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Bustin' Out All Over

Something's goin on

Going into Cowgirl Hall of Fame, I could see that there was a lot of rubbernecking happening a block down, at the corner of Christopher and Hudson. It was hard to tell, though, whether there was a fire, an accident, or what. I was curious, but I was hungrier. By the time dinner was over, though, the sun had set and the floodlights and an even larger crowd had arrived at the scene, making it very clear that something was still going on, and it was kinda major.

Workmen get ready to shore up the facade

It didn't take long to discover that the hubbub was over the building across Christopher from the pizzeria. There was a huge crack running through the wall around the level of the first-floor ceiling, and a visible bulge to the entire wall. The whole thing was about to collapse, and emergency crews had been brought in to shore up the structure before it all came crashing down into the intersection. Workmen were knocking holes into the sidewalk around the building, and a truckload of lumber for the exoskeleton was at the ready.

Now, if you didn't know (it was news to me), this building used to be one of the older booth stores (you know, gay porn shops with video booths and lots of cruising) in the area, and one which stubbornly resisted all efforts to shut it down during the Giuliani administration's purge of all the porn shops and sex clubs in residential neighborhoods. Guys in the crowd were reminiscing about their adventures in that building, including one couple who had an out-of-town friend who would visit them and spent most of each weekend at "the library," as they had come to call it.

The store is long gone now, but it looked like there were still some apartments upstairs. I wonder how long it will take before the luxury apartments are built in its place. Will the new tenants be haunted by lewd, horny ghosts?

The scene of the action

Tangent: The Ultrasparky Field Correspondent who finally tracked down that link about the West Village's adult offerings points out that it's next to impossible to find any information about all these places with long, colorful, decadent histories that have finally been shut down in the last few years. It's not the kind of news item usually picked up by the gay press, any more than the subjects were ever raised in polite society, so there's not much to go on except rumor and reminiscences when you can find them. Maybe these places weren't the proudest aspect of gay culture, but they're part of the history, even if they weren't part of yours. So does anyone have any information about any of the places that have passed form New York's seedy underbelly to its murky past? My Google ranking could probably really use the linkage.

Comments (9)

1) giga: wow. that's kind of sad, considering the age of the building and its generally nice appearance. (Aug 24, 2005 8:53 AM)

2) Sparky: Eh, the building's not actually so nice. It's just lit well. That's pretty typical architecture for the neighborhood, and the overall effect is pretty nice, but this place also shows the signs of years of neglect. Not that I could afford to live in one of those apartments, though, since they're still Manhattan rentals. (You did notice the "Space for Rent" signs on the fire escape, right? Classic!) (Aug 24, 2005 9:10 AM)

3) Charlie: I once went into that booth store, in my twenties, but got all nervous and never went into the actual booths. It was until later when I stepped through the doors of the long-gone Adonis Theatre in midtown that I visited my first porn palace. The Adonis had been a silent movie theatre and Jack Wrangler made an infamous movie there as well. During its silent days, movies were sometimes shown on the roof during the summer. Further down Eighth (at 44th) there's another booth store that was also a silent movie house that had a mechanism which opened the roof for hot summer, pre-air-cooled days. Still, sad to see this old building go. During Pride, they always let Heritage of Pride sell pier dance tickets, etc., on their sidewalk. Also, appropriately, there was a great street florist on the side of its first floor... (Aug 24, 2005 1:21 PM)

4) Dan: I first went there back in 1980, when I was 15. I used to make illicit journeys from Staten Island to that bookstore for porn magazine perusal and purchase. Yep, couldn't find any resources for gay teens, but porno was everywhere! I didn't go into the back and booths until some years later and then it was always the place to while away a few hours on a sunday afternoon (and get some). I was never much into the whole West Village scene (even as a teen, I would run back east after porn mag viewing to hit A7). But I wander down that area now and I it's hard to be believe NYC was ever such a sex-driven town as it was "back then." (Aug 24, 2005 8:29 PM)

5) giga: From Gothamist: 'The DoB said that renovation work there was causing the problems, but new work or not, being reminded that train service could cause buildings to collapse is an "Oops, I Crapped My Pants" moment.' Renovation work was causing the problems? (Aug 25, 2005 8:22 AM)

6) Sparky: I assume that work on the building — power tools, drywall replacement, all that heavy-duty stuff — was causing a lot of strain and vibration that was then intensified by the trains running below. Every time one of these old brick buildings collapse around here (and it seems to happen every month or two), it's almost always a building that's under construction. A lot of those old buildings seem to be held together by habit and old paint. (Aug 25, 2005 9:45 AM)

7) giga: Ew. That blockquote broke the comments. Feel free to kill it. (Aug 25, 2005 9:51 AM)

8) Sparky: Already done. I'm a vicious editor! (Aug 25, 2005 9:54 AM)

9) Dan: Also, keep in mind that the land in that area is basically sand. I had some friends who were fighting the Con Ed and Port Authority for years becasue every time any sort of under the sidewalk work was being done, some building got severley damaged. (Aug 25, 2005 4:20 PM)

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