Olivia Laing at Granta:
I’d taken the room because it was cheap and because of a photograph I’d grown obsessed with that spring. It was shot a single block away in the summer of 1979 and shows a man standing outside the 7th Avenue exit of the Times Square – 42nd Street subway. He’s wearing a sleeveless denim jacket, a white T-shirt and a paper mask of Arthur Rimbaud, a life-sized photocopy of the famous portrait on the cover of Illuminations. Behind him a man with an Afro is jaywalking in a billowing white shirt and flared black pants. The shutter has caught him mid-bounce, one shoe still in the air. Both sides of the street are lined with big old-timey cars and cinemas. Moonraker is on at the New Amsterdam, Amityville Horror at the Harris, while the sign at the Victory, just above Rimbaud’s head, promises in big black letters rated x.
It’s The Deuce, of course: the old name for that stretch of 42nd Street which runs between 6th and 8th Avenue, and which was at the time one of the vice capitals of the world. In the 1970s the city of New York was almost bankrupt and beset by violence and crime. Times Square was populated by prostitutes, dealers, pimps and hustlers, and the old Beaux-Arts theatres had been turned into porn cinemas and cruising grounds.