all look the same.
It's merely a play on titillation ripping off the originality of the first naked cowboy who at least wore a pair of underpants and pretended he had some sort of talent.
These girls now work the streets under the watchful eye of their pimps sitting at the tables scattered throughout the Square. The girls dutifully turning over their wads of money during the fifteen-minute reprieves they're allotted by the men who hold sway over them.
Although I did find one with a bit more ingenuity than the rest.
There's still plenty of risqué humor and family friendly fair throughout Times Square but the seedy side of life is trying to squeeze back in. The fine line of tastefully provocative is very close to having been crossed into raunchy uncomfortableness.
Maybe it's better to go to Central Park where the entertainment comes via unicorns with a message in heels playing accordions.

Times Square with Father Duffy Statue Still Wrapped Up, 1937
Peter Sekaer, photographer
Represented by Lumiere Fine Art Photography, Atlanta

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