Video Of The Day: Times Square In The 1980s

Here’s a bit of nostalgia for all you old-time New Yorkers out there.

This mini-documentary on Times Square really captures my memories of it from the 1980s. Walking around there with my friends at night was a gritty, sleazy, surreal experience. Touts tried to sell you stolen watches or draw you into shell games or strip shows. Street preachers screamed at the crowd and were totally ignored. Lights flashed. Cars honked. People swore at one another or offered you drugs labeled under a bewildering variety of street names (anybody know what “rust” was?).

Despite this footage being a quarter of a century old, I recognize some of these places. The theater marquees are unforgettable, of course. There was one place where you could see a Kung Fu double feature for a dollar. That video arcade in the film was a favorite hangout of ours. We knew about the pickpockets and always watched out for one another. Still, it’s amazing we survived all those trips without ever having any serious trouble.

I haven’t been back to New York for 15 years. From what I’ve heard, it’s changed too much. Times Square has been turned into a touristy shopping mall, and throughout Manhattan many of the small shops, like those wonderful indie bookstores, have disappeared. I have lots of friends and fellow bloggers in New York who are always inviting me to come over. I’m not sure I ever will. I think I’ll just keep my memories of the trashy yet vibrant New York of my teens.