The Pimps and Prostitutes of 1970s Times Square

A bartender's camera captures the seedy street life of retro New York.

From 1972 to 1982, Sheldon Nadelman worked as a bartender at the “roughest bar in town”—Terminal Bar, directly across from the Port Authority. When he wasn’t pouring drinks, Nadelman was taking photographs of his patrons. He had good material: as one regular put it, “through these doors pass some of the most miserable people on Earth.” Over 10 years, Nadelman made more than 1,500 black and white portraits of bouncers and boxers, actors and cooks, businesspeople and hustlers. 

Thirty years later, his son, animator Stefan Nadelman, created Terminal Bar, a funky documentary based on the photos. Featuring an interview with Sheldon, the film looks back at '70s New York, now long gone.

Terminal Bar won the Sundance Jury Prize in 2003, but it only skimmed the trove of images. Now, Stefan Nadelman has been at work on a series of shorter vignettes. In the one above, Sheldon tells stories about the pimps and prostitutes that hung out at the bar. “I have pictures of pimps,” he says, “most of them were winos, and most of the girls were on something.”

For more on the bar and its characters, watch the full 22-minute film below.

For more work by Stefan Nadelman, visit http://www.touristpictures.com/

Katherine Wells is a senior video producer at The Atlantic. More

Wells was formerly a producer of WNYC's Freakonomics Radio and NPR's Science Friday.

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