Times Square Red, Times Square Blue
Delany’s memoir/ examination of 1970s era Times Square through the lens of late 1990s Times Square gentrification. This is a memoir of a young man exploring his sexuality in the in the porn theaters and sex shops of Times Square. It is also more than that. It is a clear refutation of the Giuliani idea that these spaces were of no social value. Indeed, for many mostly gay, mostly closeted, men Times Square in the 70s was one of the few places where they could be themselves.
Not that Rudy would have cared.
As always when Delany discusses sex, this book is graphic — really graphic. And like 1984, it is shocking how unsafe his sexual practices were. But this book is about more than sex. It’s about the various relationships he built through that world, some transactional and anonymous, some deeply fulfilling. As a straight man whose first exposure to Times Square was just as the “clean up” began, this book was illuminating and, like much of Delany’s work, challenging.
Does he gloss over the darker aspects of sex work? Perhaps. And is the rampant unsafe sex as the specter of AIDS was rising alarming? Yes. But its still a helpful anecdote to the rhetoric of the revitalization of Times Square.
Reading this made me wonder, do we in our progressive present no longer need a place like Times Square? I doubt it. More likely, instead of allowing people to experiment and share with others, we’ve forced sexual discovery to take place online, and alone.
I think that must be some kind of loss.