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THE SEX FILES: R.I.P. Richard Basciano

Fighting Giuliani and the “Disneyfication” of our fair city, was adult industry stalwart, Richard Basciano. Basciano, 91, died on May 1st. That one would even catch a hint of what it was during its illustrious pornographic high-holy days (unless you are old enough to have been there), at one time New York City’s “Times Square” was a teeming hub of porn movie houses, ‘peep shows,’ and dirty magazine shops. To many, and certainly real estate developers of the 90’s, the area was a blight to The Big Apple, and when Mayor Rudy Giuliani came in (with certainly some big money from entertainment giant Disney) to clean-up the area, make it tourist friendly, bring Broadway entertainment back to its former glory (and to enjoy exorbitant prices) he pretty much kicked porn producers and players out of town.

Basciano was the son of a professional boxer, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II-actually boxed for a brief time himself-and ended up in The Big Apple in 1960. He began his porn career by selling sex magazines with some organized crime figures he claims he never knew were connected, and in 1970 opened Show World. Selling magazines and movies, offering up one of the few ‘peep shows’ staying in continual existence in NYC, Show World, which would become Show World Center, became a recognized infamous landmark of Times Square before and after Giuliani cut his way through.

As Giuliani took aim at the sex shops in Times Square, Basciano dug in at his 22,000-square-foot neon-lit supermart of sex. He cleverly circumnavigated the city’s new anti-porn laws by cutting Show World’s sex stock by 60% and in the late 90’s Basciano sold his other city properties for a total of $14 million dollars.

Though sharing space with a comedy club in later years, Basciano maintained his apartment over his club and only sold the property last year, when the real estate developers’ price was just too high to ignore.

And who says porn can’t fight city hall?

Certainly it means a lot to tourists and their dollars filtering into Manhattan consistently, that families can walk safely through Times Square. The most any of us worry about these days is being accosted by a giant Elmo trying to rip you off for a picture. But for those of us who did not see 42nd Street back in the day or sleazy theaters and unmitigated danger, the difference between what was and what is marks a difference almost unimaginable (I liken it to the stories by my great aunt who used to tell me of Broadway in the 40’s and how different it all seemed to be when she regaled me during the mid 70’s…and I looked around at those porn houses. That a guy like Richard Basciano stuck around as long as he did, an iconic figure from a business that so many people vilify and that he was able to make the evolution of the city work in his favor, makes the man’s legacy even sweeter.

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