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Selling Sex in New York City: Advertisements of Clubs, Peep Shows and Cheap Thrills on 42nd Street, 1970s and 1980s

In the 1970s and 1980s, New York City was full of drugs, sex, crimes and vigilantism. And the following photographs by Eugene Gordon perfectly depict the depravity of the 70s and 80s.

Eugene Gordon began his career as a photographer, taking pictures for textbooks and other publications. While traveling extensively, he documented religious ceremonies and the different ethnicities he encountered in the countries he visited. Gordon continued this project throughout New York City, but primarily at home in Queens, New York. His favorite subjects to photograph were street scenes, parades, festivals, and Times Square. He printed his photographs in his own darkroom in Forest Hills, Queens.

It wasn’t all better back then. The conditions were grotty and dangerous. The clubs were wild, the music daring, and the drugs plentiful. The only way to get from your dealer to your apartment was to pull off your heels and run with your keys tangled between your fingers. Sex was the main product on 42nd Street. The big narcotic was administered through a sticky stool and a peep show hole to get the blood pumping. Gordon shows us homemade signs that advertise ‘body rubs’ and ‘massages,’ both of which refer to on-the-clock masturbation and fast cures for erectile dysfunction and loneliness. These signs advertise pleasures of the flesh within with a cottage industry feel.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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