Peep O-Rama - Times Square Visitors Center
New York, New York
In 2010, The Times Square Visitors Center underwent a 1.1 million dollar renovation and now boasts a "mini-museum" with exhibits that cover the history of the worlds most famous commercial crossroads.
The story starts in 1904, when the area's name was changed from Longacre Square to Times Square upon completion of the New York Times Building (the former headquarters is now entirely encased in signage and hosts the annual ball drop on New Year's Eve). The district served as a naughty nexus throughout the 20th Century, from the early years of taxi dance halls to burlesque shows to a virtual explosion of sleaze in the 1970s, when The Deuce was thick with massage parlors, peep shows, and Triple-X movies with no-nonsense titles like "Nasty Orgy."
Now that those days are well in the past, a successfully sanitized Times Square draws throngs more interested in Olive Garden and M&M's World. So the inclusion of a threesome of peep show booths in the refurbished visitor's center is rather surprising. But in this tourist-friendly context, it reinforces the message that the forces of goodness have permanently crushed and obliterated the sordid stink of passions past.
Instead of displaying live nude girls or raunchy film clips, the small screens now unspool a video history called "Fantasy and Desire." Nothing too raunchy -- although there are a few shots of women in hot pants. You can playfully hit the "Fog Glass Button," which is supposed to hide you from your neighbors view and provide privacy. As the booths have no doors, we really don't see the point.
A neon Peep-O-Rama sign hangs above the booths; it was removed from the front of a now-demolished building that housed 42nd Streets last peep show, where an extremely brief fantasy fix went for 25 cents. The peep shows former landlord, The Durst Organization, donated the sign; the plot of land now boasts the Bank of America Tower.
Other Visitors Center attractions include a display of hats from Broadway shows; the Crystal Ball from the 100th New Year's Eve celebration, which frantically changes colors in a festive light show three times per hour; and $5 instant photo booth (with even more hats -- including a "Naked Cowboy" white cowboy hat, reminding us of the Times Squares most famous contemporary sex worker.)
The most popular exhibit seems to be "Hopes and Dreams," where you can scribble a wish on a small square of colored paper and pin it to the wall. The thousands of collected scraps are gathered up and released along with the usual massive quantity of confetti on New Years Eve. Along with sweet and since pleas such as "End world hunger" and "Love and happiness to all" are more personal aspirations such as "I want to be famous," "I want to be a billionaire," "Red Sox win the World Series," and our favorite: "I wish I can fly!"
Goes to show that desire is not dead in todays Times Square.