I am reasonably sure that the statute of limitations has passed that this story can now be told. And if it hasn’t, oh well. It’s only going to embarrass me and my best buds — as if we haven’t already made that a lifetime pursuit!
I spent some time recently walking through Times Square on successive late weekday nights and was gobsmacked by what I saw:
Brightly lit storefronts.
Tourist traps of every assortment.
The horror of it all!
The Times Square I recall as a kid was the seedy one that, when I would be with my dad and we were cutting through it, he would tell me to keep my head down and to walk quickly.
You know the pre-Rudy Giuliani Times Square I’m talking about: Peep shows, porno palaces and panhandlers.
As a college student, I worked at what was then New York Telephone Company’s HQ on 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue.
Times Square was still, as my father would describe it, “schkeevatz.” (Translation: Dirty and repulsive.)
I’d meet Pedro or Rich (who were each at the time working jobs in Manhattan) for lunch at Bryant Park across the street.
It too at the time was schkeevatz – overrun with drug dealers, homeless and rats.
But, you know, by this time we were older and more adventurous so the rundown, dirty nature of Times Square had some allure for us.
We were young men sowing our wild oats and would make, um, fact-finding missions to some of the venues offering adult entertainment (read: the peep shows).
Like women going to the bathroom at a restaurant, we would go in pairs or sometimes as an entire pack.
Our most memorable visit was to a showroom by four of us: Yours truly, Gary, Rich and Pedro.
The room was circular, each with a private booth and a window that afforded you a view. You put your quarter in, and a slow-moving panel would mechanically lift to give you a view of the performance.
An important detail: The room was set up in such a way that you could look across and see the faces of the patrons framed by the windows as they looked in.
Rich was on the opposite side of the three of us.
We could clearly see him: Rich was getting a front row view of this hot performer whose back was to us.
Then this performer removes whatever excuse for covering she was wearing, and then we see Rich and he’s just dying laughing.
The three of us are trying to figure out why, when the performer turns around to face us.
Let me pause here to ask: Have you ever seen “The Crying Game”? Know of its surprising twist?
Look it up.
Are you back? Yep, well, you guessed it.
The joke was on us because this performer was sporting a package the size of a Sears refrigerator box.
Rich: I can still see the horror on Gary’s face.
Gary: And, yes, I still see it (and Rich’s laughing face across from me) in my nightmares.
We bolted – screaming — out of there. There are some things that cannot be unseen.