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