New York City has had some colorful nicknames over the years—from Gotham and the Empire City in the 19th century to the Big Apple in the 1920s jazz era.
But the “Fun City” moniker of the 1960s and 1970s?
The term was supposed to be a joke, a take on a phrase used by Mayor John Lindsay during a 1966 interview with sports journalist Dick Schaap, who was then a metro columnist with the New York Herald Tribune.
“Soon after the city was crippled by a transit strike on Mayor John V. Lindsay’s first day in office in 1966, Mr. Lindsay was asked if he was still happy to be the mayor,” wrote the New York Times in Schaap’s obituary in 2001, recounting how the nickname was coined.
Schaap put the term in his column, using it “as an affectionate, if snide, gibe at the overwhelmed city,” stated the Times.
The phrase caught on with New Yorkers, who were unimpressed with the new mayor’s upbeat tone in a metropolis that over the next four years would endure a sanitation strike, a teacher walkout, a crippling blackout, and increasing financial distress.
Soon, the nickname was emblazoned on Times Square strip club marquees, city bus ads, and even on Broadway, where a short-lived play starring Joan Rivers debuted in 1972 (and closed a week later).
The term has mostly disappeared today—though a few critics dubbed Mayor Bloomberg’s New York of the early 2000s the “no-fun city.”
But we still have Fun City Tattooing on St. Marks Place near Avenue A, going strong since the height of the Fun City era in 1976!
[Second photo: Fun City Peep Shows circa 1988: Michael Horsley/Flickr; third photo: playbill.com; fourth photo: unknown source]