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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Life's Seedy Underbelly

Peep World, NYC
Photo by myself on West 33rd Street near 8th Avenue.

Not all of Manhattan is glamorous. There are still little pockets of an older, seedier New York still around, but you really have to look. Times Square, which used to be populated with strip clubs and x-rated video stores, is located only a few blocks north of this location. Now of course, Times Square is squeaky clean.


I was going to write about a certain place tonight because of the above photo. Various online searches went nowhere.

'Damien Hirst strip club 25th Street', I typed. '25th Street 6th Avenue New York x-rated'.


I was trying to remember the name of a place near one of my old offices. Years ago, a coworker had told me that Damien Hirst, the British artist whose work includes a cow cut in half, used to visit this x-rated place. But I couldn't remember the name.

So I turned to Mark on the off chance that he knew.

'Okay, do you know of this place, around 6th Avenue and 24th Street? It was x-rated, and it had a funny name. Something Something. Then they added and 'S' so it wouldn't be so obviously...x-rated?'

Mark put his head down and laughed. 'Oh, Billy Stopless?'

Holy cow. Yes.

'Billy Stopless' was not the anonymous hole in the wall that I thought it was. It turns out that Billy's was a quirky, local landmark. Mark had gone in once with a bunch of buddies years ago. He found it to be a strange and grungy place, with not the most attractive dancers. (He didn't stay long!)

Billy's was originally called 'Billy's Topless', until Guiliani cracked down on adult establishments in the late 90's. Since the letters in the sign were all capitals, the owners only had to move the apostrophe for the name to be acceptable. I used to chuckle every time I saw the sign because of the silly name.

Billy's closed sometime around 2001.

For more about Billy Stopless, including a very small picture of the facade, click here.


The Barber Bunch said...

Great Picture. We have a local 'landmark' like that here in Dayton. McCook's. Very In-Famous around here!

I read a book about Guiliani's crackdown. Vrey interesting.


Kitty said...

Hi Carolyn
lol, I guess every place has its underside, even Dayton!

BrianC said...

My neighborhood is acquiring nearly the same reputation for that old-fashioned "seediness" - but through the presence of sex toy shops rather than peep shows. Christopher St. in particular has more purveyors of vibrators, toys, and fetish-wear than one could ever imagine. And altho' I think some toys can be fun . . . I swear that some of the items on display in the windows look like medieval instruments of torture. Are there really that many people who want to own a ball gag and have weights clipped to various body parts? Much of NYC may have been "sanitized for your protection," but thanks to the Village and midtown west one can still wallow in that old Gotham debauchery.

Olivier said...

nettoyage de mister Guiliani, qui a fait fermer les sexe-shop mais aussi pas mal de club de blues...Le long de la 8eme avenue (quand on va du New Yorker vers la 42eme) il y a pas mal de boutique comme celle-ci. belle gestion des couleurs.

Cleaning mister Giuliani, who has close sex-shop but also a lot of blues club ... along the 8th Avenue (when you go to the New Yorker at the 42eme) there is a lot of boutique sex-shop . Beautiful color management.

Tammy said...

Billy Stopless....hey I bet it saved him a lot of money on getting a new sign made. hehehe

Kitty said...

Hi Brian
Yes, those crazy stores on Christopher. They are quite over the top. The items inside make great for gag gifts.

Hi Olivier
I didn't know about the Jazz clubs. How strange? I wonder why that was on the agenda.

Hi Tammy
Yes, it was el cheapo sign repair, which made it even funnier. I wish I had a better picture of the sign

Nikon said...

I LOVE the awning - it shouts class :-)
I remember the old Times Square miss it - it was the first part of NYC where I spent a lot of time - near the bus terminal.
On walks to the village,the B&D leather & plastic toys were, well, really outrageous!

Hyde DP said...

an intriguing history you've unearthed here.

Kitty said...

Hi Nikon
I feel the same. The old Times Square was scary but it was authentic and unusual. The Times Square as it is now is overwhelming and very artificial.

I know some people find the stuff offensive but there's a funny side to it, definitely. You see people gawking at the store displays all the time, like 'what in the world is that'

Thanks Gerald
I love these little histories. I saddens me when places close down because the stories are potentially lost.

CHEWY said...

The first time I entered one of those sex shops, I think it was "Pink Pussycat" in the village, was so embarrassing... the salesperson kept handing me things to feel.

Great picture and interesting story.

Kitty said...

Hi Chewy
How funny? I'm not sure I could go into one of those, I'd be much too embarrassed.

Maybe to get a gag gift for a wedding shower? That kind of thing, lol.

Ming the Merciless said...

The hypocrisy of it all is that Guiliani is as much a scumbag as the operators of those porn shops, albeit he's the highbrow type.

So glad his Presidential campaign crashed and burned. Even his son and daughter think he's pathetic.

Kitty said...

Whoa, Ming. I see I've touched a nerve!
I didn't have much of an opinion about Rudy while he was in office, except that I was glad he was a constant presence during 9/11 and I'm glad he made it illegal to leave your dog poop on the sidewalk.

I did think his many little laws were a little much (like those on jaywalking and opening the door on the wrong side of the taxi). But after seeing him run for office but non-opinion plummeted.

He was a bit ridiculous, poor thing. I was embarrassed for him.

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