Before Hollywood, there was midtown Manhattan’s 42nd Street,

birthplace of mass-made entertainment and home to the greatest concentration of theaters the country has even seen. No place has ever evoked the glamour and romantic possibilities of big-city night life as vividly as “naughty, bawdy, gaudy” 42nd Street in its Golden Age.

Forty-Second Street’s fame soured into infamy as it devolved from the na- tion’s first show business capital into its first retail porn center. By the mid- 1970s, “Forty Deuce” and the whole Times Square district that it spawned had become so extreme in their degradation that they were perversely al- luring. Busloads of German and Japanese tourist disembarked daily at the Pussycat Cinema, prepaid tickets in hand, to take a carefully chaperoned walk on the wild side.

The redevelopment of 42nd Street was a tortuous process, filled with stops and starts, detours and dead ends. It was a New York state official named Rebecca Robertson who finally solved the redevelopment puzzle in the 1990s by seeing to it that ghosts of 42nd Street were appeased. “The magic of the place is the feeling of time,” Robertson said. “You’ve got to be able to feel its ghosts.”

“A mix of cultural history and hard-bitten journalism ... Vividly written”—The New York Times. “Rich American history ... Bianco tells great stories with a showman’s aplomb”—Entertainment Weekly.

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