With Revamped Peep-O-Rama, Times Square Hearkens Back to its Smutty, Porn-Filled, Gloriously Dirty Past

It’s a question that can be polarizing: new Times Square or old Times Square? Some say nothing can be worse than its tenure as a 1970s sin den peppered with strip clubs and porn shops, populated with drug addicts and thieves. Others decry its current state, insisting that the beyond-mobbed intersection is so drenched in technicolor commercialism, blinding lights and commodification of the basest skyscraper-high desires that it’s become a mockery of what New York City is supposed to represent.

With that sentiment in mind, is there nostalgia for the era of dirty and dangerous Times Square? Now, with the updated version of the block now complete, a newly installed feature at the Times Square Alliance visitors center suggests that we’re ready to embrace the sex-obsessed culture that once upon a time permeated this part of New York.

The visitor’s center has reinstalled the famously seedy Peep-O-Rama machine, and it’s encouraging tourists of all ages to peek inside the openings.

Granted, the images seen when you peer inside are going to be “G-rated,” The New York Times reports. But just having the peep show apparatus itself is a conscious reference to the past life of the area.

“A big city should, in some way, be able to write its autobiography in places,” William Taylor, author of “Inventing Times Square,” told The Times. “New Yorkers love our underworld in film and fiction, so it makes sense to somehow preserve it in reality.”

The sign was donated to the center by the Durst Organization, which acted as landlord to the “garish pornography emporium,” as The Times puts it, until it closed 8 years ago. 

And if a phony striptease booth in a museum just doesn’t strike you as authentic, there are still plenty of strip clubs and smut peddlers elsewhere in and around Times Square. You just have to look past all the Disney.

nfreeman [at] observer.com | @nfreeman1234