The Disneyficiation of Times Square is a well-worn subject and, frankly, it’s blah, blah, blah.
I never thought the Sin City of the Northeast would be gentrified in my lifetime, but it was. I should have thought harder; I would have known that my prediction was wrong: There’s just too much money to be made by inserting national chain entertainment and tourist shit at the Crossroads of the World, proving that Times Square is worth more dead than alive.
Historians and urban planners have wailed for years about how every major city has its sleazy sections and that they are important and essential parts of such metro areas, crating a distinct, vibrant anti-culture. (Without them, sex work sashays to ‘burbs and you know what happens when that happens.) Red light areas grew up around ports because that’s where sailors and immigrants disembarked. And everyone knows that sailors are always homo and immigrants are always horny. Hooray for sex commerce!
The above is mere exposition to what I am going to narrate and, although I am a proud atheist, I swear on whatever you hold holy that every word that follows (and precedes it) is true.
In the 1980s-mid 1990s, there was a tiny, second-floor dive called Show Palace (gay) on Eighth Avenue between 42nd & 43rd streets in Manhattan. You can see in the photo how it reeked of elegance. It was across the street from the multi-leveled, infamous Show World Center (straight). Both were big Mafia joints, as has been well documented to death, but I can speak from personal experience, as I actually worked a few live sex shows at the straight Show World. (I had to get my pay — in hard cash — from Vito, the epitome of class.)
About every 4-6 months, I would get real horny and exhibitionistic. I had discovered the best and cheapest place to indulge those two kinks was Show Palace. Once you paid your admission (something like five or maybe ten dollars), there were no other charges. No fake alcoholic drinks were served so you weren’t obligated to buy ginger ale masquerading as scotch. I suppose you could spend more bucks if you wanted to tip the “dancers,” although tips were usually in dollar bills and I never saw much of that; and the guys offered private shows — I never knew where, probably in the dressing rooms. What happened in case of overbooking? — but I can’t imagine they made a lot of money.
There was always a headliner pornformer as you can see from the above photo that advertises Carl Thomas. I think he was German and very creepy, although that description could apply to many sex workers. Also, whoever worked on the marquee was clearly not a fan of the star: I think Mr. Thomas spelled his first name with a “K”. After the star stripped, the ¾ stage would go to black and then he’d reappear with an erection and beat himself off — or try to get some money if a guy in the audience played with him. The stars were stationed across the way at the “New Milford Plaza”, a recently renovated hotel that used Busby Berkeley chorines in their TV ads to promote its cheap prices and location in the heart of the action. Unlike many seedy hotels in the area, it had an elevator. The private shows at the New Milford Plaza were likely a bit more private and comfortable than the theatre dressing room cubicle variety. For that and other reasons, prices were higher.
Pre-AIDS, the grand finale of each show was two guys sucking and fucking onstage, just like the sister theatre across the street in which a straight couple did the same. Actually, most live show theatres in Times Square had straight couples fucking on stage then. Confession: I frequented the straight fuck shows as well, but many were truly depressing because after the climax, the woman (usually black) left the stage and had to walk through the audience to get to the dressing room. Her head was invariably parallel to the floor and she was often in tears. When Koch closed gay bathhouses (and the few straight ones), live coupled sex was taken off the bill and solo jerks became the rage (translation: that’s all the live action that voyeurs could find).
Only one hetero couple, Karla & Truckin’ actually seemed to enjoy their work. I learned that they made rounds of all the live sex stages and tried to show up when they were doing their thing, which included Truckin’ ass-fucking Karla. As far as I knew, no other couples did that specialty number. Through another venue, I got to know them a bit. Karla was Dutch; and Truckin’ was very tall and thin with hair to his coccyx. Some guy I knew fucked Truckin’. Sex workers are often as open-minded as their orifices.
But I digress.
There I was one Saturday night at Show Palace, the gay one, remember? The live show portion had ended and the gay porn videos took over. There was no reason to see those because you could rent them for a dollar a day at any video store in my neighborhood. I slid into the lobby where there were round vinyl settees upon which the hookers congregated. These guys were not the steroided freaks of the Web, who have business managers, accountants and man-groomers. They were generally young Latin or Caucasian kids who were earning a few dollars so that they could go clubbing or score (or sell) some ludes.
I was sitting on a settee listening to the talk, sometimes saying a few words. A nicely dressed man sat down with us. He didn’t speak, just smiled and listened. But his expression conveyed that he was having a fun time listening to the young boys. I think, but I could be wrong about this, that he had his arm across my shoulder.
I looked at him more closely and said, “You know who you look like?” He just looked at me and smiled.
“But you can’t be him,” I continued. “I read that he’s out of town this weekend.”
The guy continued to smile sans speaking.
Soon after, I think I returned to the main theatre to wait for more naked jack-off action to emanate from the stage.
You’ve figured out by now that the smiling yet silent guy looked a lot like Donald Trump.
I was too naïve to understand that publicists placed stories that their clients were elsewhere to cover that they were somewhere else. When I’ve reconsidered all this, it makes sense to me that The Donald (as was his moniker then) didn’t speak. A physical resemblance can be easily brushed-off, but for a person with such a distinctive vocal inflection, his voice would have been a real tell.
Was it Trump at the gay live show sleaze haven with his arm around my shoulder listening to the rent boys chit-chat?
Would that I had paid more attention to the implications; or if there were only digital technology to record the event? In our TMZ era, such Trumps have their handlers arrange really private shows: in estates or palaces, on jets or yachts or islands.
I don’t blame this guy who, some thirty years ago, got his Rachmaninoffs on the cheap, but as a majority of the hookers were Hispanic — what they were called then — I hope that, in spite of his legendary stinginess, Trump would have stuffed a coupla singles into their g-strings before deporting them — even if they were US citizens.