Back in the late 1980's, I was working for a special effects company on Long Island. When we had work here in the city, we would stay at the fabulous Edison Hotel right in the heart of Times Square. The Edison is still there, but those who only know the post Disney Times Square of the late 2000's really couldn't even imagine how rough the place was back then. Rough, but exciting.
Inside the Edison too, even the TV showed that NYC was different. Because of Manhattan's diversity, it has FCC "community standards" unlike anywhere else in the country, and this means that, after 10pm, if you were flipping across the cable channels in the hotel you would invariably stumble onto leased access channel 35, and...nudity. Two shows dominated that channel, Robin Byrd's stripper show, and Al Goldstein's Midnight Blue. There really is no way to adequately describe what Midnight Blue was like, so if you're not easily offended, watch this very not safe for work clip:
Goldstein was way, way ahead of his time in many ways, and even by the 1980's, when I first became aware of him, he had already established himself as one of the most vociferous defenders of the first amendment. Of course these days, with the anything goes internet, the idea of prohibiting anyone from seeing anything is pretty much dead. But that freedom--for good and bad--we owe, in part, to this hedonistic, gluttonous PT Barnum of porn.
Brooklyn, evidently has "higher" community standards than Manhattan, so when I moved here in 1990, Al was not on my TV (but he was when I later moved to Manhattan). And with Goldstein's self-destructive personality, the rise of the internet (built on free porn), and even the cable companies selling "smut", Goldstein ended up becoming homeless and destitute (Al's friend Penn Jillette eventually rented an apartment for him). Goldstein eventually offended or alienated just about everyone who knew him, but my friend Viveca was one of the few that stayed with Al until the end. And she helped to arrange a wonderful memorial last night, and I was lucky to be able to go, and help honor a hero.
The event also was evidence for me that although New York is a lot more homogeneous place these days, there is still a diverse core of interesting people here, and we can use our community standards to help us to see the good in people, even when they might offend us. That's why I'm still here after nearly 25 years.
Here's a few photo highlights from last night, and I have many more photos here.
Update 5/22: Captions by Viveca