Duffy Theatre (demolished)
1553 Broadway (at 46th Street)
Seats: 165 Seats
The Duffy Theatre was the final tenant for what started as Wilson's Dancing Academy, opened in 1917 as perhaps the first "taxi-dance" hall in the world, where single men could purchase the terpsichoric services of women for "10 cents a dance." While taxi dancing was a legitimate activity enforced by bouncers, an adjuct association with prostitution probably also began with the opening of the business. The original name was a common euphamism meant to disguise the activity as dance "instruction" and the name was changed to the Orpheum Dance Palace sometime around 1931.
The dance hall had numerous run-ins with the law over the years but as the sense of public prudishness ebbed in NYC, the Orpheum managed to operate largely under the radar thanks to strategic contributions to "The Policeman's Ball." Its anonymity came to an end after an undercover reporter published a 1963 Newsday expose on the Opheum. Dance halls had long since passed their heyday and the Orpheum was closed for good when two managers, the madame and a corrupt cop were charged with prostitution and conspiracy on April 24, 1964. In the '70s and '80s, one of the managers, Murray Offen, began operated a number of highly profitable porn theatres in the Times Square area and opened the New Paris as a theatre featuring porn films, live sex acts and prostitutes. The New Paris (also called Paris Burlesque?) survived until being shut down in 1991 by AIDS and civic cleanup efforts.
The Duffy Theatre subsequently opened in the space and hosted the long-running (and ironically named) show Perfect Crime. Despite its presence in the heart of the Broadway theatre district, its size made it an Off-Broadway house. The building was also host to an anachronistic Howard Johnson's restaurant and one of the last vestages of the old Times Square, the Gaity male strip club. The building itself may have been even older than the 1917 dance hall as indicated by the photo below that was shot in Fall 1998 from north of 47th street when demolition next door exposed a ghost ad for "J.A. Kean's Carriage Manufactory" (J.A. Keal?). After surviving a 89-year onslaught by uptight moralists, changing demographics and shifting economic winds, the tawdry-yet-colorful Orpheum drew its final bedsheet in 2006 when it was demolished to make way for some bland glass curtain-wall dreck. (NYPress.com) (Forgotten-NY.com) (NYTimes photo)
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