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Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (Sexual Cultures)
ISBN 0814719198 / 9780814719190 / 0-8147-1919-8
Publisher NYU Press
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An award-winning science fiction writer, esteemed professor of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and celebrated essayist and memoirist, Samuel Delany is one of America's keenest observers. He was also a longtime habitué of many of the sex theaters in New York City's Times Square, spending, by his own estimate, "thousands and thousands of hours" at the Capri, Variety Photoplays, the Eros, and the Venus. In the 1990s all of these theaters were shut down through new restrictive zoning laws, part of a combined effort by the Walt Disney Corporation and the administration of Mayor Rudy Giuliani to gentrify the area, replacing these seedily memorable institutions with antiseptic, innocuous architectural and cultural creations in the name of health safety. But as Delany reveals in his new book, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, the decision to clean up Times Square had little to do with public health, and everything to do with corporate greed.
In the two essays that comprise this eloquent, provocative book, Delany grieves for the loss of this strip of sexual release. Though he is careful not to romanticize or sentimentalize the peep shows and porn theaters, he does illuminate the way in which these venues crossed class, racial, and sexual orientation lines, providing a delightfully subversive utopia--and a microcosm of New York life. In the first essay, "Times Square Blue," Delany details his shared erotic and conversational encounters with working-class and homeless men in the theaters (which primarily showed straight porn films) and the genuine friendships that resulted; these immensely personal reminiscences also provide a social history of late-20th-century Times Square. Drawing on historical and theoretical resources in the second essay, "Three, Two, One, Contact: Times Square Red," Delany next builds a thoughtful and passionate argument against the gentrification of the area and the classist, characterless direction in which he sees New York heading. Read together, the essays of Times Square Red, Times Square Blue are both heartfelt homage to a beloved city and lament for a quirky vitality increasingly phased out by encroaching capitalism. --Kera Bolonik [via]