DOWN 42ND STREET: Sex, Money, Culture, and Politics at the Crossroads of the World

Marc Eliot, Author
Marc Eliot, Author . Warner $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-446-52571-8
Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-57042-709-1
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-446-67993-0
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A rambunctious social and political history of Times Square and "the deuce"—street slang for 42nd Street—covers a lot of territory, but makes its points with wit and an insider's keen insight. Eliot, co-author of Erin Brockovitch's forthcoming advice book Take It from Me! and of Barry White's Love Unlimited, piles up fascinating historic details, from Revolutionary War battles on the nascent site of 42nd Street to the building of Grand Central Terminal; from the growth of New York's theater district to how the business-oriented Committee of 14 attacked prostitution, censored theaters and nearly killed Broadway from 1904 to 1930. Explaining how the street became famous for sophistication and then for sex, grime and crime, Eliot is best when focusing on the economic developments that shaped the area: Vanderbilt bullying city officials to build Grand Central; Ed Koch's deals with developers for redevelopment in the 1980s that destroyed many historic theaters; the Gambino crime syndicate's lost claim on the area to "a rodent of a different sort"—the Disney corporation. Comfortable and conversant with a wide range of cultural artifacts and events (Dead End Kids movies, the changing censorship laws of the 1950s and '60s, changing fast food habits of New Yorkers), Eliot paints a lively portrait of urban life. While the book would have been helped by drawing upon newer, groundbreaking critical works such as Samuel R. Delaney's Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, it does present a popular and engaging look at "the crossroads of the world." (Nov. 19)

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