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New York Daily Photo: Full Circle
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Thursday, 31 January 2008

Full Circle

Times Square has never been able to fully shake off its tawdry, sleazy character. But if you missed it in the 60s and 70s, you ain't seen nothin'. This area was a shrine to every negative stereotype of the city. I mean it was really bad. I once met someone in the 1970s who used to associate with people that hung out in Times Square, sizing up potential victims, assaulting them and stealing their coats.
You were cheated, mugged or robbed on the streets. It wasn't much better indoors, where many of the stores were essentially dens of liars, thieves and hustlers. If you haven't seen Midnight Cowboy starring Dustin Hoffman, I highly suggest you rent this film. It's not only a great work, but it portrays very well this time period and gives an authentic look at and feel for the area.
Apart from the Broadway theaters and neon lights, the neighborhood has been best known for its porn - prostitutes, porn shops, peep shows, and porn theaters. Sadly, the Victory was part of this landscape. It's hard to imagine the early days of this theater.
Built for Oscar Hammerstein in 1900, it claims many superlatives and firsts, making it both famous and infamous. It is NYC's oldest active theater and has gone through a truly remarkable number of incarnations - it became the Belasco Theater when David Belasco took it over in 1902; a burlesque house in 1931 when taken over by Billy Minsky until 1937 when burlesque shows were banned by Mayor LaGuardia; a movie house (the Victory) through the 1970s when it became the block's first XXX-rated movie house.
In 1990 it was taken over by the city as part of the The New 42nd Street, Inc. in an effort to revitalize the area - read about it here. It underwent an $11.4 million renovation headed by the architechtural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates
In 1995, it reopened as The New Victory Theater, New York's first theater for kids and families featuring theater, dance, circus arts, comedy, music and puppetry. The theater is small (only 499 seats) affording everyone a good view and intimate connection with the performers. I highly recommend it. It's a New York success story - rise, fall and rise, making a Full Circle ...


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