There was a nice piece in today’s Times in the wake of the resumption of the investigation of the disappearance of Etan Patz. John Leland writes an evocative profile of the SoHo of the late 70s, which was markedly different from the posh and – let’s face it – largely insufferable shopping district it is today.
While I grew up on the Upper East Side, I vividly remember the SoHo of that era, and it was indeed pretty gritty and desolate. I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but a graphic designer friend of my family used to remark that on warmer weekends, they’d periodically string a large volley-ball net across the expanse of West Broadway, given the paucity of traffic in those days. Surreal, eh?
Strangely enough, John Leland was largely the reason I went into journalism (so,y’know …blame him!) He wrote for SPIN magazine in the late `80s, and I found his writing so inspiring that I pursued an internship there in 1989 (which I wrote about here). Leland ended up being kind of an unfriendly nebbish, but hey – I was an intern. No one likes interns.
By the way, the beautiful shot of Fanelli’s on Prince Street circa 1979 above was taken by Carl Burton. For more on the SoHo of the 1970s, be sure to check out The SoHo Memory Project blog (soon to be a book?)