When I first began traveling into New York, as a teenager in 1960, I took the bus from New Jersey into the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 41st Street and Eighth Avenue. The area around the bus terminal and Times Square fascinated me with it's seediness - drunks and drug addicts hung out on every corner, prostitutes flashed passers-by from recessed doorways, on every block of Eighth Avenue were two or three peep shows, massage parlors proliferated - the area had a lot of gritty character.
Then came Mayor Giuliani who initiated a major effort to 'revitalize' the theater district, to make it more tourist friendly. New retail stores, new theaters, new lighting. Most recently a stretch of Broadway from 47th Street to 41st Street was closed to vehicular traffic and converted into a pedestrian mall. Bleacher seats were erected over the TKTS booth, and the area is blanketed with cartoon characters pandering to the tourists to pose with their children for a small fee. The whole area is now like a giant carnival.
But bizarre characters are hard to keep subdued. For a while there was just one 'naked cowboy' who roamed the intersections on hot summer or frigid winter nights wearing tight jockey shorts, a cowboy hat and boots, and strumming a guitar. He must have done well because spin offs proliferate now - at times the 'naked cowboy' is a muscular black guy, and there are 'naked cowgirls' for guys to leer at. So there's still a glimmer of hope for the area.
It's not often that I post color images to my blog, but the subject cries out for it. Here's one of the original naked cowboys (white guy, in case you couldn't tell):
Some guys (for the life of me I don't understand why) find glamor in cellulite. Here's one set of cowgirls:
And yet another take on the 'naked cowgirl' theme. Trust me, you don't want her to drop the guitar:
And some performers forgo the guitar and just get as naked as they can. But it's not all body paintm (sigh). I checked as closely as I could (I hope you all appreciate the great pains I take on my readers' behalf):