Times Square's Lost "McDonald's of Porn"

Of all the porn stores, video peeps, and live-girl peepshows in Times Square, Show World in its original incarnation was the most notorious. (Now, it's up for lease or sale and may close, reports the Post.) Its bright layout anesthetized the pornography it housed; it was often referred to either as the McDonald's or Wal-Mart of porn. At its peak, thirty-two live girls per shift worked 24-7 behind glass on stages and in peepshow booths. The glass separating the girls from the customers came and went according to the vice laws of the time; the glass went back up for good around 2000. There was even a trannie stage!

The Times Square area and its pockets of vice is a world familiar to me and my early days in the city (two whole years ago.) Says a former Show World girl of the trannie stage, where pre-op shemales would dance:

"They didn't like the 'regular' peepshow girls coming in and staring at them, but one day I was like, 'Fuck it, I'm going in there.' We work with them, you know? I went in there and watched—-ooh, the looks they were giving us... They were actually able to make money like that—you know, save up for their operations. I think they actually made more money like that. After their operation they were never so popular again."

Show World, owned by Richard Basciano (who never gives interviews!) scaled down considerably around 2000, eschewing the live girls—too many expensive vice busts—but maintaining a smaller version of its porn and video store on 8th Avenue near 42nd Street.

In the words of another peepshow girl who worked at Show World in the late nineties:

"Imagine, hustling against 32 girls every night. Somehow I made my money. I guess there was enough to go around... I did drugs, partied... some girls bought houses. At least I can say I had a few years of really good times, though. You didn't need to go out! Everything was right there: drugs, booze, your girlfriends, you'd be up in there acting crazy—all the while making money."

The equally notorious Playpen Theater, a live-girl and porn emporium, closed at the end of July 2007, another victim—or winner, depending on your view—of redevelopment.