"New York, You've Changed" is a new Scouting NY site feature in which the New York depicted in movies is compared with the city of today. This is not the usual list of shooting locations and addresses to visit next time you tour the city. Instead, it is a full shot-by-shot dissection to see what New York once was and what it has become, for better or worse. I've tried to recreate the angles and framing as best as possible, and have presented the shots (more or less) in the order they appear in the film. Today, we delve into Part 2 of our Taxi Driver coverage (Part 1 is here). Enjoy! And for those who missed our look at Ghostbusters: Part 1 & Part 2!).
When we last left off, Travis Bickle was cruising through Times Square. We then catch him uptown as he makes a drop off at the Hotel Olcott at 27 West 72nd Street. Here, he drives up to the hotel, and we see the O LAR Restaurant on the east side. Today, it's a Dallas BBQ.
Curious what O LAR Restaurant was all about? This awesomely bizarre ad from a 1974 New York magazine should tell you all you need to know!
Travis pulls up to the front of the hotel. Note the new awning:
Then, Travis meets up with his cabbie buddies at an unknown grease joint. As far as I can tell, this isn't the Belmore Restaurant nor The Terminal/Exchange bar featured later on in the film. Anyone have any idea where this might have been? There's a Hess across the street, if that helps.
The next day, Travis meets Betsy at the campaign office. I incorrectly identified the building in the previous post -- I trusted the Taxi Driver Special Edition DVD "Locations Featurette," which has the building at 62nd & Broadway. As alert reader David pointed out, it's actually at 63rd & Broadway and has completely changed. Nowadays, Betsy would be coming out of a Bank of America (I've updated Part 1 with new pictures for those who are curious).
Travis takes Betsy to a place called Charles' Coffee Shop at the corner of 58th & 8th Ave (long gone, of course). In this shot, we get a glimpse of the old Museum of Arts & Design building:
A different angle gives us a view of Columbus Circle and the future site of the glass-and-steel Time Warner Center:
Charles' Coffee Shop is now a Duane Reade:
Travis asks Betty out to a movie, and decides to get her a Kris Kristofferson album as a gift. He goes to a record store, and though I don't know the original location, the woman's shirt tag identifies it as a Sam Goody (one institution I don't mind having gone extinct). Any guesses?
We then get a shot of Travis driving by a news ticker announcing Palantine's arrival in New York, and at first I couldn't figure out what the hell this mundane office building was. When it hit me that it was 1 Times Square, I couldn't believe how much has changed. Also, I love the ad on the bus.
Travis then meets up with some friends at the Terminal Bar (next to the Exchange Bar), formerly at 41st Street and 8th Ave. Currently, the New York Times building resides on the property, with a Schnippers restaurant in place of the Terminal. I realize "Terminal" refers to the Port Authority across the street, but there's something absolutely perfect in the double-meaning.
The Terminal Bar was closed in 1982. A short documentary about the place and more information is here.
Finally, we have the legendary meeting between Travis and child prostitute Iris (played by Jodie Foster) in front of the Variety Theater. What remains of the Variety today?
Yes, the Variety was torn down to make room for another glass-and-steel 21-floor condo highrise. Originally opened in 1913 as a Nickelodeon theater, the Variety operated until 2004, at which point it was an off-broadway theater. It was torn down in 2005. Intelligent Flickr photographer GVSHP took some pictures prior to its demise, and I warn you, they'll break your heart:
We get a tighter angle as Travis pulls up. The bar on the left is now Daydream Yogurt.
A yogurt place. Just because I'm now feeling particularly angry (really, I want to drive home the point), here's a picture of the Variety's demolition:
Later, as Travis drives west on 42nd Street, we are treated to a great view of 8th Ave looking north. First, we catch a man begging in front of a diner on the east corner. That diner is now some sort of bland pizza chain called the Villa Italian Kitchen (with locations around the world -- even Kuwait!).
As we move west, you can see how much has changed. That cigarette shop now appears to be an Auntie Anne's pretzel place. Also, note that the phone booth in the first picture is now a phone stand.
As we continue west, we get a glimpse of the sign for the old Times Square Motor Hotel (free parking!). According to this New York Times article, in 1988, "the director of the Mayor's Office of Homeless and Single Room Occupancy Housing Services...announced the city's intention to buy the hotel and use it as a residence for the homeless and as the site of a work-release program for jail inmates." In other words, a halfway house. Times have changed since 1988: a Westin Hotel is now on the site.
Finally, as we complete our journey across 8th Ave, we get a shot of the old Show World Center porn theater marquee. Though the theater is now the Times Square Comedy Club/Laugh Factory, Show World is still in business next door as a sex store, and for some reason, I find that a bit refreshing.
Here, you can see the building housing the theater in full -- I love its bizarre height and width, and how it sticks out so oddly from the surrounding buildings. It almost looks like a giant middle finger flipping off the rest of Times Square.
Meanwhile, I'd love to know how much -- if any -- of the awning is originally part of the old porn theater sign (again, I find it strangely appealing to think about tourists sitting in the same theaters where countless pervs spent skeezy nights in Times Square).
Coming soon! Part 3 of our New York, You've Changed: Taxi Driver series, beginning with Travis's ill-fated date with Besty to a 42nd Street porn theater. A sneak peak at what was playing then and now:
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