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Striking Photos of Times Square in the ’80s

Stepping back in time some 30 years, Times Square would be unrecognizable to most visitors currently on their way to the Disney Store, Toys”R”Us, or M&M’s World. Slime Square — as the area was popularly known back in the day — was an unruly refuge for sex shops, peep shows, martial arts, cheap electronics, greasy food, and all types of hustlers. The Forty-Deuce: The Times Square Photographs of Bill Butterworth, 1983-1984, a colorful exhibition that just opened at Brooklyn’s powerHouse Arena and a compelling monograph, newly released by powerHouse Books, chronicles this Sodom and Gomorrah on the Hudson — another appropriate nickname for this seedy part of town — with some 200 images, shot over the course of two years.

Capturing an era of the decline of disco and the early days of hip hop, Butterworth’s pictures depict a walk on the wild side, where drag queens, sex shop workers, b-boys, breakdancers, kung fu fanatics, flashy pimps, and young prostitutes form a marginalized community in what cultural historian Carlo McCormick, who wrote the introduction to the book, cleverly calls a “low life paradise.” Click through to view a selection of our favorite shots of “naughty, gaudy, bawdy, tawdry, 42nd Street,” while looking closely to spot a young Vincent Gallo, who reportedly was a Forty-Deuce regular in his formative years.


From The Forty-Deuce: The Times Square Photographs of Bill Butterworth, 1983-1984, edited by Hilton Ariel Ruiz and Beatriz Ruiz, published by powerHouse Books

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