A snapshot of 1970s Times Square

Bob Gruen took this photo of Times Square in April 1972. Everything in it is now gone.

The campy “Follies Burlesk,” which had taken over the circa-1917 Orpheum Dance Palace a few years earlier, didn’t last long. It was replaced in 1976 by the Gaiety Male Burlesk, advertising “six boys five times a day.” 

The Gaiety had staying power, shutting down in 2005, just as the Howard Johnson’s right below it did when the entire building was sold.

HoJo’s was an orange and blue mainstay offering cheapo drinks. food, and old signage since 1955. 

Peace marchers, here protesting bombings in Vietnam, are also few and far in between. Times Square isn’t much of a place of protest anymore—especially now that it’s a blocks-long pedestrian mall.

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9 Responses to “A snapshot of 1970s Times Square”

  1. Michael Says:

    You know I miss a lot of things about New York from when I was a kid. I grew up in Downtown Brooklyn before anything called “Bococa” existed. I got to walk around Radio Row before it was torn down when I was in primary school. One of my favorite pictures of myself from when I was a kid is in front of the old Penn Station with my dad.

    One thing I don’t miss about New York’s past though? Times Square. I can’t remember a time when it wasnt both packed with tourists and prostitutes. Maybe some people remember the cheap drinks at hojos but all that comes to my mind is the pimps, sad looking street walkers and peep shows. I think its hilarious when I talk with fellow old timers and they reminisce about Times Square before the “disneyfication.” What exactly were you doing over there that you miss so much man? That question never gets a good answer.

    Now that the internet exists we don’t need Times Square. It comes right to your living room.

  2. Josie Says:

    I remember Times Square from the 1940s (when I was a child) through the 1980s (left NYC in 1990). In its very last years before yuppification and disneyfication, Times Square became nothing but nasty, a district of porn shops, drug dealing, prostitution, and thieves brazenly hawking their stolen wares for sale on the sidewalks. The midnight scene became so menacing that cab drivers avoided the area and the the great department stores only a few blocks away started closing at 5:00 and 6:00 in the evening whereas they used to be open until late at night and all the supporting businesses (restaurants, etc.) around them too. It’s disheartening that just yesterday, on Easter Sunday 2010, there was gang-instigated mayhem all over the Times Square area … But for decades before it got that bad, it was a glorious good time of legend! Besides the famous news ticker (news in lights, wrapping around the Times building) and New Year’s Eve, hordes of “regular” people enjoyed the glamour of Times Square, day and night. There was the legitimate theatre. There were fancy nightclubs, restaurants, and dance halls. People were drawn to enjoy the hundreds of stores selling imports, tourist trinkets, wonderful toys and gadgets (mostly mechanical and then moving into the electronics), all cheap! And going to the movies along 42nd Street (a dozen or so double-feature theatres), and a great variety of eateries, high and low. Tucked in all around were acting and dancing schools, printers–you name it! In the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s … If you did an all-nighter which we occasionally did as young people, sure, you could pick out prostitutes, drunks, and weirdos in the crowd. But still the crowd was mostly a mix of tourists from other states and nations, and people in from the suburbs to carouse on a weekend, and we adventurous, non-yuppie, solid citizen young Manhattanites who not only enjoyed a little excitement but also preferred diversity to a Dick and Jane world of bland and smug conformity.

  3. Josie Says:

    I ate in that Howard Johnson’s lots of times.

  4. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    You should see my novella ‘Times Queer’ about 42nd Street and teen kids hanging in the streets

    http://timesqueer.blogspot.com/

    Times Queer

    Times Queer

    Buy from Amazon

    It will set you right, whether you want to or not

  5. Alex Says:

    Times Square definitely needed cleaning up, but the Disneyfication of the area has swung the pendulum to the other extreme. I had eaten at that HoJo’s a few times over the years because of it’s convenient proximity to the theaters, the food was passable at best.

    • addie Says:

      Alex, Yes, Disneyfication, sure is the other, sleaze, extreme! Which kind of is worse? I think I prefer the porn. honestly, I don’t know.
      The porn did not stop real theatre from going on, but Disney has, or did Porn do that as well?

      Were we better off with the Porn, do you think?

  6. petey Says:

    “I got to walk around Radio Row before it was torn down”
    i’m very jealous! i’m a radiohead but a tad too young for that.

  7. Then And Now: Ed Koch’s Rebuilding Of New York City Then And Now: Ed Koch’s Rebuilding Of New York City http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/then-and-now-ed-kochs-rebuilding-of-new-york-cit Remarkable before-and-after photos of seedy Times Square and Says:

    [...] Howard Johnson's, a burlesque, and Vietnam peace protesters. Right: Howard Johnson's and a sign for the musical Chicago in 2008. [...]

  8. Then And Now: Ed Koch’s Rebuilding Of New York City « シ最愛遲到.! Says:

    [...] Howard Johnson's, a burlesque, and Vietnam peace protesters. Right: Howard Johnson's and a sign for the musical Chicago in 2008. [...]

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