After last week’s emotional high point, you have to expect a low, and this is an enjoyable coast toward the inevitable. We learn the why behind the “No Go Zone” of Times Square. The culmination of free speech rulings allowing pornographic films to be filmed in the United States and the Knapp Commission scaring the hell out of police bigwigs downtown.
That doesn’t stop Lieutenant Sweeney from waltzing into the massage parlor to let Vinnie know the street tax is $500 a week, even if they have the blessing from town hall. They know the ax is coming, and they are stealing all that they can before it comes down on their necks.
Elaine starts working with Harvey the porno director, who we learn is working for the Genovese crime family when they sit in on a court case where the judge finds their smut films have “socially redeeming value” and dismisses the charges. But Elaine wants to work behind the camera and keeps pushing for it. There isn’t enough filming happening yet, but the sluice gates are about to open.
Her co-star is gay and needs muscle mags to get it up; he passes on poppers because “they give you migraines.” That’s what’s missing from the scene: the drugs. If you read Christa Faust & Gary Phillips’s comic Peepland, Faust talks about “junkie basketball,” where they would throw rolled up bits of paper into the mouths of junkies on the nod to wake them up. Heroin was killing thousands in the City at this time, but we haven’t seen many spikes. A few lines of coke, Big Mike getting high, but none of the working girls or the porno actors yet.
The trash on the streets is at about the right level, though the pollution and smoke are nowhere near. We don’t miss leaded gas and a haze of smoke in every bar—there’s no nostalgia for that—or the junkies passed out in every hallway, muggings and burglaries to fuel their habits. To be fair, the story isn’t about that, but it should be an undeniable part of the background.
Bringing prostitution off the streets becomes the priority, and Officers Alston and Flanagan relish rousting pimps and towing their sweet rides. There’s something they hate about a pimp. Sondra Washington (the reporter) can’t get her boss to publish her stories on the working girls, which she calls “life as it is lived,” because the stereotype of a black pimp pushing white girls is a “hurtful image.” They want positivity.
Their exploitation of women makes hating them easy, but is there more? Is it more about black men seizing the reins of capitalism, flipping off the system, and flaunting their wealth? Is that what that irks the working stiffs? It’s definitely part of it. Watching C.C. shakedown Harvey for cash when Lori stars in his porno, you see the power he has. Harvey works for the biggest mob in the city; I was wondering when goombah thugs were going to show up and smash his ride or worse.
Big Mike’s idea, which will eventually become video porn booths, is a vision of the pervert future. Vinnie calls it “The Masturbatorium,” and Rudy likes the idea, so we’ll be seeing those show up soon. Darlene is back on the job and working at Bobby’s “massage parlor,” which the prostitutes and pimps begrudgingly accept as the street sweeps make their jobs harder and squeeze more of their cash.
I guess what I’m waiting for is the arc. Abby and Paul are fun to watch behind the bar, but this isn’t Cheers in Times Square. We have two episodes left this season, and while I’m glad to see Elaine working toward a way to support herself and her son without risking beatings, there hasn’t been much motion. Frankie is working for Rudy now with his debt paid off, but it seems out of character for him to not be fucking up. He’s nearly indistinguishable from Vinnie at this point, when it began like Mean Streets. I’m beginning to wonder why he exists, except to let Franco play with himself.
Thomas Pluck has slung hash, worked on the docks, trained in martial arts in Japan, and even swept the Guggenheim museum (but not as part of a clever heist). He hails from Nutley, New Jersey, home to criminal masterminds Martha Stewart and Richard Blake, but has so far evaded capture. He is the author of Bad Boy Boogie, his first Jay Desmarteaux crime thriller, and Blade of Dishonor, an action adventure which BookPeople called “the Raiders of the Lost Ark of pulp paperbacks.”
Joyce Carol Oates calls him “a lovely kitty man.”