>Known currently as a solid family neighborhood with left-leaning politics and at least a bit of cultural integration, the Upper West Side is once again changing its character. As more luxury condos and apartment towers are built, the ‘hood is turning into a bastion of super gentrification. Of course, before it went through its first phase of gentrification in the 1990s, it was much rowdier.
The sordid sexual action seems to center around West 72nd Street, an east-west thoroughfare of less than a mile that more or less dead ends at the park and the Hudson river. A bar on West 72nd between Broadway and West End, in the space now known as the All-State Café (a small, neighborhoody place good for a drink and pub grub), Roseann Quinn met a guy in 1973 and brought him to her apartment across the street. After failing to achieve an erection, he stabbed her to death. The movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar, starring Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, and LeVar Burton, is based on this.
A few blocks up Broadway, the Ansonia occupies the blocks between West 73rd and 74th Streets. In the early 1970s, it was a notorious gay club known for its cheesy entertainment as much as for having tubes of K-Y Jelly in its candy dispensers. Barry Manilow performed there, and Bette Midler’s career was launched at its poolside. After cops shut it down, it reopened in 1977 as Plato’s Retreat, a swingers club. A Time Magazine article from 1978 hilariously “investigated.” It reported that Plato’s Retreat attracted 6,500 people and grossed $90,000 a month at its peak. The place boasted a “mat room” for orgies and numerous “mini-swing” rooms for more intimate two-to-sixsomes.
Ah, the good old days. Most recently, a Super Gristedes grocery store occupied the cavernous space, leading to an orgy of food rather than flesh, much more to the liking of the residents who live in the multimillion dollar condos above. These days, the space is under renovation. I doubt anything interesting will take its place.