5. Show World Center
In 2018 Times Square lost a stalwart of its gritty past, once known as “The McDonalds of Sex,” the infamous Show World Center. Show World Center opened in 1977 and at 22,000-square-feet it was the largest store of its kind in New York City. The merchandise and services offered included X-rated films, peepshows, adult books, live sex acts, and in-store appearances by famous porn stars. The operation was run by owner Richard Basciano, “The King of Porn,” who lived in a luxury penthouse on the top three floors of his store. Basciano was the leader of the Coalition for Free Expression, a group of adult-entertainment business owners who fought the efforts of the redevelopment of 42nd street and the laws that impeded on their businesses.
Over the years, Show World Center slowly began to shrink. Parts of the building were rented out space to theatrical productions and the 60/40 rule forced Basciano to sell things like kung-fu tapes and New York themed souvenirs. When Basciano died in 2017, his family closed the business. The building is currently wrapped in scaffolding and in the process of a conversion into retail and office space.
To uncover more places and characters of gritty old Times Square, join us on an upcoming walking tour!