I worked at Times Square peep shows from 1982 until 1995. Back when Times Square was a red-light district, you could get anything there. You wanted to meet someone, get laid, make money, get high? No problem.
The Show World building was the peep palace—every masturbator had to go there. I started working at Show Follies, a satellite of Show World, when I was 21 years old. It was my academic study. Field work.
You have to start out as a mop man. It was also called a scum scrubber, a jizz mopper, or a sperm swabber. You had to disinfect the booths quickly so another guy could get in there. Customers would spend more if the peep booth was clean. Our slogan was You drop it, we mop it.
It’s not just guys in raincoats who go to places like this. Everyone has to answer the call. A lot of men want to masturbate around lunchtime. We’d call that a “box lunch.” I don’t have to explain that, do I? One guy, an executive, wore a three-piece suit. He’d go into a girl’s booth and open up his briefcase, very daintily. He’d pull out a pink tutu, white shoes, long gloves, and a bonnet. He’d put the whole thing on and say to the girl, “I’m Little Bo-Peep and I’ve lost my sheep.” He’d go in there and just talk to her. He just wanted to relate. That’s what it was all about. People just went to relate.
Upstairs were the booths that housed the Live Nude Girls. There was a time when there was no Plexiglas between the girls and the customers. But then a guy came in and attacked a girl. The next day, the bosses put the Plexiglas in.
After a while, I started doing live sex shows with one of the girls. I was a cashier at the time, and I guess she trusted me because she thought I could be trusted with money. Anyway, she asked me to do a show. You may have thought you were pretty good at having sex in your broken-down bed, but on a stage? In front of people? I was scared to death. But I guess we were pretty good because the customers kept putting coins in and pressing their faces up against the glass. Sometimes I got sixteen bookings a day. (That was nothing. My friend Willie once did 30 shows a day for three weeks. He was in debt to the Mafia.)
I had a problem, though. I used to fall in love with my partners. You can’t do shows that way. The last girl I fell for was a prostitute. It upset me, but it was her nature. I quit after that. You can’t change people.
For a while I went to work managing nude clubs—the Pink Poodle, Dreams, and Legz Diamond’s. But I had problems with people stealing, and eventually I quit. Now I don’t go back to Times Square anymore. It hurts too much. Can you imagine if you were an American Indian and your tribes were killed for nothing? If you go back to where you were when it happened, how could you not be filled with sorrow? Your people were systematically massacred by the oppressors! In our case, the oppressors were the corporates. They were dead-set on annihilating the blue flame of promiscuity. It was a conservative conspiracy—making Times Square wholesome. To me, wholesomeness—especially in the Times Square area—that’s what’s disgusting.
As told to Mara Altman