Watching ‘THE DEUCE“ on HBO last week brought back memories from that time when 42nd Street intersected with dirty funky Broadway and seemingly everything around that corner was about sex, drugs or muggings.
New York’s music business offices were almost all located just north of Times Square. So it figured that a young, ambitious lad like myself would naturally gravitate toward the maze of booths, lap dance parlors, squeeze-through windows and whatever other location a horny guy might enjoy visiting after hustling his butt trying to place songs or get work.
Somewhere in all this process, I happened upon a kindred spirit in the form of a street life man of color who scratched out a meager subsistence selling promotional copies of new records he’d get from labels. Having convinced them that he was a meaningful DJ who wanted to play their product at his club, it wasn’t that difficult. I didn’t necessarily approve of his hustle. But the guy (though tone deaf) had a knack for coming up with song titles and quick verses which complemented the tracks I could produce.
Organically, we became fast friends and business partners. Soon I came to discover that Don had no steady place to stay as his hustle didn’t net much money. But that didn’t matter because he always managed to find a chick to crash with. And here was one of the ways he accomplished that mission:
The Deuce was more than sparsely populated with movie/booth emporiums in which you could watch a dirty flick or drop a couple of quarters to rap with a booth girl on a private telephone – telling her to do whatever you wanted (play with her tits, finger herself, show you her ass and on and on) while a full length pane of glass separated you from her. It was a retarded program in which I didn’t matriculate. I much preferred the 3 or 4 places in which you could reach through a small window and actually play with the goodies of a willing salesgirl for a buck or two. But I digress.
Then one day, Don enlightened me to the potential of those telephone booths I’d been ignoring. He would drop a couple of quarters and then rather than ask the girl to do something lewd, would show her a 12″ record with his name on it (producer or writer) and tell her he was looking for a singer to perform on his next record.
Of course, mostly, he didn’t have any projects in the offing. And the likelihood that any random stripper/booth girl would be able to sing well enough to make the gig made the odds against actual fruition of the deal very long indeed. But strippers and such are what they are – and as easy to hustle in the show biz realm as their customers are in the sex for sale venue. And this is how he found girls who would let him crash at their pads. Sooner than later, they’d figure out he was full of crap and would toss Don back into the gutter. But no matter! The next day he’d just do it all over again and find a new girl with a new spot for him to lay his weary head.
With both of us constantly on the prowl, Don suggested that while I had no need to find a place to sleep, running this same hustle might find me a fly girl to bed – if not wed. And so… I gave it a try and pretty quickly, had a fish nibbling on my line. She was young…and dark…and attractive…and receptive. I was to meet her outside the emporium when her shift broke! Easy peazy! I was impressed with how simple this was!
Now we all know that women have many different looks. Down at the club (or in the booth) they’re just amazing. Everything from head to toe is presented in a fashion so as to make every cell in your body stand at attention. But other times (like when she’s not trying to impress), the same girl can look like nothing you’d ever want to date. When it comes to smoke and mirrors, nobody does it like a woman!
Up to the joint I strolled to see a couple of not very attractive girls standing outside. And I would not have recognized the less visually appealing of the two as the girl I’d solicited had she not walked up to me flashing a big smile. My entire body bolted inwardly. OMG! This is who I tried to hustle?!?! No way I want to be with her. Quickly, I explained that I had something important to do that night. I’d come back tomorrow to speak with her if she was working. Slightly downcast, she thanked me for actually showing up to break our date, noting how considerate it was for me to take the time to do just that.
In Don’s case, it wouldn’t have mattered that she wasn’t to his liking. He’d need a place to stay and would get one. But for me who had a crib…and some standards…there was no way. And that was pretty much the end of that pursuit. I was gratified I could pull it off (so to speak). But with that singular event, I took the cure.
In Don’s defense, there was one day I watched him pull a pretty girl out of Show World at 42nd and 8th Avenue. He did have a knack. It wasn’t just ugly girls he could win over with his questionable charm.
Anyway…that’s just one story from The Deuce as I experienced it many years ago. Thought I’d share.