Times Square may be filled with generic hotels, flashy billboards and towering office buildings, but that wasn’t the case just a few decades ago. Strolling past the neighborhood today, it’s difficult to imagine a time when it was a dangerous, intense, racially and sexually diverse place frequented by both locals and tourists. That’s why we’re highly anticipating the release of HBO’s forthcoming drama, The Deuce, which debuts September 10th. It’s shedding light on the rise of the porn industry in Times Square from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s.

Created by George Pelecanos and David Simon and starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the eight-episode series explores the “rough-and-tumble world at the pioneering moments” of what would eventually become a billion dollar industry. As a teaser, the trailer reveals snippets of peepshows, signage advertising “topless bars” and “X Movies,” and the litter ridden streets of Times Square before Mayor Rudolph Giuliani led the major effort to clean up the area in the mid-1990s.


Many of such places have since been obliterated, but The Deuce — in the process of visualizing the notorious history of the area, once described as “the ‘worst’ in town” by The New York Times — will resurrect themes like the rise of HIV, the drug epidemic and the consequent era of transformation due to real estate booms. The story specifically focuses around twin brothers, Vincent and Frankie Martino, who become frontmen for the Mob operating out of Times Square, and “Candy,” a sex worker who is pulled into the burgeoning porn industry.

13-gritty-old-times-square_walking-tour_manhattan_nyc_untapped-cities_12One of the last standing adult shop in Times Square

Coinciding with the series’ release, we’ve added two July dates for our tour of Gritty Times Square. Join us for an event and let us take you back to the halcyon days when 42nd Street was the Deuce, Eighth Avenue was the Minnesota Strip, the Great White Way was a red light district, and the Crossroads of the World was XXX-rated. We will see former peepshows, grindhouses, adult book stores, dive bars, hotsheet hotels, sex clubs, porno theaters and much more.

Gritty Old Times Square

Next, check out The Legacy of the King of Peeps and the Top 10 Secrets of Time Square.

Check out all of our Behind the Scenes Tours.