42nd Street (Manhattan)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

42nd Street is a major crosstown street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, known for its theaters, especially near the intersection with Broadway at Times Square. It is also the name of the region of the theater district (and, at times, the red-light district) near that intersection. From the early 1960s until the late 1980s, 42nd Street was the cultural center of American exploitation and grindhouse theatres, which spawned an entire subculture. The book Sleazoid Express, a travelogue of the 42nd Street grindhouses and the films they showed, describes in detail the unique blend of people who made up the theater-goers, including black pimps, low-grade mafiosi, transvestites, Latino gangsters, "rough trade" homosexuals, aggressive lesbians, trench coat-clad perverts, and thrill-seeking squares.

History

The former Longacre Square was renamed to honor The New York Times which established its offices and printing plant nearby. For a long period in the mid-20th century, the area of 42nd Street near Times Square was home to peep shows and other activities often considered unsavory. A comedian once said, "They call it 42nd Street because you're not safe if you spend more than forty seconds on it."

A popular 1933 movie musical named 42nd Street, set in Depression Manhattan, colorfully described the bawdy mixture of Broadway shows and prostitution during the early 20th century. In 1980, it was turned into a successful Broadway musical, which was revived in 2001 in a theater that was itself on 42nd Street. The following is an excerpt from the musical:

In the heart of little old New York
you'll find a thoroughfare;
It's the part of little old New York
that runs into Times Square…

From the early 1960s until the late 1980s, 42nd Street was the cultural center of American grindhouse theatres, which spawned an entire subculture. The book Sleazoid Express, a travelogue of the 42nd Street grindhouses and the films they showed, describes in detail the unique blend of people who made up the theater-goers, including black pimps, low-grade mafiosi, transvestites, Latino gangsters, "rough trade" homosexuals, aggressive lesbians, trench coat-clad perverts, and thrill-seeking squares.

In the late 1980s, the grindhouses were all shut down in a series of late-night raids by the New York City Police Department, under the orders of Mayor Ed Koch as a part of his resolution to clean up the city's seedier elements.

Recent changes

In the late 1990s, city government encouraged a clean-up of the Times Square area. The block of 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues has again became home to a "legitimate" theater, along with shops and restaurants that draw millions to the city every year. This area is now co-signed as "New 42nd St" to signify this change.

 


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "42nd Street (Manhattan)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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