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What HBO’s ‘The Deuce’ Times Square Really Looked Like in the ’70s and ’80s

Take a walk on the seedier side of 'The Crossroads of the World.'

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A new HBO show called The Deuce shows the seedier side of Times Square. Created by David Simon and George Pelecanos, the show looks at New York’s sex industry that once defined 42nd Street.

The show has a hard task to fulfill: show the sex and porn industry of the 70s and 80s without actually making porn. On top of that, the show has a heightened awareness of how women are portrayed in culture, writes the New York Times, and wanted to avoid excessive female nudity or violence against women.

But Simon says that you also cannot “clean up” what actually happened, which is that human beings “were the product” of the time.

The mid-70s in New York meant a lot of free expression and a city with deepening fiscal problems. The Times writes that there was also a change to the legal definition of obscenity, which transformed the sex business into a billion-dollar enterprise. Instead of hiding the industry behind closed doors, it was displayed in Times Square. The Times writes that by the mid-70s, there were plenty of sex-related businesses operating in midtown Manhattan.

And one man claims to have been in the middle of it all. The show came about when the two creators met this man — who remains anonymous — told them about the days when he and his twin brother (the New York Times said that this all proved to be true) become “mob fronts for bars and massage parlors.”

The creators recognized that they could address so many issues through stories like this man’s — misogyny, sexual repression and liberation, AIDS, to name a few, according to the Times. And they did this by creating characters that the audience would actually care about and feel connected to.

The show, which stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco, debuts Sept. 10. For now, take a look at how Times Square looked before it’s ‘Disneyfication’.

Times Square in the 70s
A night view of Broadway and Times Square in the 1970’s. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
Gin, cigarettes and radio are advertised on huge neon signs in Times Square circa 1974. (Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
Passengers at the Times Square Station enter the train circa 1976. (Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
Exterior view of Circus Circus, an ‘adult amusement center,’ in Times Square circa 1970s. (Sachs/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
Prostitutes working along the side streets of Broadway and Times Square in New York circa 1971. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 80s
A pornographic theater advertising XXX-rated films on tacky neon lit marquees circa 1986. (Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
A view of the marquees of cinemas on West 42nd Street including the Victory Theatre, the Lyric Theatre, the Times Square Theater and the Apollo Theatre circa 1976. (Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 80s
Neon signs advertise strippers and adult products outside Peep Land in Times Square circa 1980’s . (Viviane Moos/Corbis via Getty Images)
Times Square in the 80s
Disco goers (identified only as ‘ Anneka and friend’) attend a pre-opening Construction Party at John Addison’s Bond’s mega-disco in Times Square circa 1980. (Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 80s
Costumed party goers dance during a Construction Party at Bonds’ in Times Square circa 1980. (Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
Two young men make phone calls on a payphone by a subway station near Times Square circa 1975. (Erika Stone/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
A view of the exterior of Nathan’s Backroom Restaurant in Times Square circa 1975. (Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
Billboards advertising Gordon’s gin and Haig whisky in Times Square circa 1971. (Ernst Haas/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 80's
Times Square circa 1983. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
Times Square at night, showing advertisements for Canadian Club whisky, Admiral television appliances, Budweiser beer circa 1970. (Harvey Meston/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Times Square in the 70s
Times Square circa 1970 (Sunday Mercury/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

 

Read full story at The New York Times