Adonis Theatre

839 Eighth Avenue,
New York, NY 10019

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robboehm
robboehm on April 18, 2014 at 3:57 am

Wow that’s something. There were four? So many lost treasures.

rigleemv
rigleemv on April 18, 2014 at 2:34 am

i have one of the 4 hanging chandeliers (eight feet with etched glass “wings”) from original Tivoli…for sale

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 2, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I sorta did, rlr2010. I usually planned my viewings at the Hollywood during daylight hours. Particularly, since the majority of the time, I went there alone. When I used to go catch movies at the 42nd Street grind houses, it was typically with friends, so I wasn’t quite as concerned about the hours – although, even there, we always tried to get an early start! Particularly after our first couple of visits.

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on June 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Ed I remember the Hollywood it was just across the curb from the flophouse hotel the Sherman (which is now an Econolodge). When you went to the Hollywood did you feel uneasy with the outside atmosphere? I don’t know why but i found 46th, 47th street north and 8th do be even creepier than further down toward the Port Authority.

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on June 2, 2013 at 9:48 am

yes i was thinking the Martin Beck was located in one of the worst locations—45th street just west of 8th Avenue back in those days. and Ed you answered my question about those characters that were hanging around the firehouse (now the Biltmore condo)—it was a flophouse thats what it was, that boarded up structure

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 1, 2013 at 6:55 pm

The Holiday Inn is what I was remembering, thanks rlrl2010.

I don’t recall Seventh Ave or Broadway being so dangerous back in those days, either. It was definitely more tawdry, and, in my opinion, a lot more interesting, but I wouldn’t call it dangerous. Aside from the porno theaters and adult book and video shops, there were also the noisy (and more dangerous than the street) pinball and Fascination arcades, the dance-hall barkers, strip joints, greasy-spoon holes in the wall, tourist-trap gift and electronic shops, street drummers, street dancers, street corner preachers, three card monte rip-off artists, and the pose-for-a-portrait artists – the last of these may be the ONLY group that seems to have survived the transformation to “Family Destination.”

There was a period in the late ‘80’s, before the area had “bounced back,” where I found certain stretches along those two thoroughfares to get a bit more intimidating. I remember once going to a play at the Virginia Theatre on W. 52nd, just off Seventh – this is maybe 1988. After the show, I wanted to walk with my date down to Times Square proper and take a poke around my “old stomping grounds.” As we crossed into the upper 40’s, the pedestrian traffic along Seventh really thinned out, and it was quite eerily dark and quiet for a block or two. The site of the old Rivoli Theatre was a vacant and fenced in lot, and the sounds of the usual city hustle and bustle just sort of fell away behind us, so that all we really could hear were our footsteps. I remember finding myself nervously looking over my shoulder until we got to 47th and the crowd thickened again by Duffy Square.

As for the side streets between Seventh and Eighth Avenues – well, this is where the overwhelming majority of legitimate theaters were located. I don’t know that they were ever all that dangerous, really, except for maybe the darker streets, like 41st and 43rd. I seem to recall a lot of dope dealing went on down those quieter side streets. Forty Second was anything but dark, but was certainly notorious as a rather threatening strip. It never stopped me from going to see a double feature there, but I was certainly sure to have my wits about me and tended to be even more cautious about approaching the western edge of the block near Eighth Ave. Things definitely got more dicey down by the Harem, the Empire and Anco theaters.

Eighth Avenue, where the Adonis was located, while not technically a side street, was definitely more peripheral to the theater district – and decidedly more dangerous and foreboding a place. There was (and still is) but one, lone, legitimate theater located on the west side of Eighth Avenue, the former Martin Beck at W. 45th Street. Aside from that theater, the strip was mostly porn palaces, adult shops, old bars, crappy diners, flop houses, strip clubs and hookers. Lots and lots of hookers. From the dirty 30’s, past the Port Authority, and right up through the ‘40’s and lower 50’s. I rarely found myself on Eighth Avenue, except to catch some flicks at the Hollywood Twin, when it was a revival house for a few years. And aside from a family dinner on Joe Allen’s once or twice when I was a young child, I don’t remember ever venturing west of Eighth in that part of town, until maybe 10 or 12 years ago.

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on May 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm

back in 77 when i was 15 i went to the city a few times on my own. i asked my mom what was so bad/dangerous about the Times Square area/theater district, after all id been on 7th Ave and Broadway and tho i noticed a lot of porn/XXX places especially around the upper 40’s, it didn’t seem particularly dangerous tho not the nicest place either

my mom said it wasn’t 7th/Broadway that was the problem, it was the ‘sidestreets"

so then, was the area by the Adonis considered the “sidestreets”?

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on May 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm

the Sherman Hotel (now an Econolodge) at 302 W 47th street was a notorious fleabag as was the Cort Hotel at 301 W 48th. I remember a Fulton Hotel at 46th and 8th.

how was W 48th between 8th and 9th back in those days? like where the Belvedere Hotel is.

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on May 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm

yes it was a Days Hotel from 1994 to 2005 until it became a Hilton Garden. and from what i read it was a Ramada for quite a long time like back to 1973 at least. the hotel you mention was most likely the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge on 8th between 51st and 52nd on the west side of the avenue. Now it’s a Hampton

do you know what was in that row of boarded up buildings attached to the firehouse? back in 79 when i had that scare there was a bunch of scary looking people who looked drunk or high sitting on the stoop of the brownstone next to the Haymarket. probably an SRO maybe or a typical Hell’s kitchen boarded up tenement with squatters maybe?

so was 8th between 47th and 50th as wild and dangerous as further down? or was it a little tamer? would you see aggressive prostitutes and pimps or was it maybe a little better because you were reaching the end and you were also more into the theater district? did people going to matinees walk on 8th Avenue like you see today or did most theatergoers avoid it?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 26, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I remember that Ramada Inn from back in the ‘80’s… I think it was a Days Inn for a while before Hilton Garden took over. I used to imagine that the Ramada was likely booked by tourists, coming to New York for the first time and familiar with the hotel chain’s name – not imagining for a second the tawdry nature of its location. What they must have thought upon arrival! Eighth Avenue was rife with flea-bag SRO hotels in those days, but wasn’t there also another, smaller legitimate hotel, on the west side of the avenue, that was a national chain? Like maybe Holiday Inn? Can’t pinpoint the location in my mind’s eye, but I could swear there was.

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on May 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm

by the Ramada I mean the hotel at 790 Eighth Avenue between 48th and 49th (currently it is now a Hilton Garden Inn)

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on May 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm

what about between 47th and 50th streets?

robboehm
robboehm on May 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Prostitutes on the east side near the big Post Office. All the way down 8th Av. to Penn Station. Madison Square Park was a good place for drugs.

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on May 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm

would prostitutes/pimps hang around the lobby of the Ramada or did they generally stay away from the more reputable hotels? its hard to imagine what guests would think when they would arrive at the hotel and see most of those blocks saturated with porn/XXX places

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on May 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm

the HayMarket was at 772 8th Avenue(near the cor. of 47th a few doors down from Engine Co 54) and was actually 3 blocks down from The Adonis. tho its not my kind of place to go into i do remember passing right in front of it in the late 70’s and feeling very uneasy from the types of people who were hanging around that boarded up tenement. very frightening indeed. first time i saw a gay hustler was right there. i wondered how the Ramada Inn across the street attracted hotel guests with that kind of street atmosphere. well we know for sure we never ever see those types around there any more, now it all Starbucks, chain pharmacies and high rise condos…

was prostitution/drug dealing/street criminals as dense in the upper 40’s as it was closer to the Port Authority (like 42nd street, 43rd street, etc) ? i remember there was an awful lot of porn/XXX places even by the former MSG site that is now Worldwide Plaza

utopianj
utopianj on May 25, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I sure do remember many a day and night taking the train in from Long Island to visit The Adonis as a teen. I was very naive – at first – but learned the scope of what “went down” there very quickly! I had to be 15 at the most, on my first visit in 1974, I guess… no wonder it was so easy for me to pick up guys! Someone above also referred to the scary hustler bar across the street, I believe they were talking about The Haymarket. And yes, it could have been scary to many, I am sure. I recall going there my first time, had no idea what a “hustler bar” even was, and within minutes of my arrival, some kid came up to me and told me that I “had better not be trying to turn tricks there on my own.” I guess this was a message from some pimp. I told him that I didn’t even know what turning a trick was, and that I just came in to get a drink. He left me alone, and I actually ended up leaving with some cute guy around my age, and spending the night in a bathhouse down the block. Can’t remember the name of that place (or the guy to tell the truth). NYC was the hottest place on Earth back then… the West Village Piers, the many other wild porn houses, and hot male strippers all over the place. Then Disney had to go and clean up Times Square.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on October 17, 2012 at 3:35 am

In the Photos Section, I’ve posted some rare views of the Tivoli’s roof theatre, which was closed permanently at the end of the silent era.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on August 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm

The Tivoli was commended for showmanship in this 1930 trade article. And note the photo of its spiffy ushering staff: archive

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on May 19, 2012 at 11:53 am

I am working on a project to document the history of adult theatres in the US. If anyone would like to share some of their personal memories of the Adonis (especially anyone who might have worked there) please contact me at

Thanks!

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 20, 2012 at 6:03 am

This intro needs to be corrected. This Adonis stopped operating in 1989 in conjunction with the opening of the World Wide Center. The Adonis operation then moved down to the Cameo Art on 44th Street.

bflonyguy
bflonyguy on November 6, 2011 at 10:44 am

I don’t remember those blocks north of the old Ramada (subsequently the Days Inn, now the Hilton Garden Inn) as being part of “the strip”. I remember waiting at the bus stop across from the Adonis at night, and the area was dead. On another note, just finished reading a new book, “Andy Warhol’s New York City”. It mentions the Tivoli as one of the late-60s temporary locations of “Film-makers' Cinematheque”. It was a famous showcase for experimental (often controversial) films, like Warhol’s, that had to keep changing locations due to legal and financial issues. Too lazy to read all the comments to see if that’s already been noted!

rlrl2010
rlrl2010 on October 30, 2011 at 11:23 am

I understand that the Adonis was at the northern end of the Minnesota Strip. When I was a teenager back in the 70’s I noticed that most of the prostitution was centered closer to the Port Authority area, like around 44th 43rd, etc

Most of the time if i ever had any reason to walk on 8th Avenue in the upper 40’s back in those days it seemed quiet with hardly anyone around. However i do recall there was one afternoon when I noticed a lot of intimidating looking street hangouts (drunks, addicts, loiterers) on the block by the firehouse from 48th street going toward 47th, including a transexual hustler standing on the corner with their pimp. I remember being intimidated by the block so i ended up going east to avoid 8th Avenue

so, was the area between say 47th and 50th streets(the firehouse, the old Blarney Stone,the old Ramada Inn, the old parking lot that became Worldwide plaza) as heavy with prostitutes and criminals as it was further down? were there a lot of arrests for prostitution, drugs and other crimes between 47th and 50th? or was it safer and tamer?

jedidiah
jedidiah on October 22, 2011 at 9:30 pm

In answer to an earlier question, the Adonis anchored the northern end of the infamous “Minnesota Strip” that flourished during the heyday of the Deuce in the 1970s. It extended roughly from the Port Authority bus terminal north up 8th Avenue to the Adonis and was so named because of the number of very young girls who got off the bus from the hinterlands (like Minnesota) to escape from abusive families and were immediately sucked into prostitution by the pimps who hung out around the Port Authority Terminal and forced these desperate kids to ply their trade along 8th Avenue.

Across 8th Avenue from the Adonis on 50th street was the King’s Cinema, a seedier gay theatre, and next to the King’s was a hustler bar that I forget the name of that was downright scary. The Adonis was the one gay cinema along the 8th Avenue strip that you didn’t feel nasty entering: it had that great marquee and was always well lighted and the interior was kept clean. Only once in my several trips there did I actually engage in some play in the balcony with an incredibly nice guy: we shared a cigarette afterwards and he said, as he was leaving, as a way of thanking me for a good time, to go buy stock in Warner Brothers immediately because “Superman” was going to be a huge hit. I did and made a nice little bundle. I don’t know many guys who get stock tips in the balcony of a gay porno theatre, but there you are.

The best way to observe what the Adonis looked like is, as I think several people have mentioned, to watch “A Night at the Adonis” with good ol' Jack Wrangler as the star. It’s practically a guided tour of the place. For a great view ot the exterior of this lovely theatre when it was the Tivoli, rent or buy “Confessions of a Psycho Cat,” one of the many many sexploitation films that were shot in the Times Square area during the 1960s. There is a great shot of the exterior of the theatre as Jake LaMotta (the star of the movie) is running down 8th Avenue. I believe the next block down was the location of the old Madison Square Garden whose exterior can be seen in the great movie, “The Manchurian Candidate.”

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on October 11, 2011 at 7:24 am

It was a beuatiful old theater inside. I have many memories of the Adonis theater.

DavidDynamic
DavidDynamic on October 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Sailor729’s comment about the material hanging from the ceiling gives a perfect opening opportunity to ask a question that I have been wondering how to ask and in what context. Many of the pictures of ruined theaters such as found on the Urban Ruins sites show ceiling material hanging down several feet and looking quite pliable—much like the headliners of old autos in the days of cloth headliners. Is it possible that these theaters had so much of this fancy ceiling work done on canvas and plaster or some sort of sizing material and cloth? If so no wonder old time theaters were fire traps! In general antique plaster work was done on laths buts these stalactites do not appear to contain laths. Do any of you theater experts happen to know and care to take the time to explain this phenomenon to the rest of us who might want to know also? If so, thanks.