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Unstripped

Dissenting New Yorkers recall the good old days at the fast-vanishing flesh bars of 42nd Street.

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Michael Musto
The Gaiety was seedy and appalling and fabulous at the same time, and conveniently, it was just next to Howard Johnson. It had acquired a kind of downtown cachet, so it was almost fabulous to be spotted there. Some of the talent were rather rough pieces of trade. It was very postmodern; you weren't really getting off on the meat on display. It was just another show. I went to Scores, once, too. That was really different.

Spalding Gray
When I first came to the city in 1967, I would go on my day off to the 99-cent theater on Eighth Avenue. The theater was so unpleasant it was unerotic. At first I could sit through three or four films -- they're short; then it was one; finally I would pay my 99 cents and go into the back of the theater, watch for 30 seconds, and leave. For anyone with a life, it runs its course. And aids complicated it -- the thought of them doing porn films with unprotected sex. But I wouldn't say I was ashamed. The curiosity was too great.

Dale Peck
My very first Thanksgiving in New York City, when I was 21, I went to the Eros, or maybe it was Eros II, with another guy. We sat around for an hour waiting for the strippers to arrive. People just kept milling around. We were both so naïve that we didn't realize there was anything else that might happen at a strip club. Eventually we got so bored we decided maybe there was, and so we kissed. But that was boring, too, so we went home.

Pete Hamill
I think it's amusing that they exist. But I think the crackdown is a wonderful thing, because sex without a sense of sin is nowhere as much fun. To drive sex underground might become the great accomplishment of Giuliani. He can restore it to its ancient, sick, depraved essence as established by the Puritans.

Sidney Biddle Barrows
I had a book party at Scores. I have a good time when I go there; every time I go, I get treated like a queen. I live right near the Amsterdam video store, the lead plaintiff, and I didn't even know it was there. But it's a nightmare to live above the West Side Mendy's -- that is much worse!

Jimmy Breslin
I don't go in them, and neither does Giuliani, so neither of us knows what we're talking about. What I find shocking is they are using building inspectors to do this. They should be working on the building on 43rd Street! They should be inspecting office buildings, not women. Are they gynecologists? Pretty soon the whores will take over. The broads will be back, don't you worry about it.

Candida Royalle
I didn't strip at a lot of those clubs. I like putting on a real show, and they just wanted you to get down and spread your legs. But way back in about 1981, High Society magazine did this big splashy event at Show World. It was a great day. And I liked the peep shows there -- part of the thrill is hearing a lot of moans and groans and not exactly knowing what's going on. It was like an X-rated circus.

Quentin Crisp
I've never visited any of them. I don't believe in sex. But I don't see that they do any harm. Why shouldn't people go and see what they like to see? I don't see why they like to see it, but they should be allowed to (though I don't approve of alteration).

Fran Lebowitz
I'm a bigger fan of porn shops than of the Hard Rock Cafe. They have more right to be in New York. They get better-dressed people. When I was a kid, I went a couple of times, but I'm 47 years old, I'm not a denizen of this sort of place. Here's what I am: a cigarette smoker. If you can't sit around smoking in a restaurant, it's not urban. And I'm too old to dance in bars, but there should be clubs open at 3 a.m. Giuliani's lived up to every campaign promise. I don't deserve him.

Jeff Stryker
I just appeared in Peep Show, totally nude and erect. It was a smash. They loved it. It shows that a lot of people don't feel the clubs should be shut down. I visited one that was really classy, an upper-echelon type of club, where people would want to go. I don't even think they have sex clubs that are dingy.


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